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Dithering and Delays

11 Mar

As some of you may have noticed (and many of you may not have until I point this out), I have been MIA for three months.  Clearly, there has been a lot going on since we last met in December.

Christmas was a big deal. It was the first I spent in Scotland.

Not that I got the Gos… It’s just so festive.

Then there was Hogmanay (as they call New Years Eve here in Scotland).

Hogmanay Bonfire

Ringing in the New Year with a Bonfire.

A snow-less winter occurred.

Minimal baking happened. (Mostly this and this and some largely mediocre Mary Berry cakes.)

My thesis writing became an even large part of my life.  Basically, it’s consuming the time that I would generally spend updating my lovely little blog and keeping my friends, family, and followers entertained and abreast of my successful cooking/baking endeavors.

I also tried to come up with things to write about that wouldn’t be boring, but was mostly bored with them myself… So this is the slightly less boring account of my blogging failure.

I would love to promise, yet again, that I’ll do better, but it’s going to be pretty intermittent for the next month and a bit until I submit the thesis and finish some prep for my upcoming job.  Hang in there readers, good things are on the way! (Who knows, maybe even a recipe in the next week or so?)

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Holiday Time

26 Nov

The holidays are rapidly approaching, my dear readers.  How did it get so late in the year so quickly? How do I still have so much to do in SO LITTLE TIME?  I have my own reasons to be asking myself these questions (think a long lingering cold and 30,000 words to write in 3 months), but I’m sure you all have your own.

The end of this week will begin my mad dash to purchase all of the holiday gifts I could possibly want to send to my friends and family in the USA from stores in Britain to ensure receipt on or before Christmas.

Starting tomorrow I will be comfortably enveloped in my kitchen for 2 days cooking Thanksgiving dinner for twelve! This is the biggest group I’ve ever single-handedly cooked for, so wish me luck!

Finally a rush to finish Christmas shopping and the lovely deep breath that is Christmas morning.  A deep breath inspired by my lack of stressful things to do.

Here are some things that indicate “that time of year” is upon us to me:

Those red cups

I know, I know. I’m playing into corporate America’s takeover of the season, but they’re just so festive I couldn’t help myself.

I can see my breath all the time.

This is a new thing for me.  In California, I would mention that this would happen in the mornings, but in Glasgow it’s an all the time, even from my nose kind of a thing.

Canned, pureed pumpkin en mass.

So much pumpkin-y goodness

That’s right. That is four cans of pumpkin on my kitchen counter. NBD.

Corn Chowder Cravings.

I know this one is just me, but my dad always makes it in the winter time. No matter how old I get, when it’s chilly, this is a food I wish I had.

Twinkly lights are everywhere.

Glasgow Loves Christmas

Glasgow has a whole marketing campaign for its lights and shopping called “Glasgow loves Christmas.” It’s totally true.

My desire for butter and carbohydrates.

mmm... butter

My body really wants to bulk up for the short, cold, dark days that lie ahead.  It’s both wonderful and rude.

This sweater.

Reindeer Jumper!

I’ve been looking for a reindeer sweater for literally two years.  I saw this one and needed it.

What are some of your cues that the holidays are upon us?

Roasted, Stuffed Harlequin Squash

20 Oct

About a week ago, I wandered into the supermarket and noticed an array of fall squash. Upon closer inspection, I found a fascinating looking one that I couldn’t help but buy for the sheer novelty of it. I had no clue what to do with it and came up with almost no recipes in my search. I thought I would share the lovely recipe that came from the purchase of a pretty vegetable.  The Roasted, Stuffed Harlequin Squash.

Harlequin Squash

I know what you’re thinking, “Another stuffed thing, Leigh?” I know, I know.  But there is a reason I stuff so many things! They’re delightful!

Halved Squash

And just look at it.  It needed to be filled with something wonderful.

FInished Squash

Roasted, Stuffed Harlequin Squash

Serves 2 (inspired by this recipe)

Ingredients

  • 1 Harlequin Squash or about 2 pounds of any other sweet squash, like acorn or even butternut.
  • butter (to grease tray)
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1  garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 green bell pepper
  • 3/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/3 cup whole grain rice
  • 3/4 cup hot vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (at least one tbsp, but if you like parsley as much as I do, add more)

To Serve

  • Fresh parsley
  • (optional) Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 400°F, 200°C.  Lightly grease a baking tray with a bit of butter, set aside.  Wash, halve, and seed the squash- be sure to have a really sharp, large knife!  The seeds can be saved for later and roasted as well!  Cut 1/2 inch section from each half of squash. Peel and chop into small pieces.  Place squash halves on pan and in the oven to roast for about 40-45 minutes, or until soft all the way through.

While the squash is in the oven, finish vegetable prep.  Heat oil in pan and add the onion,  garlic, and pepper; stir until soft, about 5 ish minutes.    Add rice, squash, and stock and stir for about a minute.  Leave on heat and cover to allow complete absorption of liquid, interrupting to stir, for about 20 minutes.  When rice is cooked through and squash is soft, remove from heat and add the lemon juice and parsley.

Remove the squash from the oven and fill with rice, squash mixture.  Place in oven for an additional 5 minutes.  Serve with a little sprig of parsley and, if you feel like a really rich dinner, some freshly grated parmesan cheese.

A Taste of Summer (and France!)

7 May

Glasgow had a sudden heat snap today, though it seems as if it will be nothing more than a memory tomorrow.  I’m planning on getting up early and going for a run- an attempt to get back into some semblance of shape for the summer.  Nothing says “attractive” at the beach like eating too much all winter to stay warm.

French cooking

French Cooking

Today was a “life is short, eat dessert first” kind of day.  When Matthew and I got home from our respective universities, we went for a lovely walk down by the river, Snickers ice cream bars in hand.  We intended to only be gone like 20 minutes, but we didn’t end up getting home until almost 8! By this time, I had to make dinner, although I thrown together a lovely fruit salad before we left.  Fortunately for me, I had a meal plan for the evening: Cod, Coriander, Tomato, and Garlic Parcels.  On this extended walk, we picked up a baguette, so it became a wonderfully French meal. The recipe I used is out of Daniel Galmiche’s wonderful cookbook French Brasserie Cookbook: The Heart of French Home Cooking.  Not only was this dish pretty and delicious, it was also SUPER easy.  I’m talking 10 minute prep with no anxiety easy.  I’d dole out the recipe online, but since I didn’t change anything, it feels like I’d be trying to pass it off as my own.  But if you’re ever feeling like cod, I’ll cook it for you!  I highly suggest checking out his website and buying his book.  (No, he’s not paying me. I wish!)

Generally, I have a pretty limited fish repertoire; I wish I had more! Does anyone out there have any good fish recipes?

The Lovely Month of May

2 May
Spring Has Sprung

Spring Has Sprung

I cannot even begin to tell you how excited that I am that it’s May. This month comes with so many good things.  The weather is better, flowers are blooming, and it’s my birthday.  I’ve clearly not been very good at keeping up in April, so I promise to make a bit more of an effort this month.

The last couple of weeks of April were so rough  in the United States.  I felt like I should say something and wrote a couple of drafts, but everyone knows it was bad and everyone who could be affected is upset.  I can only hope that the future holds fewer horrible days and that those most greatly impacted recover as fully and quickly as possible.

On a much lighter topic,  my birthday is very soon. I’m hoping that I end up with some less-than-exciting kitchen things (a hand mixer!) which would greatly improve my efficiency in the kitchen and would bring my lovely readers more recipes more often. I’m currently debating between cakes that I hope Matthew will make for me.  I love the sound of this red wine chocolate cake, and this yellow cake, and this more traditional chocolate cake.  There are also a couple of cakes in one of the fabulous French cookbooks Matthew got for Christmas. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Because I haven’t posted anything in a while, let alone something about food, I thought I would present my most basic of university/postgrad cooking, the roast chicken.  It does feel a bit like a winter food, especially when served with potatoes and a lovely gravy, but it is a comfort food fit for any day you need a little home feeling (or the weather in Glasgow is as bad as today’s-dreich with occasional less cold moments). Matthew and I eat a lot of whole chickens because, honestly, they’re cheap and easy and make more than one meal.   We usually have leftover chicken (I buy a decent sized one) that gets used for soup and a third meal, frequently curry or enchiladas. I’m going to leave you with my recipe for a roast chicken and  gravy. I promise I’ll upload pictures of one soon (I forgot to take some last night as I was cooking)!

Basic Roast Chicken with light gravy

  • 1 medium sized chicken (feeds about 5 people)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 large, whole cloves of garlic
  • dried thyme
  • dried oregano
  • mixed herbs
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter
  • foil
  • flour
  • butter
  • milk

Preheat oven to 400° F, 200° C (350° F or 180° C for a convection oven).  Halve the onion and peel the garlic. Place your chicken into a high sided baking dish and remove giblets.  Stuff chicken with garlic and onion.  Place small pats of butter on chicken skin, one on either side of the breast, one on either side near the back, and one on each drumstick.  Season to taste.  Tent chicken with foil. Place chicken in the oven for around 1h 45min, depending on the size of the bird, removing the foil when 45 minutes remain. Baste every 20-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool.

For gravy: Make a basic roux (one solid pat of butter, around 5 grams for 2 people, and flour, about a tablespoon).  While constantly stirring, slowly add in some of the juice from the bird while stirring.  Once liquid and roux don’t properly combine, add small amounts of milk until consistency is as desired.  Add the same herbs from the chicken.  Pour over meat and dig in!

Monday, Monday (and Stuffed Mushrooms)

15 Apr

Although this weekend was less than fun (it was cloudy with a few fleeting glimpses of sun and Matthew was studying all weekend), at least it was full of good food and good television programming.  I made stuffed mushrooms Saturday night, a roast chicken last night, and delicious parmesan crusted pesto grilled cheese for lunch both days.  Matthew and I have started watching a show called Firefly, which had a brief run in 2002, and I started the first season of Downton Abby yesterday.  In addition, I managed to get a fair amount of work done.

Today looks to be equally thrilling, registering at a doctor’s office and getting a library card being at the top of my to do list.  Hopefully I’ll also get some writing done today.  I haven’t done any literary or film analysis in months, so I’m a bit nervous that what I do end up with will be lower quality than what I generally produce.  I suppose that’s what drafts are for!

I leave you my mushrooms and a wee warning.  You should definitely check this BBC article out if you’re a wordpress.com user yourself.  Apparently someone/a group of someones is hacking fairly successfully into many people’s accounts.  Make sure your password is strong enough!

Stuffed MushroomsStuffed Mushrooms A La Leigh

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 4 large mushrooms (I used large chestnut, but you could also use portabella)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tomatoes (roma sized), chopped
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/3 cup rice (I used basmati, but I really think any kind would be excellent)
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • mozzarella cheese
  • butter or oil
  • salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • dried basil

Preheat the oven to 180°C (or about 350°F).  Cook rice while chopping up vegetables.  Over a medium high heat, heat butter in frying pan and add onion.  After about 2 minutes, add pepper.  Cook until onion is beginning to brown and add tomatoes and spices, to taste.  When rice has finished cooking, add the vegetables to the rice.  Grate in parmesan to taste (about 1/4-1/2 cup).  Place mushrooms on a baking sheet and pour mixture into mushrooms.  Cover the tops with mozzarella cheese. Bake until cheese is melted, about 8 minutes, and serve.

Chocolate

3 Apr

My first love was chocolate.  It is an ever enduring love, growing stronger  through the years.  As I’ve grown older, I’ve branched out and learned to love it in all forms- dark, sometimes white, and especially milk.  I have a hard time turning anything containing chocolate down, which makes Easter very dangerous.  I don’t really want to think about all of the chocolate I’ve eaten in the last 5 days.  In fact, I’m eating half of a Lindt egg after my relatively healthy dinner of chickpea fajitas.  If this had been my only Easter indulgence today, I wouldn’t be at all concerned.  I’m pretty fit, I typically don’t eat a ton of unnecessary junk food, and no diseases linked with food run in my family.  The habits of the past week are embarrassing; I need to start eating less crap.  I do so well at meals, but then, out of the blue, snack attack!  Time to lace up the old running shoes.  Look out West End! I’ll be awkwardly running around you…

With the increase in chocolate consumption, my world has also had an increase in sunshine!  My relatively short Easter break was moderately sunny and today was lovely.  Although it’s definitely still really cold in Glasgow, Spring seems to be on the approach.  There are so many things to look forward to soon!  In the mean time, there are daffodils to enjoy.

Daffodils in the Botanic Gardens

Daffodils in the Botanic Gardens

 

Mundane Mondays

18 Mar

Being a grad student without classes has ruined my typical pattern of life.  Because my boyfriend is also a student, and his term is winding down, I have no sense of the significance of certain days of the week.  Weekends are less exciting and Mondays are less awful.  That being said, Mondays tend to be rather boring.  I crack down to work on Mondays, even though I typically do some research on the weekends, which frequently means not leaving my flat.  Today, for instance, I spent hours analyzing shots in Snow Cake.  It’s a good film, so I can’t complain too much, but because it was such a simple thing the amount of time it took was rather disheartening.  I have so much to write that spending time doing analysis that is equally unfun seems wasteful!

To make the day less drab (it was also raining/sleeting/cloudy all day-gross),  I made what Matthew thinks of as my signature dish- vegetarian stuffed green peppers.  It’s warm and cheesy and always a roaring success.  It also takes me less time every time I cook it, which is wonderful as one of my biggest problems as a chef/baker is that I’m SO slow.  Although tonight’s peppers were a little, well, squat, they brightened my day!  Here’s the recipe (inspired by this one) to make your next boring day a little brighter!

Stuffed Peppers

Stuffed Peppers

Leigh’s Stuffed Green Peppers

(Serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 2 green bell peppers, halved, cored, and seeded
  • 1/2 cup arborio rice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 or 3 green onions, chopped (spring onions in the UK)
  • 1 teaspoon basil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper to taste (I like a fair amount, about three good grinds on my pepper grinder, maybe 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 whole tomato or 4-5 cherry tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC).  Put rice into boiling water and cook for 20 minutes, or until all the water has boiled away and

rice is cooked.  Place bell pepper halves on a baking tray and bake for 15-20 minutes. Chop up the green onions and tomato(es).   Put the onion in the hot oil with the basil, salt, and pepper for about 3 minutes.  Add in tomato and cook, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.  Stir the cooked rice and cheese in with the onions and tomatoes.  Fill the pepper halves with the mixture. Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes.  Serve immediately.

Multitasking

11 Mar

It something we’re all guilty- me perhaps more than others.  As I sit here writing this blog post, I’m listening to the boyfriend play guitar, thinking about my thesis, drinking tea, eating poppy seed and sesame crackers, doing laundry- I just stopped to hang it- and planning dinner.  I think, typically, my ability to multitask is a demonstration of efficiency.  It drives me a bit barmy (to quote a lovely English friend of mine) that Matthew can’t seem to put his gloves on and tell me a story at the same time.    It definitely gets in the way of finishing things or putting in singular effort; not that I can’t do this, I usually just choose not to.

As I continue my work on autism’s representation in fictional media, I find myself involved in looking at educational inclusion of those with disabilities with hopes to positively correlate representation, perception, and inclusion.  Schools, it seems, are also trying to multitask with our children and are largely failing.  They are trying to implement too many new things at one time without fixing the fundamental issues.  I am pro inclusion where appropriate, but, unfortunately, the system at most schools needs to change in order to effectively education children with and without special educational needs in one place.  It breaks my heart to know that teachers feel overwhelmed by students in their classes with needs they don’t know how to properly address, that parents feel that their children are in the wrong place or not getting the education that student deserves, and that the students themselves are unhappy and/or bullied.  The legislation is in place; now schools need to challenge themselves to live up to it and the government needs to provide the appropriate funds so that they can deliver it.  I have many a rant on the educational system, this is just a small chunk of a new one.

Tonight, when I’ve finished with some work, I’m making enchiladas (recipe courtesy of the amazing Emma).  It is a recipe that multitasks only in that the chicken ones will be using the leftover chicken from the roast Matthew and I had for dinner two nights ago.  He made a lovely soup last night from homemade stock, so tonight is my turn.  These puppies are dangerously good in a country that is nearly devoid of Mexican food.  They really make me hanker for a giant, cheap burrito or chile verde from a local Mexican restaurant.  *drool*  I’d provide a recipe, but since it isn’t mine (or posted on the internet), I’m going to keep it all for myself.

Pancakes and Disability Theory

13 Feb

Yesterday was certainly not the most exciting day of being a grad student I’ve ever had.  The weather was less than pleasant, despite my weather app’s indication that it would be sunny (lying rat), so I spent the day filing online job applications and reading a book for my thesis, Representing Autism by Stuart Murray, one of the few scholars I’ve been able to find invested in autism’s representation in fictional media.  As interesting and helpful as this book is, it is almost certainly not as enjoyable as, say, Terrorist by John Updike, which is currently sitting on my shelf, calling my name.  Murray’s book has, however, inspired some new thoughts for my thesis in addition to providing me with countless opportunities to thank heaven that someone else has worked on this topic and demonstrated eloquently the large number of reasons it is important to research.

On a more delicious note, yesterday was also Pancake Day (Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday for those not in the know).  For whatever reason (I’m assuming it has to do with celebration before the giving up of things on Lent), the Brits have decided that it is a day to eat pancakes.  I am wholeheartedly embracing this.  Matthew volunteered to make them, scoffing at the idea of my American buttermilk variety.  His were lovely, although I am still partial to buttermilk- especially those made by my former roommate and good friend Emily, which are AMAZING.

On that note of delicious foods, we’re off to see a movie on this snowy turned rainy Wednesday.  I know I’m going to really enjoy it once I”m in the theater, but freezing rain is a bit daunting…  Enjoy your day!