Random Chinese Grocery Finds!

One of my favourite things to do is just walk up and down the aisles of Chinese grocery stores. I adore Asian food, and the sheer treasures you can find amongst the shelves are exciting to me. A new cooking adventure lies around every corner, and new tastes i never thought about combining just pop out at me.

I spend HORRIFIC amounts of money in these stores.

Recently i went on an impulse shop and came out with a few random finds. Will they taste good? will they horrify my tastebuds? Onward…

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Two cans. None of which i can read or understand.

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my first foray into Congee, something i’ve always wanted to try. Probably not a great idea that it was from a can… but whatever. I was intrigued by the sweet combination of beans and sweets – as a huge fan of aduki bean paste, i thought i would be ALL OVER this stuff.

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Unfortunately, it was just not the greatness I was expected. Oddly textured, oddly flavoured…just odd in general. i NEED some home made Congee to change my perspective. I know excellent sweet congee exists – just not from a can!

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Next was this wonderful creation – the tag in the store dubbed it “peanut milk”. Fantastic, i thought. I imagined some variant on Almond milk, one of my addictions.

Well. Not quite.

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The chinese are nothing if not literal.

Peanuts. In Sweetened milk. The contents of this can were a surprise, but not an unpleasant one. The milk itself was exceedingly sweet, but as a sugar junkie i enjoyed it. Kind of like thinned down condensed milk.The peanuts had softened from their soaking, and were quite creamy. Whilst i felt odd sipping, chewing, then sipping again… it wasn’t all bad!

 

I’ve definitely had some better Chinese grocery finds. Anyone have any favourites? Or any inexplicable oddities?

Early Fall Brekkie – Pumpkin Oats

I feel like i’m getting into the Autumn spirit slightly prematurely.DSC00943

I know i live in Scotland, and it gets cold here pretty fast, but ITS STILL AUGUST. Only just creeping into September. Surely i should be mourning the loss of Scottish strawberries, and catching the last of the summer sun rays whilst sipping iced lattes in my flipflops

Nah. I went and got pumpkin. 

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and the oats i made with it were hot, god damn it. Hot and perfect for a morning in November, not mid morning in August. But who cares, because this bowl of orange goodness was DELIGHTFUL.

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Recipe slightly adapted from a Pinch of Yum.

  • 1/3 cup oats
  • 2 tbsp flaxseeds
  • 1 cup Almond Milk (I used homemade for this, but i also like Alpro)
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon + ginger
  • Muscavado Sugar to taste

Combine oats, flaxseeds and almond milk in a saucepan and bring ton the boil.  Once thickened, add the spices and pumpkin and stir until heated. Pour into the bowl, and top with the muscavado sugar and an extra sprinkle of cinnamon if you like.

I like using muscavado because of its rich and molasses like taste – it pairs so well with the pumpkin, and just gets all melty and thick and syrupy…Mmmmmmm!

Coffee Chat

A few fun links from around the interwebz concerning my one true love – Coffee!

  1. An insight into the specialty coffee farm at Finca San Antonio – no fancy editing, just true life. super interesting! 
  2. Verve Coffee Roasters have an awesome street smart series – really informative, pretty funny and beautifully edited. Remember kids – Latte art doesn’t involve ANY fist pumping! 
  3. An awesome new youtube series i’ll definitely be tuning in to every week – Caffeination, a youtube series in which two coffee guys visit cafes and roasters across Central and Western USA. Should be interesting to see the highs and lows of the US cafe scene!

Also just purchased the most beautiful porcelain Inker cups from Machina Espresso in Edinburgh. I’ve been obsessed with these cups ever since i found a cafe in Australia using them, and now i finally have them for my home flat whites. Far too excited! If you’re ever in the Edinburgh area and in search of all things coffee related, Machina is a great place to pick up some stuff. They’ve also teamed up with Fun in a Cup to offer barista training – which is well worth the money!

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Yelp Event – Tasting at Hotel Chocolat

Last night, I think i reached my nirvana. Or as close to it as I could possibly be. Last night, a bunch of us Yelpers had a tasting event at Hotel Chocolat, a luxury chocolate story in Glasgow city centre.

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I’d been in the store a couple of times before and had a browse, but I had never had the privilege of sampling any of the chocolate they had to offer. Needless to say, I was FAR too excited. I had been promised copious amounts of chocolatey bites,and I was not disappointed. So glad i didn’t have dinner before i came. We were greeted with chocolate at the door! A sample of their enormous chocolate blocks that they had on display at their door. The Lemon meringue pie slab was smooth and creamy with a hint of lemon and pieces of biscuit throughout. However, the missisippi mud pie WAS RIDICULOUS. Chunky brownie pieces, smooth milk and white chocolate… I could have eaten the entire block without any problems at all.

DSC00954The blocks in all their glory.

DSC00956Sample anyone? Chunks of the Lemon Meringue…

DSC00959The Prosecco and OJ were also freely flowing. Of course.

We then got a chance to learn more about Hotel Chocolat. The business started as just a chocolate sampling service – sending samples out in the post to loyal chocolate club customers. From there, the business grew, although the chocolate sampling club is still very much a part of the experience. They not only have stores in the UK, but one in New York, Boston and Amsterdam, in addition to a Hotel, Restaurant and a Cacao plantation in St Lucia. I had no idea the business was so broad and international!

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We were taught about the chocolate making process itself, “from tree to tummy”, and guided through a wide tasting of some of their most popular chocolates and truffles. We were also taught how to properly taste a high quality chocolate. I was amazed and excited to learn just how similar coffee and chocolate were in terms of process, taste and experience – they both come from a similar bean that is coated in a thick white mucilage, both are subject to fermentation processes, both are dried, both can be either a single origin or a blend… Perhaps this similarity explains a lot about my enduring love for chocolate!

We were told to smell the chocolate, to experience the richness of the scent. We admired the sheen of the bar, as well as the smooth interior and satisfying “snap” the chocolate made. Last, but certainly not least, we appreciated the taste – Each chocolate was unique in its taste profile, and each had its own individual experience and depth of flavour. Tasting notes indicated that we experienced flavours such as caramel, oak, olive oil and red berries. So not unlike coffee then!

The single origin from St Lucia was definitely my favourite. It was a dark chocolate, but extremely creamy, sweet and caramelly, not unlike a milk variety. It just melted on the tounge…mmmm.

DSC00969Dark chocolate comparison… these two had an ENTIRELY different taste profile.

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We also got to experience some of Hotel Chocolat’s savoury treats – a white chocolate and horseradish sauce, a cacao pesto, a cocoa mayo… each one was unlike anything i’d tasted before, but were extremely delicious!DSC00965

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With the massive amount on sale, i obviously had to come home with something. A mini mud pie slab and a package of fizzy champagne truffles later, I was one happy customer. 

The event was hugely enjoyable, and thanks again to community manager Briony for organising it. I have a new appreciation for artisan chocolates, and I love how the taste experience can be so varied in nature. Just goes to show how much bland and sugary rubbish is actually on our shelves! If i want proper quality chocolate, Hotel Chocolat will probably be stop number one from now on…

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For the love of Smoothies – #1 and #2

For some reason, I’ve resisted the entire concept of smoothies and juices. Whether as meals or snacks, i just never got it. Despite the fact that everyone and their mother was sipping and blending, I was just not into it. I prefer to chew my food. My food is not my beverage.

But there are so many great benefits to smoothies and to juicing – its great pre or post workout, and such an easy way to get a great amount of nutrients in extremely easily. My flatmate was very into smoothies too, So i’ve decided to take on a challenge.

Recently i’ve discovered this amazing list of 30 green smoothie recipes. As a challenge to myself, I will be working my way through this list of smoothies in an attempt to convert myself to having smoothies for breakfast, lunch, post workout snack, or just as something i can incorporate into my life to keep healthy. I want to explore just how “healthy” i can make my smoothie before they begin to taste far too…healthy. Being good for you and tasting like a glass of sloppy  kale = two VERY DIFFERENT CONCEPTS.

So armed with my blender, the journey begins!

Smoothie #1 - Peanut  Butter Cocoa Spinach Green  Smoothie

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Yes, this may possibly be the most off-putting and unsexy photo in all of blog history, but you have to move past it because this was pretty spectacular. It was complete peanutty, Chocolatey, sweet frozen banana goodness. I couldn’t even TASTE the boost of the added Spinach, although it did massively contribute to the funky colour. If all smoothies tasted like this one, I would have smoothies for every single meal. For the rest of time.

 

Smoothie #2 – Green Machine Smoothie

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This smoothie looks a lot more yummy, appetising and green than the last one, but taste wise…. this didn’t really work for me. I blame it entirely on the fact that i am using a pretty cheap and shoddy blender, which meant that the ginger didn’t properly liquidize and so i was just eating chunks of ginger. NOT GOOD. I think this combination would be infinitely more successful as a juice – i can imagine the ginger adding a lovely zing if properly incorporated. But as a smoothie? Pass.

 

 

More posts on my Smoothie adventures are imminent. Do you guys have any favourite smoothie recipes, or recipes i should try to ease myself in? Inspire me!

Rick Steins India + My attempt at authentic Indian Cooking!

One of my guilty pleasures is spending an entire day on the couch, slobbing out with my duvet and watching the Food Network. My obsession with all that decadent food knows no bounds.

Recently i branched out from the Food Network to the slightly less food focused BBC, due to a love for one TV show – Rick Steins India.

Never before have I felt a draw to India, but that programme changed it all – it gave me a real insight into Indias culture, its beauty from the far north to the very south, and the vibrancy of its food. The colours! the flavour! the spices! I was pretty much entranced, and now I would LOVE to go to India and eat my way through the country in the same way Rick has.

Unfortunately, my current budget won’t allow me a leisurely jaunt through India at the present moment. Luckily, a lot of the recipes Rick made on the show are available on the BBC’s website, and I had a crack at one of the more simple recipes – Whole Eggs in Coconut Masala

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Mmmmm, just look at it bubbling away. That beautiful bright colour came from the abundance of turmeric in the recipe – I love adding this spice to food, because it brings such a brightness and excitement to a dish. Who needs E numbers or “Yellow 6″ colouring? YAY TURMERIC.

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The result was one yummy, brightly coloured and deeply flavoured coconut mess on a plate. 0 for presentation, about a 20 for flavour. Despite the fact that i had to improvise my own Kashmiri Chilli powder with paprika, cayenne pepper and other assorted spices… So perhaps not as authentic as intended.

Still, when poured over some brown rice, and with the hard boiled eggs chopped in half so the perfectly cooked white insides can be admired, this was a fun and tasty dish I would happily make again when i want to evoke India on a budget!

If you’re interested in watching the Rick Steins India series, its currently available on DVD here, or you can purchase the book.

Quinoa Pizza Crust (GF and healthy!)

I think i speak for the entire British population when I say that NOBODY feels good after consuming a pizza from Dominoes.

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Especially the family sized, stuffed crust variations i tend to go for. May favourite pizza may be a veggie supreme – but it is STILL a pizza. WITH a cheesy stuffed crust. Which makes me feel sluggish and just generally meh. After bite 1, it just aint worth it.

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But i like the whole ritual of pizza, and eating a pizza is just so damn easy and customisable – its such a fun food. Why oh why can’t it be nutritious?

And so i’ve been playing with different ways to make pizza a more healthy and satisfying food. I have had pretty tasty results using baked Polenta as a crust, but it admittedly wasn’t as authentic. THIS however. This was a protein and veggie packed creation which kept me full without sending me into some form of Carb-icidal coma.

I took inspiration from this Roasted Corn and Pesto Quinoa Pizza recipe – the toppings i chose were also almost entirely true to recipe.  Although i did use a store bought pesto rather than making my own, because it was there. For even more health points, by all means get out your blender and go home made pesto mad. EIther option is pretty delicious.

Seconds after these photos were snapped, I sliced and consumed. Pretty much all of it. Alone. Welcome to an evening in my life.

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What I Ate Wednesday #2

The 2nd edition of WIAW! I’m definitely one of those foodies who takes a million pictures of what she eats. I admit that most of this is not worthy of a post in itself, hence the adoption of WIAW. Plus, its fun to showcase restaurant food porn!

First up was a weekday brunch at  Epicures of Hyndland. A bit of a West End institution which, judging from the Yelp reviews, doesn’t come with the most stellar of reputations. There was nothing inherently wrong with my visit, although the scrambled eggs could have done with a lot less butter! But that may just be personal preference, since i barely use the stuff.

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I must be on some sort of healthy mexican kick this week, especially given the previous post. But i made myself a black bean, mexican inspired salad!  a deconstructed version of this  black bean burrito bowl, which is one of my current favourites. Mmmmmm.

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Also been having FAR too much fun with my Gaggia Classic. Ever since changing the steam wand over from the (crappy) one they’ve provided, I’ve been steaming milk like a loon. No more long blacks for me for a while, as i attempt to master the ever elusive rosetta….

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Finally, I brunched with a bunch of yelpers at  Cafezique this week. A place I don’t get to go to often since it’s quite out of the way, and a bit too expensive for a regular haunt. Still, they do have a great breakfast! Less buttery than Hyndland for sure. The big brekkie that almost every one else got looked fab, but i stuck to what i know. Smoked salmon and scramble!

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Any Glasgow residers have more recommendations for a great brunch? Somewhere that does scramble without all the Lurpak? Let me know!

Wednesday Things

Another random wednesday things post! Generally involving a lot of newly discovered vegan foods at the health food store. I pretty much go into those places wanting a bottle of almond milk, and leave with £30 worth of health related goodies. I am a MESS around alternative milks, nut butters and coconut  waters. I need self control.

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I’ve been on a bit of a protein bar kick lately. I’ve just got a new full time job (hence the tapering off of the blog posts slightly!) and i am always in need of fuel that i can grab on my break that will keep me going. These Trek bars are pretty tasty – haven’t eaten the peanut one yet, but the brownie one was good, quite dense and with soya crunches throughout. I have a pretty large collection of these to burn my way through….

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An impulse buy in the form of dark chocolate halva. As far as i’m aware, this is just sesame seeds, honey and cacao.. a good protein rich snack? a really random and mildly disgusting addition to my pantry? time will tell…

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I FINALLY FOUND IT IN THE UK. This, my friends, is the new coconut water. a craze that has swept the US blogosphere, with us British readers sadly wallowing in our lack of fermented goodness. well, i say goodness. i haven’t actually TRIED it, and the idea of having a living and breathing organism in my tea is a little creepy. but i should probably further research into what this actually IS before i drink it… any help??

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Also whipped up some bright summery cocktails for a dinner party i hosted recently. Vodka (mmmmm) Pineapple, lime juice and mint, muddled and topped with soda water. a nice, more bitter alternative to all the sweet mixers that usually accompany vodka. Why dilute that goodness?

Recipe – Mexican Quinoa Lettuce Wraps.

I LOVE Mexican food. I think it’s the inherent spice in everything, or the prominence of tomatoes. Whatever it is, its gooood. But the mexican food options in Britain?…Meh. Bland, too much cheese/carb, and generally not a patch on the American offerings I have experienced. Plus, SO unhealthy, so not a regular indulgence.

But one evening, I had the urge. The urge to go all Mexican, but not kill myself with carbs. Enter – lettuce wraps!

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Serve the same function as stodgy tortillas by acting as a vessel for all those tasty fillings. But doesn’t put you in a sleepy coma afterwards! Yay!

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I filled mine with some tasty Paprika Veggie Quinoa, some avocado, caramelised onions, cilantro, and Spicy mexican salsa. This is my favourite – its chunky, flavourful, and SPICY.

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The whole process of these wraps is super easy, but they are fun to assemble. Step One – tear yourself off a piece of lettuce! This is your foodie canvas.

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Next up – QUINOA. Pile it on there.

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Then the rest of the toppings follow – dollop of avocado, a few sprigs of cilantro and the sweet, sweet onions.

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And the final touch – salsa! I am overly generous with my salsa. Which can sometimes make for an exceptionally messy wrap. But that is the fun of it!

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Ta da!

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Then all you have to do is wrap em up and munch! These are a super healthy way to get a spicy mexican inspired fix. Think I had these for dinner about 3 times in a row, They’re addictive, you have been warned!

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Mexican Quinoa Lettuce Wraps

  • 1/4 Cup Quinoa
  • Chopped veggies to taste – i used chopped red onion, peppers and shredded carrots
  • 1 tsp Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • Lime juice – about 1/2 a lime
  • One head of lettuce
  • 1/2 chopped avocado
  • handful shredded coriander
  • Mexican Salsa of choice.
  • Caramelized onions.
  1. If you haven’t already, caramelise your onions. Slowly cook them over low heat until they reach that lovely deep brown colour and sweet aroma.allow to cool.
  2. Cook the 1/4 cup quinoa to packet instructions.When cook, mix with the veggies, paprika, garlic powder , lime juice and ground coriander.
  3. Prep your other fillings – the chopped avocado, Coriander and anything else you want! Cheese would be good here.
  4. Assemble, wrap and nosh!
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