16 Thoughts I had about food in America

FoodTeaLife has been more than a little quiet lately, I could blame wedding planning, career changes and time abroad but it’s mainly that I’ve also been busy researching and thinking a lot more about nutrition lately…but that’s a whole other blog post.

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For now, I’ve just got back from America (a Californian road trip with a stop in Las Vegas) and of course, I thought about food a lot. The differences both positive and negative amused and intrigued me, so here goes…my thoughts about food while in America:-

  1. Coffee with cream in it?! What? That sounds SO ridiculously indulgent, yet it seems so everyday in the US. It seemed wrong but I have to say I soon got into it and kind of enjoyed it. Also, good coffee seems much more widespread over there. The UK has some catching up to to do on the good coffee front.
  2. On the other hand…the tea situation is pretty dire. No-one drinks it at breakfast like the Brits do and when you ask for milk you sometimes get hot milk, SO WRONG! Plus, why is it called ‘hot tea’, surely it’s just Tea or it’s iced tea? Tea is always hot unless otherwise stated isn’t it? I’m a tea fiend so this probably got me to me more than it should.tea solves
  3. Avocados, Avocados…Avocados everywhere! Woohoo! I LOVE avocados and ate one virtually every day whilst in the US, they’re grown in California so that may explain their abundance on menus. While avocados are pretty popular in the UK too, there are plenty of cafes that don’t offer some kind avo-centred dish, but happily this was not the case in the US.
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Breakfast of my dreams in LA, beautiful avocado toast!

4. Damn…the pies! Talk about pie porn! Sweet dessert pies, like Key Lime Pie were epic looking. The one slice I did have while out there was delicious.

5. Oooh so much amazing Mexican cuisine, so delicious and I’m in guacamole heaven…uh-oh, ate too many black beans, my tummy will not thank me for this.

6. Is In-N-Out Burger really that different to McDonald’s? I don’t get it.

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7. What exactly is a pound cake?

8. Wow sourdough is popular out here! Is that because all the other bread is sooo sweet? Either way I’m happy it’s an option.

9. The cheese situation is not great…what’s with all the liquid orange ‘cheese’? Yet the butter here is delicious…how does that work? Sort it out America. It made me realise just how spoilt for cheese choice we are in Europe.

10. Is bacon always crispy here? Would American’s be disgusted by the classic British Bacon Butty?

11. Ahh the international language of Subway, the same across the continents. I’m fluent in Subway and got a lovely fresh salad bowl whilst out on the road, on our way to Vegas. Although, American subway has banana peppers and fresh coriander in the salad options, we need these in UK (pretty sure my local branch doesn’t offer these).

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12. California’s got good wine.

13. Actual molten butter on popcorn….what?! I am a huge fan of popcorn (the lightly salted kind). It’s a cinema must for me. So when we went to ‘the movies’ in LA and I was offered buttered popcorn, it seemed like a classic American thing to try! It was good at first, but soon became not good (shouldn’t have got a large). What’s wrong with just sweet or salted?

14. Ooh Fever Tree mixers are out here too, how great (although there did not seem to be any in Vegas though). I always judge a bar or pub if it doesn’t have a good tonic like Fever Tree.

15. Dam nachos are epic out here!

16. Loving all the free and regular water top ups in restaurants, I can never get enough water, so this is amazing! The ‘soda’ tops ups are not so good though, have seen people drink two or three cokes with a lunch because of this…nobody needs that much sugar!

As you can see, I thought about food rather a lot. We had an absolutely amazing trip, full of adventures but right now I’m happy to be home in the land of good cups of tea and smaller portions.

I’m sure there’s plenty of things US visitors would find weird and wonderful about eating and drinking in the UK too (probably our tea obsession would factor highly!).

xXx

 

Foodie Christmas Gift Guide

Well, with less than a month to go it’s time to start shopping! So, without further ado here’s some of my favourite foodie Christmas gift ideas this year…

Prestat Velvety Milk Chocolate Wafers with English Earl Grey Tea

Prestat

Earl Grey and chocolate wafers combined – what’s not to love? These delicate little treats are made by infusing Earl Grey tea in cocoa butter and adding bergamot oil. I love the beautiful packaging too, an indulgent stocking filler!

Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn – Glass Gift Jar

popcornThese guys make some fabulous varieties of popcorn including Mince Pie, Brandy Butter, Gin & Tonic, Gingerbread and lots more! A scrumptious treat for any foodie. What better accompaniment to a classic Christmas film than a jar filled with some festive flavoured popcorn?

Marmite Tea Pot

Marmite

I love all things Marmite and over the years have received some gorgeous Marmite gifts including Champagne infused Marmite, chocolate infused with Marmite (yes really) and some beautiful Marmite themed crockery and homewares. However I still can’t help finding this Marmite teapot rather lovely – perfect for those lazy weekend mornings with lots of tea and toast.

Char Teas

Char Teas

This wonderful shop in Winchester is filled with many wonderful varieties of loose leaf tea and you can spend quite a while choosing the perfect one. I think it’s always nice to give someone one of their classic Winchester blends such as Lady Winchester, Winchester Afternoon or Winchester Breakfast Tea. Of course there’s over 150 blends to choose from – so plenty of choice if you’re looking for something more unusual for a tea enthusiast.

Pair Of Mussel Eaters

Mussel EatersHow charming are these? These silver plated mussel eaters are a perfect gift for seafood lovers and a great buy for someone who has everything.  I think they’re quite simply adorable!

Plush Puffs Gourmet Marshmallows

Marshmallows

Another scrummy stocking filler, these posh marshmallows come in some delightful flavours including Mochaccino, Toasty Coconut and Luscious Lemony Meringue. Who could resist these little moorish fluffy bites?

Cath Kidston Mushroom Salt & Pepper Shakers

salt-and-pepper-shakerYou’ve got to admit these are pretty cute. There’s just something so magical and whimsical about mushrooms I think. These would surely be a lovely, quirky addition to anyone’s kitchen.

Personalised Christmas Pudding

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A traditional Christmas pudding personalised with your own message makes a perfect gift for your Christmas day hosts, or for someone who you wish you were spending Christmas day with.

Manuka Honey

Honey

Manuka honey is sweet, tasty and healthy, helping to boost your immune system at this time of year. A lovely little stocking filler for someone who likes something sweet on their toast.

I Could Eat A Horse Spaghetti Measurer 

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A super stocking filler for someone who has everything, or just loves things for the kitchen! This clever little gadget will measure out how much spaghetti you need for 4 people (or less people if they are hungry horses). It also will measure out a typical man, woman or child portion – pretty useful really!

VOM FASS Blood Orange Vodka

Vodka

I’ve not actually tried this but I want to! Who wouldn’t want to find this under the tree on Christmas day? The beautiful bottle and the bright, citrus-flavoured contents are sure to go down well!

Well, I do hope this eclectic mix of gift ideas has provided some festive inspiration for the foodie in your life. What are your favourite foodie gifts? I’d love to know of any other fabulous food and drink related things for Christmas so tweet, email or leave a comment for me with your suggestions!

5:2 Favourites

Like many other people I’m following the 5:2 way of life, eating only 500 calories on two non-consecutive days each week. It’s flexible, achievable and seems to be working out well. You can actually feel relatively satisfied on 500 calories, you just need to pick the right things to eat – in fact it’s amazing how many pleasant things you can consume really. In this post I thought I’d share a few of my favourite things to eat on a fast day.

There are some mega low-cal recipes and meals you can prepare for dinner but for now I’m focusing on satisfying snacks and the type of things you might eat at your desk.

It’s no secret that I love popcorn, so a bag of sea-salted Proper Corn at 87 calories makes me so happy! It’s a decent sized bag too (not like those healthy crisps you get in tiny bags!)

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My love of cheese is also well documented, so these little Cathedral City Minis at 50 calories per piece are a deliciously creamy treat on a fast day.

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Okay, so it’s maybe not the freshest foodstuff but at 96 calories Ainsley Harriot’s Thai Chicken & Lemongrass soup is perfect for keeping in your desk drawer. I’ve tried many an instant soup and this definitely the most flavorful and tasty. Warm and fragrant, it really hits the spot sometimes.

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Fage Total strained 0% Greek Yoghurts are a yummy fast day win. They have about 140 calories, so a few more than some of the other fat free yoghurts out there – but the pot is bigger! The thick consistency makes me feel like I’m enjoying a full fat cream-like dessert. The plain variety is excellent with a few berries for breakfast.

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Jimmy’s Skinny Iced Coffee is a lovely fast day pick-me-up, it feels just like drinking some kind of full-fat frappe from a coffee shop but is only 36 calories per 100ml.

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Lastly, you can’t beat a boiled egg for simplicity and keeping you feeling full! If you can just bear to go without the soldiers, a boiled egg only sets you back about 70 calories.

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These are just a few of my go-to fast day foods that are quick to grab and enjoy during busy days and in the office. If you’re a 5:2 dieter I’d love to know what yours are…do tell.

I do have a few light and low calorie dinner suggestions to share as well but I’ll save these for a future post.

Right, time to get fasting after a bit of bank holiday excess! xXx

Foodie Favourites Right Now

As usual I’ve been busy eating and drinking lots recently, so this week’s post is all about a few of the things loving at the moment…

The Black Rat, Winchester – I love this place and have been lucky enough to go twice recently, including this weekend. What can I say about it other than go experience it! The dishes are are always so interesting and full of fantastic flavours, even when you order something you might not normally go for – it’s always so enjoyable. It’s just great place, small, intimate, cosy and laid back – I just love having it so close by!

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Sticking with restaurants, I’ve got to give a mention to what I feel is one of the best food pubs around, The Bugle, Twyford. Lucky me, I enjoyed a meal here on Saturday and it was excellent as always…it’s just consistently good! I highly recommend the Laverstoke buffalo burger and also a new dish of giant langoustines that’s been recently added to the menu. I’ve never seen or tasted langoustines like this before, they were huge and absolutely delicious with a sweet and meaty flavour. All the dishes on the Bugle’s seasonally changing menu are a delight – it’s well worth visit.

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Moving  away from eating out, I’m loving cooking anything and everything on my George Foreman Grill. I know this isn’t exactly a new bit of kitchen gadgetry but it’s fairly new to me and it’s great! I even cooked goat burgers on it the other day!

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One particular tasty snack I’m enjoying creating on the George Foreman Grill is pitta pizza pockets – pitta breads filled with peppers, mushrooms, mozzarella and mixed herbs, then just toasted…it’s like a healthy take on a calzone! The contents vary according to what’s in the fridge, sometimes I add prawns, sometimes chicken or tuna.

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If you find filling pitta breads a faff (who doesn’t?!) then you’ll love these new sandwich pittas from Warburtons, they are the most user-friendly pittas I’ve ever tried! They break in half so easily and don’t fall to pieces when you try to fill them, the round shape is ideal too.
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Proper Corn salted popcorn is just brilliant, I’m a huge fan! So tasty and less than 100 calories per bag! Great for 5:2 dieters on a fast day.

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Everyone’s been talking about Sipsmith Gin of late and not being much of a gin drinker, I’ve kind of missed out on it all, so I was delighted to discover Summer Cup from Sipsmith. It’s a wonderfully refreshing alternative to a classic Pimms. Slightly more floral tasting than a Pimms No. 1  – it’s perfect with lemonade and summer fruits. Now, if I can only get some of the Sipsmith Damson Vodka to try next!

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Coco Cafe – Coconut Water Cafe Latte…WOW this stuff is awesome and I don’t say that lightly. I could do a full entry on this incredibly delicious drink! We’ve all heard how amazingly hydrating coconut water is (who didn’t go through a phase of drinking it till they got sick of it?!), well this cold drink  is a mix of the famously good-for-you coconut water, a strong espresso shot and reduced fat milk – it really is delicious. It tastes creamy like some luscious full-fat iced coffee but it’s good for you. Best of all, you can caffeinate and hydrate all at the same time! Pure genius.
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Saucer Crackers – well why should crackers just be for Christmas? These pretty little mini crackers sit on your saucer and make a lovely little addition and stylish finishing touch to a fancy afternoon tea. They’re just so cute! Inside each cracker is a suggested topic to stimulate conversation (perfect for tea parties!) as well as a more traditional joke too, what fun!
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Well there you have it, just a few things that are currently floating my foodie boat – hope I’ve inspired you to try a few of my favourites too.

xXx

Pescatarian Week One

Well, so far so good…mostly anyway. I haven’t caved and eaten any meat other than fish, but there’s been a few times where I almost slipped up. Nearly ordered a croque monsier in a cafe yesterday!

Easy to forget they contain ham...

Fortunately there’s been some fabulous fish dishes this week to keep me on track (none of which were made by my own hands I’m ashamed to say). Save for one attempt at Oeufs en Cocotte (of course I’ve been watching Little Paris Kitchen!), this week flew by with two meals out and cous cous or soup providing the rest of my meal time sustenance.

Great meal at The White Horse in Otterbourne this week

Wednesday evening saw me dining at the newly refurbished White Horse in Otterbourne, my second visit since it’s recent change of hands. It did not disappoint – the choice of fishy dishes made pescatarianism a delight. I was tempted by a crab and chilli risotto, but in the end settled on a fish cake to start which was absolutely beautiful and well complemented by parsnip flavours. I followed this with a really good hake chowder and perfect poached egg on top – all in all absolutely delightful!

Must remember to take the photos before I start demolishing the food...

I was lucky enough to be taken out to dinner again this weekend to my favourite local haunt the Bugle Inn Twyford, where I enjoyed a lovely dressed crab with a new potato and pea salad, accompanied by crusty bread – a classic that you just can’t beat in my book!

Lovely bit of crab

So it’s been a busy but food-filled week…today’s guilty indulgence was a vat of salted popcorn (my favourite!) at the cinema with a good friend, perfect way to finish the week.

That’s all for now – I promise each week won’t be solely focused on pescatarian diet updates!

Super Snack Discovery

This post is dedicated to the discovery of an amazing new snack I’ve been enjoying lately, here it is:

Wild Trail Popcorn Bars

Yes that’s right, snacky-cereal-type bars made with popcorn! I absolutely love popcorn, so these bars made by Wild Trail Foods are just so RIGHT. There are three different bars to chose from – I’ve taste tested them all and can safely say, whilst they’re all very enjoyable, the fruit and double nut is my favourite.

My local village store sells them, but apparently the popcorn bars are such a hit they’re even stocked by Harvey Nichols and Selfridges!

If you see them I urge you to try them – they are so much better than some of the bland cereal bars out there – truly something different.

Okay, that’s all…just had share this awesome tasty snack news!

Season’s Eatings

Firstly I hope everyone has had a lovely Christmas with great food, fun, friends and family. I’ve certainly indulged to excessive levels as is traditional at this time of year.  From the festive build up, to the big day itself, to the stocking-fillers and treats under the tree have all provided me with some fabulous foodie moments, with new things to try as well as classic Christmas favourites. Here are my festive foodie highlights so far…

Ladies Christmas Drinks at the Black Bottle

People of Winchester and the surrounding areas, or anyone ever considering a visit to the historic capital of England, I cannot stress to you how much of a must-do the Black Bottle is – it’s quite simply unique and always a very good evening. My friends and I started our evening in the ever popular Black Boy, but it seemed everyone else in Winchester had the same idea! And so with many of  my best girl-friends now being deserters of Winchester (off making their fortunes in London) – I suggested a move to the Black Bottle – having realised most of them would have never experienced it. I have to say it was perfect as always, with its usual relaxed, but special atmosphere and of course some very interesting wines – my friends loved it (as I knew they would) and a splendid evening was had by all.

Team Christmas lunch at The Bush in  Ovington

I’d always heard good things about this pub and so was very pleased to be going there for a Christmas lunch. I chose a totally non-traditional main course (not wanting to spoil my desire for my Dad’s famous roast in the next few days) and opted for a Mature Cheddar and potato pie with cauliflower cream. As a serious cheese lover I was intrigued by this dish and it didn’t disappoint – in fact it was delicious and although it looked huge, I managed to demolish it all.

Perfect Pressies!

On to some of the great foodie gifts I got this year from friends and family…

As anyone who has ever accompanied me to the cinema knows, I absolutely adore popcorn, so I was delighted to receive  a box of Joe & Seph’s Gourmet Popcorn for Christmas. The box contained a whole variety of assorted flavours from Classic Caramel to the more interesting Cheddar, Sweet Topping and Savoury Seasoning (oddly more-ish!) – needless to say I am so looking forward to trying all of the flavours and purchasing a few new ones in the future. I’ve always harped on about how there should be cheesy popcorn and now there is!

I’m a Marmite lover no doubt about it and over the years have been bought and enjoyed quite a few of the foodie Marmite spin-offs, from Champagne Infused Marmite for Valentine’s Day to lovely little mini Marmite cheeses – but I wasn’t expecting to receive two bars of  Very Peculiar Milk Chocolate Infused with Marmite! It claims to be a ‘Perplexing Treat that Bewilders the taste buds’ and I don’t think there could actually be a better choice of words for this latest Marmite inspired invention…it’s very difficult to describe the experience. The chocolate bar has a Marmite aroma from the beginning which adds a strangeness before you even taste the chocolate, which is sweet and creamy with a savoury overtone – I instantly went in for a second mouthful, but then a Marmite after taste kicks in – truly peculiar, but recommended for Marmite fans.

I must also give a big shout out to my sister’s homemade cranberry and orange infused vodka – lovely with lemonade! Of course the top-spot goes to my Dad’s roast turkey on the big day itself – although I did play a major part ensuring the bird was cooked on time…here’s me taking orders from the Christmas cooking bible …

My family’s traditional Boxing Day meal of cold meats, pickles and homemade chips is also a big win – I look forward to that as much as the big Christmas roast itself!

…Well its safe to say after all that, even my elastic waste-banded items of clothing feel tight! The New Year will hopefully feature slightly healthier foodie moments…but I’m not quite there yet – with a special, several course meal booked in for New Year’s Eve and Tom’s Birthday, I feel there will be yet more indulgences to write about and enjoy.

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