Monthly Archives: July 2014

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.

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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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