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Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Food: Gluten-Free Toad-in-the-Hole

The weather has been absolutely foul over the past week and late-autumn in Scotland means that the days are incredibly dark at the moment. At the moment I've been wanting to eat comfort food all the time, and Toad-in-the-Hole seemed an obvious choice after I purchased some delicious pork sausages.

Gluten-Free Toad-in-the-Hole

Gluten-Free Toad in the Hole Dove Farm Flour

Friday, 13 November 2015

Travel: Bodnant Gardens, North Wales

We visited North Wales a few weeks ago during the October mid-term break and stayed in a lovely cottage on the Bodnant Estate in Conwy. We'd booked this through an agency and had no idea about the beauty of the Bodnant Estate but were in for a treat. After a particularly wet morning on our first day we decided to take a trip to the nearby Bodnant Garden which we realised latterly was world famous. 

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Food: Aubergine Rarebit

On a recent visit to North Wales, I picked up some delicious Welsh Ale mustard and chutney at a delicatessen and couldn't get enough of the stuff.  The ale imparts a lovely sweetness which really enhanced the flavour. Upon my return I was happy to find an online stockist which pleased me greatly. I've been eating a version of Welsh Rarebit since I was tiny and decided to experiment on the theme for a more substantial lunch-time meal, though my Aubergine Rarebit would be great for brunch too.

Aubergine Rarebit

Aubergine with Ale Rarebit and Poached Egg

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Food: Baked Apples with Maple Syrup and Pecans

Our week day desserts are normally pretty simple, with the kids generally opting for fromage frais and fruit. As the nights start drawing in, though, our dinners have generally comprised of comfort food and I've had a fair few requests for warming puddings. My latest offering was a baked apple dessert with maple syrup and pecans, which I served with custard. Empty plates all round and lots of suggestions for variations on the theme.

Baked Apples with Maple Syrup and Pecans

Baked Apples with Maple Syrup and Pecans Recipe

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Food: Fragrant Banana Bread

The kids are banana fiends and we always seem to have bananas languishing in our fruit bowl. I usually freeze the bananas that are starting to brown and use them up in smoothies, but of late I've been experimenting with some banana tea-time treats. We've had a few disasters like banana-pancakes sans flour, which no one liked but finally, after some trial and error I  came up with something which we all enjoyed. This fragrant banana bread contains cinnamon and cardamon, which makes it very warming and perfect for autumn.

Fragrant Banana Bread

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Travel: A Trip to Coastal Maine

After spending a few days in Maine over the summer last year, we decided to return this year and decided travel east from Portland, onward to Camden and finally settle in Acadia National Park. Apart from eating as much seafood as we could, we also spent quite a bit of time hiking and enjoying the beautiful surroundings. 

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Food:Portland, Maine - Where to Eat with Kids

Eating out with kids always seems to be hit or miss with us and more often than not we find ourselves comprising on quality just to keep the kids happy. On our recent trip to Portland, ME we stumbled across a few gems that I thought I'd recommend as we found ourselves enjoying really good food, which the kids also enjoyed. All of these restaurants centred on the Old Port area of Maine, an upbeat area filled with independent shops, which buzzes all day. I'd really recommend staying here if you have a short break to this vibey little city.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Life: Planner Haul #3

I've been using my diary more and more as a life planner and I am still finding that using stickers makes planning my weeks more enjoyable and also more effective. My daily plans are generally very ornate to-do lists. Even so, they have made me more productive, so after cancelling my My Little Box subscription, I decided to use the money saved to fuel my new planner-decorating addiction. I favour UK Etsy shops and others that have reasonable shipping costs to the UK. This does, however, rule out vast swathes of the more popular Etsy shops. That said, I'm very happy with the shops I've used thus far.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Food: My Lobster Shack Recommendations in Maine

After last year's trip to Cape Cod, we decided to spend more time exploring New England this summer and decided on Maine and were so glad we did. The natural beauty of the state is astounding and made us determined to return at some point in the future. It also afforded us the opportunity to eat as much lobster as we could! Read on for my lobster shack recommendations.

Friday, 7 August 2015

Travel: Two Days in New York City with the Kids

We haven't done too many city breaks since the kids came along  but decided to brave it this year with a 2 day trip to New York City. The kids were quite confused as to where they were going, and  decided that we were probably going to "Na-York-a" (Majorca) just like their friends were doing over the summer. 

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Food: Roasted Vegetable and Sausage Quesadillas

Summer lunches have taken quite a bit of thought over the past month. The kids would be quite happy munching on avocado or cheese sandwiches every day but I find that if I let them restrict their diets like that, they become less open to trying new things, which means that more and more of my offerings run the risk of being rejected.

Quesadillas are something that they love to make. We use  corn tortillas to keep them gluten-free and the kids get to assemble their own, generally from whatever we have in the fridge. This time, after roasting some vegetables with some Italian sausages the night before, we had this for lunch the next day.

Roasted Vegetable and Sausage Quesadillas

Roasted Vegetable and Sausage Quesadillas

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Food: Spaghetti Bolegnese

Sometimes I yearn for comfort food. Food that fills me up, tastes delicious and can be popped in the freezer, ready for my next fix. The recipes I turn to at these times are usually tried and tested (and trusted) favourites, generally from the Jamie Oliver cookbooks I first used when I first discovered that I liked cooking. These are generally meals that the kids like eating too, because when I'm in a comfort food sort of mood, the last thing I want to hear is "I don't like it? When are you going to make something we like?"!

This time I opted for Jamie Oliver's delicious Spaghetti Bolognese from Happy Days with the Naked Chef.  You have to try it! The rosemary, smoked bacon and sundried tomatoes bring a wonderfully earthy depth to the sauce. I always enjoy this with a glass of red. Amazing!


Monday, 27 July 2015

Food: Raspberry Jam

The summer berry harvest in my garden is late this year, compared to last, which has meant that we’ve had to visit the local pick-your-own farm to stock up on raspberries and the like. Late July in our household always means berry picking and jam making.  Dissappointingly, our strawberries have not thrived at all this year, which has been a bit of a shame as the kids love seeing them grow. Our favourite is indisputably raspberry jam, and this year, after a particularly successful raspberry picking exercise where we picked upwards of 4kg of berries and saw cherries growing for the first time, we set to work immediately on our return.

Raspberry Jam

Raspberry Jam Recipe

Monday, 13 July 2015

Food: Fast Apricot and Almond Flapjacks (Gluten-Free)

My half-marathon training is going very well thus far, but I'm still finding it hard to work out what I need to eat (and when) to keep my body well-fuelled. I've found that eating something small just before a morning run means that I prevent the inevitable energy slump midway through. Peanut butter toast works really well for me, as do these apricot and almond flapjacks which really give me an energy boost. The problem is that they're so good that I have to fight the temptation of consuming all the calories I've just burned, when I return from my run.

Apricot and Almond Flapjacks (Gluten-Free)

Fast Apricot and Almond Flapjacks

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Food: Black Forest Berry Smoothie (for my Impatient Kids)

When the kids ask if they can cook something, they invariably mean that they want to eat what ever they've made in about 5 minutes. They like baking but lose interest while the cakes or biscuits are in the oven, and then I end up doing the decorating while they're playing. This week they asked whether they could make smoothies, which I thought was perfect for their limited attention span in the kitchen. This proved a great way for them to eat some red fruits they wouldn't generally eat, but obviously they were long gone by the time it came for clean up!

Black Forest Berry Smoothie

Black Forest Berry Smoothie

Friday, 3 July 2015

Food: Red, White and Blue (Fourth of July) Crumble with Strawberries, White Peaches and Blueberries - Gluten-Free

As a nod to the Fourth of July celebrations this weekend in the USA, I decided to whip up a summer fruit crumble in the American colours. Blueberries,  red strawberries and flat, white peaches create a deliciously seasonal trio. While our Scottish strawberries are in season, we've been enjoying them in any guise we can. The Fourth of July provided the perfect excuse.

Red, White and Blue (Fourth of July) Crumble with Strawberries, White Peaches and Blueberries - Gluten-Free

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Food: Light and Fluffy Tiramisu Dessert

With my thoughts happily floating through my lovely memories of Tuscany, I decided to carry on with the Italian theme this week and made a Tiramisu, using a family recipe I received from a lab mate I met while studying for my PhD. I've spent this week thinking rather a lot of my own lab experiences (following the Tim Hunt furore) and realised that in my own experience, labs were quite social places.  Yes, there was the odd lab relationship, but workplace romances happen in other places too, not just in science!

Light and Fluffy Tiramisu Dessert

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Food: Garlicky Asparagus and Pea Risotto

I try to have at least two vege only days per week, and usually opt for a risotto for dinner as they're so easy to make and also pretty filling. While asparagus is still in season I decided to make a Garlicky Asparagus and Pea Risotto. The asparagus is roasted with sliced garlic and dressed with lemon, which is a delicious way to serve it, not only in a risotto. 

Garlicky Asparagus and Pea Risotto

Garlicky Asparagus and Pea Risotto

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Food: Mocktail #1 - Virgin (Bloody) Mary

The weather has been lovely over the past few days, which roughly translates into Gin & Tonic weather for me. However, during this self-imposed dry month, I've been experimenting with various mocktails, which has made me realise that if all my soft drinks tasted as good as my Virgin Mary, I probably wouldn't drink any alcohol at all!

Mocktail Virgin Mary

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Food: Beef Burgers with Gruyere and Caramelised Onions

Occasionally I'll suggest dinner options to my husband and the kids and nothing interests them - very frustrating - and then I'll suggest beef burgers and am greeted with instant smiles!  I like using Aberdeen Angus steak mince for making my beef burgers but any good quality steak mince will do.  I also opt for parmesan, rather than breadcrumbs, for binding the burgers, so as to keep them gluten-free. I've experimented with loads of toppings but my favourite at the moment is definitely anything containing caramelised onions, deliciously sweet and rich, the perfect complement to the gutsy beef.

Beef Burgers with Gruyere and Caramelised Onions

Beef Burgers with Gruyere and Caramelised Onions

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Food: Mexican Bean Stew with Green Rice

I make chilli con carne pretty often and it always proves to be very popular. The kids always ask me to pile on the beans which inspired me to make this bean stew as an alternative. The sauce has a lovely smokiness from the chipotles and goes very well with green rice. It tastes fantastic in a burrito  or enchilada and is even better the next day.

Mexican Bean Stew with Green Rice Gluten-Free

Friday, 15 May 2015

Travel: A Short Trip to Switzerland with Baby

We travelled extensively before having children and were determined that this would not change once  be became parents. We planned our first trip just as our baby turned 6 months, which made baby a bit more portable and gave us well-deserved rest after a six month campaign of sleep deprivation. We chose Switzerland, as we both love being in the mountains but also because the flight time to Switzerland from Scotland is relatively short.

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Food: Couscous Salad with Falafel and Pomegranate

I love a salad for lunch as they're usually very fast to make, give me free reign to experiment with flavours and also contribute to my 5-a-day tally. Couscous is a great vehicle for Middle Eastern flavours. Here I've tarted it up with lemon, coriander, mint, olives and pomegranate. The falafel, which I made from a kit, provides a bit of substance and the avocado provides a lovely creaminess.

Couscous  Salad with Falafel and Pomegranate

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Food: Sticky Chicken Drumsticks with Honey and Mustard

The kids love chicken, and as we eat it at least twice a week, I'm having to come up with new recipes to keep them interested and at the same time allow them to try new flavours. Presenting them with something new is always a bit nerve-wracking. They're usually look at the plate sceptically, take a surreptitious sniff and then ask, "What's the dinner called?" (I kid you not!) This is usually followed by the tiniest nibble and then I patiently await their verdict (Believe me, my eyes are rolling on the inside!). 

My latest chicken recipe uses drumsticks as I remember loving to eat these as a child. The kids loved them as they were allowed to use their fingers to hold the chicken, a bit like the cave men in The Croods. I used some manuka honey and grain mustard and the result was an absolute hit! These taste fantastic either hot or cold, so are perfect for picnics.

Sticky Chicken Drumsticks with Honey and Mustard

Sticky Chicken  with Honey and Mustard

Friday, 24 April 2015

Travel: Islay - Scotland's Whisky Isle

We've just returned from a week away in Islay (pronounced eye-lah), the Scottish island most famous for its peaty single malt whiskies. The island is reached by ferry from either Oban or Kennacraig on the mainland and has beautiful beaches and numerous whisky distilleries. The island is very friendly, with everyone saying hello to you or waving as they passed in their cars. The littlies loved this.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Food: Poached Egg with Asparagus, Hollandaise Sauce and a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

I mentioned my Eggs Benedict obsession previously on this blog (here)  and since then I've been experimenting a bit more in an attempt to find my favourite variation on the theme. I love asparagus and since its short season is finally upon us and I decided to marry the two and came up with Poached Egg with Asparagus, Hollandaise Sauce and a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction. I served this with a toasted English muffin and avocado which made it perfect for brunch, though I'd also serve it as is, without the muffin as a small starter portion.

Poached Egg with Asparagus, Hollandaise Sauce and a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Food: Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce with Roasted Vegetables

I often find myself planning meals that the littlies are sure to like, rather than ones that I enjoy eating. As they get older, though, I'm keen to introduce them to new flavours and re-try foods that they previously loathed. My roasted cherry tomato pasta is one that the littlies loved from when they first started eating, but it's a recipe that lends itself quite nicely to tarting up. Roasting the tomatoes beforehand, ensures that the sauce is never too sharp. I add some roasted vegetables into the mix to make my own palate happier, which gives the kids the opportunity to at least try something new. 

Roasted Cherry Tomato Pasta Sauce with Roasted Vegetables

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Food: Lemon Madeleines for a Quick and Easy Tea-Time Treat

I'm sure I'm not the only foodie that has succumbed to the temptations of a French Cookware shop. Let's just say that I have a few pans that I've yet to use, but can't bear to part with because of how pretty they look. Occasionally I justify their existence my whipping them out and making something delicious. French Madeleines are baked in shell-shaped pans and as they are better eaten on the same day, I only make a small batch, which needs just a single egg. Great for when you're in the mood for baking something but find that you're running low on eggs, which in our household is an all too frequent occurrence. 

Lemon Madeleines

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Food: No-Bake Milk Tart on a Biscuit Base (Gluten-Free)

I find myself occasionally missing South Africa. I think that living in the information age helps me to feel more connected to the people I've left behind, but does little for my hankering for the little things that I miss about the place. For me, it's the beautiful mountains, the food and wine and sometimes even the penguins. When I find myself in this nostalgic mood, I often cook something that reminds me of a particular memory. For me, milk tart reminds me of our neighbours bringing over cake when they had something to celebrate, usually a religious festival. It's only now that I recognise how lucky I was to grow up in a time and place where religious tolerance was the norm.

No-Bake Milk Tart Biscuit-Base Gluten-Free

Friday, 20 March 2015

Travel: Escaping the Crowds in the Highlands of Scotland

Living in Scotland has been a delight from the very beginning. I've lived here for over ten years now and I love that there is still so much to see and that it still has the ability to surprise me after all these years.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Food: Black Pudding, Bacon and Potato Salad with a Poached Egg and a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

I've been battling a cold over the past few days and my appetite has been significantly diminished. This morning, however, I woke up with a craving for black pudding and salad leaves. The craving was too strong to ignore so I decided to make a black pudding salad, with some bacon lardons, avocado, baby potatoes, mixed leaves and a poached egg. To bring it all together I drizzled it with a balsamic vinegar reduction. Delicious! The weather is beautiful today, so I devoured it all while sitting outside in the spring sunshine listening to birdsong. Life feels good!

Black Pudding, Bacon and Potato Salad with a Poached Egg and a Balsamic Vinegar Reduction

Friday, 27 February 2015

Life: Ten Ways I'm Staying Better Organised in 2015

One of my main resolutions for this year was to set myself back on the path to an organised life. I find that when my life becomes busier, I neglect little things that on their own don't seem like much, but when accumulated, make me feel a bit over whelmed. This year, with organisation a priority, I've taken a good look at what works and made a few changes to what doesn't.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Travel: Northern Vietnam

Every single pre-conceived idea I'd harboured about Vietnam vanished the moment I set foot in Hanoi. I'm not sure why, but I didn't expect a communist country to be quite so enterprising and quite so capitalist in feel. There were shops and stalls everywhere and the locals were very engaging, quite keen to practise their English, and in some cases offering to buy us a soft drink in exchange for a bit of conversation.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Food: No-Bake Lemon Cheesecake (Gluten-Free)

My mother would often make fridge tarts for family gatherings. It's only now that I have my own family and realise how stressful it is waiting for  cake to rise while doing a hundred and one other things before the guests arrive, that I've realised how convenient fridge tarts are. Recently, I tinkered in the kitchen and came up with a no-bake lemon cheesecake that was declared yummy by the littlies. Mummy-bot wins again!

I used gluten-free digestive biscuits to keep the recipe wheat-free and used a light hand with the lemon so that the tartness came through but wasn't too over-powering for the kids. Rather impressive for something that took only 15 minutes to prepare. The beauty of it as that it can be prepared in advance and whipped out of the fridge just before serving.

Lemon Cheese-Cake No-Bake Gluten-Free

Friday, 13 February 2015

Craft: Valentine's Day Gift Ideas

This is the first year that the littlies seem to be interested in Valentine's Day at all. I've promised to make pancakes and thought it would be a lovely idea to make a post-it notes heart where we each get to write the things we love about each other on post-it notes and then stick them on the wall/fridge in the shape of a heart.

It was only once I met my husband that I started to appreciate Valentine's Day. We don't subscribe to the flowers, dinner and a movie idea but instead spend the evening in, cooking our favourites together and then gift each other something small and thoughtful. I like to give him something that I've made myself. I like to keep him focussed in my thoughts while I'm in my making-mode so that whatever I've created is made with love.

I often turn to origami when I'm feeling stressed and feel the need to create something. I find the action of paper-folding very therapeutic and sometimes do this in the evenings after a hard day. I find the instructions for most of my creations online so this year  instead of buying a Valentine's card, I decided to buy pre-folded card from a craft shop and then decorate the front with an origami heart. Inside I pasted an easy origami heart and used this as an envelope, filling these with origami hearts, one for every Valentine's Day we've been together.

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Food: Lemon Risotto with Peppered Smoked Mackerel

I absolutely love mackerel and since our fishmonger does not stock it over the winter, I've had to get my fix by eating it smoked. I love smoked mackerel pate, but the littlies do not, even when I tell them that it's good brain food. They do however tolerate smoked mackerel  when I serve it up with a lemon risotto, which, to be honest, is no hardship.

Prepare yourself for an explosion of flavours when you first taste lemon risotto. The mind boggles as to how so few ingredients can create something so delicious. I make this at the weekend, when it's cold outside, and we're all in need of some comfort food. Follow up with a sticky pud!

Lemon Risotto Marsala with Smoked Mackerel

Friday, 30 January 2015

Life: The Books that I Re-read Every Year

I love curling up with a book and escaping into another world or reading till the early hours of the morning when I'm engrossed in a book that I just cannot put down. There are a few books that I love so much, that I read very year. These are books that I first read at seminal points in my life, or which shaped my thinking into adulthood. I love that books are like good friends, our relationship stays as strong despite an absence.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver
If I was a writer, I'd want to write a book like this. Barbara Kingsolver weaves this intricate tale of an American missionary family in the Belgian Congo in the late 1950s. The book is told from the children's perspectives which makes it more powerful in my opinion. It taught me that sometimes you can't force something to happen, and that the lessons and trials of childhood can have a lasting impact.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I can't explain my love of Pride and Prejudice. I read this book when I really want to relax because it reads itself. I've come to love the characters so much and have even ventured down the path of writing (very bad) fanfiction. Very embarrassing.

The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
I love how this book tells the tale of a love story albeit one of nearly parallel lives. Somehow the author manages to keep this tale of time travel cohesive. I find parts of the book  achingly sad; the final scene will stay with you for a very long time.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
I first read this book in high school and it was one of the books that I stayed up till 4am and read in a single day. It felt fitting to read it as a teenager when we often love somebody despite our own best interests.  I still find parts of this story scary. Cathy at the window always gives me the heebies!

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert
Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir telling the story of her own journey of self-discovery in three countries, inspired me to stop and take time to smell the roses. I'm still getting to know myself, perhaps it'll take a lifetime to do so and that's ok.


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Food: Eggs Benedict and Two Variations with Easy Hollandaise Sauce

I always have Eggs Benedict for brunch when I see it on a menu, and ever since I discovered an easy hollandaise sauce recipe I now make this at home too at any opportunity.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Travel: Boulders Beach, Cape Town (or an Excuse for Penguin Pics)

One of my favourite places to visit in Cape Town is Boulders Beach, home to a colony of Cape Rockhopper penguins.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Travel: The Majesty of the Scottish Highlands

One I question I always get asked by other people from warmer climes now living in Scotland is, "How do you stand the weather?" For me the answer is always the same, "It's easy because of the mountains."I didn't know I loved the mountains as much as I do until I came to live here. Yes, I'd spent time hiking before I moved here, and even enjoyed it, but it was only when I made Scotland my home, that I really began to appreciate that they were my happy place.

All Images Copyright Clementine Buttercup 2016