Stilton asparagus puff pastry tart

When my mom came to visit I wanted to make her something English so I came up with a totally experimental Stilton veggie tart made with puff pastry.

Crumbles of Stilton from Waitrose on the bottom topped with asparagus tips, tender stem broccoli tips and sliced red onion. I spread a little of sharp cheddar cheese and drizzled a bit of EVOO on top and baked for about 25 minutes on 220 C. Once the edges were turning golden I pulled it out and placed a few sweet pomodorino tomatoes on top.

The only problem was the lack of veggies! I packed it full before it went into the oven and genuinely thought I over did it (like you can overdo veggies??), but this could have handled twice as many.

I love using puff pastry blocks because I feel like a fancy pants even though it’s super easy.

One block made four random rectangular/square shapes for us. It’s surprisingly hard shaping dough. Or maybe I just need to go back to Kindergarten.

Despite the inconsistent shapes, they came out well.

When mom was here she liked eating out, so if we ate at home I had to promise her a pint at our local.

Guinness for mom. Prosecco for me!

Totally random confession for the people who say I’m too healthy: Today for breakfast I ate Cheetos and blonde brownies. Topped off with an iced mocha. Breakfast of champs?

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Rome: The Pantheon

Hello from England! Although I’m looking out my window and this is what I see …

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… life still isn’t so bad. I mean, it’s grim, but as long as you don’t go outside you’re grand. 🙂

I’m drinking grape juice mixed with carbonated water and eating a happy, random meal. Goodlife vegan nut burger, onion rings, rocket salad with sliced strawberries and balsamic + olive oil.

Yesterday I came straight home because of the rain and watched a black and white version of Anne of Green Gables (!! love that book!!) on BBC and fixed up my pictures of the Pantheon.

By the time we got to the Pantheon we were beat. We’d already been to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain so it seemed like we’d walked miles and miles. I was definitely envisioning a cab ride in our immediate future.

Finally we stumbled upon what I thought could be the back of it. Is this it?? Is this it?? It looks old so it must be it. Finally!

This fountain didn’t look so cool, but close up I was loving it.

The funny thing about this picture of my mom is that she looked concerned and asked me if I thought it was safe to drink the water from the street fountain. Around Rome there are tons of fountains where you can drink straight from the water that pours out onto the ground.

I said, “Well, I guess so. I’ve seen lots of people washing their faces with it and filling up water bottles.” As I said this she told me she’d already filled up her bottle and had been drinking from it.

I didn’t realize you could go inside the Pantheon as well, so we ran right in.

People kept talking so occasionally someone would come on the big speaker and tell everyone to shut up, which was humorous because they had to do it in several languages and still no one was quiet.

When we left we had what I’d consider to be one of the scariest cab rides of my life. In Rome there are no rules of the road. The only rule is that if there’s a space on the street and you think your car can fit – go for it. Same thing with crossing the street. Just run across and hope for the best.

I’m finally ready for my high school reunion.

So, I got business cards for my blog.

When they came in the mail I immediately felt like Romy and Michele.

I told all my friends. I was handing them out willy nilly, but it turned out I was handing them to people who already read my blog. Or people who know about my blog but say, “Your blog … that you post on Facebook every single day? Why would I need your card?” F off. Take my card.

Getting business cards is super exciting, even if all your friends make fun of you for having them. It also means that on the rare occasion I meet a random person, I can tell them about my blog without having them write the URL on a nasty napkin or on the back of a piece of paper. I’m owning this.

I always thought going to my high school reunion would be torture, but now that I can go and hand out a biz card and pretend like I invented Post-its (or write about food), I’m totally going. And dressing like Romy and Michelle.

Two random thoughts:

1) I saw Prometheus this weekend. It was … not great. The beginning of the movie was so awesome that I was geared up for my face to be blown off. But then the acting was really bad, the main character’s face was annoying, and it Jesus-ed out at the end.

2) I have an obsession with this song. I don’t know. Maybe I’m 70 years old.

I did a much better job eating enough to stay full last week. I ran four miles Tuesday, rested Wednesday and Thursday and then ran five miles Friday.

Due to the fact that I’d worked two weeks straight, including the weekend, I was getting pretty stressed! I ran way too hard Friday and am still sore today, and I drank way too much after. I got a bit English.

Here’s the fish fried in polenta that I told you about last week. It’s so good! I used the same seasoning for the okra.

Mostly polenta with a little white flour + Old Bay + s&p + garlic powder

Of course there was a big pile of rocket on the side, drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil.

See my boyfriend in the background? Little iPhone <3, we’re still so in love. He eats at the table with me every night and sings country music to me so I don’t get lonely.

Okra, get in muh belly.

Until next time …

Spicy smoked rainbow chard

Greens make me happy. Like, really happy.

When my mom was here I had an amazing, yet simple, discovery.

Rainbow chard.

On a random trip to Whole Foods they had some on sale and I thought it looked pretty so I threw it in my little cart and went on with my day. But wow!

It was nice having someone to cook with! Normally my evenings consist of me running around the kitchen by myself and listening to Tune In on my iPhone.

I try not to sing anymore because I had an embarrassing moment recently where I thought I was alone so I played the same song at least eight times in a row, sang loudly each time, and then my housemate’s girlfriend appeared out of nowhere. I pretty much looked like a psycho who listens to bad songs on repeat, and then sings badly to said bad songs.

So, when mom was here I didn’t have to pretend to be cool, because oddities are a lot more acceptable when you’re not on your own.

Mom washed. I chopped (and took photos – that counts as work, right?).

I can’t think of any greens I don’t like, so I guess it’s not a surprise this made my face happy. We did a simple pan-fry with garlic, onion and asparagus tips.

We bought humanely raised British bacon and cooked it up with that, but I made the chard again without the bacon and it was fine. I have some smoked sea salt that I added to it and honestly didn’t notice the difference.

Baguette to mop up the juice.

The smoked sea salt + spicy chili powder aaallmost had me feeling like I was eating Southern collard greens, and boy do I miss those. Does life get much better than collard greens and fried maters?

Wine to sip! It doesn’t appear so in this picture, but generally my mom poured less wine into my glass because she says I don’t know how to drink. 🙂 I’m a disappointment!

Vegan cupcake to finish. I love the vegan cupcakes from Whole Foods. They’re a lot thicker and tastier than normal cupcakes!

I’m a total loser so I’m going to bed in thirty minutes. It’s 6:30 p.m. See you tomorrow!

I sing about chewing tobacco.

God help me. How did I become the kind of person who listens to music in which the lyrics discuss buying wintergreen Skoal and main street gas? Is there anything nastier than people who chew tobacco??

One time at a speech during school this guy from my class was being really sneaky and spitting his chew into a Pepsi can while we were supposed to be listening and taking notes. Guess what happened? Toward the end of the speech his can tipped over and I got his tobacco-laced spit all down my nice pants. At the point I was like, I honestly would not care if this guy died right now. He could fall over dead and I wouldn’t blink an eye. GROSS. (Sure, this was in Terre Haute, Indiana, but still. Disgusting.)

I am ashamed to admit I bought Toby Keith’s whole album today because I’m so obsessed with his song “Beers Ago,” where he references spending his last few pennies on chew. I’m not even going to put a link to it. I hate him! But I love him.

Anyway. There’s no good segue from chew to watermelon, so I’m just going to get on with it.

I forgot how much I love watermelon. Eating watermelon makes me so happy I want to sing. It makes me forget I work in a basement, in a country that’s almost always covered in clouds.

Snack at work today:

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Work has been nothing but busy, busy, busy, so by 7:30 p.m. I was ready to clear my head. At that point the clouds had cleared as well, and it was perfect running temperature.

I ran a really good four miles from Blackfriars Bridge, along Victoria Embankment, back across the bridge at Westminster and then back along the South Bank.

Also! I got a new running app for my iPhone and boy is it exciting. It tells me how far I’ve gone, maps my run, tells me my pace, etc. It’s like … magic.

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With the help of Dierks Bentley my run went by in a flash. It was such a nice evening. I almost considered doing the loop again, but my shuffle was out of battery and I’m not to the point where I can zone out as easily without music.

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I’m always concerned about running along roads because of fumes from cars, but for some reason when I run along the embankment I can only smell the Thames (which some people might argue is worse than car fumes!). Anyway, works for me!

I realized when I was running through tourists that I’m finally one of those people. Whenever I’d travel to cities like New York I’d see people jogging and think, “I wonder what it must be like to do daily activities here, like running through the park. Totally normal to that person!”

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After work and running it was too late to cook (up at 5 tomorrow!) so I got a veggie pizza from Sainsbury’s only to discover those sneaky Brits put corn on it. I don’t get the English and their corn fetish. It’s in everything!

My nightstand works double time as a dinner table. Single life, huh?

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Rome: The Trevi Fountain

I am in a bad mood today. It’s June 5 and it’s 52 degrees with rain.

This is my face, and this will be my face the entire summer.

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The 10 day forecast, along with my experience in England, suggests this is as good as it gets, and for that I’m so depressed.

After I got changed into dry clothes I started putting together some more pictures of the long ago (a month) good days, when I experienced glorious weather.

Rome!

We went to the Trevi Fountain on the first day after visiting the Spanish Steps. It was a scorcher of a day so I had to stop and buy some sandals because there’s nothing I hate more than hot feet. Except maybe wet feet. Then we went to Aldo, where I saw a guy so hot I actually couldn’t look him in the eye. I’m talking about the kind of hot where you just know you’re not good looking enough to be in his gaze, so you stare at the floor in pure shame.

I didn’t know if my mom noticed the hottie Italian cashier in Aldo, but when we left the shop she said, “Ohmygod that guy gave me hot flashes. Did you see him??”

She asked the whole weekend if we could go back to see Aldo guy, but we couldn’t. I seriously couldn’t look this guy in the eye!

I was so busy taking detail shots I didn’t actually get a shot of the fountain as a whole. Here’s one by mom:

I love looking back through vacation pictures, and that’s what I don’t get about men. They never take pictures of anything, and if they do they never look at them again. For example, one time one of my friends said something like, “Yeah, didn’t you see it in my album on Facebook?” And I was like ” … you mean the ‘album’ where you posted literally five photos from a week-long vacation?”  He saw absolutely nothing weird about going on vacation for a week and posting five pictures. Another example: my ex husband went to Australia (!) for a week and didn’t take one picture of the beach. He said he forgot his camera every single day, which I totally didn’t understand because that would be number one on my checklist! Guys are so funny! My camera goes around my neck before my clothes get put on my body. This is serious business. 🙂

If you’re interested – previous Rome posts:

The food!
The Spanish Steps

New York, New York

I am going there. With Manuela. In October.

Tickets are officially booked! I’m hoping soreness from my marathon two weeks before will at that point be non-existent, because we’re already planning out our days.

If anyone has any suggestions for good vegan/vegetarian (or any at all, actually) restaurants in the city, send them my way!

Also! I’m having a 4th of July party and inviting all my European (and a Kiwi) work friends over to celebrate America’s birthday 🙂 I had a few of them over for Thanksgiving and it was a good time!

We’re definitely going to play this game:

I’ve been looking through Pinterest and Foodgawker for fun party food ideas, or USA-themed food ideas. If anyone has any suggestions for this, I’m all ears!

So far I have one idea. I’m thinking about making a fruit pizza. Pastry base, thin layer of sweetened cream cheese, then stripes of blueberries and strawberries.

I saw a hideous American flag dress at Camden Market a few weeks ago, and it looked so ridiculous it might be worth buying for the party. Or I could buy this dress from Mango, because I really, really want it. Like, bad. Reeeall bad.

I was working this weekend so I missed out on the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations. (This post is turning out to be really random.)

I made some good food, but once again only had my iPhone to photograph.

Strawberry basil pesto with whole wheat pasta and rocket.

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Diced potatoes with olive oil, garlic, fresh oregano + basil, cherry tomatoes.

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I’ll leave you with two more random pictures.

The cutest cat in the entire world, Harris. He lives in Ohio, so I have to be a mom from far away.

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A guy at the pub last week. Wtf is he doing. He had his hands deep down his pants for about five minutes while we just sat there laughing. Loudly.

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Training along the Thames

Two thoughts about my first two weeks of marathon training.

1) I am so hungry.

2) I’ve never slept better!

I did each three mile run this week along the Thames after work.

I know just yesterday I was complaining about the weather in England, but actually, if you’re running there couldn’t be better weather. It’s been in the 60s and cloudy with a breeze – perfect.

Even though I’ve seen these sites hundreds of times and work by them every day, I still have to stop and take pictures.

There are no tourists in this picture, and any place in central London in which there are no tourists means it probably smells like pee. This corner totally smelled like pee.

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The first day I ran along the river toward Lambeth Bridge because I’ve always wanted to get a picture of Parliament from this angle rather than the typical Waterloo angle.

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I accidentally left my necklace on. No one likes a sweaty necklace.

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After that run I went to the only place I know that serves good iced tea – the Young Vic Theatre (where I saw Patrick Stewart!)

Perfectly unsweetened with a raspberry on top.

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Yesterday I ran by Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. I hear you can get standing room tickets for £5, and I’m ashamed to admit I’ve never been!

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The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is this weekend so they’ve put up this giant picture of the Royal Family. I’m sad I have to work from home this weekend because I’d love to see all the celebrations in the city.

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Hungerford Bridge by Embankment is maybe my favorite bridge to walk across – especially at night! If you’re ever in London I’d say walking across this bridge when it’s dark is a must. The whole city and river is lit up around you. You can see St. Paul’s Cathedral (where Princess Diana got married), the lights from the South Bank, the London Eye, and Big Ben.

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I absolutely love the South Bank and feel so lucky to work here.

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As I said, I’ve been ridiculously hungry. I had to start eating some meat, because I’m clearly not good enough/creative enough yet to do otherwise and not go to bed with a hunger headache.

So, I got responsibly sourced fish and fried it up with some polenta, old bay, salt + pepper and paired it with a big pile of rocket, spinach, and potato gnocchi that I fried in a pan with a tiny amount of oil and spices so it would get nice and crispy.

I have better pictures that I took with my Nikon, so I’ll post those, along with a semi recipe, this weekend!

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Up next is a seven mile run planned for Saturday!

The end of summer

Tomorrow marks the end of summer in England. The news forecast today read: Diamond Jubilee Weekend – Rain Returns.

This happens every year. We get a week of brilliantly glorious sunny weather in April or May, and people start shouting, “It’s summer!”

But then it goes back to normal and summer never returns.

Still, when it’s nice in London, it’s really nice. Normally about 75-80 so it’s just hot enough to enjoy the heat but not feel like you’re choking on humidity.

This weekend I was lucky enough to get tickets to see David Sedaris recording a reading for BBC Radio 4, and he was fantastic. I’m so excited to have finally seen him speak, because I’ve been trying to see him for years.

I took my friend Chris, and the plan started like this:

me: we’ll have some prosecco and grill out!
Chris: oh man
i love summer

So we bought a £3 disposable grill from Sainsbury’s and had a cook out in my trashy backyard. Not my fault the landlord never cuts our grass!

We bought a pile of vegetables and sliced ’em long. Egg plant, zucchini, red onion, bell pepper drizzled with EVOO and topped with salt + pepper.

A pair of tuna steaks.

Chris made a really fresh cucumber + tomato + green onion salsa with lemon, olive oil, parsley, s&p that we used to top the tuna. I used the juice from the dressing to dip my bread (which we also grilled).

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It was so bright that when I accidentally left my iPhone uncovered it yelled at me and told me it was overheated and needed to be cooled immediately. My phone is the closest thing I have to a child or any kind of creature to care for, so I was distressed and praying he’d come back to life.

After too much sun and food, we went to Oxford Circus to the BBC.

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There are flags everywhere because of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this weekend. Sixty years!

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I am still so angry that I forgot my book. I could have had my book signed by David Sedaris, and actually gotten to speak to him!

I already felt special because he’d e-mailed me and gotten me on the guest list for this show, so I totally could have said, “Hey! Remember me??” He’d have likely said no, but still. Exciting.

You can kind of see him sitting down in front of the small row of smart people who didn’t forget their books.

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His reading was fantastic, and pretty much a laugh every two seconds. I’ve read all of his books and also listened to all the audio books. He reads his own work for the audio books, which is great. I’m not one to listen to audio books, but these are perfect road trip material!

Rome: The Spanish Steps

The biggest piece of advice we were given at our amazing little (smallest in Rome!) hotel was “get lost.”

I used to be the kind of person to create maps in Illustrator with attractions and sites to see, and organize them by area in order to maximize my site-seeing potential. I realize this sounds like I’m trying to be whimsical and pretentious, but I’ve started doing this thing when I travel where I don’t plan anything other than my hotel. I just kind of turn up and hope to experience the city.

So, this was exactly what I wanted to hear. He outlined some of the must-see attractions on a map, but in the end said if we wanted to experience Rome we needed to get lost. He saw the big Nikon around my neck and said getting lost would give me the best photos to put on Facebook when I got back home 🙂

I ended up taking so many photos (about 700) that I couldn’t do one post on Rome so I’ve decided to do several and focus on specifics.

We started off at the Spanish Steps.

Although the steps are littered with ugly tourists (not ugly individually, but ugly collectively), they’re lined with bright red flowers which makes everything seem happy.

The first morning we went it was cloudy, but the second time (and rest of the vacation) it was sunny and a perfect 75 degrees.

And when I stopped taking pictures of red flowers I finally walked up the steps.

I still don’t know how I managed to get a picture of these steps with no people in sight. Except for the person in the top right corner snapping a picture!

Can you imagine living in one of these homes? May be a bit loud, but pretty!

I can’t imagine a time in which I would get tired of looking at palm trees. Maybe it’s my Florida roots.

I’m also thinking maybe I could handle having a balcony on my house that looks like this. Maybe.

One of my favorite memories from Rome is when we spent a couple hours sitting on the steps catching rays and relaxing. I don’t get to feel sunshine often so I sat on the steps and picked up energy, like WALL-E or something.

Reliving these Rome memories is making it hard to get back to reality and think about the fact that I have another training run today after work …