Stuffing My Face in Plymouth

As I shared a few weeks ago, we’re on the move.  Last week, I finally got to visit the place we’ll soon be calling home. We got to spend a lot of time exploring the town and walking around between house viewings. One of the things that worries me about going anywhere new is just not knowing what I can eat.  It’s one thing to read reviews of restaurants and think I’ll be all right; it’s another to actually go and find yourself with choices!

The first place we went when we got to town was The Chancel.  Their website said that they offer a lot for Celiacs — not just that they stick a couple of G symbols on the menu — so I thought it would be a good first choice.  When I asked our server what I might could have, she told me to take a look at the menu and “we could have a conversation”, adding that the chips would not be suitable.  I decided on pasta with a cream sauce and, at the last minute, garlic bread.  I inhaled it, stuffed myself, and didn’t eat for the rest of the day. Whoops.

pasta

Mushroom pasta & garlic bread at The Chancel

The next day, we spent the morning walking to view a few houses.  We discovered that Plymouth is a lot hillier than we originally thought — my FitBit clocked 59 stories of climbing on this day, 50 of which were before noon.  I was running on only coffee at that point, so, when we stopped to eat, I was ravenous.  CB had scoped out a place called The Stable which boasts more ciders than I’ve seen in my life, as well as gluten-free pizzas.  Their GF pizza bases are made off-site, and they are knowledgable about their ingredients.  I picked the ‘Sir Francis Drake’ pizza, which is loaded with perhaps the best combination of goodness I’ve ever tasted — slow-roasted Spanish onions, local blue cheese and spinach, herb roasted chunks of potatoes on a tomato and mozzarella base.

pizza

I ate it all.

Remember when I said that Plymouth had a River Cottage Canteen?  Well, I wasn’t going to let an opportunity to visit pass me by, so we booked a table for dinner on our second night.  When booking online, there’s an option for allergy information.  I didn’t know whether that would mean anything once we actually arrived.

RCC menu

River Cottage Canteen menu

When our server brought our menus, mine had already been adjusted.  He had spoken with the chef at the start of the shift and had crossed out the things I couldn’t have and scratched through the bits that could be changed to work.  The menu was a foodie’s dream, full of “freshly prepared seasonal, local, organic and wild food” (according to their website).  I chose a halloumi, asparagus, and potato salad, which was as beautiful on the plate as it was delicious.

halloumi salad

Halloumi is magical.

The next morning, we checked out of our hotel and ran for breakfast before our next house viewing appointments.  We went to The Dock.  I couldn’t resist the idea of gluten-free blueberry pancakes, and neither, apparently, could CB.  Once we got there and I looked over the menu, I had a change of heart — a GF veggie fry with halloumi was calling my name.  Yep, halloumi for two meals in a row, and I’m not a little bit sorry.  Unfortunately, in my hurry to eat said halloumi, the only picture I got of the plate is woefully out of focus — but look at those GF pancakes!

pancakes

Blueberry pancakes at The Dock

veggie fry

Blurry picture of the veggie fry at The Dock

While walking the 8.5+ miles a day we averaged while exploring, we have also found what is clearly the best ice cream around. Langage Farm has, according to their website, “remained a working farmstead for over 900 years in the rolling Devonshire countryside” — which is kind of spectacular.  They have stockists all around Devon, and they have clear allergy information in the shops — the information on the ice cream truck we saw was a bit sparse (not all flavours had information) but enough for me to get by.  If you try their ice cream, go for the Caramel Pecan Crunch.  CB tried to convince me to trade flavours with him once he tasted mine!

The other thing about moving to a place like Devon is cider.  CB was laughed at in a restaurant when he asked what local beers they had on tap.  I mentioned the ciders at The Stable briefly earlier, but it was at River Cottage Canteen where I had a Heron Valley cider.  It was dry, crisp, and almost spicy; I kept saying it was weird but in a good way!  I am definitely not a fan of sugary-sweet beverages, so this one did the trick.

On the basis of really good food for me to eat on a rather limited diet, I think this is going to be a good move.  Now, if only we could find somewhere to live…

Advertisements

Newton’s First Law of Motion

An object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion…

I’ve never been good at staying in one place.  My parents always told me that the world keeps on moving even if you try to stay still, so you’ll never be in the same place for long.  I can honestly say that I’ve never been fully unpacked in any place I have lived since I was ten years old.  Home isn’t where your stuff is; it’s where you can relax and spend time with the people (and even things) you love.

In this house, it is also where my kitchen is.

new kitchen photo

Remember how lovely it is?

I have documented the process of creating my dream kitchen. I may have said it was finished in January, but I meant it was *finished (as long as you don’t look up or down or over there)*.  The ceiling was only just painted — four times — over the past fortnight (thanks, Mum!), and Dad and I just got the door frame in place last week.  It needs a few pieces of quarter-round around the bases of the cabinets, and we’ll be in business.

I get to put into action all those fancy words of wisdom.  We’re moving on, selling up, shipping out — and soon.  We need to be at-least-a-little settled in our new locale by 1 September.

Why are we going?  Well, mostly because we can.  With all the work we’ve done in this house, we should be able to sell it fairly quickly.  We don’t have any other financial obligations in Belfast.  We don’t have children who we have to pull out of school.  We’ll only be a couple of hours’ travel away from our friends and family here.  I know CB worries about taking me away from the home we’ve created here — it’d be much easier to stay — but I’m not worried.  I first moved here almost six years ago with nothing but a suitcase; I didn’t know a single person in Northern Ireland when I arrived, and I’ve built a life here.  I have a family here.  Family doesn’t just stop being family because you don’t live in the same town.

Plymouth

Ho hum.

Where are we going?  CB got a job at Plymouth University in Plymouth, England.  It’s more secure than his current job, and it will open more opportunities for funding and research.  From all appearances, it’s a lovely place.  When CB was interviewing there, he sent me pictures of him having pizza on a boardwalk and riding the train up a cliff-filled coastline.  They seem to have a bit of a gluten-free community, and there’s even a River Cottage restaurant to try to spy my husband’s TV chef/farming doppelgänger.  They grow apples by the tonne there, so maybe I’ll get inspired and give this guy a permanent spot in my new kitchen [note: I just saw that post mentions how I’ll never stop moving!].  It’s much further south, so we won’t have any of this freezing rain in June mess we’re experiencing right now, and our little sunbathing queen will have more cause for celebration.

Zoe in sunshine

I call her Squints McGhee.

So … know anyone that wants to buy a house?

The World’s Best

I have devised a recipe for the world’s best salad.  I know it is the best because I have personally taste-tested it against all other salads I have personally made, and I have personally decided that it is the best.  You can see that my system is fool-proof.

I’m not greedy, though, so I’m wiling to let you have the world’s best salad, too.  You can even pretend it’s your own if you want.  I’m not going to tell on you.

See, I’ve never loved salads.  I have always thought they were boring and bland.  They never filled me up.  I didn’t understand why there was always grated carrot and red cabbage at the bottom of the salad bowl, and why is a massive ring of red onion okay to just drop on top?  Add that confusion to the fact that I don’t like tomatoes, I can’t have croutons, and most salad dressings are either awful for you or just awful for me in particular, and I usually had a bowl of lettuce with a couple of sad cucumber slices.

After seeing a dietician recently and finding out that I don’t eat enough food — shocking news! — I realised I was going to have to make more of an effort to eat lunch.  I whined, ‘but lunchtime is the exact time of day when I least want to eat!’  Why?

Well, I used to eat sandwiches for lunch.  I thought I was doing all right by it, never eating plain white bread, typically passing up the crisps, and adding lettuce to give me a vegetable.  After I’d eat, though, I would get very tired.  I didn’t want to do anything; I wasn’t sure I could do anything. What I didn’t realise was that I wasn’t really feeding myself; I was just putting stuff in my body.  There wasn’t anything nourishing to what I was eating, and, while I don’t knock a good sandwich now and again, I just know it doesn’t function as a daily standard.

Knowing that someone else was looking over my food journal with me made me a bit more self-conscious.  Of course I wanted to look like I had it all together, but I also came to realise that I simply knew better. More fruit, Sydney, and more vegetables.  Just get over yourself and do it.

Thus, THE salad was born.  There’s crunch, there’s heft, there’s sweetness, there’s protein, and there’s also a little bit of heat.

World’s Best Lunch Salad

Ingredients:
Romaine lettuce (or favourite leaf)
Spinach
Sunflower seeds
Pomegranate seeds
Sprouted mung beans
Sprouted lentil beans
Cucumber
Broccoli
World’s Best Balsamic Vinaigrette (see recipe below)
Your favourite hot sauce (I use Frank’s Hot Sauce for this salad!)

Hardware:
Big bowl
Hands

Directions:
Assemble as big or as small a salad as you’d like with the ingredients.  I start with the lettuce and spinach, tearing them into bite-sized pieces by hand, add broccoli and cucumber around the edges, and add the smaller ingredients in the middle.  Then, I dress it with a couple of shakes of the hot sauce and a quick drizzle of the vinaigrette.

salad

This is the little version. I may or may not have used a mixing bowl for just myself before. (I definitely have.)

World’s Best Balsamic Vinaigrette

Ingredients:
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar (may not be needed if you shell out for expensive oil and vinegar)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon salt (I use pink Himalayan salt for a couple of extra minerals)
1/8 teaspoon chilli powder
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cumin

Hardware:
Jar that will fit at least 1 cup of liquid (with lid)
measuring cups and spoons
heavy-duty shakin’ arms

Directions:
Dump everything except the sugar into the jar.  Shake, shake, shake until it is completely combined.  Taste and see if it needs the sugar for your tastebuds.  Some vinegars can be more tart than others, and some people like a more tart vinaigrette.  Add the sugar if you want and shake again.

Store in the fridge.  Remove a while before you need it, and shake it again to reintegrate the oil and vinegar, which will separate when cold.  If you forget, pop it in the microwave without the lid for 15-20 seconds — just enough to soften the oil but not “cook” it — and shake.  Oh, yes, more shaking.

Essential Oil Q&A + Simple Sweet Tooth Recipes

This is a long one, guys.

I didn’t mean to leave you hanging after that last post, but life went a bit crazy.  I took another trip to Glasgow, I had crochet orders coming out of my ears, I had foolishly scheduled both of my classes to submit essays on the same day, and we had what amounted to a four-day Valentines extravaganza involving buses and trains and concerts and Dublin and running here and there with the hopes of making it anywhere on time.  We survived by the skin of our teeth (what does that even mean?).

I have had several questions since my last post about essential oils.  Two of the main ones have been: ‘What does it mean to use an oil?’ and ‘What does a typical day using essential oils look like?’  I’m really glad I was reminded of the first question because it was actually one of those things I originally wondered and forgot to share.  The second one will differ, of course, depending on what an individual’s needs are, but I can show you what my day looks like.

What does it mean to use an essential oil?

I think the term ‘use’ is a bit vague, and it’s because it is there to encompass loads of things.  The main ways to use an essential oil are by diffusiontopical application, and, in some cases, ingestion.  I only recommend Young Living essential oils, especially for ingestion, because I can trust their processes and protocols.

  • Diffusing an oil puts it into the air in tiny particles.  You can smell it, changing your environment the way that a candle or a good soup on the stove (It is me we’re talking about, after all.) does.  It also means that you are breathing it into your body.  It can affect your mood, change your breathing, and can even remove bad smells and toxins from the air.
  • Topically applying an oil simply means putting it on your skin.  It can be particularly useful for things like blemishes, burns, cuts, etc. where you want to affect a specific place on your body.  It can also be helpful for muscle aches and joint pains because you can apply it directly to the sore spot.  Topical application is also good for oils that you can’t or don’t want to ingest or diffuse (They don’t all smell great.).  Some oils should be diluted before applying because of their strength.
  • Ingestion is not something you should do with all essential oils, but many of them are labelled as safe.  You can buy empty capsules to swallow them, and some you can even drop onto/under your tongue if you like the taste of them.  Ingesting oils can be helpful for things like helping to combat a virus or easing digestive discomfort.

What does a typical day using essential oils look like?

When I wake up, I usually already have a pile of work ahead of me.  Often I’ve gotten a ton of student emails while asleep — the wonderful part about living five time zones away from your students — and I have either (or both) student work to mark or crochet orders to fill.  Whatever is on the agenda, I typically need help focusing first thing in the morning.  I stick on the diffuser with lavenderpeppermint, and lemon.  This trio is super-helpful in reducing sinus inflammation, which prevents those sinus headaches I used to get daily, and it’s very light and uplifting.  The diffuser, itself, acts as a humidifier but doesn’t produce any heat, so it helps with the early-morning dehydration grumpiness.

diffuser

Go, little guy, go!

Because I have hormonal issues ranging from thyroid to reproductive to digestive to sleep, I use some oils in the morning and one at night.  I put Progessence Plus blend on the insides of my wrists and rub them together, and I do the same with Lady Sclareol blend on my ankles.  These spots are really good for getting into your bloodstream faster because your veins are so close to the skin there.  I also use a roll-on of cypress on the tops of my feet and hands to help with circulation. [I tried cypress for my awful circulation on a bit of a whim since I got a bottle in a kit as a present from my mum. I actually have before and after photos of my toes taken only three days apart to show the difference it made, but I figured nobody really wants to see my stinky feet.]

When I let Zoe outside for the first time in the morning, I pop over to the fridge and grab my bottle of Ningxia Red juice.  It’s made with whole crushed wolfberries (you may also know them as acai berries) and a handful of oils already mixed into it.  It gives me a mental and physical boost and helps to balance blood sugar throughout the day.  I can always tell when I forget to have any of it because I’ll start to really drag around 3-4pm.  It only takes a little bit — think of a shot glass — so I usually mix it equal parts with coconut water to give me extra electrolytes, too.

ningxia red bottles

Juice juice juice

About a half-hour before I have lunch, I make a capsule to take.  I use grapefruitpeppermint, and Thieves blend and swallow it with a glass of water.  Grapefruit helps digestive motility and aids in metabolism issues.  After seeing a dietician in the past few months, I learned that I actually have slowed my metabolism by not eating enough food most of the time.  It shocked me because I love food, but I don’t get hungry all the time and often let myself get too busy to stop and take care of myself.  Peppermint eases digestive discomfort; pain when eating was yet another reason why I avoided eating throughout the day.  I actually don’t experience pain when eating anymore. Whoo!  Thieves helps my immune system by fighting off anything I might pick up and boosting my natural immunities to the world around me.  That’s right — I don’t have to be sick all of the time!

Most of the time, I will try to have a salad or a green smoothie for lunch.  I try to have a little fun with it.  When I make my salad dressing, I will often add lemon essential oil to it.  It doesn’t separate in the oil and vinegar like lemon juice can, and it’s just easier to handle.  If I’m making a smoothie, I might add the grapefruit oil (instead of taking it in a capsule) or any other ingestible oils that sound good at the time.  All of my oils help me in some way, so I’m not wasting them by adding them to my food — I’m just finding another way for them to help me.

Day 7

Don’t tell me you wouldn’t gulp that down.

In the afternoons, I usually get a bit stressed out, so I’ll put the diffuser on again, this time with peppermint and Release blend.  I was given the bottle of Release for free at a meeting I attended in town; I have to admit I probably never would have bought it myself because it (and some of the others) has a bit of a silly name to me, but it was exactly what I needed at the time.  It helps to, well, release stress and bad emotions, while the peppermint uplifts.  It’s the perfect mix for a slump.

Before bed, I put EndoFlex blend on the arches of my feet.  This oil is one of the most important for me, as it’s the other side of the hormonal equation for me.  I use it before I go to sleep so that I can truly rest.  It is what has made the biggest impact on my rest cycles and what actually allows me to wake up feeling less tired than when I went to sleep — you know, like you’re supposed to.

The very last thing I do is put the diffuser on one more time.  It helps me to get to sleep and stay asleep.  Most nights, I’ll diffuse orange, cedarwood, and Valor blend.  I use orange a lot (you may have noticed) because it is great for triggering natural melatonin release, aiding sleep but also calming nerves throughout the day.  I actually bought it ‘just because’ one month, and it turns out it’s my favourite. Coincidence? Cedarwood is great for breathing issues, and it has helped me to not wake up reaching for my rescue inhaler at night.  I used to need it at least once through the night — my breathing was inhibited enough that I would wake in a panic — and again as soon as I woke up in the morning; I don’t need it at all during the night, which is clearly a good thing for my lungs, but it also means I’m not working up those stress hormones while asleep. Valor is in the mix for another type of sleep discomfort altogether.  Since I added it into the nightly routine, CB has stopped snoring.  I didn’t even notice the difference — because I was asleep! — until we were in a hotel recently.  Once the chainsaw started up, I had a devil of a time drifting off.  It wasn’t until I read about Valor reducing snoring that I put it all together.

If that all sounds like a lot, there are two things to keep in mind: 1) Most of the time, I’m only using 1-2 drops of each oil. A 5ml bottle has just over 80 drops, and a 15ml has about 250 drops. 2) I haven’t taken anything else (other than my inhalers, and I’m working on that!) in months — not pain relievers when I threw out my back, not Sudafed when I got an awful cold and sinus infection, not sleep aids for my life-long insomnia. My essential oils have completely replaced medications for me.

Bonus for your sweet tooth

One of the things I like to do (like I mentioned with my lunch above) is add essential oils to sweet treats.  One of my favourite oils to use is orange because it just tastes great.  I have used both it and peppermint in milkshakes and chocolate-banana-shakes (four drops per shake).  At Christmas, I made little chocolate candies with a few drops of orange essential oil and sea salt — if you’ve ever had a Terry’s Chocolate Orange, the reviews were better for mine than his, though I don’t have a fun orange-shaped mould.  Considering today is Shrove Tuesday, I think we might find a way to make some specialty-flavoured pancakes after dinner tonight!

Want to know more about essential oils? Leave me a comment or send me an email!  If you’d like to order, you can go here to sign up and get your starter kit. Four of the oils I mentioned above come in the Premium Starter Kit, along with others and a diffuser!

The Weirdest Bread

My mother finds all these things on Facebook and tags me in them. I am always tempted to keep them open in tabs until I realise just how slowly they make my computer run. I’ve only recently started using bookmarks; my thinking has been that I’ll never actually go back and click on them. So far, I’m kind of right.

One post was intriguing enough that I didn’t have to keep it open for long. Here is the original post, though I should warn you that it’s confusing. I’ll fill you in on the details.

So, basically, “oopsie breads” start as meringues and ends as airy breads. I don’t know how it works. I put my scientist-analyst head on my shoulders (In the interest of full disclosure, I don’t have a scientist-analyst head anywhere in my bag of tricks.), and I still didn’t really get it. When I tried it, I think I might have overwhipped the eggs whites, if that’s possible. The recipe suggests that you could make 6 large breads or 8 medium ones. I had 8 really big breads that, as I later learned, were probably a bit too tall.  You might want to smooth them down with the back of a spoon to make them shorter.  I probably could have made 10 of the right size had I known.  They are really light and airy and kind of felt like foam.  I did NOT have high hopes.

I’m happy and surprised to say that they were really nice. CB liked them, though I only let him have one and half. They work really well as hamburger buns. I even sprinkled sesame seeds on a few of them to harken back to childhood barbeques.

Oopsie Bread

Yes, one has a bite taken out of it already.  How else was I to know it was done?!

Yes, one has a bite taken out of it already. How else was I to know it was done?!

Ingredients:
3 eggs
100 grams (3.5 ounces) of cream cheese
a pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon psyllium husk powder

Hardware:
Stand mixer
Spatula
Spoon
Small bowl
Baking pan
Oven

Directions:
Separate eggs.  Place the whites in the bowl of the stand mixer with the salt and whip together until you achieve stiff peaks.

While the egg whites mix, place the egg yolks, cream cheese, baking powder, and psyllium husk powder in the small bowl and mix until combined.  When your whites are whipped, slowly spoon the yolk mixture into it and stir together with the spatula.  Try to do it with as few motions as possible to keep in all the air you have created.

Spoon the mixture onto a baking sheet in dollops depending on your desired size.  Like I said, the recipe says that it will make 6 large or 8 small breads, but I had 8 large ones.  It’s possible that my eggs expanded in the mixer more than expected.  I imagine you could top them with any spice or herb you want; I only tried the sesame seeds on a few.

You can see they didn't expand much in the oven.

You can see they didn’t expand much in the oven.

Bake for about 25 minutes or until golden.  I thought they looked like they would be done much faster, as they had a real shape after about 10 minutes, but they needed the entire time.  If they stick to the pan, use a metal spatula to pry away.

It doesn't feel like bread to the touch, but my mouth was fooled!

It doesn’t feel like bread to the touch, but my mouth was fooled!