Food & Don Quijote (El Mirador de la Mancha)

I have been doing some cooking but due to my hectic schedule, I don´t have much time to experiment or get too creative...barely have time to get something on the table and eat it,never mind take a photo of it and blog about it!I will be blogging about one of my Gran´s recipes,once I´ve tweaked it a bit and perfected it!!

It was my birthday a couple of weeks ago so my parents came to visit and we had a lovely weekend stuffing ourselves. We went to Villarubia de los Ojos with my parents and my boyfriend´s parents to a lovely restaurant called El Mirador de la Mancha, which is completely made of wood and is very cosy. It is nestled at the top of a hill in the sierra with windows overlooking the valley below so you have great views while you eat your meal. The first thing you see as you make you way to the restaurant is a giant Don Quijote made of wood and some great lookout points. There are plants and a little waterfall and the surroundings are stunning. The restaurant also has cabañas (wooden chalets) and a swimming pool so would make a lovely escapade for a weekend in the country.

We ordered various typical starters from the region (Castilla-La Mancha)which included migas -a dish made of breadcrumbs, garlic, green peppers,chorizo and sometimes grapes, duelos y quebrantos -a dish which is a bit like scrambled egg with Iberian ham and chorizo in it (I´m always a bit dubious about this dish as I think it sometimes also has brains in it!!)-, gachas- a paste made from flour ,with a consistency similar to porridge, with small bits of chorizo in it and goats cheese with caramelized onion (probably not so typical of the region but divine anyway -definitely my fav of all the starters!)

Most of us chose either cochinillo (roast suckling pig), which was accompanied by roasted red pepper and potatoes or paletilla de cordero (lamb shoulder)which was also accompanied by potatoes and red pepper,if I remember correctly. I went for the cochinillo, which was tender and succulent on the inside and had a golden,crispy skin on the outside-perfect! The portions were fairly generous and unfortunately I was too full to do it complete justice. We skipped dessert as we were all too stuffed! The main dishes were reasonably priced too, at 15 euros each. Definitely worth a visit if you are ever passing through Castilla-La Mancha! There is also a little chapel a little farther up from the restaurant which is good to visit for the views (the chapel itself was closed when we went so I can´t comment on whether it is worth entering!)



Just a quick note to explain my recent AWOL! I have been very busy these past months what with trips, job hunting, moving to a new flat and working at the new jobs that it hasn´t left me with much time for blogging. Plus, I still haven´t got Internet in my new flat yet....although we´ve been waiting for almost a month now! Things move very slowly in Spain! Although I´m hoping to have Internet by the end of the month and then will get back to blogging hopefully!! I have an account of my trip to New York pending and also some new recipes I´m dying to try out!


Taking a bite of the Big Apple

Let´s see if I can remember with it being so long ago!! When my boyfriend´s parents visited us, we also went to New York for four days. It was our first time there and everything was amazing. We did the usual tourist attractions, going up the Empire State building around dusk to see all the city lit up, the Rockefellar Centre, Times Square with all the neon lights flashing. It´s definitely an unforgettable sight. Unfortunately, we didn´t make it to a Broadway show (all the more reason to go again!) but for a slice of real Americana and the next best thing, is the Stardust Diner. It´s a typical diner from the 1950's, evoking memories of Grease and Happy Days. The food is all American comfort food and family favourites, from hamburgers, meatloaf, reubens to milkshakes, pies and ice cream sundaes and floats. I think my boyfriend and I had hamburgers and fries and shared a slice of cherry pie with ice cream (my new fav pie/dessert). The food is hearty and homemade and certainly fits the bill if you are looking for a real American experience. Throughout the meal, the waiting staff put on a good show, constantly bursting into popular songs, such as Man I Feel Like A Woman, in between serving, and creating a feel-good vibe.

We also took the ferry to the Statue of Liberty and walked the grounds of the Statue of Liberty, then boarded the ferry to Ellis Island and visited the Museum of Immigrants, which was very interesting. We then walked round the Financial District and Wall St, and paid our respects at Ground Zero. We also visited Chinatown and saw a strange-looking fruit, a Jack fruit, which I´ve never seen before (pictured below).
I didn´t get round to trying it though. Chinatown is also home to the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory and I couldn´t resist trying one. Among the many exotic flavours were green tea, black sesame and lychee and after a difficult decision, I finally settled on the lychee flavoured ice cream. It was delicious although I couldn´t really taste the lychees, it tasted just like vanilla ice cream to me! We also passed through Little Italy, apparently very reminiscent of scenes from the Godfather.
We had our evening meal in an Italian restaurant called Pasta Lovers or something similar, which was quite close to our hotel (We were very near Times Square, which was very handy!). I had pasta (of course) with Italian sausage and a tomato based sauce. I can´t remember what everyone else had but everything was pretty tasty.

In my opinion, the best meal of all was a little French-style bistro(I think it was called Balthazar ) in SoHo we came across. It was a very popular place as it was crowded and we had to wait to be seated. The worst thing about it was the noise, it was far too noisy. You could hardly hear yourself think. We had snails to start (well, I couldn´t quite bring myself to eat more than one, so I just mopped up the garlicy juices with the French style breads they brought to accompany it!), I had duck confit with potatoes and my boyfriend had halibut en papilotte (if I remember correctly!) We shared a tarte tatin between us. Everything was absolutely delicious and definitely has my thumbs up, just try to go on a less busy night!


Discovering Niagra

My boyfriend's parents came to visit us in Pittsburgh for about 10 days in July so we did plenty of eating out. The first day we showed them round the Cathedral of Learning, Oakland and Downtown and took them to Gullifty's (Murray Ave, Squirrel Hill),a restaurant famous for its award-winning desserts. Food here is the usual American fare of burgers,ribs etc and is tasty but the main reason to come here is for dessert and also the live jazz music and relaxed atmosphere. Unfortunately though the live music is only twice a week and we went on a night that there was no music. I had a veggie wild mushroom pasta dish served with garlic bread and my boyfriend's dad had the BBQ ribs. Although I was pretty full, I couldn't say no to a dessert especially as that is the whole point of coming!! I went for a Key Lime Pie, which had just the right amount of citrus tartness and sweetness to counteract it!

We then drove to Niagra Falls(the Canadian side) stopping en route at Volant to see the Amish (unfortunately we didn't see any!) Our hotel was the Hilton and we snuck a peek at the restaurant, which looked lovely and had a great view of the Falls and then went up to the bar, for a drink. I'd totally reccommend it as it also has great views of the Falls and is very tastefully decorated....it'd be very romantic at night! However, prices are fairly steep. The Falls are very impressive in themselves and we bought an adventure pass which includes the 4 main activities and is definitely worth the money: Thunder Behind the Mist(you go behind the waterfalls and can hear the thundering noise of the falls), Maid of the Mist (a boat ride which takes you up close to the Falls-an amazing experience), the White Water Rapids walk (the most dangerous rapids in the world) and the Fury(a multimedia interactive show). We also managed to squeeze in a couple of other sights such as the Spanish cable car which crosses the whirlpool rapids.
, We also got to witness two firework displays.We didn't know when we arrrived that it was Canada Day so they put on a firework display, then the following night we saw fireworks from the American side.I think they were having an early Independence Day celebration!
As we had already been to Niagra Falls before and knew some good restaurants, we ended up going back to many of the same restaurants. One of which was Coco's Steakhouse, Pizza bar & Lounge, which always has a wonderful aroma of a wood-burning stove and meat spit-roasting wafting through the air. We usually went there just for breakfast though as they do a great buffet style breakfast for only $14-$15! You can get toast, coffee and tea, cereal, fresh fruit, bagels, bacon, sausages, scrambled egg, pancakes and maple syrup and Eggs Benedict(which is delicious and is actually where I first tried it!). The only problem is that I tend to eat too much!!
The final night in Niagra we had dinner in the Skylon Tower,which has a revolving restaurant with great views of the Falls and the rest of the city. The food is delicious too and it's really romantic, great if you're just a couple! I had pork chop with veg and potatoes with a Peach cocktail. The cocktail comes in a special Skylon Tower glass which you get to keep as a souvenir. I can't remember what the others had and nobody had dessert as we were so full. Plus, due to the views it's pretty expensive but again worth it for that special moment!


Low-fat carrot cake cupcakes

I´m aware I haven´t posted for quite awhile and all will be explained soon but as I am waiting for some photos for my previous post and I´m pretty impatient, I thought I´d post this first so I´m sorry about the delay in posting. I´m trying to use up my baking ingredients without buying more stuff as soon I´ll be off back to Spain and when I saw this recipe I thought it was ideal as I conveniently had most of the ingredients in my cupboard. Plus, I liked the fact that it was "low fat" especially after the indulgence on the California road trip(all will be explained in the next post!)So, this is another cupcake recipe,slightly adapted from my Cupcake calendar that hopefully you can enjoy without feeling guilty!

Low-fat carrot cake cupcakes(Makes 12)

Ingredients:(measurements using American measures)

2 cups self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup soft light brown sugar
1/2 cup grated carrots(about 2-3)
1/4 cup chopped walnuts (I´m not a big nut fan so halved the amount of the original recipe so it was just the right amount of nuttiness for me but you can double the amount if you prefer!)
Grated rind of 1 orange
2 lightly beaten eggs
2/3 cup of sunflower oil (I ran out of sunflower oil so ended up being a mix of sunflower oil and mild olive oil!)
Cream cheese icing:
1 cup fat-free or light cream cheese
1 cup icing sugar, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract
12 walnut halves, to decorate
1. Preheat oven to 350ºF(175ºC).
2. Mix all the cupcake ingredients in a large bowl and beat until combined(by hand or by an electric mixer)If using an electric mixer, set it to a low speed.
3. Place 12 paper cake cases in a muffin/fairy cake pan and spoon mixture into the cases.
4. Bake for 20 mins and then remove from oven and leave to cool for 5 mins.
5. Mix the icing sugar, vanilla extract and cream cheese together until combined and it is smooth and creamy.
6. Decorate cupcakes with the cream cheese icing and place a walnut half on the top.
Note: Next time, I´m thinking of adding some orange juice or plain yoghurt to the cake batter to make them moister as due to lack of kitchen equipment here, I didn´t have a cake tin to store them in and they dried out pretty quickly. Here´s the finished product, hope you like them!


Road Trippin´ California style- I am back!

I´m finally back and firstly, I have to apologise for my infrequent posting recently. One of the reasons being that I haven´t made anything worth posting recently and the other main reason being that, I was on a road trip in California for two weeks!
I had wanted to do a (gourmet) food trail suggesting various foodie places and restaurants, however as there was a big group of us,we were all on pretty tight budgets and often had to eat on the go, we sometimes ended up in cheap chain restaurants or roadside eateries. So foodwise the trip was a little disappointing, however we did find some great and affordable places. The scenery and places we visited more than made up for it though.

Our California road trip was more than a little ambitious. We started off in San Francisco for 3 days, where we visited the different neighbourhoods, toured Alcatraz by night and biked over the Golden Gate bridge. We did lots of walking and as San Francisco is very hilly, I think we must´ve ended up pretty fit after this holiday! We found a great seafood restaurant on a pier in Fisherman wharf, Pier Market with reasonable prices. My boyfriend had the clam chowder, an apparently typical dish in San Francisco, which came in a sourdough bread bowl, which according to him was very tasty. As I´m not too keen on fish and seafood, I had a pulled BBQ pork sandwich with fries, which was delicious. The pork was so tender,it melted in your mouth and had just the right amount of BBQ sauce. I tried a little clam chowder and found it to be quite nice,not too fishy, to my surprise! We shared an Apple Crisp for dessert which was also exquisite.

Our next stop was Yosemite National Park and more walking but worth it for the breathtaking and stunning scenery. I couldn´t believe the squirrels were so tame that they would take food right out of your hands(despite the signs saying Don´t feed wild animals, lots of tourists do!)Didn´t see any bears though, fortunately! We stayed in Santa Cruz and then travelled along Highway 1, which is a lovely drive following the coastline and making stops at Monterrey, Piedras Blancas to see the elephant seals and Santa Barbara.

We had lunch in Monterrey, again on the pier in a restaurant which had lovely views of the sea.Unfortunately, I can´t remember the name of the restaurant to reccommend it but the lunch menu was again very affordable. As it was another seafood restaurant and didn´t really cater for those who don´t really like fish or seafood, I had no choice but to eat fish. I went for the coconut encrusted Tilapia with veggies and rice. It was really nice and presented beautifully with a decorative flower on the top as you can see in the photo. My only complaint would be that the rice needed a sauce.

Dinner was in Santa Barbara and as it was late, it was difficult to find anything still serving food. We stumbled across this great bar/restaurant The Sandbar serving Mexican food, which had an outdoor terrace complete with a fire and with modern, trendy but at the same time comfortable decoration. Again, I didn´t take any photos of the food unfortunately. I shared a beef burrito and a meat taco which came with refried beans, guacamole and rice with my boyfriend and was really tasty.
We visited LA and the typical things, then spent the day at Newport Beach & Huntingdon Beach, visted Malibu, Santa Monica and Laguna Beach and San Diego for a day. We went to Las Vegas, we wanted to visit the Mojave dessert en route but got a puncture so ended up going straight to Vegas. With all the car trouble and by the time we had eaten, it was 11pm so we hit the casinos and went from casino to casino visiting them (not gambling!) Most of us didn´t know how to play blackjack,roulette etc! It was 3pm before we knew it so we tried to get into a club but no luck, they were all about to close. So much for Las Vegas all-night partying! So unfortunately we didn´t really"experience" Vegas to the max! We were all so exhausted from travelling by this point though and the following day we slept till qbout 1pm!We had lunch in the Stratasphere Tower which has a rotating restaurant with excellent views of Vegas. Perfect for a romantic meal for 2! The food is pretty good too, it´s slightly more expensive due to the views but good value. I had chicken with pasta and peppers and courgettes in a garlicy-oil sauce and my boyfriend had veal escalope stuffed with proscuitto ham, veg and roast potatoes.

We then made our way to Flagstaff, pausing to see the Hoover Dam on the way. The following day we went to the Grand Canyon, which was very impressive and stayed in the Grand Canyon Village. We had our evening meal in Yippee-ei-oh (pictured above)which takes you back to the Wild West as the decor is all cowboy-orientated, with saddles and all the waiters are wearing stetsons. I shared a Outlaw´s dinner (if I remember correctly!) with my boyfriend, which was a good job as it was huge. It consisted of 1/2 portion of BBQ ribs and BBQ chicken, corn on the cob, baked beans and a jacket potato. It was also supposed to be served with prickly pear jelly but I realised after that you were supposed to ask for that if you wanted it. Everything was delicious and for me it was one of the best meals of the trip although my curiousity wasn´t sated as I would´ve liked to try the prickly pear jelly. Oh well, maybe next time! For dessert, I had warm cherry pie with vanilla ice-cream which was the perfect ending to a wonderful meal and I think is one of the best cherry pies I´ve ever eaten!


Easy Cherry Cheesecake-my best cheesecake ever!

One of my favourite desserts is cheesecake and I really fancied one the other day plus I had some mascarpone that needed using up so decided to go ahead and make one. I remember when I first started making cheesecakes and having a few disasters with them not setting properly, probably due to not using the correct amount of gelatine or not following the instructions 100%. The presentation was awful, like a big gloopy mess but the taste was ok but I seem to have got the knack of making a perfect cheesecake now.

Cherry is one of my favourite toppings for cheesecakes and as there are no fresh cherries in the shops at the moment, I decided to use ready made cherry pie filling/topping, which is great if you don´t have time to make your own. I´ve never used mascarpone in my cheescakes before but as I had some left over, I thought why not and added it and believe me, it was definitely worth it but unfortunately I didn´t weigh it so I´ll have to make a rough guess. I´ll let you know next time I make it how much I use as I´ll definitely be including the mascarpone again. The cheesecake is just so light yet creamy....certainly the best cheesecake I´ve ever made. I guarantee if you make this for your partner/family/friends, it´s going to be a big hit and everyone will be left wanting more. The recipe is loosely based on this Raspberry Ripple Cheesecake recipe from the Cookery club but here is my version:

Cherry Cheesecake (Makes about 12 portions)

340g cream cheese (such as Philidelphia)
100ml (just over 1/3 cup)double cream
90g (just over 1/3 cup) caster (superfine) sugar
leftover mascarpone *1/3 cup of mascarpone*
1/4 tsp vanilla extract (or 1/2 tsp vanilla essence, I´ve heard that vanilla extract is stronger so put less)
1 sachet of gelatine
90g/3oz butter
220g/8 oz digestive biscuits
1 595g/21oz can of cherry pie filling/topping

1. Melt butter in a pan, taking care not to brown.
2. Crush biscuits into crumbs using food processor, blender or place in plastic bag and use rolling pin to bash or roll the biscuits (be careful with the latter method as bag may split and crumbs will go everywhere!)
3. Combine butter and biscuit crumbs and then spread evenly into a 9inch, 22.8cm cake tin and place in fridge.
4. Beat cream cheese in a medium sized bowl.
5. Beat in cream, sugar, mascarpone and vanilla extract till smooth.
6. Prepare gelatine according to instructions on packet (in this case add 1 cup boiling water to gelatine and stir till completely dissolved, about 5 mins)
7. Add gelatine to cheesecake mixture and slowly beat in, the mixture will appear very liquidy, like cream.
8. Spoon on top of the biscuit base and refrigerate for 2-3 hrs, until set.
9. Open can and spoon cherry topping over cheesecake, refrigerate until serving.
10. Enjoy!


A taste of Thailand, "Bangkok Balcony", Pittsburgh

I haven´t tried much Thai food believing it to be too spicy for me. I have fond memories of my parents making Thai Green Curry(a milder version especially for me) and ending up with my eyes tearing up, my nose running and a totally numbed mouth due to the spicy heat....I couldn´t even taste the food, my mouth was that numb! However, thanks to my recent discovery of Thai red curry and Anne´s Kitchen´s Creamy Prawn Curry, my interest and my appreciation of Thai food is growing! So much so, that I´ve been wanting to try this restaurant, Bangkok Balcony, for awhile unfortunately I forgot to take my camera so that´s why I´ve given you the link.

Bangkok Balcony doesn´t give the impression of being such a nice restaurant from the outside, in fact you might even walk past it without noticing it as it is just seems to be stuck on the end of some shops. However, when you get upstairs and enter the restaurant, it´s a pleasant surprise. The restaurant is medium sized with modern decor an artistic objects which reflect the Thai culture. You are greeted by friendly staff which lead you to your table.

Every Thursday and Sunday night you can also watch Thai dancing while you eat. We were lucky enough to catch this as we went on a Sunday.The girls were dressed in typical Thai costume and it was interesting to see the way they danced, there were a lot of hand movements. My only complaints is that it was quite difficult to see them properly due to the waiters taking orders as I don´t think the restaurant lent itself to such a purpose because of it´s size. Also, that the dancing was over so soon!

I heard a lot about the Thai samosas as I was checking out other reviews about the restaurant so we decided to share those as a starter, seeing as most people seemed to be raving about them. The Thai samosas consisted of crispy deep fried filo pastry triangles with a soft Thai sweet potato filling -a perfect contrast of textures. They were served with a fresh cucumber sauce or salsa. I thought they were delicious but found it a little disconcerting as it was so sweet. In fact, the filling reminded me a little of marzipan!. I wasn´t sure whether it should be a starter or a dessert. My boyfriend chose a Basil leaf dish, which was made up of your choice of meat(beef in his case), red and green peppers, and of course basil leaves in a spicy garlic sauce and I chose a pineapple curry, again with my choice of meat, which was also beef. The restaurant has a spiciness scale from 1-10, which is good if like me you can´t eat too hot a curry. My boyfriend chose 3 on the spiciness scale and I went for 2. My beef pineapple curry was lovely and creamy and hit just the right amount of spiciness for me, however I preferred my boyfriend´s choice as it was full of flavour. Both dishes were cooked to perfection and the meat was really tender. I would definitely go back there again and am now a fully-fledged convert to Thai food. We decided to skip dessert as nothing really appealed to us although I would have liked to try the green tea ice cream if it hadn´t been for having a cold and a sore throat!

The Bangkok Balcony is an average priced restaurant which is worth a visit to sample the delicious food and due to the friendly,quick service. It is also has won awards for being one of the top Thai restaurants in Pittsburgh so I would definitely reccomend it! It is located on Forbes Ave in Squirrel Hill.


Time for Tapas! (Spanish Tapas competition)

In Pittsburgh there is a group of Spanish people losdepatanegra who meet up every Thursday, the majority of which are living here permanently and every year they hold an annual tapas contest.I would definitely reccomend any Spanish people moving to Pittsburgh to visit this group. Although my Spanish friends and I don´t usually meet with them, we were lucky enough to be invited to come and participate in this event.

I have never taken part in any cooking competitions so I was very excited and nervous at being involved.However, this is not your usual "serious" Blue Ribbon Cookoff (there are many cooking competitions held by various companies such as Pillsbury or Crisco or food magazines throughout the USA )this competition is more about friends getting together and having a bit of fun. And of course the TAPAS! There were four categories: Best Tapa, Second Best Tapa, Best Presentation and the best dessert or sweet tapa. I decided to do a dessert due to the complications of a hot tapa and the logistics of getting it to the event warm and as a true British person chose to make something that reflected my culture and background: Delia Smith´s Traditional Trifle. I doubled most of the ingredients though as I made quite a large one (apparently it´s quite strategic as the bigger your tapa/dessert is, the more people will be able to try it and hopefully vote for you) apart from the raspberries (it was a little short on them) and I left the banana out as I don´t like bananas. I decorated the trifle with grated Galaxy chocolate as you can see in the photo although maybe my presentation could have been better.

The contest was held at someone´s house and garden. Luckily, it was a beautiful day otherwise it might have been a bit crowded and even though most people were in the garden, it was pretty packed. There were about 120 people at least! I didn´t realise there were so many Spanish people in Pittsburgh!There were lots of beer, coke, lemonade etc which you could help yourself to. As you arrived you had to write down your name and the name of your tapa and then you had to pose for a picture with your tapa. There was plenty of competition as you can see in the following photo.

There were many tapas I didn´t even try because many of them contained fish or seafood. Some I wanted to try, such as the Pinchos Morunos (a type of kebab), I didn´t even see before they were all gone in the stampede to try all the tapas (and the crowd!) However, I managed to sample a fair few including our friend´s, Zarangollo, typical from Murcia,a scrambled egg type of affair with onion, courgette and peppers, Bob´s Polenta, spinach meatballs and my personal favourite, El Logroñes, toast topped with goats cheese, apricot jam and pine nuts.

I went more to town on the desserts and sampled almost all of them including my trifle. Tarte tatin, strawberries in a cream, tiramasu, mini cupcakes with poppy seeds and cherry were just some of the competitors hoping to win. I voted for the tarte tatin although I secretly thought my trifle was a pretty close second (even if I do say so myself)! The standard was very high and everything I had was delicious....there are definitely some very talented cooks out there! Some of the dishes were presented beautifully especially a chocolate flan which was decorated with forest fruits and another dessert, tocino de cielo, which even had the Spanish flag on it.

Finally, after a slideshow recap to cast our votes and the counting of the votes which seemed to take forever, the winners were announced and the prizes were given. Silvia La Cabra won the best tapa (think it was toast with ham, blue cheese and a bit of olive oil on top)won Best Tapa, Second Best Tapa was Montaditos de Bacalao (toast with a cod spread). Best Presentation was won by the Coctél Castellano (lentils) mainly because the guy was wearing a women´s top or something (I didn´t even notice or see him!) and the tapa that won best dessert was Crema Catalana, which is similar to Creme Bruleé, I think. Apparently, it wasn´t even that good someone told me, they just voted for it because it´s quite elaborate to prepare. I didn´t try any of the tapas that won as I didn´t like them because they had blue cheese, lentils, fish so it just shows that one man´s heaven is another man´s hell!

As for not winning, well I was a little disappointed but you win some, you lose some.Maybe if I ever get to enter another cooking competition, I´ll do better next time! All the winners were from the Patanegra group (surprizingly enough).None of our group of friends were among the winners. It was definitely a lot of fun and as the old saying goes, it´s not winning that´s important, it´s taking part that counts.


The Strip District, Pittsburgh

If you ever visit Pittsburgh, one place you have to see before you leave is the Strip District, especially if you are a foodie as it´s a paradise for foodies! It is one of my favourite parts of Pittsburgh and I never get tired of going there. The Strip District is a street in Downtown Pittsburgh which is full of restaurants, bars and specialist food shops from Asian grocery shops, Italian bakeries and delicatessens, to a Mexican specialist food shop and specialist butcher selling all types of meat from the typical to the more exotic, such as rabbit, buffalo etc. You name it, you can probably find it in the Strip District!

At the weekend, The Strip usually comes alive especially on a nice,sunny day and is a hustle and bustle of people. You can find a lot of street stalls selling food from the shops,like this one of Wholey´s Fish Market cooking Alaskan salmon etc and also others selling Steelers merchandise, soap, sunglasses etc. Usually you find more of these stalls on a Saturday than on a Sunday. I don´t even like fish and used to hate walking through the fish market when I was a child due to the smell but most of the photos are taken in Wholey´s Fish market, which has a wide range of fresh fish. So fresh in fact that you can even choose your own (see photos below)

Wholey´s is not only a fish market it is also a normal supermarket. There are a couple of Asian supermarkets, the largest and probably the best in my opinion being Lotus, where you can find everything from tofu to burdock sticks, noodles to water chesnuts and many things I´ve never even seen before,never mind tasted.

There is also a chocolate shop, Mon Amiee Chocolat, which I discovered to my delight, sells a lot of Cadbury´s chocolate and some other British goodies such as shortbread etc as well as selling many other famous international brands of chocolate. The problem was choosing which Cadbury´s chocolate bar to choose.In the end, I opted for a Wispa and another favourite of mine, German "Dominosteine"-Christmas chocolates made of three layers, one layer of biscuit( like Lebkuchen), an orange jelly type layer similar to the middle of a Jaffa cake and topped with marzipan, then covered in chocolate! After a hard day of shopping, you can treat yourself to a well-deserved rest and lunch/brunch at one of the many restaurants or food stalls although you might end up having to queue for the most popular places, some of which have appeared on the Food Network or the Travel channel. We chose a typical American diner, Pamela´s, decorated in bright pinks and greens and with all the typical black and white photos, Betty Boop etc memorabilia. The food although cheap is very good although if you´re looking for something healthy,I wouldn´t recommend it. All in all, the Strip is definitely an experience and a must for all foodies!


Honey chicken drumsticks

Spring finally appears to be here, the daffodils and other flowers are blooming and the trees are blossoming. Everything looks beautiful especially the magnolia trees-there are some photos below . The weather is a little crazy though....it was snowing a couple of days ago!

I´ve been pretty busy these past few weeks which is why I haven´t been blogging too much although I have been trying out lots of recipes from other blogs and trying to come up with some of my own creations...so keep an eye out! Meanwhile, I thought I´d share this recipe for Honey chicken drumsticks from BBC Food with you as it´s really easy to follow, tastes really good , almost tastes like it´s from a restaurant and is also fairly economical and at the same time healthy. I used the breadcrumbs as didn´t have any sesame seeds and I also left out the chives but apart from that followed the recipe to the letter. I didn´t make the Waldorf salad as me and my boyfriend aren´t too keen on celery and as I had other leftover salad ingredients, I threw together a salad comprising of lettuce, cucumber, pear, goats cheese and walnuts with a little ready-made bottled ranch dressing to accompany the drumsticks, which made for a healthy,light but delicious meal!


Roald Dahl & Food: Memories with Food at Gipsy House

ve always been a bit of a bookworm and enjoyed flicking through cookbooks and as I don´t have my cookbooks at hand and there is a large collection of cookbooks at the Carnegie Library(there´s even a foodie bookclub!)I decided to browse some of their collection. As I´ve been a big fan of Roald Dahl since I was a child,when I came across this book, I just had to read it!

This book is more than just a cookbook. It is full of anecdotes and memories contributed by Roald Dahl´s family and friends about their times at Gipsy House and you learn a lot about the famous author and his family. One of the most interesting facts in the book is that Roald Dahl is related to William Wallace as William Wallace´s family fled to Norway(Roald Dahl´s parents are Norwegian). The book is illustrated with beautiful colour photographs by Jan Baldwin and some drawings by Quentin Blake, who illustrated Roald Dahl´s books. The recipes themselves sound delicious and some are very innovative and unusual such as the Rose Petal Sherbet or the Krokaan Ice Cream while at the same time including some of the traditional and popular recipes of all cookbooks eg. Onion Soup, Thai Chicken or Oxtail Stew. Unfortunately, I haven´t got around to trying any of the recipes out yet so don´t know how successful it´d be when following them! The book is divided into the usual catergories: First Courses, Main courses, Vegetables and Salads, Puddings, Preserves and Cordials, Scones and Biscuits but also includes other sections such as Wine at Gipsy House and one very interesting section is The Hangman´s Suppers in which famous people state what they´d eat as a last supper if they were to be hanged the following day.

This is a delightful and interesting book and a must for any Roald Dahl fan and I´d definitely recommend it.


Blueberry & Lime Cupcakes (20th March '09)

This is another recipe from my cupcake calendar, taken from the book 500 Cupcakes. As these cupcakes are made with fat free or skimmed milk and contain blueberries, which are rich in nutrients and antioxidants, you could say that these are a slightly healthier version of cupcakes.However, that´s not quite the case especially seeing as I used butter instead of margarine. The cakes though have the lovely tang of blueberries combined with the acidness of the lime which combates the sweetness of the cake batter, making this a perfect combination. All cup/tablespoon/teaspoon measurements are American.

Ingredients (makes 18)

1/2 cup(4 oz.) butter/margarine,softened
1 cup (about 7oz) caster(superfine) sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence(extract)
1/2 cup (about 118ml) skimmed/fat-free milk( I used 2% milk)
2 cups (about 8 oz.)self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup blueberries
1 tbsp. grated lime rind


1/2 cup (about 3.5 oz) caster (superfine) sugar
2 tbsp grated lime rind
3 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp boiling water
1. Preheat oven to 350º F (175ºC)
2. Cream butter & sugar together until fluffy, then add eggs gradually and stir until combined.
3.Beat in the vanilla & milk.
4. Sift flour and baking powder into batter and mix well.
5. Fold in the blueberries and grated lime rind, spoon into cake cases.
6. Bake for 20 mins, then cool for 5 mins.
7. Mix sugar, lime juice, grated lime zest and boiling water in a saucepan. Simmer over a medium heat and stir until sugar dissolves.
8. Simmer for 5mins.
9. Cool slightly and using a spoon, drizzle the glaze over the cupcakes.


Beef Olives (13th March'09)

I am always interested in discovering and trying recipes especially if they are traditional British dishes and I have seen versions of this recipe in various old-fashioned cookbooks, although it seems to have been forgotten about, I definitely don´t ever recall eating this in my family or anywhere else. I stumbled across the following version of this recipe in Mrs Manders Cookbook, which I borrowed from the library. My curiousity was aroused and I just had to try out the recipe and was definitely worth it. This is probably one of the more complicated dishes I´ve tried to cook although it is actually quite simple. The trickiest part is tying up the meat so the stuffing doesn´t ooze out as I´ve never done it before. Don´t think I did such a good job of it as the filling did start to ooze out a little but as they say practice makes perfect!

Here´s my tweaked and updated version of Mrs Manders´ recipe:
Ingredients (for 2 people) (all teaspoon/tablespoon/cup measurements use American measurements)
2 sandwich steaks or beef rump (I´m not sure I bought the correct cut of meat as was a little tough)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 small button mushrooms, finely chopped
1/4 tsp dried parsley
1/4-1/2 tsp grated lemon rind (I just guessed!)
1/2 of a 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs
1 cup of minced pork or ham (you can use less if you want as I was just using up what was leftover)
1/4 tsp dried oregano or thyme
salt & pepper
1/2 of beaten egg
2 tbsp butter
1 cup (240ml) of stock (I used Bisto gravy granules)
1/2 cup (120ml) white wine
1/2 tbsp plain flour
1. Mix onion and mushroom with pork, parsley, lemon rind, oregano and breadcrumbs.Season with salt and pepper and add egg.

2.Place mixture in beef slices and roll up, tie with cooking twine to secure the sides and prevent filling from leaking out.
3. Preheat oven to 350º F(180ºC)
4. Melt 1 tbsp butter in casserole and brown beef rolls.
5.Add stock and wine,cover and cook in the oven for 30-45 mins.
6.Remove beef rolls, cut twine and keep warm. Meanwhile, make gravy by melting 1tbsp butter in a pan, add the flour till thickens and add sauces and juices from the casserole dish, stir until bubbling.
7. Serve beef rolls warm with gravy and your choice of vegetables and potatoes.
As you can see, I served my with roast potatoes but unfortunately they didn´t crisp up as much as I´d have liked!


Mincemeat & Apple Pie (7th March, 09)

I´d been wondering for awhile what to do with my leftover mincemeat after Christmas....it was a huge jar....and came across a recipe for Mincemeat & Pear flan in my mum´s Mary Berry's Desserts & Confections. This is a slightly adapted version of the recipe but is definitely a great way to use up that leftover mincemeat and is sure to be a success. Again, had a few struggles with the pastry as was fairly sticky so added a bit more flour, then when attempting to put it in the pie dish it kept breaking but eventually managed to get it in, in one piece. All cup and teaspoon/tablespoon measurements are American.

Ingredients (Serves 8-10)
175g/6 oz (1 cup)plain (all-purpose)flour
30g/1oz (2 1/2 tbsp) caster (superfine) sugar
120g/4oz butter (1 stick)
1 egg
Streusel topping
30g/1oz(4 1/2tbsp)plain (all-purpose) flour
20g/2/3oz ( 1 1/2 tbsp)light soft brown sugar
30g/1oz (2 tbsp) butter
leftover sweet mincemeat
1-3 apples,Fuji best as you don´t need extra sugar, peeled and thinly sliced, depending on how much mincemeat leftover(as I only had a little mincemeat about 1/4 jar, I used 3 apples to fill the pie
lemon juice

1. Sift flour and mix together with sugar in a bowl and rub butter into flour till it looks like breadcrumbs.
2. Add egg and mix until dough holds together(if very sticky add a little more flour). Roll into ball and refrigerate for an hour.
3. Mix together flour and brown sugar in a small bowl and rub butter into flour till it looks like breadcrumbs for the streusel topping. Refrigerate.
4. Roll out the dough using a floured rolling pin on a floured surface till it´s slightly bigger than the 22cm/8 in pie crust.
5. Line pie dish with pastry crust and trim the edges, then crimp the edges.
6. Spread a layer of mincemeat and then place the layers of apple on top fanning out in an attractive way (see before pic. below)

7. Squeeze a little lemon juice over the apples to stop them from turning brown and sprinkle a little cinnamon over the apples for flavour and then sprinkle streusel topping on top.
8. Bake in a preheated oven at 220 degrees C (425 degrees F) for 25-30 mins, taking care that pastry does not burn.(see notes)
9. When pastry and streusel are a nice golden brown colour, take out of the oven and serve hot with cream or ice cream.

- I´d suggest either cooking the apples a little before placing them in the pie or cook the pie at a lower temperature for a longer time as my apples were a little undercooked but the pastry was ready and I didn´t want it to burn. It still looked and tasted great though!


A Hand is as good as a fork! Abay Ethiopian Restaurant, Pittsburgh (3rd March'09)

I have been wanting to try this restaurant for awhile as I´d heard that it was good and also because I´ve never tried Ethiopian cuisine...it´s another new experience for me! I tried to reserve a table but it was already booked up but we decided to risk it and ended up having to wait half an hour to get a table. Definitely a good sign!

The restaurant itself is quite small and basic but cosy. It has paintings of African women and children and various other African memoribilia on the walls and around the room and some of the tables and chairs at the front of the restaurant are small and made of wicker.

We decided to get a combination platter for 4 to share...however, we were sharing it between the six of us. At $51 dollars a platter based on 4 sharing, it doesn´t seem so cheap. You can choose either a vegetarian sampler or a combined meat & vegetarian sampler and pick the dishes you want to try-we chose the latter.

We had a lamb dish served with almonds and cinnamon, which was the night´s speciality-I forget the name- Doro Wat- chicken marinated in lemon with a mild, herb sauce, Ye' Abesha Gomen (I think)-a vegetarian dish comprising of kale, peppers, ginger, garlic and onions and Kay Wat- a spicy beef dish. The meat and veg was served on top of this spongy type bread (injera) which is made from various grains such as barley and wheat. It was really light and airy and reminded me a lot of pancakes, especially savory galletes. We ordered some extra Ingera otherwise I think we might have still been hungry although nobody seemed to be very hungry...saying that, though the food disappeared very quickly! You have to eat the meat & veg with the bread and your hands if you want to be authentic...and get your hands dirty. We did it the fun way and used our hands but if that´s too much for you, you can ask for a knife and fork.

I liked all the dishes, they were well-cooked and the meat was very tender and just melted in your mouth. My favourite dish was the lamb and my least favourite was the chicken as it didn´t appear to have much flavour. I was expecting Ethiopian food to be very different to anything I´d ever eaten before although I have to say I was a little disappointed. Don´t get me wrong or anything, I really enjoyed the food, it just reminded me quite a bit of Indian food as it has some similar flavours. The beef wasn´t as spicy as I had expected it to be either. At first you couldn´t taste the heat but once you´d eaten it, you´d get the spicy afterrush of heat.

We couldn´t resist a dessert to round off the meal and one of the couples shared a white chocolate raspberry cake that looked delicious. I shared a pumpkin sambussa which came with the ice cream of your choice (brown cinnamon) and honey or chocolate sauce(chocolate sauce of course!) as did the other couple. It was a bit like a sweet samosa but was very tasty, if a bit too much cinnamon although not sure this is very authentic Ethiopian food! You can definitely eat this with a spoon as it´d be too messy with your hands!

We only drank water so I´m sure you could spend a lot more depending on how much you ate and what you drink. One important point about this restaurant is that it is a BYOB or in other words you have to brink your own bottle of wine or alcohol if you want to drink alcohol and there´s a small charge of $2.50. However for a meal, extra bread and desserts, the bill came to $16.60 each, which isn´t bad for a night out.


Scotch Pancakes (25th Feb '09)

Yesterday was Pancake Day, or to be more precise Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Karnival/carnivales...whatever you want to call it. Shrove Tuesday is traditionally the day you make pancakes to use up all the eggs and milk before Lent(a fasting period). Pancakes are traditionally served with lemon juice and sugar in Britain.

Another strange tradition is the Pancake Race. Woman compete against each other wearing an apron, high heels, and carrying a frying pan and tossing pancakes at the same time. This wierd custom started when a woman in Olney ran out of her house with her frying pan and forgetting her apron when she heard the church bells for the service.

This year I decided to do something a bit different than the normal pancakes and made Scotch pancakes. They differ only slightly to pancakes in that they are smaller and thicker. They have a light, fluffy texture although can be slightly filling. They are very similar to American pancakes. I followed this recipe from Scottish Teatime Recipes and found it doesn´t need any tweaking. The trickest part was flipping them over (as it usually is). I served them with strawberries and cream and they were delicious- even if I do say so myself! As you can see, I need to improve on my presentation....I´d never win Masterchef!

Ingredients (makes about 6)

4oz (1 cup) self- raising flour
pinch of salt
1oz (2 tbsp) caster(superfine) sugar
1 egg
1/4 pt( 140ml) milk


1. Whisk egg and milk together.
2.Sift flour and salt into a bowl and add the sugar.
3. Add the egg and milk mixture gradually and combine with wooden spoon
4. Once all ingredients are combined, melt a small amount of butter in small frying pan or girdle.
5. When hot (you can test by adding a tiny amount of batter and if the bottom turns brown in less than a minute, then it is ready), add tablespoons of the batter.
6. When bottom is golden brown, use a slice to flip the pancake over and cook the other side for a minute.
7. Serve immediately and enjoy!


Britz Backlash (23rd Feb,09)

Well, we certainly did well in the Oscars and what with the Brits Awards too, it seems like there is a real backlash at the moment so to get into the spirit of things thought you might find it interesting and helpful to have a list of the most important ingredients in British cooking but not in any particular order. I got this idea off Sunflower´s really useful Chinese ingredients list so am not so original, I´m afraid! If I´ve missed any, please let me know! In fact, many of these ingredients are difficult to find where I live in Spain so end up having to stock up.

1. Cheese- there is a variety of English cheeses such as Stilton, Cheddar, Cheshire, Lancashire which can be used for sauces, main meals, sandwiches, salads even desserts.

2. Gravy granules- Bisto is the best brand

3.Stock cubes- Oxo and Fallo are the best- used in meat dishes such as casseroles, stews etc

4. Fresh cream- single/double/clotted-the thickest and most delicious cream ever- sauces, main meals, cakes, desserts and sweets e.g fudge

5. Custard/ Custard powder (Bird´s) - desserts, cakes, serving

6. Worcestershire sauce- Lea & Perrins-soups, casseroles/stews

7. Beer/Lager/Spirits e.g. Guiness, Bailey´s, Pimms etc- batter, casseroles/stews, meat dishes, bread, even desserts and cakes.

8. Sausages e.g Lincolnshire, Cumberland- casseroles, toad-in-the hole etc

9. Treacle- Lyle & Tate´s- desserts, sweets

10. Golden syrup-Lyle & Tate´s- cakes, biscuits, desserts, sweets

11. Rhubarb - side dishes, sauces, desserts, jam, cakes

12. Gooseberries- sauces, desserts, jam,

13. Suet- puddings, pastry, cakes

14. Oats- Quaker Oats/ Scots- porridge, biscuits, cakes, desserts

15. Malt vinegar- serving on chips, pickling

16. Lemon curd - cakes, desserts, breakfast

17. Baked Beans- Heinz- jacket potato fillings, toast, main meals/pasta dishes

18. Barley- beer, drinks, stews/casseroles

19. Black pudding/ Haggis - starters, main meals


Spanish- style meatballs (18th Feb, 2009)

I made these last week as a special treat for Valentine´s Day as it´s one of my boyfriend´s favourite meals. It´s based on some blog recipes from La Cocina de Lala and La Cocina de Lechuza and what I can remember of the usual recipe I use in Spain from my recipe book, "1000 Mejores Recetas" so should be fairly authentic. Unfortunately, as you can see in the photo the meatballs didn´t retain their round shape and ended up a bit flat looking-more like a burger! However, the end result is moist, soft and tender meatballs.

Ingredients(for 2/3 people)

300g( just over 1/2 lb) of pork mince (it´s more authentic if you can buy pork and beef mince mixed)

1 slice of bread, crumbed (use 2 slices if bread is small or you can also use ready made breadcrumbs)

1/4 cup of milk (I used 1/2 cup and the mixture was too wet!)

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1tsp dried parsley

pinch of salt

pinch of pepper(optional)

1 egg

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 cup of white wine

2 tsps paprika

1/2 tsp flour


2 tbsps olive oil


1. Soak breadcrumbs in milk.
2.Mix pork mince, breadcrumbs, salt & pepper, parsley, garlic and egg in bowl. If meat mixture is very sticky, add a bit of flour to help bind.
3. Shape into balls, about 8 in total. Roll in flour.
4.Heat oil and fry meatballs till browned. Set aside.
5. Using oil left over from meatballs, fry onion until soft.
6. Add wine, paprika and flour and cook on medium to low heat till sauce thickens.
7. Replace meatballs and simmer until meatballs thouroughly cooked.
You can serve this with rice, pasta or fried potatoes whatever you prefer, the typical way Spanish people serve this is without any side dishes as this would be served as the first or main dish. Spanish meals usually consist of two large dishes. The first may be a soup, pasta, vegetable or fish dish usually followed by a meat or fish dish.


Yokoso Japanese Steak house & Sushi Bar, Pittsburgh (14th Feb, 2009)

This is another new experience for me as I´ve never been to a Japanese restaurant, seeing as I don´t really like fish or seafood. However, as it is also a steak house I thought I´d give it a try. I´m not sure whether this is an Americanized chain of Japanese restaurants or whether it is actually an authentic Japanese restaurant. The restaurant has a very stylish, modern & chic decor and you can choose whether to sit at the sushi bar or at the grill where the chef cooks your meal in front of you...we chose the latter of course, which I highly recommend.

If you're a carnivore through and through and are not too keen on fish & seafood like me, then although this restaurant has a couple of meat dishes, this is not the place for you. As the main meal comes with a choice of green onion soup or salad plus hibachi vegetables and rice, we decided not to have a starter. I chose the salad and my boyfriend had the soup. I wasn´t too impressed with the salad as it had this really sharp, acidic dressing of maybe garlic and ginger and the soup was a bit lacking in flavour. The main course was definitely worth the visit though and not only for the show! It was like the film Cocktail, only with food! I had chicken terriyaki and my boyfriend had hibachi scallops. The chef was tossing the egg up in the air and catching it with a metal scraper etc and piled the onion ring on top of one another, poured some wine (maybe sake?) onto it so it lit up in flames,like a volcano. As I said it was very entertaining and great for a special night out! The food was delicious and very tender. I even tried a bit of the hibachi scallops and to my amazement liked them! They didn´t taste too fishy and were very tender...they reminded me of calamares or squid a little, only not as chewy! All in all I´d say this restaurant is great value for money as you get wonderful food and entertainment at an affordable price.

Love Muffins-ooer! (11th Feb, 2009)

Love is in the air! It´s coming up to that time of year again, Valentine´s Day and if the way to a man´s heart is truly through his stomach, then these simple cakes will do the job....he´ll be wanting to grab more than these love muffins!

This recipe is from my cupcake calendar which takes its recipes from 500 Cupcakes. I couldn´t find fondant icing or silver balls in the supermarket but instead found these great icing pens from Cake Mate which come in a variety of colours and with the aid of a knife managed to ice the cakes. As you can see, I need to work on my icing skills!

Ingredients (makes about 18 cakes)
1 cup (around 227g) of unsalted butter, softened
1 cup(around 192g) caster sugar (superfine)
2 cups (around 222g) self-raising flour
4 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2oz red fondant icing
2oz white fondant icing
3tbsp raspberry jam
Silver balls

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 C).
2. Place all ingredients in large bowl and beat with electric mixer until all ingredients are combined (if you haven´t got a mixer, you can do it by hand although I´d cream the butter and sugar together first and then add flour, vanilla extract and eggs gradually as it´s easier!)
3.Place backing cups in muffin or sponge cake pan and place on middle shelf in the oven.
4. Bake for 20 mins
5. Cool cakes for 5 mins
6. If using fondant icing, roll both red and white out to 1/8 in. thick, then cut white fondant icing into circles using a 2 1/2 in. cookie cutter.
7. Cut out 18 hearts using a small heart shaped cookie cutter or a heart template and knife.
8. Brush each muffin with a little jam and place white fondant circle on top and place a heart on top of the circle.
9. Decorate with silver balls.

I´m sure your loved ones will enjoy these simple yet delicious treats. Enjoy your Valentine´s Day with your loved one(s)!
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