Posts filed under 'Eat'

Girls weekend in Porto

Man, it’s tough committing to blogging. I’ve got an injured pony (more on that in another post), an injured body (damn my chronically dislocating shoulder) and a lot going on…but damn it, I’m going to keep trying. If not for anyone else but my mother who persistently asks me where’s my next post.  So here it is…which is some text, yes, but a whole lot of pictures.  That’s what happens when you go on a girls trip with a bunch of photogenic gals, one of which is an actual photographer (Check out Christine Jackson Photography HERE and get excited because we’re having a family shoot in the fall with her).  Needless to say, she wasn’t in most pictures but taking them…but if it’s just a shitty iphone pic it’s mine.  I tried not to steal her gorgeous normal pictures but just ones of me cheesin’.

Yes, these is me cheesin’…but aren’t we adorbs?


Can you believe this was my first ever girls trip? If you know me well, that’s actually not too surprising. I’ve never rolled deep with a posse of ladies but rather like to keep my friends separate (I’m an extroverted introvert and groups of people make me feel like I need to perform). We had a group of 6 ladies for a short weekend trip (though slightly adjusted a day because of flights) flying out of Edinburgh to Porto directly on Saturday evening, and getting back late Tuesday night (11pm arrival, and then the 2 hour+ ride home to Aberdeen). It was a good mix of ladies, 3 moms and 3 unspoiled by motherhood (ha!).

This was my second time to Portugal (see first time recap HERE) and I was excited to see another part of the country. I’m actually going for my 3rd trip to Portugal this fall with E and my mother back to Lisbon…there’s just a lot of love about this country so I’m not minding the duplicate trips at all! Porto as a city is just as hilly as Lisbon, and like Lisbon is against water (though the River Douro, not the Atlantic) and maintains a quaint feel with pedestrian only streets and tiled buildings.


This trip we had a secret weapon…Lillian, you might know her from The Smalls Abroad, who is actually Portuguese. Born in Canada, but her extended family is in Portugal she holds dual citizenship, and her parents still own a house there, and her fluency was so helpful! It’s just nice to feel like you aren’t getting ripped off for being a tourist when you have a native speaker with you. Which reminds me that this is actually the 2nd time I traveled with a secret weapon native speaker…but the last time I have YET to write about (2 years post)…our trip to Croatia. Alas…

The Smalls Abroad and Hot Dogs to Haggis


Porto is obviously known for making Port wine. And while the port wine is made a bit further away from the city centre of Porto, planning in some winery tours is a must. We booked a private tour through EcoTours Portugal for 71 euros a person, which had one poor man drive our gaggle around, hitting up two wineries with lunch in between (lunch wasn’t included in the price but tours and tasting were).  Even if you don’t like Port…you’ll learn a lot and the views are amazing.

Our very lucky tour guide!


What a view, huh?

we cheese so well!

I have to say, I wasn’t ever a fan of port before, but the trip changed my mind a bit. I think a combination of trying new things as well as a phenomenal dessert pairing helped. In the end, here’s what port I found I liked.

  • Rose’ port – because I’m totally a #basicbitch. Rose’ and Slay all day!
  • P&T – I’ll never abandon gin, but a white port and tonic is a refreshing drink.
  • Graham’s 20-year port – Was it the dessert I had with it? Was it the 7 bottles of wine before it? We’ll never be sure, but I thought it was delicious.

Diane was also quite fond of Graham’s 20 year

Unfortunately for our little jaunt, we got in late Saturday night and because we didn’t know when we’d be checked in and all that, didn’t have a dinner reservation so unfortunately had to wind up eating at such a tourist trap of a place…. the food wasn’t awful but it was just meat and cheese and over priced sangria. Tip: If you’re in Porto, when go down to the main square on the river, while looking at the river, the places to your right tend to be more authentic (They are up on a ledge from the river) while to the left with their seating at river level are more touristy. Portugal has a great food culture but our only two dinners being on a Sunday and Monday night really limited where we could go eat, as those are the days most restaurants are closed. We even had a difficult time finding a little grocery store that was open on Sunday to get our breakfast essentials.

Even though it was over priced, they lit our sausage on fire so points for that.

We ended up eating at Vinhas d’alhos on Sunday night after we had walked past it on Saturday night trying to find anywhere that would take us. Most nights (perhaps every) they do a live Fado. Now what’s Fado? The google tells me it’s popular folk music originated in Portugal. It’s included as a UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage. Fado comes from the Latin word fatum (fate in English). It is most commonly performed over dinner and bounces between love and death and sadness…with silly little songs. A great experience to say the least.

Another reason I would recommend Vinhas d’alhos (specifically if you’re a group of ladies) is it seems they only hire cute male servers. I mean, they’re little men (I am a strict 6’3” or above type of gal) but when you’re sitting down you can’t really tell their height and they are all just so charming and cute. The food was good, not mind blowing, but they made great wine recommendations, you have a view of the river, and we got a welcome drink of Port and tonic.

Our last night we went across the river, which actually isn’t in Porto, but across the Douro River in Vila Nova de Gaia. In this area there are a lot of Port Cellars and while we originally planned a tour + tasting…bagged it and just went for the meal. It’s kind of like whisky distillery tours…once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen em all. I have to say, the food here is amazing, and the view is even better as you’re looking over Porto from high above. There is a big patio that hosts some couches for pre-dinner drinks, as well as has a glassed in section with tables for dinner. It got a bit cool at night, but I believe you could open up the doors/windows on a nice night and be practically eating al fresco. And to be fair, the interior it top notch…but since we’re stuck inside Aberdonians, we wanted out! This was a pricey (for Portugal) meal but I thought it was excellent…and even with about 5 bottles of wine, an appetizer, main and dessert (2 desserts for some as previously mentioned), AND port pairing with dessert, AND tip (which isn’t necessary in Portugal but for such good service we went with it) it was £70 a person.

We had perfect weather.

View from Graham’s/Vinum

A much better than my shitty iphone camera skills shot by Christine

And on the subject of food…make sure you try pasteis de nata for breakfast…or snack…or anytime you see them. A flakey shell with a sort of vanilla custard inside…drool.Other traditional foods to try:

Grilled Octopus

Bacalhau (salted cod fish – can be served a 1,000 different ways)

Alheira – a smoked bread and meat sausage, when asked what kind of meats? The response was, “all”

Maybe not traditional, but have you ever seen me so happy? Ice cream for the win!

To me the allure of Portugal is friendly people, warm climate, pretty cities built into hills against bodies of water, good food and wine…. and all that for SUPER CHEAP. I mean, I think I ate more on this trip than any other holiday (some people in our group might have even ordered two desserts on multiple occasions…) and we averaged 7 bottles of wine a day…. AND IT WAS CHEAP AF. And just reiterating, it was really good, fresh, seafood and yummy, local wines. What’s not to like? I’m already looking forward to my next trip.

One more selfie before I go…

Troo Granola Review


I’ve said it complained about it probably more than anything else whilst living here, the food options in Aberdeenshire suck. (See, normally I say the UK but I know London, Edinburgh, etc has totally acceptable options.) Well, suck comparatively to what I’m used to in America. Going out, your options are limited, but what’s more annoying to be is grocery shopping. I would kill a first born for a Trader Joe’s up in here. And probably a second born for a Whole Foods- a store I rarely shopped at in America because you didn’t need to with the diversity of kick ass grocery stores. I mean, it’s great that I’ve bought and cooked with persimmon here, but I would kill for some spaghetti squash and jicama.

Anyway, this is all the more reason to get super stoked when I hear about something somewhat progressive in the food options here. Enter Troo Granola. I actually can’t figure out how I heard about it, I’ll assume it was a facebook ad. But I was intrigued because who doesn’t like Granola?! It’s fresh, homemade, handmade granola that comes straight to your door….what?! The company just started (first trial production of granola was mid-November 2015) and they seem eager to please. I’m a bit of a social media junkie (um, it pays my bills so I kind of have to be) so I love seeing a company doing right- and Troo Granola is. Granted, they only have about 150 followers (so they’re gonna need to start pushing that) but the content they’re putting out there is spot on so far.

What makes them special?

Well, I already mentioned you get fresh granola to your door. How fresh? Well they make the granola every Tuesday in small batches, and it’s sent First Class mail arriving at your door Thursday or Friday. You don’t need to sign for it and your (roughly) week’s worth of granola goes right through the letterbox. I say roughly a week’s servings because each pack is 250grams of granola, which is either 5 x 50g servings or 7 x 35g servings.



The other thing that makes Troo Granola special is you get set up a reoccurring order/subscription for it as frequently as you want. You want fresh granola every week- great. Twice a month- done. Once a month- easy. I’m not sure if it’s for better or worse but every packet cost the same: £6.99 regardless of how often you have it coming (or if you’re just ordering a one-off pack which is an option as well). You can pause or cancel your subscription at any time (which I guess makes the payment bit work out easier), but I would think there should be a price incentive if you sign up for 12 months of granola.

Super Seed Granola

Super Seed Granola

Right now there are 4 varieties: Original, Super Seed, Go Nuts, or Feeling Fruity. I got to try “Go Nuts” and have to say, it was really good. Not nearly as sweet as any store bought granola I’ve had (or probably not as sweet as the ones I make- but it’s a good thing!) and the ingredients are not only all pronounceable, but are all items I know well.IMG_2678To see how it stacks up, I compared nutritional info from Troo Granola with info from: Dorset Simply Oat Granola, Lizi’s Original Granola, Jordan’s Simply Granola, and Tesco Red Berry. There’s not a huge difference in any granola stats (I will say it looked more favorable when I was using the Super Seed nutritional info against other Granola’s Nut versions as most don’t have seed versions).


Screen Shot 2016-02-08 at 3.41.36 PM

So no, this isn’t crazy healthy, but it is fresh and locally made (if you’re in the UK), and I guarantee there are no mystery ingredients (like “natural flavoring” WTF is that?!). As much as I love the idea and the product…it’s not for me. I can’t be trusted with granola showing up at my door every week. Do you know how small a 35-gram serving is? You can’t just snack on it or you’ll inhale 1,000 calories without realizing. And it’s so messy, try to grab a handful and there are little nuts and seeds and grains all in-between your sofa cushions. It’s an indulgence /craving every couple of months, but I’ll stick with making my own. But if you are tired of constantly preparing handmade batches of granola, that goes stale before it’s consumed, or trying to eat whole foods but your granola is coated in mystery oils: Troo Granola is for you!

Long Trip Home

I’m alive! I swear. Alive and back in Aberdeen.   I actually got back 2 weeks ago and to be honest- I don’t think that’s a bad lag time from spending a month in the US and having to fight jetlag and jump back into the swing of things. But my mother thinks the lack of blog love is unacceptable. I know it doesn’t help that I didn’t blog the entire time I was home, and though I really meant to get at least one more blog out before I left….it didn’t happen. But that’s okay. I wanted to post about all that went into planning to go home for a month, when you only go stateside once a year and have to get EVERYTHING done and see everyone. But I’ll just post about the planning and the outcome.

Home, sweet home, Chicago

Home, sweet home, Chicago


Make no mistake; it’s a lot of planning. Going away to any place for 4 weeks is a lot of planning. It starts with figuring out the dates- I have a more flexible schedule obviously, E doesn’t- mostly because he has a finite amount of days off. This year he had to use all his days off so we scheduled around that. For our Christmas trip next year, E’s dates are already predetermined because it ends up being whatever days he can spare after our travel this year. Yes, we actually plan out and designate every one of E’s vacation days for 2016 before it even is 2016. Must maximize what you got with fore planning.


Once the dates are set all the other scheduling has to be laid out. The following doctors appointments must be lined up for both of us (these are really important to get done stateside): dentist, optometrist, and dermatologist. Then I’ll schedule in a gyno and shrink appointment. Next, I had to book a day to visit my clients, a couple days where I could get on a horse (first, finding WHERE I can even get on a horse), and my global entry interview.   One thing I booked far before flights was afternoon tea in Chicago with my mom and sister in law – a yearly tradition of shopping and indulgence. E reserves a day to come together as the Trifecta with his brother and drink heavily (and smoke brisket as it turns out this year). I book a day to go to Fort Wayne (2.5 hour drive) to see my best friend with her cousin/my friend, E plans a weekend to go down to Indy to see his brother an additional day and his best friends from college for a day – which I would drive down separately and join him in. Then there’s scheduling a couple evenings out in Chicago to see friends, New Year’s Eve, and seeing some local friends in our hometown. We even tried to schedule a Blackhawks game but I’m actually thankful that didn’t work out. AND AFTER ALL THAT, it’s bouncing from house to house every day to see and spend time with our families every other second.

That's one happy Santa.

That’s one happy Santa.

I don’t mean for our families to sound like an afterthought- they aren’t. But since they live there and we’re living with them, and we know their schedules, all the other planning is done first and they fill in the blanks. ALL the blanks. Like I know my mom watches Max, my nephew, on Mondays- so I didn’t schedule anything any Monday if I could avoid it. Basically this is what we were looking on pretty well set in stone before we stepped foot on our flight home.

Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
9 10 11 12 13
Arrive 5 pm

Dinner w. mother & in-laws

Wake up to flooded house- damage control.

Nails Done

Shop at Tony’s Saddle Shop

Morning train to Chicago w. Mom & SIL for shopping & tea

Meet Megan for dinner/drinks

Joined by others for after dinner drinks.

Spend night in Chicago.

Go to brunch with Tricia and drinks post brunch.

Nearly miss train home.

14 15 16 17 18 19 20
Babysit Max all day

10am eye doctor

Road trip to Ft. Wayne w. Lynda to see Heather – gone all day Train to Chicago

Go to Shoe Hospital to drop off fav. Boots for repair

Get/eat Doughnut Vault

Dentist Appointment

Apple store appt for new mac issues

Give homeless man extra doughnuts

Eat Roti

Shrink Appointment

Drinks & then tacos with Tricia

Nearly miss train home

Leave house 7 am

Drive to Northbrook, IL for Carol’s Cookie meeting

Drive to Mundelein IL for marijuana dispensary meeting

Drive to O’hare & have Global Entry Interview

Pick up E arriving at O’hare

Get Giordano’s Pizza

Drive home & have dinner w. E’s family

E goes down to Indy.

Horse Riding Lesson.

Meet hometown friend for drinks

Drive down to Indy to meet E at our friend’s house.

After their babies go to bed play beer pong as if still in college.

Drive home (3 hours).  

Pick up my brother from the airport bus.

Family dinner

21 22 23 24 25 26 27
Drive to Chicago 8 am

9:15- Gyno

10- Dermatologist

11-1: online shopping returns

1: E Dentist

2: Eat $100 worth of sushi

4: E eye appointment

5: Put name in at Au Chevel, go for drinks

6:30: Eat Au chevel

8: meet friends in Wicker Park for drinks

10: E’s little bro arrives in from TX

11: all drive home

Horse Riding Lesson

Nails done with MIL

Trifecta Day

Christmas Eve shopping (whoops)

Big Christmas Eve dinner at my family’s house

Wrap all the presents (whoops)

Presents at my family

Brunch at my family

Brunch at E family

Presents at E family

Dinner at E grandma

Lunch with Heather & Linz

See hometown friends

Celebrate East coast bro’s birthday and play games at my family’s

Brunch with all in-laws & my mom
28 29 30 31 1 2 3
Drive to Chicago w. Stella

See Dave & condo building friends

Pick up prescriptions

Pick up boots

Drive home


Lunch with hometown friend Stella Vet appt.

Train to Chicago

NYE celebrations w. Megan & co.

Stay night in Chicago

Brunch w. Megan & co.

Brunch #2 & drinks w. friends

Train home

Ribs w. E’s family

Undecorated Christmas Tree

Go to brothers and hang with dogs, nephew, and neighbors.
Ribs, Max, & sports at brothers

Dinner with E’s family before little bros flight home


See home-town friends

4 5 6

Say goodbyes

Start the journey home

8 am: Land in Edinburgh

Rent car and drive to ABZ


Return Car

Sleep until 3 pm.   Whoops

Remember- that doesn’t include eating dinner with one family or another every night (other than specific gatherings or nights out) or just hanging out playing with dogs or watching a movie with family at one of their homes. It’s pretty damn chaotic. Which might explain why I a) didn’t work out one single time, b) didn’t blog, and c) took so long to recover.

Christmas Eve dinner - not the best photo skills but captured the moment!

Christmas Eve dinner – not the best photo skills but captured the moment!

Stramash- Scotland's only board game: a new family tradition

Stramash- Scotland’s only board game: a new family tradition



Lessons learned for next year:


1) I can’t eat all the things I love and miss in a month. I didn’t even get a DQ blizzard…for shame! Though making time for Au Chevel, sushi, and good steak are ALWAYS worth it. I did gain about 8 lbs while home, and I don’t regret that, but I need to manage my foodie expectations. But I did accomplish a lot….

Unique twist on the classic high tea- thanks for the Rose mum!

Unique twist on the classic high tea- thanks for the Rose mum!

Au Chevel - get in my belly

Au Chevel – get in my belly

Stramash- Scotland's only board game: a new family tradition

Stramash- Scotland’s only board game: a new family tradition

Sienna Tavern

Sienna Tavern


2) I need to make sure the dentist understand what needs to be done, and schedules 2 appointments with enough time to get a crown in. I’m currently sitting with 2 teeth that need crowns. Fingers crossed they hold on for a year.


3) Bring home fewer clothes! I really felt I did better this year…but really, LESS CLOTHES HOME. I just need 7 outfits and wear them on repeat. What’s worse is the things I wore the most were the things I got new while at home. Definitely could have trimmed off 7 tops. Also- since I didn’t work out AT ALL, all those workout clothes were a huge waste. That being said, last year I ran everyday. Though Christmas break 2016 I’m pretty sure I won’t be as it will be a month or two out for the NYC marathon. So definitely: MINIMAL WORKOUT CLOTHES.


4) While it’s great to see as many people as we did, next year I think will be different. Prioritize more on the really good friendships, less on the acquaintances that I do love the opportunity to see, but the time should be spent on those most important to me.


5) There is never going to be enough time. Doesn’t matter if I come home 6 weeks next year, it will be just as busy. And in some ways that really sucks (the fact that I’m exhausted the entire trip home) but at least I don’t leave feeling guilty for not making good use of my month home when I abandon the states for another 11 months.


The good is I feel I saw a lot of people and gave them a decent amount of time. We also did really well with bringing 2 extra duffle bags (which yes charged us $100 extra each bag but was way better than being over weight) and overall packing to go home. And I have to say, my obsessive pre-planning and scheduling, even though it left me exhausted, paid off in maximizing our time home. Now, my work continues to get back to life in the UK and get on a good sched




A Homesick Recipe

I’m calling it homesickness, but it’s mostly just that I am just over Scotland right now. Well, that’s not exactly right either. I am annoyed at expat life (on several different levels), this is the longest I haven’t been home, I missed the excitement of the cubs in the playoffs, I missed my nephew’s birthday, I need a bunch of stuff I have to wait for until I’m stateside…I just want to go home. I am counting down the days already (6 weeks exactly!) which isn’t a good sign.

The sucky part of homesickness is you’re kinda stuck with it. Or, to fix it, it’s really expensive. I mean your options are flying home, having people fly out to you, or buying a bunch of American shit to surround yourself with in hopes of feeling less homesick. All expensive options. Seriously. Even if you’re thinking I just want to eat Lucky Charms for breakfast and Velveeta Mac n Cheese for dinner for my comfort food. IT’S EXPENSIVE.

For example. On rare occasions I do get E one box (of the 3 out) of Lucky Charms from the back of Tesco in the “American” section next to a random selection of foods, some American some not. (In case you’re looking, there is Gatorade there!)   The cost for a standard box of sugary crap.

uk lucky charmsLucky Charms = £5 = $7.63

ON ONE BOX OF CEREAL. That lasts E MAYBE 4 breakfasts.

Or today, with Halloween approaching and plans to eat candy with friends (no one trick or treats out in these parts of the country), I went to pick up some at the ASDA (UK Walmart). What is Halloween to me? Reese’s and peanut m&ms.

uk mandm10.5 ounce bag of peanut m&ms = £1.80 = $2.75

uk reeses

bag with 16 MINI reese’s cups = £2.30 = $3.51


$3.51 for 16 MINI REESE’S CUPS. What the efffffff.

So last week we were having a little party and I’m blaming homesickness, but I was dead set on making Hanky Pankys. Hanky Pankys mean different things to different people. To me and my people, it means little party rye breads with a pork sausage/ground beef/Velveeta mixture on top. I wasn’t raised in a house that had Hanky Pankys, I actually wasn’t raising in a house that ever had even Velveeta in it. But my nextdoor neighbors….they were a Hanky Pank and Velveeta loving house that I benefitted from.

So I swung by the Aberdeen store that I’d been told had American food (specifically Velveeta) last week and was told they didn’t have any of their overpriced Velveeta in stock. I was pretty annoyed but oh well, for I’m sure a little more I can get it from Amazon. I go home and first off, I couldn’t even find plain Velveeta. Secondly, what I did find, was UNGODLY expensive.

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 8.04.58 PM

£19 = $29


Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 8.03.51 PM£39.99 = $61.03


But I wanted hanky pankys! I was already making my own pork sausage (okay just ground (or mince as they say here) pork with seasoning). And had already spent £9.90 on some weird German pumpernickel bread to substitute for party rye that I had to throw all away because it tasted like ass. These Hanky Pankys were becoming the most time-consuming, expensive appetizer ever. But how hard could making homemade Velveeta be?

So without further rambling or ado, for my homesick American expats, here’s how I made Hanky Pankys.

IMG_1963Expat Hanky Pankys*

  • 1 lb mince hot pork
  • 1 ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 2/3 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/3 teaspoon fennel seed
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • ¾ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 lb mince beef
  • 1 lb Faux-veeta**
  • ¼ ounce unflavored gelatin
  • 6 tablespoons dry milk powder
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 16 ounces mild Scottish shredded cheddar
  • ½ tsp. Fennel SeedIMG_1990
  • 1 tsp. Oregano
  • ½ Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
  • ½ tsp. Garlic Salt
  • 2 loaves strange rectangle rye bread, each slice cut into thirds

Make Faux-veeta the night before.

Line a small loaf pan with plastic wrap with extra plastic wrap hanging over the sides. Put gelatin and milk powder in a blender, add 1 cup boiling water and blend until combined. Add in the cheese and puree until mixture is well blended and smooth. Immediately pour/scoop cheese mixture into loaf pan, spreading the top layer so it’s even. Wrap completely with excess plastic wrap and refrigerate for 12 hours. And there you have Faux-veeta. This makes more than 1 lb so be sure to weigh the final product before using it in the Hanky Panky.IMG_1950

Add mince pork to a skillet and add salt, paprika, garlic powder, 1/3 tsp fennel seed, ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cooke until browned. Drain fat and set cooked pork aside.

Brown mince beef. Drain fat. Add in 1lb Faux-veeta, ½ tsp Fennel Seed, oregano, Worcestershire sauce, garlic salt, and browned pork. Stir until combined and Faux-veeta is melted.

Spoon onto bread and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes in a 204 degrees C (or Gas Mark 6) oven. Enjoy!

I actually made the Faux-veeta a couple days before and made the entire mixture of stuff the night before and left it in the fridge. It’s really easy to prep it all early and just spread the mixture on bread and toss into the oven.

IMG_1962 (1)

*Hanky Panky recipe from The Seerups

**Faux-veeta (or homemade velveeta or make at home velveeta) recipe courtesy of The Brown Eyed Baker.

Homemade Pumpkin Creamer

imagesHappy First Day of Fall!

I actually had to Google if the UK’s first day of fall is the same as the states, which might sound stupid but our daylight savings times AND mother’s day are different, so you never know. From what I can tell it’s the same…or the UK doesn’t really care about the exact date because we live in permanent fall minus the beautiful foliage. Or at least Scotland.

You know what I love about fall? PUMPKIN. There are few things I love as much as pumpkin…mainly, s’mores. I am the total cliché white girl when it comes to fall and pumpkin madness. Seriously, my mom brought me some Bath & Body works pumpkin soap on her trip (even though I already have a surplus of 5 of them and will be fully replenished when I get home for Christmas) and I have no short of 7 pumpkin candles in this house. And you don’t even want to see my stockpile of pumpkin puree (which can be found seasonally in the “American” section of some grocery stores here for insane prices, or on I buy anything pumpkin. Errrr…I did when I lived in American and there was everything you can buy pumpkin. I’m smuggled over pumpkin butter, pumpkin oatmeal, pumpkin m&ms, pumpkin pudding mix, pumpkin pie spice, pumpkin cliff bars (yes, they made them), pumpkin tea and coffee…like white girl wasted on pumpkin over here.

Yeah, I would totally buy this.

Yeah, I would totally buy this.

But my heart is still empty because I simply cannot bake the same quality of pumpkin goodness that will be all over America starting this month. It makes me so sad. And I have to use my pumpkin reserves carefully because they can’t be easily or cheaply refilled. I’m already out of pumpkin coffee and the stock on pumpkin oatmeal is dwindling….oh #expatproblems.

Anyway, what I didn’t previously mention is that I also brought over pumpkin coffee syrup…but unfortunately; I just don’t think they’re very good. I even brought over two different kinds but the fake sugar substitute crap they use leaves a bad taste in my mouth. Yes, I can go to starbucks and get the pumpkin Spice latte…but I don’t really go to Starbucks very often and I like my pumpkin coffee at home where I sit and write blog posts with a pumpkin candle lit and go into my own restroom and wash my hands with pumpkin soap and so on and so on.

There’s also that little issue that there’s no creamer in Scotland what so ever (which was in fact one of my first, unsettling expat life blog posts – see here). And that is why I decided to go down the path of homemade coffee creamer. But not just any creamer my friends, PUMPKIN coffee creamer. I wish I could say that the fact that store bought coffee creamers are filled with fake crap helped lead me down this path, but lets be honest, if I could get my hands on a big ole’ jug of International Delight Pumpkin Spice Toxic Creamer…I’d be all over that. (Shedding a little tear for Target as I type.)

So if you’re an expat mourning a morning cup of pumpkin coffee or just want to stop buying the expensive toxic crap creamer…I wanted to share my recipe with you.image1 (8)

Homemade Pumpkin Coffee Creamer

  • 1-cup semi-skimmed milk (US- 1% milk)
  • ½ cup single cream (as oppose to double cream here in the UK)
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup maple syrup

Just blend all ingredients with an immersion blender, hand mixer, or regular blender and refrigerate. Shake well before pouring into your coffee.

This recipe actually isn’t too sweet so don’t be fearful of that…I actually add one packet of fake-sugar-toxic-crap Equal and it is just heaven for me. Go on and embrace your white girl and give it a try!


Coconut Mango Chia Popsicles

Scotland doesn’t have a lot of days that leave one desiring ice cream and popsicles to cool off…but maybe, on a sunny summer day you go for a run and work up a decent sweat and you get the craving for a sweet treat to help you cool off. Or maybe you just want to pretend you’re someplace warm and tropical. Or maybe you want to amp yourself up for an upcoming holiday to blazing Croatia. Or maybe, you just really like frozen desserts.  Or maybe you’re just trying to justify buying these cute little popsicle holders 5 years ago.  IMG_0764

Whatever it is, I got the recipe for you. And it’s good for you!

1 can light coconut milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 mango cut into bite size pieces
1 heaping tablespoon shredded, sweetened coconut
8 drops liquid stevia (or to taste)


  1. Combine all the ingredients and place in the refrigerator for 4 hours so that the chia seeds soak up some of the liquid and expand
  2. Fill popsicle molds with mixture
  3. Freeze overnight
  4. Enjoy!
A perfect sunny day for us to sit outside and enjoy the popsicles.

A perfect sunny day for us to sit outside and enjoy the popsicles.

We even shared with Stella

We even shared with Stella

Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt Cake

I have not posted a recipe in months! I cook so much {almost nightly} but get caught up and forget to take pictures or document my recipes. It doesn’t help that traveling to Turkey, Lisbon and moving took me out of the kitchen quite a bit the last 2 months. But I’m back at it until we head to Croatia in August.

I came across THIS recipe when a friend posted it on facebook. What led me to click on it was E had just brought home 2 huge cartons of fresh, organic strawberries from his run club. A woman there was helping sell them for her kid. In Scotland, they don’t sell packaged cookies….they sell organic strawberries. Take note America.

Anyway, I haven’t baked for ages. And have been jonsing to really break in my new, super huge {conducive to my style of baking and mess-making} kitchen with wonky green double oven that uses gas marks instead of degrees. I mean really jonsing because in one day I not only made this cake, but also chocolate chip cookies and homemade waffles. The other two recipes aren’t perfected but I was pretty pleased with this one that I changed just slightly from the original recipe on Food.

I will say I looked for a bundt pan at a couple of different places in Aberdeen but couldn’t find one.  And I’m going to say that

a) The bundt pan would make much better presentation

b) I’m assuming the bundt pan is magical and wouldn’t stick as much to the pan

This is the professional picture, obviously.

This is the professional picture, obviously.

1 cup softened butter
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
1 lemon, zested
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, divided
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
8 ounces strawberry-rhubarb yogurt
12 ounces fresh strawberries, diced
1 cup powdered sugar


Preheat oven to gas mark 3 {or 325 F for you Americaners}. Grease and flour a 9×13 cake pan.  Like really, really grease and flour because my first attempt ended up with half the cake stuck to the pan…and even the second attempt wasn’t perfect.

Sift together 2 ¼ cups of flour, baking soda, and salt. Mix in lemon zest and set aside.

With an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar. Beat in eggs one at a time, then stir in 1 tablespoon of lemon juice. Alternate beating in the flour mixture and the yogurt.

Toss strawberries with the remaining ¼ cup of flour and then gently mix into the batter.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes in the pan, then let cool completely on a wire rack.

Once cooled, mix remaining 2 tablespoons of lemon juice with powdered sugar and drizzle over the cake.

The frosting I think is optional, because this cake was sweet enough.  But it does help make the cake more presentable if yours gets stuck to the pan.

My picture....when I remembered to take a picture after eating had commenced.

My picture….when I remembered to take a picture after eating had commenced.

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Is it as pretty as the first picture?  No.  Definitely not.  But it really did taste good and I love the addition of a subtle rhubarb flavor with the yogurt.

Must Try Turkish Delights

I’ll clarify that this is not about literal Turkish delights. They have those in Turkey of course. And they were…okay. But not my favorite, and they don’t really deserve mention in this post. This is just about delightful Turkish Food. Oh my god Turkish Food!

It’s so good. With SOOOO much oil. We discovered a lot of these on the food tour, but other ones on our own…and pretty much all of these came from Istanbul {both the European and Asian side} and Cappadocia {mmmmm Testi} though they can probably be found across Turkey.

Meze – this is basically Turkish appetizers. Generally come on a platter with a wide variety of things not limited to {in layman’s terms} hummus, eggplant salad, yogurt & herb dip, stuffed grape leaves, carrot slaw, “raw” meatballs {tomato paste & bulgur} and deep fried little anchovie-like fish…maybe it’s mackeral?IMG_2516 IMG_2195

Pied – like pizza, without tomato sauce. A favorite of E’s obviously.


Meze with stuffed mussel

Mussels aka Midye Dolmasi – I forgot to grab a picture of this but found one online. These are stuffed mussels with rice, currants, pine nuts, and cinnamon and nutmeg. SO GOOD.Midye-stall

Meze with a stuffed mussel on the side.

Meze with a stuffed mussel on the side.

Lahmucan – This is like a Turkish flatbread with crumbled meat on top. Lighter than {and I think preferable to} pied.

Ayran – a foaming, cold, frothy, salty, yogurt drink. I found it especially tasty…E not so much.

Mmmm, frothy yogurt on a hot day.

Mmmm, frothy yogurt on a hot day.

Tatuni – A spicy, tasty, greasy little beef wrap.

Tatuni and Ayran

Tatuni and Ayran


Menemen – Breakfast of the gods. Eggs not quite cooked, lots of butter or oil, diced peppers and tomatos.IMG_2607

Kokorec – I had it served from kebab {or doner} form. It is sheep intestines, stuffed with sweet breads and other too gross to talk about bits. Shaved off the kebab and put on some bread and heavily seasoned with pepper and oregano. This dish and Turkey’s refusal to stop serving it is actually one of the reasons they aren’t allowed to be in the EU.IMG_2207

Dondurma – Turkish Ice cream. Two kinds: one thick and sticky made with something called salep to create this texture which makes it kind of impossible to melt. The other Kesme dondurma you eat with a fork and knife. I’d take either on a hot day.

Dried fruit & nuts – Self explanatory. But so many great dried fruits and nuts that are local. The shops featuring these…to die for. You could even get sweet dried bell peppers…if they grow it, they dry it…and it’s amazing.IMG_2611

Baklava – Get it at Karakoy Gullluoglu and unfortunately, never be satisfied with Baklava again.

Testi – The Turkish word for “clay pot”. A slow cooked stew {with either lamb, beef, or chicken} in a clay pot. I got to crack the pot open upon arrival.

cracking open the clay pot

cracking open the clay pot


Raki – every culture has one. The national alcoholic beverage of Turkey. Unsweetened, anise-flavored lighter fluid.IMG_2597

Kunefe or kanafeh – This one is going to sound weird, I was beyond skeptical but I am salivating thinking about it now: a rich, sweet and savory cheese dessert. I’ll borrow this explaination from

Kunefe is made from a stretchy, unsalted fresh melting cheese called hatay found only in this region—mozzarella would be the closest Western analogue. The cheese is coated in sugar syrup-soaked phyllo shreds called kadayıf (the same ones used to make some varieties of baklava, as described above), and fried until crisp. Its appeal is the contrasting textures of the crunchy exterior against the soft, melty interior. It can be topped with pistachios,kaymak (clotted cream) or ice cream—or simply eaten on its own, preferably while still piping hot.IMG_2208

Ekmek Kadayifi – Online it’s compared to a bread pudding, which I guess is kind of accurate When you fork into it, it gushes syrup and comes with a healthy topping of Kaymak. Wait, what’s kaymak…

I saved the best for last….I mostly had this for breakfast on bread with honey, but it’s also amazing on Turkish desserts.

Kaymak – The US has cool whip, the UK has clotted cream, and no one has anything on Kaymak. I can’t explain what makes it so good…I can just say if I was still living in Chicago I’d have a weekly pick up of Kaymak {and weight 200 more pounds.}

And can I just say, the Turks do breakfast right.  Besides menemen and kaymak on bread, they do loads of fresh veggies {cucumbers, tomatoes}, olives, and even more kinds of cheese.  IMG_2477

Can a Pole get at a paczki here?

I’m 50% Polish, my mother being 100%. And while I wasn’t raised in a household very ingrained with Polish-ness…aside from having a babcia i dziadek, eating pierogis, pulling a polish princess card when possible, and eating paczkis on Fat Tuesday. On Sunday night I became aware that Fat Tuesday was this week and I immediately realized I had to figure out where to get paczkis in Aberdeen, Scotland. Chicago has the largest population of Polish people outside Poland….so paczkis aren’t taken lightly. I remember one year standing outside in line, in the snow, for over an hour for paczkis from a little polish bakery around the suburb of River Forest. Last year, E and I took a bus to another little polish bakery and bought 4 because of all the wonderful flavors. And we sat there and ate them all. I remember one had a whisky-custard in the center that we got because we knew we were moving to Scotland. And ya know, Scotch, Whisky….yada yada.

This is why I document my food.  To look back and drool.

This is why I document my food. To look back and drool.

But even before Chicago….growing up in Northwest Indiana, paczkis were available at every grocery store on Fat Tuesday. And yet here I am, in a city that has a Polish food aisle, fretting about where to find my paczkis. This is coming just days after a Scottish friend had told me that in general, the Scots like Americans, it’s people like the Polish they have issues with.  In my brief Aberdeen research, it seems there are some Polish barbers and rumors that there used to be many Polish shops in the area. But no more. I have found one Polish Delicatessen in Aberdeen that I am crossing my fingers will hold the sweet doughy gold. I’ll finish this post after I swing by….

But I decided to ask Blackbird Bakery (seemingly one of the fancy bakeries in Aberdeen with Chicago-worthy cupcakes) if they would be making paczkis for Fat Tuesday….and the baker replied saying she had to Google what a paczki was and she’d never heard of it. WHAT?! I then reached out to the AWA page where one person knew/enjoyed paczkis previously, and a few others said there used to be some Polish shops on a couple streets by the harbor. But it seemed no one knew just how drastic the situation was.

So that was Sunday, going into Monday. Monday I had to go grocery shopping. There was a massive display of pancake mix. I thought this was odd. I even picked up one of the pancake mix jugs that you add water or milk to- just because I wasn’t sure what it was. Then these ladies walk past, one says to the other “Oh are you making pancakes?” and the other replies, “Yes, but I don’t use that instant stuff…” I kinda looked over my shoulder like, were those women just judging me?

Then I’m driving home and I hear for about the 4th time some radio commercial mentioning pancakes. What the hell is this? I decide to pay attention. It was for Nutella and Pancakes…for Pancake Day, Tuesday, Feb 17. What the hell is Pancake Day?! I go home and immediately Google. Apparently Pancake Day is like Paczki day for schmucks. Ha. Just kidding. Kinda. The UK, Ireland, Australia, and Canada celebrate Pancake Day in lieu of Fat Tuesday/Paczki Day.

Pancakes are associated with the day preceding Lent because they were a way to use up rich foods such as eggs, milk, and sugar, before the fasting season of the 40 days of Lent.


On Pancake Day, “pancake races” are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated in 1445 when a housewife from Olney, Buckinghamshire was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake, tossing it to prevent it from burning. The pancake race remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, especially England, even today. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan while running.

That’s your little history lesson for the day. Anyway, I asked my local Canadian and she had no idea Pancake Day was approaching. And didn’t seem to care. It should also be noted her family is English and she has dual citizenship…and still, no vested interest in Pancake Day. I can only assume it’s because pancakes are just an every day lame breakfast food. Inferior to waffles and French toast. Only slightly outranking cold cereal.  And about tied with porridge.  If you’re tied with porridge….I mean, enough said.

But Paczkis….well, now they are worthy of a day of celebration.

Okay- up until here that post was written on Monday night. It is now fat Tuesday and I just got back from venturing to the Polish Delicatessen. Piotr & Pawel’s Polish Delicatessen.IMG_1442

The inside is a smorgasbord of Polish delights that hopefully brings back fond memories to my mom when I take her there. I thought the only other customer in there was an English speaking native…but then the shopkeeper and her started talking in rapid quick fire Polish. I wandered about pretending I knew my ass from first base. No paczkis in sight. Eventually the women left and there…in a small basket was one paczki and 3 of these other twisted dough pastries. I asked if they had more- but she said no. And I asked if there are any Polish bakeries around and she said the nearest was Edinburgh. And that’s as far as our language difference allowed us.

I took the last paczki in Aberdeen home with one of the other pastries. And I dug in. And I don’t know what to think. There was barely any custard/filling in it!!! The dough was great…but I like the filling! I will say, what little sliver of custard I had was fantastic. Nice and creamy and sweet. But now I’m left wondering…what makes an authentic paczki. I would have said this to be authentic, I mean, it was in a ziplock baggy for the love of god. Some real Pollock made this. Does she just not like a lot of filling? Or are we just heavy handed with it in America?


wee, little spot of cream.

wee, little spot of cream.


There’s only one way to put a stop to this. Let it be known, next year we are celebrating Fat Tuesday in Poland. Eating legit Paczkis! Consider this trip booked because it’s 100% happening. Ma, start planning, we’re going to the motherland.

Pretty Damn Good Thanksgiving

After an epic fail attempt at dinner tonight, I thought, let’s recap on the good of Thanksgiving….relive those little hen memories.

I wanted to make a lot of food for thanksgiving because food is love. And that’s what a normal thanksgiving is, way too much food. And with E working all day, and the day after, and no family, well…it needed to feel like a normal thanksgiving. So regardless of if it was just E & I, my menu was set. Luckily my friend accepted an invite and we ended up having E’s coworker as well. All expats!

I decided against a turkey (even though I found where to pick out my own bird) because my oven is tiny and we fight a lot. So I went with a “Cornish Game Hen” recipe that my mother swears by. Well, here they just call em “Poussin” but thanks to google (hey, I took German my whole life) I found they were the same thing. It was funny when my mother asked the night before if they were defrosting already and I said they came fresh. Apparently in Northwest Indiana you must get your Poussin frozen. I probably saw these little buggers alive last week in driving to the garden center.

So the menu was:

  • Spinach Artichoke dip to start
  • Roast Cornish Hens with Bacon Walnut Stuffing and Wine Sauce
  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Corn Bread Casserole (Paula Dean’s but no cheese)
  • My mother’s cheese veggies (ended up poorly- not sure why when hers is great)
  • Jazzed up Cranberry sauce (thank you Wendy Williams for the recipe the morning of)
  • Mashed Cauliflower and Butternut Squash
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

And it actually turned out good! Okay, not perfect or like the best ever thanksgiving. As mentioned, cheesy veggies were undercooked and water. Green bean casserole was just kind of meh. But, corn bread casserole was great, jazzed up cranberry sauce was great, mashed stuff was good, cookies were good. What I was most concerned about- the hens and the pumpkin pie- both turned out amazing!

Me stuffing little hens.  Being super grossed out.

Me stuffing little hens. Being super grossed out.

I might even make them again. Which is saying a lot since I was mentally scared after I had to pluck the hens (okay, they came plucked, but not very well) and cut off toenails and toes! YES! I CUT OFF LITTLE TOES OF MY HENS. It was so gross. I think they were dewclaws or something? Do hens have dewclaws? I don’t know but I yelled oh my god with every pluck and hack of a finger.


It was actually a pretty good thanksgiving. I didn’t even get sad! Well, a little sad reading my great-great-grand uncle’s letter from the Civil War. It was this letter my dad had acquired and delighted in reading (to everyone’s dismay) every Thanksgiving. Well, if I’m starting my own thanksgivings….I’m bringing the letter with me. I think he’d be happy…although our guests seemed utterly confused and slightly weirded out. Maybe because the letter is pretty random, but it does talk about how shitty war was and how much he wanted to go home for some good food. Thus, we should be thankful our lives are not that shitty and we eat good food every day.

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Oh and E’s coworker brought an apple pie…which we later used to make apple pie milkshakes. Thanks (again) to Wendy Williams! They were pretty amazing- frozen apple pie, vanilla ice cream, milk, and some cinnamon. Do it, do it!