Archive | January, 2019

Challenge #25 – update

12 Jan

My challenge #25 is to cook all of the recipes from one cookbook. I feel like I have been doing this challenge for ages and ages. Of course, I feel like this because this is pretty close to the truth. The good news is that I have recently tasked this challenge with renewed enthusiasm and the start of 2019 has been full of new, exciting recipes to try.

Here are the dishes I have recently cooked:

Fennel, Banana and Fusilli Salad with Orange Yogurt Dressing

I made this but I didn’t eat it because I don’t like fennel. Luckily my partner loves it so he was the guinea pig for this recipe. I was very sceptical about the ingredients for this: Fennel? Banana? And Orange? Sounds like something out of a horror movie if you ask me but he liked it. I wouldn’t make this again myself because I don’t like the main ingredient but it was easy to put together.

Rice and Beans Burritos with Salsa

As I continue with this challenge, I am running out of enthusiasm to eat the things that I have made so this is another recipe that I drafted someone to help me eat it. My friend, Mark, was very appreciative that I was willing to bring him lunch in the form of a burrito and he didn’t seem to mind so much that it was going to be vegan. We both liked this. It wasn’t all that hard to make. In the future I think I would add some hot sauce to it or maybe another vegetable like sweetcorn to give it a bit more flavour but overall it was great.

Semolina slice with Apple and Pear Puree

I couldn’t find semolina anywhere it Switzerland so it was on the shopping list when I went back to the UK in December. I still can’t work out what type of food stuff it is? I think it is probably classed as a grain but it didn’t look like I thought it would when I opened up the packed and the semolina slices that I made didn’t look anything like the photos in the book and they seemed to crumble into pieces rather than staying in one big chunk. It tasted ok though and the apple and pear puree was surprisingly filling on a cold winter’s day.

Soy Gyros with Tzatziki

This is one of the favourite dishes that I have made. It had to marinate in spices over night in the fridge so it isn’t something that you can prepare in 20 minutes one evening. It was delicious and perhaps in the future I can make a smaller portion of it to have as a tapas style dinner with lots of smaller dishes to try rather than a big main meal.

Spicy Cream Cheese with Gherkins

You need to plan in advance to do this recipe as you need to let the yogurt drain for 12 hours and then let all of the ingredients infuse together for 4-5 hours. I was fairly convinced that I wouldn’t go through the hassle of making it again but I was so impressed with the result that I think I would. I ate this with a warm wholemeal roll but you could use it as a dip, spread or part of a sandwich filling.

Herb, Olive and Tomato Home-Made Rolls

These rolls were one of the best recipes in the book. It didn’t take that long to make, even though I had to kneed the dough for 10 minutes and leave the dough to prove. I was especially impressed by how they turned out because they actually looked like the photo in the book, which proves that there is a first for everything! I will definitely make these again. I think that they are also freezable which is good because I can make a batch in advance for lunch and then just get them out as I need them.

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Vinaigrette

What can I say? It’s a salad dressing made from vinegar, olive oil and shallots. Not a lot to making it. The taste was good but I’m not a great fan of olive-oil based salad dressings.

Sour Cream and Parsley Dressing

This was easy to make but involved quite a bit of chopping before I could mixed everything together. I made it in advance so that the flavours could infuse a bit more before I ate it. I think that this could also be good as an accompaniment to grilled vegetables as well as a salad dressing because it was a thick sauce.

Indian Vegetable Pancakes

These were quite easy to make but the recipe didn’t make very large pancakes so I was glad that I made something else to accompany the dish. I could imagine that this would be a nice side dish to a curry as an alternative to a naan bread. Also the recipe wasn’t very spicy for me so next time I would definitely add the spices so that it matches my palate more.

Stuffed Vine Leaves with Lemon Rice

It took me ages to find vine leaves but I finally did. I was impressed by the results of this┬árecipe. It was a bit time consuming to prepare everything but I think it was worth it. I didn’t really taste the lemon in the rice though so I might add more when I make it next time. And I will be making it another time because the jar of vine leaves was enormous and I don’t like wasting food. I have been looking for other recipes for vine leaves on the internet and, while most are recipes for stuffed vine leaves, I have found one which is with mushrooms and garlic with vine leaves that I will be trying out soon and is also vegan.

 

Buckwheat Pancake with Caramelized Apple Slices

We had this for breakfast even though they are in the dessert section of the book. I was surprised by how much of a rise the pancakes had. They were what I would describe as American-style pancakes, really fluffy and soft. I will definitely be trying these again. The book also suggest that you could have these pancakes with savory items, like onion and peppers, which I might give a go as well.

I have now made 91 out of 100 from the book which means that I only have 9 left to do. The end is finally in sight.┬áMy aim is to complete this challenge over the next few weeks, which can mean only one thing… we will be having Easter buns in January! I call this a dress rehearsal for the real thing.

 

 

The Start of 2019

10 Jan

It’s been a busy start to the New Year. It’s only the 10th January but I have the feeling that I have done more in the last 10 days than I did in the whole of December. Which is hardly surprising because my main activities last month were eating and drinking.

Although we had a few smatterings of snow in December, the snow is finally coming down. Perhaps my increased productivity is due to this weather. I don’t feel like going outside so I have been busy doing activities indoors.

Here is a list of what I have done in the past 10 days.

  • Stopped eating and drinking as much as I was doing over Christmas in an attempt to lose the weight that I’ve put on;
  • Read 5 books (and I’ve almost finished number 6);
  • Collected and built a wardrobe that I had ordered;
  • Tried some new recipes in the kitchen;
  • Had a haircut;
  • Packed away all of the Christmas decorations and the Christmas tree – and the corner in the living room still looks empty without it;
  • Bought a new TV – our old one decided to give up the ghost on the 5th;
  • Started work for preparations for lauching my own travel website later in the year;
  • Started learning some coding in Excel;
  • Sorted out some clothes and other things to be taken to the recycling centre or to donate;
  • Went swimming for the first time in as long as I can remember;
  • Had a couple of lunch dates with friends;
  • Begun editing a short story that I wrote last year.

Bearing in mind that we were on holiday in Belgium until 3rd January I’m feeling pretty pleased with myself.

If the snow keeps falling and I remain inside, I think this month could be the most productive one on record! I hope you’ve also had a good and productive start to 2019.

New Year in Belgium

6 Jan

We rang in the New Year in Brussels. Belgium is one of the European countries that I needed to visit as part of my #40Before40 challenge, and as we would normally be sat at home waiting for the New Year to arrive, it seemed like a good excuse to visit.

We had a total of three full days there, so we had plenty of time to see the sights and enjoy our time there. Overall, I thought Brussels itself was unimpressive and dirty. Admittedly, when you live in Switzerland, everywhere isn’t quite so nice in comparison. But we did get time to visit Bruges which is a beautiful city that we both enjoyed.

Here is what we got up to on our long weekend away.

Brussels

We (somehow) found ourselves in the Brussels Beer Museum at 10am sampling some of the local ales on the first day. There wasn’t a lot to see in the actual museum and I think the main attraction of the museum is the free beer that you can have after the tour. I certainly wasn’t complaining. And the surroundings were pretty cute as well.

After having a beer so early in the day, we also treated ourselves to one of Belgian’s most famous exports… no, it’s not sprouts! We went to one of the many fries restaurants in the city. I was expecting thin chips but the ones that we were served were more like chip shop chips from back home. I was impressed. It turned out that this “snack” was a staple for most of the trip and we are now certified Belgian chip experts.

We also went on a free walking tour, which are always worth the two and a half hours. We learnt a lot about the city, the history, the best places to eat waffles and the best place to drink beer. We also saw the Mannekin Pis, the small statue of the boy peeing and discovered that there are two other statues (minus the historical significance) in the city – a peeing girl and a peeing dog. Naturally we hunted down both of them to collect the set.

We sampled a lot of other beers in the local brassieres and bars, ate waffles, had some amazing moules et frites for our New Year’s Eve dinner and walked around the Christmas markets which were available until 6th January. We also went for a tour of the European parliament, which I found interesting considering events which may or may not be happening at the end of March, as well as a visit to a comic museum, which I thought was overpriced.

We did go in search of fireworks. We were told that there was a big firework display put on by the local government which was free to enter. The display was accompanied by music, DJs, food etc. The venue wasn’t in the city but a bit outside. After two police search we were inside and so were a lot of other people. The problem was that there were only two chip stands, one bar, one churros stand and a waffle van. The queue for the bar was about 200 meters long (no joke) and after a while we decided that it might be better for us to go back into town and find a bar to welcome in the New Year without fireworks because at least then we would be able to get something to drink and eat. So, that is just what we did.

Bruges

Bruges is less than one hour from Brussels if you take the direct train and I was so glad that we did because it is such a charming city. Its atmosphere is completely different to Brussel. It is noticeably cleaner and has lovely little canals and small streets and bridges to get lost in. It is also noticeably colder because it is near the coast.

Here we also took a free walking tour. I personally think the guide was the best guide that I’ve ever had on one of these tours. She was so passionate about the city, knowledgeable about the city and history and had a great sense of humour. She gave us some good hints about where to go and what to do and I was disappointed that we were only staying there for a day. I could have easily wasted hours sat in coffee shops, watching the world go by and eating fistfuls of chocolate.

img_3398We visited the Brugse Zot brewery and ate a very hearty lunch there before visiting the city hall, a beer museum and another brewery, where we tasted six of the beers on tap. After that we just had to try the chips to see if they were as good as the ones in Brussels and a waffle for dessert before heading back to Brussels and later heading home.

I’m glad we spent some time away for New Year. I would recommend it to help you ease back into the next year after an over indulgent Christmas.

It was doubly pleasing for me because now I have visited 27 countries in Europe! I now only need to visit another 13 countries to complete my challenge. With trips to Romania, Poland and Luxembourg planned for later this year (plus a few others), I should be able to complete this challenge soon.

 

Challenge #17 complete!

2 Jan

Another challenge from my #40Before40 list is complete. My seventeenth challenge was to write a diary for a whole year.

As a teenager I always thought that this was a good idea but soon got bored of it, so I thought that this would be interesting to see if I would have the discipline to do this as an adult. It was also a way to make sure that I was writing something at least once a day. I have heard that it takes between 30 to 60 days to form a habit so it was also an opportunity to test this theory.

I started the challenge on 1st January 2018 and finished writing my last entry on 31st December 2018. I was glad that I chose this year to document. We spent the best part of five weeks travelling around South America last year. While I wasn’t able to write down every single thing that we did on holiday and all of the funny encounters that we had, I have a comprehensive account of our time there and I think I will definitely come back to the diary to relive some of the things that we did and experienced there.

Of course, there are a lot of days when not a lot at all happened. This is perhaps a reminder that life isn’t always go, go go and that we need some normality mixed into the extraordinary to achieve the right balance.

I was particularly impressed that I managed to fit the whole year into one book and I didn’t have to buy an additional one. My entries towards the end of the year seemed to get a bit shorter at the end but every day is accounted for. I used the ink from one and a half pens over the course of the year. I was careful to find the same type of Biro when the first one ran out. I couldn’t stand a different colour being used for the second half of the year.

So there you have it. One of the “longest” lasting challenges from my list is completed. I will miss sitting down at the end of the day to think about what the stand out point of the day have been. I may even carry on but not commit myself to write in it every single day but there are more challenges to get on with (34 in fact!) so I can use some of the time I am saving to concentrate on my other challenges.

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