Category Archives: Food

Two Years and a Jar of Peanut Butter

This week, Hubby and I celebrated our second wedding anniversary. Two years of marriage and not a moment of regret – I’d call that a success, I think. The first time we celebrated an anniversary, I reflected on everything that had changed in my world since moving to the States and the new ways of life I’d been learning; this time around, I bring you a tangible improvement to my impersonation of a proper American wife.

We’re celebrating properly this weekend by allowing outside parties to feed and entertain us, but wanted to do something small to mark the day itself. As contribution to that sentiment, and because I can’t think of many occasions in life that aren’t improved by cake, I decided some baking was in order. And so I made a chocolate brownie cake with peanut butter frosting, with a candle each to blow out. It was delicious – and also the proof of my learnings.

Chocolate brownie cake with peanut butter frosting

I wasn’t so successful, you see, on the occasion of our first Valentine’s Day as a married couple. I was not yet able to drive and thus unable to sneak a proper gift into the house, so I improvised by making Hubby peanut butter cups, one of his favourite sweet treats. I worked on them tirelessly, patiently painting chocolate into heart shaped moulds, lovingly filling them with creamy peanut butter, excitedly experimenting with grape jelly in one or two.

Hubby was his usual appreciative self. He thanked me, made the appropriate cooing noises and dutifully ate every single peanut butter cup in the tin over the course of the next week. I was proud of my success.

Well, I was proud of my success until I tried one myself… and discovered that you’re meant to mix the peanut butter with icing sugar. You know how peanut butter sticks to the roof of your mouth and is impossible to swallow in large quantities and is more of a savoury treat than a sweet one? The chocolate shell didn’t do a whole lot to offset that unpleasantness.

It was an experience that was testament to my husband’s endless patience and kindness, so you can imagine how relieved I was to discover my peanut butter frosting was absolutely perfect – if anyone’s interested, you mix a cup of peanut butter with a stick of softened butter, stir in two cups of icing/confectioner’s sugar, whisk in individual tablespoons of milk until it’s fluffy and smooth and then lavish whatever small amount is left over on your cake after you’re done “taste testing” it. Just, whatever you do, don’t forget the sugar.

Flowers for my anniversary

Anniversary flowers, just because


The Garden of Ultimate Evil

At the beginning of the summer, my father-in-law came to the conclusion (from my lily-white skin and distinct lack of freckles) that I ought to be spending more time in the great outdoors. He came up with the cunning plan to woo me into the back yard with my very own garden: a place I could grow all the vegetables I could possibly eat with my own, still-fair-even-now-because-I-stick-obsessively-to-the-shade hands.

At first, it went swimmingly. We tilled the land in preparation, built a fence to keep the beady eyes of the deer at bay and planted carrots, beets and cabbages in neat rows. Once a day, I would potter out to inspect the budding plants and gently water them with a bucket, nurturing their tiny little leaves and dreaming of plates piled high with salad.

As they grew, this evolved into Playtime With Hoses, during which idyllic quarter of an hour of each afternoon, I would drench my bean rows until the whole thing resembled a paddy field. Which action I defend by pointing out that it was over 100 degrees outside and we had no rain for a month.

I rejoiced when I picked my first crops, dutifully snapping the ends from my beans before washing, blanching and freezing them, collecting an ever-increasing stash of vegetable goodness to see us through the winter.

I presented both the husband and the parentals-in-law with piles of lettuce at dinner time, overloading everyone’s plates with salad that looked an awful lot more edible than the pathetic excuse for a spring mix that Safeway has been selling over the summer.

I marvelled at how attractive the fruits of my labours were, as well as tasty. Until the first radish crop came in, that is…

The bunch above might look worthy of the front page of a gardening magazine, but I would in no way recommend taking a bite. Somehow, I achieved growing radishes that were both utterly tasteless and so fiery that my jaw almost literally dropped off.

When the above monstrosity of a radish unearthed itself (pictured in my husband’s man-hand for full appreciation), I began to wonder if my garden was preparing to fight back, and/or take over the world. Possibly by squashing everything else in it.

It got worse. Above is a two-foot green bean that somehow managed to evade my notice and begin creeping ominously towards the back door. I cannot speculate as to what it planned to do once it got there, only that Mutant Bean had nefarious intentions. By way of fair warning, this is probably how the apocalypse is going to begin: in my vegetable garden, through the medium of disgruntled shrubbery. My squash plants are almost certainly Triffids in disguise.

I am writing this post by way of an apology, before the inevitable happens and my harvest turns on us all. I’m sorry for inflicting the Mutant Vegetable Army on the world, and for whatever consequences my selfish action has. I couldn’t help it, I had no choice: my tomatoes are about to ripen and grilled summer squash tastes really, really good.

Pictured: Triffids


The gift of tea

I’ve often wondered whether an animal can have a nationality. My dog doesn’t bark in a particularly American accent, nor does my cat show any obvious signs of craving chili dogs. On the other hand, the latter pet has been spotted on numerous occasions, scampering across the carpet with a teabag between her teeth. This is also the cat, I should point out, who steals lettuce leaves on a regular basis and has no interest whatsoever in catnip, so it’s possible she’s not the best example of sanity in the four-legged.

Despite all that, I have become convinced she is at least 50% English, something I assume she has achieved by absorbing my genes through Satanic rituals while I am sleeping. Or possibly by drinking my blood each time she gnaws my ankle when I have the cheek to move my leg across the mattress.

Here is my proof:

Shoe + teabag = shoebag

Several mornings ago, my cat sent me off to work with a carefully prepared gift. At first, I thought it was a very different gift of the ‘accidental poop’ variety, but it turned out to be a damp, used teabag. Most cats bring you mice and squashed spiders, but mine (sort of) understands that no morning should start without a nice cup of tea.

I’d have probably preferred a Twix, mind you.

“You’re welcome.”


They’re My Lobster

If you have ever been to a Red Lobster, you will fully understand why, yesterday, I broke the diet I have been so dutifully following. One word: biscuits.

If you have never had the pleasure of visiting a Red Lobster, you have my heartfelt condolences. I can’t bear seafood (aka Spiders of the Sea), so I’ve avoided the place since I moved here, but  yesterday was Dad-in-Law’s birthday and, consequently, I was dragged, kicking and screaming, into a restaurant full of fish. And thus began my voyage of biscuit-based discovery.

 

I’ve been told about these things, I’ve seen pictures of these things, they’ve been used in an effort to tempt me into the building full of sea-spiders. I even, knowing they’re a family favourite, gave making them several goes under the instruction of my copycat restaurant recipe book. I was quite pleased with the results at the time, but I laugh in the face of their doughy, gooey, garlicky cheesiness now, having tasted the real thing.

I don’t understand. I simply don’t understand how they make them so fluffy they fall apart in your mouth once you’ve bitten through the wonderful crust. I am ruined, no other biscuit (or scone, if one is using proper language) will ever again satisfy. Worst of all? It’s a 100-mile drive to the nearest Red Lobster. Life, why do you hate me so?

 

 


Grill-iant Weekend

I am no longer able to deny my status as one half of an Old Married Couple. The highlight of my weekend was not watching Transformers in 3D, nor my crosspatch viewing of Legend of the Seeker (for which my sister-in-law is to blame, as she has coaxed me into an addiction to the books and the televisual equivalent is not really an equivalent at all).

Nope, the memory I shall carry forward from this particular summer’s Sunday is the maiden voyage of our brand new outdoor grill. It’s pint-sized and inexpensive, but already my favourite cooking implement – and not something one could call an everyday device in old Blighty.

My waistline has not adapted well to the change in diet, largely because it is slave to my brain, which seems convinced that devouring everything I come across is a good idea. It is not. The grill was bought as part of our attempt to curb the gluttony; after all, you can be as greedy as you like with salad and vegetables, yes?

And so we were; our first grill-fest featured steak and barbecue sauce with buttered mushrooms, corn, grilled potatoes and salad. Accompanied by a hot dog, just because we could.

Our second attempt was no less enthusiastic: chicken marinaded in a lemon pepper dressing on a bed of couscous, accompanied by large amounts of kebab-grilled pepper, onion, cherry tomato and mushroom and a salad. Also accompanied by corn, just because it needed using up.

Hubby tells me that such fare has seen him through most summers – an alien concept for someone who is not only used to living in a city (in an apartment with a broken patio door), but is from a nation that regards barbecue as a luxury (because announcing one’s intention to cook outside immediately causes the sky to cloud over).

This side of the ocean, the luxury seems to be in filling the fridge with healthy leftovers that – unlike the limp, depressed salads I’ve always relied on – are actually more tempting than the candy. If I was still intent on my pizza-sheet tent idea, I’d consider using the kebab sticks as tent poles.

 

 


Food Worlds Collide

Following fittingly on from my last post’s pizza theme, I present to you my strangest food find thus far: Hubby’s lunch from our road trip.

An ordinary, gas station pizza, yes? Available in gas stations state-wide, yes? Possibly further afield, I wouldn’t yet know. (For the Brits, gas station pizzas are a darned sight tastier than you’d expect, it’s not soggy sandwiches and Ginster’s this end.)

Except… look at the name. Of all the names to choose for a pizza company that sells in rural Wyoming, they went for the hub of the city, 5000 miles away, that I came here from.

And if that’s not an excuse to eat lots of it, I don’t know what is.


Sinister Snacks

In celebration of my dear husband’s scholarly achievements, the family gathered on Saturday afternoon for food, beer and general mischief. These occasions are always cause for excitement, partly because it’s impossible not to have a fantastic time, and partly because I spend the week beforehand salivating at the thought of the food. Burgers, hot dogs, Mum-in-law’s amazing potato salad, Uncle-in-law’s addictive cream cheese jalapenos, baked beans – everything you need to make yourself well and truly sick.

Even I got in on the action, spreading my sweet-toothed joy by providing the desserts. I’ve never been good at cake-making because I’m a bit gung-ho when it comes to presentation, but I was happy enough with  the results: I made raspberry cheesecake, mandarin cake with a whipped pineapple topping, rocky road brownies with cookie mix dollops and a marshmallow and chocolate chip topping and popcorn balls with cherries and almonds. Some of the brownies and the second mandarin cake that “fell apart” may have failed to make it to the table.

There was, however, one sinister contribution to the spread. You can see it in the picture below – it looks lovely, doesn’t it? Wouldn’t you be tempted to grab one? Don’t they just look melt-in-your-mouth yummy? Would you still be inclined to munch on one if I told you they were Mountain Oysters?

Most people from this side of the pond will now be making a face like a cat’s bum, just as I did when the plate came my way. Mountain oysters, you see, are… not oysters. They are calf testicles.

Yes, you heard me correctly: in this region, the delicacy enjoyed during branding season is cow bollocks. In breadcrumbs. Seasoned. With a delicious dip. But still, despite the dressings, a bovine dangly bit. I believe Grandma Grace, who under normal circumstances is a very elegant, proper lady, summed it up perfectly when she waved one in the air by its toothpick and declared, “I’ve been around too many of these in my life to feel the need to put one in my mouth”.

(Incidentally, Grandma Grace made my day for a second time when she was handed her baby grandson, who had finally calmed down after half an hour of crying. Two minutes later he was testing the top of his lungs again, at which she held him up to his mother and said, “Fixed him”. I felt compelled to share this anecdote with you largely so you could leave this post with a more pleasant mental image than a calf bollock.)