Authentic Greek Salad

Authentic Greek Salad - A bright, fresh salad straight from my days spent on the beautiful island of Crete. Satisfies those summer cravings |

I crave this salad all summer long. My first real deal, completely authentic Greek Salad experience occurred in 2009 when Gavin and I traveled to Crete. We stayed just outside Chania, a small town on the northern coast. Chania is stunningly beautiful. Hot sunshine, turquoise waters, rugged mountains, ancient ruins, a beautiful Venetian harbor and incredible food.

Chania, Crete |

We stayed in a little self-catering apartment complex complete with an on site taverna. We ate in other tavernas in Old Town Chania, but the food in that little restaurant was just as good, if not better. We always started our meal with a small bowl of tzatziki and a few nibbles. This was followed by grilled chicken or lamb souvlaki, served with pita bread and a very delicious potato salad heavily dressed in lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

Authentic Greek Salad - A bright, fresh salad straight from my days spent on the beautiful island of Crete. Satisfies those summer cravings |

What really stands out in my memory is the Greek Salad I had for lunch. It was unlike any Greek Salad I’ve ever eaten. The salad was full of locally grown, sweet, sun-ripened tomatoes and cucumbers. Thankfully, there was not a trace of cheap iceberg lettuce. The meaty, deep purple kalamata olives added a rich fruitiness. The salad was dressed with a local Cretan extra virgin olive oil, a splash of red wine vinegar and a generous pinch of dried oregano. The salad was topped with a large slab of creamy, tangy feta cheese. It was one of the best dishes I’ve ever eaten and I’ve been obsessed with re-creating it ever since.

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Baking Tip – The BEST Way to Measure Flour

Truth. It matters how you measure flour. 

Baking Tip - The BEST way to measure flour |

I realize this sounds like a bit of non-subject. Everyone who has baked something in their life knows how to measure flour, right? I mean, most of us attempt to follow recipes to the letter. Unfortunately, a lot of recipes don’t specify how you measure the flour and it matters.

I’ve been reminded of this while baking various sugary treats this weekend for our now 2 year-old birthday princess. There’s been a frosted sugar cookie cake, mini doughnuts and chocolate cupcakes are still to come for a family party tomorrow. Lots of flour, lots of measuring. And I have to add that year 2 has definitely gone by faster than year 1. Why must time fly by so fast once you have a child?

Anyways, I feel compelled to talk to you about measuring because I want you to have the same results in your kitchen as I have in mine. I would be so disappointed if you baked my strawberry cupcakes, my angel biscuits or my chocolate banana bread and the end result was dry and dense.

If you’ve ever had these results when baking, it’s more likely than not that the flour was over-measured. Baking recipes are very different from cooking recipes. They are based on scientific formulas that balance fat, protein and liquid. Even a couple of extra tablespoons of flour can ruin this balance and you will end up with less than perfect results.

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The Best BBQ Baked Beans

The best BBQ Baked Beans I’ve ever tasted – ultra rich, tangy, sweet and smoky. A summer barbecue essential! 

BBQ Baked Beans . The best I've ever tasted - ultra rich, tangy, sweet and smoky. A summer barbecue essential!  |

I’m cutting right to the chase. These are the BEST. BBQ. BAKED. BEANS. EVER. I’m not one to use the word “best” casually, I only use it when I really mean it. I would be shocked if I met baked beans I liked more than these. You don’t need any other recipe, this is it. Send the others back where they came from.

I first came across this recipe in Adam Perry Lang’s Serious Barbecue cookbook. I’m pretty sure I almost fainted after the first spoonful. These beans are so flavorsome and rich. You can practically taste the richness with your eyes just by looking at that dark burgundy color. The barbecue flavor is very concentrated, equally sweet, tangy and smoky.

This must be what real BBQ baked beans are supposed to taste like. You see, growing up we only ever ate Bush’s canned baked beans. I’ve also eaten an alarmingly large amount of Heinz baked beans since making my way across the pond. The contrast between those and these is drastic, to say the least.

Of course, me being me, I can’t let well enough alone. I made a few changes to Adam’s fantastic recipe to make it even more fantastic. For me. Hopefully for you too. I will admit that the original recipe is a bit too sharp and rich for my liking. I’ve made a few changes to correct this, but have in no way shape or form sacrificed that immense barbecue flavor.

I will give you three solid reasons why you will love this recipe as much as I do:

The best homemade BBQ sauce for BBQ Baked Beans |

1. Homemade BBQ Sauce. Please see my previous post. Have you tried this yet? If you haven’t, please do. I mean look at it. Luscious. I could eat it with a spoon.

Yes, of course you can use your favorite store-bought sauce if you don’t have time to make a BBQ sauce.

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Tour de France, 4th of July & Homemade BBQ Sauce

It was an exciting weekend for us here in Yorkshire! The cyclists in the Tour de France began their long race riding up dale, down dale and through many towns and villages across Yorkshire. It was wonderful to see our beautiful county on center stage in front of the rest of the world.

There were hundreds and hundreds of people lining the route, yellow shirts on and flags waving. A full on show of support, but  I would expect nothing less from Yorkshire folk! It’s no secret that this is the most friendly region in England. So listen up tourists! You are missing out on something special if you travel to the UK and don’t visit Yorkshire.  London isn’t the center of the Universe you know. I’m sorry, but it has to be said. I’ll prove it to you:

We couldn’t miss any of the action on Saturday morning, so we braved the road closures, put on our walking shoes and went out to watch the opening procession. Miraculously, it was sunny on the day the sun was supposed to shine!

We chose a spot close to an ice cream van (how convenient!), so Scarlett could entertain herself while we waited. She loved watching the French policemen and all of the support vehicles go past. We knew the cyclists were getting close when the helicopters began hovering over us. The whole thing was over in about 30 seconds, but it was a great experience getting into the spirit of the event and cheering on the racers with the rest of the crowd.

Tour de France Collage

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Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes

Fresh Strawberry Cupcakes - bursting with fresh strawberry flavor, a soft, silky crumb and melt-in-your-mouth frosting |

I’ll let you in on a little secret. I’ve never been a lover of strawberries. In fact, I struggle to love most fruit, tomatoes being the very large exception. I know, I’m weird that way. Vegetables? I could eat ten servings a day and never ever get bored. Salads? Oh yes. Roasted vegetables? Give me more. The vegetable plate at Cracker Barrel? One of the highlights of my childhood.

What I’m actually trying to say is, fruit must be perfect for me to really enjoy it. It’s got to be  as local as possible, in season and perfectly ripe. I eat it because I know it’s good for me. I obviously have no problem baking it into a dessert, but I admit my expectations are high and I’m easily disappointed.

Strawberry cupcakes

Luckily, it’s strawberry season and I’m pleased to say I’ve not been let down yet. The arrival of these ruby beauties marks the beginning of the British summer. My mind is immediately drawn to strawberries and cream, Pimm’s, pavlova, Wimbeldon and Royal Ascot. They’re only in season until August, so I’ve got to make the most of it.

I’ve packed nearly a pound of perfectly ripe strawberries into these 12 fresh strawberry cupcakes, so it’s safe to say they are thoroughly infused! A perfect treat to celebrate summer and easily transported to barbecues and picnics. Anyone need a 4th of July dessert?

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England vs. USA Part 2: Homemade Sausage Rolls

It doesn’t get much better than flaky, buttery puff pastry wrapped around lightly spiced sausage with sage and onion. So easy and fast to make at home!

Homemade Sausage Rolls - Flaky, buttery puff pastry wrapped around lightly spiced sausage with sage and onion. So simple to make at home. |

May I please introduce you to sausage rolls, the English part of my England vs. USA match day snack-off (see the American part here). These will make people love you. Seriously. Especially if they walk into your house while they’re in the oven. Sausage rolls definitely hold a high position in my mental list of “Reasons to Live in England, Despite the Non-Existent Summer.” Please remind me to share the rest of that list with you another day because it’s actually very amusing.

Sorry, I’m feeling a bit under the weather today (no pun intended). I woke up this morning to very cool temperatures and drizzle. I’m not kidding about the cool temperatures. The high today is 13 degrees Celsius, or in my language, a very chilly 56 degrees Fahrenheit. I’m torturing myself imagining hot breezes, warm evenings, maxi dresses, flip flops and long days spent at the pool.  Okay, fine. I may be exaggerating a little. It gets warm here. It’s just that Yorkshire high summer warm is more like early April Virginia warm. You’d think I’d be over it after 7 years.

I’ve resolved to keep my chin up. There’s still plenty to celebrate because the USA made it through the group stage last night!!! There’s still a reason to watch the World Cup, which means I’ve got an excuse to win people over with my Buffalo Chicken Dip and these super delicious homemade sausage rolls.

There’s nothing more to this recipe than sprucing up some store bought sausage, wrapping it in pre-made, pre-rolled puff pastry and baking it in the oven. Trust me, this homemade version is so much better than the ones you buy at the supermarket. It’s worth taking the extra ten minutes when the result is light, flaky pastry and juicy sausage bursting with sage and onion. Questionable meat and cardboard pastry? I don’t think so. Not in my house!

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England vs. USA Part 1: Hot Buffalo Chicken Dip

A spicy, creamy, cheesy dip that tastes just like hot Buffalo chicken wings. Be warned: it’s VERY addictive. 

Hot Buffalo Chicken Dip - A spicy, creamy, cheesy dip that tastes just like hot Buffalo chicken wings. Be warned: it's VERY addictive |

World Cup season is finally upon us! I had great plans for my England vs. USA match day snack-off, but unfortunately and unbelievably (well, maybe), my adopted home country has been officially knocked out.  Even more unbelievably, the USA won their first match. I was so proud of those boys and thrilled to see the amount of support they had on the ground. It was well worth the 1 AM bed time and lost sleep. The USA vs. Ghana match reminded me why I got into the sport in the first place. Anything can happen!

As ironic as it may be, getting a German coach was probably the best thing the USA could have done. I felt like I was watching a proper football team. And yes, that’s the word I’m unashamedly using. They do spend the entire game kicking the ball with their feet.

Whether you love the World Cup and can’t get enough, or your just ready for the whole thing to be over with already, it’s a great excuse to make some delicious food! Enter Part One of my England vs. USA game day snack off – Hot Buffalo Chicken Dip. I don’t think I could get more American if I tried. It’s all I can think about right now. I made it a few times to get the recipe exactly as I wanted, but it’s not enough! I need more!

Good thing the USA are back on tomorrow night……

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Angel Biscuits

Angel Biscuits |

These heavenly beauties are my ultimate homesickness cure. If you’ve never tried an Angel Biscuit, imagine a fresh loaf of bread meeting a savory scone. I can’t think of a better description for their unique texture and flavor. The outside of the biscuit is crusty, golden brown and glistening with butter. The interior is soft and airy. They are deliciously yeasty and slightly sweet with a pleasant buttermilk tang.

I whip up a batch of these for most holiday meals. They were a perfect accompaniment to our Easter ham. They’re ideal for parties, for brunch, or to serve with soup or a Sunday roast. Oh, and how could I forget ham biscuits? Obviously.

It’s a bit of a mystery as to where and when the Angel Biscuit originated. The recipe started popping up in local cook books in the American South in the mid-20th century. The soft, fluffy texture can be attributed to three types of raising agents –  baking powder, baking soda and yeast. This is a great recipe to try if you are new to baking with yeast because it is fail proof. The biscuits ALWAYS rise! I promise.

Angel Biscuits |

Aren’t they gorgeous?

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Pasta Primavera with Grilled Sausage

Pasta Primavera - this is my kind of food. Simple yet full of flavor and impact. Sweet roasted vegetables, spicy sausage and salty, aged Parmesan |

This  Pasta Primavera evokes so many memories. It’s one of the first recipes I wanted to post here because it’s been a staple in my recipe collection for years. I’ve thought a lot about the evolution of this dish and how each stage reflects a different season in my life. I thought about who I cooked it for and where I cooked it.

I was really surprised at how emotional I became during this little trip down memory lane. Food is so nostalgic for me.  My sister loves fashion and she can describe the outfit someone wore at any given occasion any number of years ago. She may be able to tell us how we were was dressed, but I can tell her what we ate! My memory is very much dictated by food, that’s for sure.

There are many different variations of Pasta Primavera, or “Spring Pasta,” none of them complicated by any means. This is exactly the kind of food I like to cook – simplicity at its best, yet full of impact when it arrives at the table. You can smell the barbeque smokiness of the sausages and the saltiness of the cheese. The pasta provides a perfect background to showcase the reds, oranges, yellows and purples of the roasted vegetables. There’s an eye pleasing pop of green from the spring peas and fresh herbs. It tastes better than it looks, which for me, is the cornerstone of a great plate of food.

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Baking Tip – Homemade Baking Powder

Homemade Baking Powder - Want to improve your baking? Make homemade baking powder. Three ingredients, five minutes and no metallic aftertaste. It's worth it!|

This is really worth doing! I love to bake and I do it often enough that it’s worth it to mix up a small batch of homemade baking powder.

So why bother? Because you really can taste the difference. Commercial baking powders contain a preservative called aluminum-sulfate, which lends a metallic taste that is not very appetizing. I can’t imagine that it does your body any good either. This is especially prevalent in baked goods like scones, muffins and quick breads (angel biscuits, anyone?). I find it so much more gratifying to serve up baked goods that don’t contain this metallic aftertaste!

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