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I’ve been back at work for almost 4 months and to be honest, the transition from all day baking to all day meetings has taken more willpower than I could have ever imagined.

The bright side you ask? It’s quite simple…it’s all of you.

Weekly, if not daily, I am asked about the blog and what I’ve been cooking up lately. The friendships I’ve made and the bonds I’ve strengthened through the food I’ve dished up are life changing and irreplaceable. The experience has changed my perspective, my love and my waistline, but I’m so glad it did.

One of the many food moments I had coming back to work was with Jan, one of my first interviews on the blog. She told me how her young daughter is suddenly insisting that any holiday is a good time for them to bake cookies together and then give them away to others. It touched me so much that to hear this mother/daughter food connects us experience in the middle of my work day. The next day I showed up to find these at my desk…

Yes, my friends, closure is a sweet, sweet thing.

Thank you so much for all your stories, your support and your hungry bellies. Without you, none of this would have been possible.

 

 

When we got home from England I did two things…

Baked mini chocolate chess pies in my new British pie/pudding pans for my first day back at work…

 

…and took pictures of the random anonymous snowman that was waiting for us when we got home.

Thank you for the snowman whomever built it. He survived a near melt and recuperated during

 “Snowmageddon 2011.”

Sadly, like the tiny pies and the sabbatical, he isn’t with us anymore, but they were all  good while they lasted!

 

 

Day 5: Liverpool

Yeah,  we love the Beatles. My husband and I have a special love for Paul in particular, as does our good friend Kendra. On our recent visit to see Kendra in Northern England we stopped over in Liverpool for a true Beatles experience. (Yes, we did ride on the Magical Mystery Tour Bus, just in case you were wondering).

George Harrison’s childhood home

Paul McCartney’s childhood home

The lobby ceiling at the Hard Days Night Hotel.

The sheet music rustled with any breeze.

Photos of the Beatles hang up the long and winding staircase

Our room. Hi John.

Kendra’s room. Hello Paul.

How is the food related you ask?

Perhaps it was the Strawberry Fields we saw?

Or the incredible Italian dinner in what was promised to be a “lively” restaurant? (There was a singing waiter who kissed the ladies, I’m not kidding-  it was indeed elegant and lively).

Salmon Stuffed Ravioli

Scallops on the half shell

Linguine with basil and tomato sauce

But truly, it was the Beatles inspired drinks at the Hard Days Night Hotel that took the cake.

Our last night together after days of experiencing English food culture, we sat in the bar, listened to the Beatles, and simply enjoyed each others company. I had “Honey Can’t Buy Me Love” and Kendra had “All You need is Love.”

Then we traded drinks for a sip.

When food and love mix and mingle, that’s the happiest feeling of all. It’s true- the love you take is equal to the love you make, or bake in my case.

Thank you Kendra!

Day 3: Shipley and Skipton

There are a few things that just scream England to me. Here are some:

1) Fish and Chips

2) Castles

I got to enjoy both of these very English things in the same day.

Holy Cow! Life is good.

I tempted you with the title  “England’s National Dish.” Here’s the question,  do you think one of these food items are considered England’s national dish?

Fish and Chips with Smashed Peas

Macaroni and Cheese

Fish Pie

Believe it or not, none of these dishes are considered England’s national dish! I knew the macaroni was a stretch, but hey, it looks kind of English in that picture.

England’s national dish is Chicken Tikka Masala.

Shipley has a large Indian population, so we had a chance to enjoy  a really yummy bowl of England’s National Dish (it even advertised it’s status on the menu). This brings to question, what is America’s national dish? Probably the hamburger, but wouldn’t that be cool if it was Chop Suey? This American creation has the same history as Chicken Tikki Marsala, both were adopted and altered to fit their new nations taste buds.

Now for the castle…

Skipton Castle is the second best maintained castle in all of England. It feels  like a very large, empty, drafty house that happens to have peek holes for arrows and other weapons. The medieval security system. I couldn’t shake the feeling we were at an open house and kept wondering where the realtor was…

The dining hall. It should be big enough for our next party…

Now you could cook some serious things in this hearth!

We did put an offer down on it, but I think the ghosts will out bid us.

Day 2: Leeds

That night we visited Leed, a large city in between York and Shipley. We decided to catch a movie and dinner. We ended up dining at one of my favorite chef’s restaurants. I love Jamie Oliver. If you’ve never heard of Jamie you have to check out The Food Revolution that aired last year in America. Jamie worked hard to overhaul the school food system in England and has now set his sights on America. He’s a great defender of food that’s good and good for you, with a lot of respect for the plants and animals that provide it. 

Mushroom ravioli (mushrooms picked by Jamie’s friend Mike, I’m not kidding).

My favorite dessert, if not single best item I ate on the entire trip came from Jamie’s restaurant. It was  caramel ice cream with crushed honey comb on the top. Oh food Gods, I can’t thank you enough!

My sweetheart John has a strong sweet tooth, so despite having dessert at he restaurant he also had to get popcorn at the movie theater. Get ready for this people, here is a million-trillion-dollar idea: in England they have Kettle Korn at the movie theater. Yes, you read that right, Kettle Korn. They call it sweet corn, but it’s basically the same thing.

As your official food ambassador between our two nations I am happy to say “Brilliant!”

Day 2: York

We decided to visit the ancient viking city of York. It’s a wonderful tourist town with a cathedral, a castle tower and a “scented” Viking ride/museum (Viking smells like wet fur by the way, not a real shocker, I know). We saw viking bones, viking shoes, and another tourist or two.

But the main reason we were in York was to have afternoon tea at Betty’s, a popular tea spot in the area. Kendra drinks Betty’s tea every morning and there’s a good reason for that — it’s very strong and very tasty. Betty’s is so popular that they have two locations in less than a mile of each other. Even with two spots we had to wait in line. There happened to some military in town that day. We ended up having tea time next to a burly British military man and another solider (not who I was expecting to have tea with!)

My mother loves to have tea parties and so do I. This was my first official English Tea in England and I was out of my skin excited about it. Kendra had to show me the English way of doing things.

We ate our towers of treats rather quickly. My favorite item, the egg salad sandwiches that had butter spread on them. God Bless the English and their love of putting butter on pretty much anything. I’m never eating egg salad without it again, cholesterol be damned.

My tower of tea. I ate it all.

John isn’t much of a tea drinker so he ordered ginger beer and a rarebit. We joke about this sandwich a lot because there’s an old comic that uses the sandwich as it’s punch line. This was our first time trying this melty-cheesy-herby-delight and it was yummy. Warmer and richer than a normal grilled cheese and of course, there were chips.

The last thing I had to eat at Betty’s was one of their own creations called the Fat Rascal.

 It’s basically a cinnamon scone with cherry eyes and almond teeth. I love food with pretend faces, so needless to say, we bonded.

Let me just say this, if you run into me and happen to call me a Fat Rascal I will not be offended, but answer with a hardy “TA” (the northern way of saying thank you).

Day 1 – Shipley

On our recent trip to northern England our host and good friend, Kendra, mentioned to me that we should take a trip to the grocery store. I was so excited. I love grocery stores in a slightly obsessive way. Every time I go in a new one I have to look for hard to find items and check out how all my favorites are arranged.

We went to her local ASDA which is owned by Wal-mart. It’s really a lot like a Wal-mart on the surface except everything is green instead of blue.

Kendra pointed out the cards section. She’s an all-around-terrific-card-guru.

The big trend in English food is local, and I mean that a little differently than you think. It’s all about the region it comes from not necessarily which chicken is closest to you (regional pride really). Each package is labeled proudly on the front with Yorkshire sausage or Gloucester cheese. 70% of the products are labeled that way when it comes to fresh goods.

We wandered up and down the aisle looking for things that were particularly English.

Yorkshire Pudding

We bought a lot of things to try, but I got really excited about their birthday cakes. Like their eggs, they don’t refridgerate them, they sit out like a loaf of bread. Not only are they covered in an intense plastic-like frosting, they were all white cake with a strawberry jam in the middle.

So we bought one…

When we got back to Kendra’s flat we happened to park next to an ice cream truck. I love ice cream trucks, I mean really love them. I chase them like the Beatles, so to see an English one was thrilling. We decided then and there we must have ice cream with our birthday cake.

Kendra fixed us a lovely dinner of  “h”erbed scrambled eggs and potatoes. It was truly yummy and hit the spot after all the airplane food.

and unfortunately the much-anticipated  Animal birthday cake was not so yummy…