Just desserts

Yep, taking suggestions from the Husband will probably only ever take me in one of two directions: dessert and football. That’s soccer to my American readers. He worships the game, the logistics, the statistics, the….sorry, I tend to zone out. Since desserts are closer to my heart (and my waistline), let’s talk about those.

If you follow me on Pinterest, you may know I’ve got my boards organised into categories: cookies, baked treats, chocolate treats, easy sugar… my heart lies in the cookie section. That should be my tagline: My Heart Lies in the Cookie Section.

IMAG0444Snickerdoodles, with their cinnamon-sugar dusting.

Delicate blush rose macarons.

Unctuous salted caramel macarons.

Chewy peanut butter cookies (gluten free, of course).

Freshly baked white chocolate and cranberry cookies.

Simple sugar cookies.

All accompanied by a delicious cup of coffee. I wouldn’t be the woman I am without coffee!

So what are your favourite treats? Your go-to feel-good delights? Last year, my D post was the poem FOR MY DAUGHTER by Sarah McMane.

Coffee Cherry Tea (Cascara)

#coffeecherry #coffee #tea #cascara #tisane #coldbrew #brewing

Click for a better look at the mocktail recipe

I know, it’s slightly odd seeing ‘coffee’ and ‘tea’ in the same phrase, but stick around and you’ll learn that it all leads to caffeinated goodness. 

I didn’t know that the dried cherry skins (or husks), which are the by-product of the milling process that turns coffee cherries into the evenly dried green beans ready for roasting, are mostly sent to the compost pile when they can be turned into a delicious tisane (fancy French word for herbal tea) or syrup. The skins are called cascara, meaning skin, and they are rapidly developing a cult following thanks to the uniquely floral, yet caffeinated, beverage, they can produce. You heard it here first, folks! You can buy cascara online at HasBean in the UK or Verve Roasters in the States.

To make cascara syrup, you will need: 

45g cascara ‘tea’ (skins)
400mls water

Steep for five minutes in water that is just off the boil (200F/93C), stirring frequently. Add 2 tbsp of sweetener (I’m going to use brown sugar). Let cool. Bottle the syrup and store in the refrigerator, discard any remnants after 7 days. Use the syrup to make the fabulously fizzy drink in the picture.

To make cascara tea, you will need:

5g ‘skins’ for every 100mls of water, and follow instructions as above for steeping. Sweeten to taste.

WANT TO Cold Brew Cascara Tea?

Use 35 grams of tea to 250 grams of cold water. Place tea in water and let stand in refrigerator for 24 hours.

Excited? Willing to give it a go? Or just another fad? 

Caffeine-Free Coffee Share #4

Did you know you can cold brew tea? I didn’t! So I had to give it a go. I cold-brewed a lemongrass & green tea blend in one jar, and a black tea with mango and dried rose in another jar. I used half a teaspoon of loose tea per 500 mls/18 fl oz of room temperature water, and then popped the jars in the fridge overnight. The results were delicious, and research on this method suggests that the caffeine and ‘bitterness’ leached into the brew is a whole lot less than hot tea, so you need less sweetening. Score! Here are some fantastic instructions from Samovar Tea if you need a step-by-step guide.

I’ve heard you can do this with coffee, too, and now that the weather in London finally seems to resemble summer, I’m going to give it a whirl. Might impress some of my new colleagues with my skills. Two weeks in, and I’m just about settled into my job! It’s a good place to be. There’s so much I don’t know, but the learning is ridiculous amounts of fun. I have a deeper respect for the sweat and effort that goes in to producing a monthly magazine. And I even got a chance to go to a show with the team; seeing how much people enjoy and appreciate the magazine was such a buzz.

Tempering the buzz is the return of the excruciating pain in my hip. It’s only been three months since I wrote this post for Photo101, so gleeful about the lack of pain. Time to consider some serious medical intervention when the pain is affecting my mood and what I do! Perhaps I should join some of my new colleagues at lunchtime yoga? Any and all suggestions welcome at this stage; I really would like to get off this roller-coaster of fire-fighting various symptoms.

I’ve just about got a handle on my diet and what I can and can’t eat. There’s a great little Turkish deli near work, and they take great joy in offering me a new selection of gluten-free lunches every day. I’m sure most people in line behind me think I’m trying to get ‘beach body ready’, rather than fuel my body with foods that won’t poison me, but I don’t really care when I’ve got my mouth full of delicious lemon-grilled chicken and home-made tzatziki. I’ve never been beach-body-ready (unless you count exfoliating  my skin and painting my toenails), and I’m not about to start now.

If I had a wish list for my holiday this summer, it would read like this: 

  • Being pain free, with all conditions in remission, leaving me able to explore with my adventurous family
  • Being warm enough for my bones to soak up enough sun to give me a happy glow, and ditch the Vit D pills
  • Discovering local delicacies, finding some new recipes
  • Having a magical unlimited supply of cold-brewed tea on tap
  • Finding comfortable swimsuits that don’t ride up, roll down, bag or sag, in some happy colours – turquoise, cobalt, coral, mango?
  • Relaxing with my husband and daughter, unplugged from our gadgets for as long as we can
  • Writing, really writing, and letting all the characters I have grow and develop into real people fit for a book!

What’s on your list for the summer? Know where I can find my dream swimsuit? Tempted to cold-brew some tea? 

Caffeine-free Coffee Share #3

I spent yesterday juicing, grating & freezing the glut of veggies in my fridge. So today, I am drinking one of these:#cucumber #gingerbeer #ginger #mocktail #detox

Anthropologie EU posted a more elegant recipe for a veggie cocktail of delicious proportions. However, if you’re craving the caffeine, pop into the kitchen, grab yourself a mug and a delicious slice of this gluten-free chocolate goodness, and let me tell you about some thoughts running through my head this week.

Did you know that fashion & textiles account for 10% of the world’s global carbon impact and occupy more than  5% of landfill waste? The industry also uses 3 trillion gallons of freshwater, accounting for 20% of freshwater pollution. Read more about this via Marci Zaroff’s post on Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen. I’m seeing this as an opportunity to do some more vintage/charity shopping and maybe even take a sewing class to improve my basic skills. My 9yo has already volunteered herself as a mannequin.

After the whole beach body uproar in the UK, and the booking of our summer holiday, I’ve been wondering where I fall on the beach body scale. Honestly, I’m not fussed about my weight; as long as anything on display isn’t wobbling TOO much, I’m good to go. Anastasia Amour’s blog is a great source of positive inspiration. Read her post You are not a work in progress.

I’ve been debating a blog refresh recently. I’ve been checking out other blogs and Finnoula at My Kitchen Notebook gave me some serious blog envy. I want to LIVE in her blog, it’s so pretty. I get the same feeling looking at her blog as I do when walking into the Anthropologie store on King’s Road. Blisssssssssss.

Also still being debated by the Petal & Mortar board: Bloglovin’, Hiive, Instagram, Crowdfire….and darn it, a Facebook page. What are your thoughts on these platforms?

So, what are you up to? What have I missed thanks to the scatty WP reader? Catch me up!

Caffeine-free Coffeeshare #2

If we were having coffee, well, you’d be drinking coffee and I’d be drinking some delicious, fragrant Kusmi tea that the Breton Bestie brought me back from Paris. Two years in London and she still doesn’t trust the tea here. I’m delighted by her thoughtful gift, because as a newly-minted coeliac disease sufferer, I’m trying to be as kind as I can to my digestive self. Atoning for my previous gastronomic sins includes avoiding caffeinated drinks. It’s a small price to pay (or so I tell myself).

I’d tell you the other amusing conclusion from the labs done the other week is a shocking Vitamin D deficiency. As in, soft bones and teeth. Finally!! A sensible explanation for the creaking joints and cracked teeth (I’m sure grinding my teeth with stress didn’t help). So I am on mega-doses of Vitamin D to redress the imbalance. And I have to go sun myself for at least 10 minutes a day WITHOUT SUNSCREEN. Talk about living on the wild side! I intend to fully embrace this, once the English weather cooperates. Seriously though, when is this weather going to let up? Can we shunt some of this rain to California?

Speaking of California, David Anderson, a neurobiologist at CalTech, is attempting to create more specific treatments for psychiatric illnesses. How amazing would it be to walk through the rain with an umbrella, instead of feeling like you were stumbling through, slightly blind and bewildered, with a tarpaulin thrown over your head? Am I the only one who feels like this on meds? I can’t be! David’s research greatly excites me, for all the possibilities it opens up. Watch his TEDx talk here: 

I still have no clearer view on Bloglovin’ – check out all the comments on my last post and feel free to add your two cents/pence/pesos. I might just sign myself up and see if I can create a simple user guide, and work out the pros & cons. Anyone else want to join in?

What are your plans for the weekend? How are you feeling this week? Is it nearly summer or winter where you are?

Caffeine-free coffee share

If we were having coffee, you’d be asking why I wasn’t drinking any, and why I haven’t posted much recently. I would tell you I’ve been felled by a series of cluster headaches over the last ten days which have come out of nowhere after me being in remission for AGES.

You would ask what a cluster headache is. For those of you who understand migraines, it’s a migraine of Hulk proportions. Mine show up on the left side of my head, with a continual stabbing pain behind my left eyeball. My pupil dilates and contracts to cope. I’m swamped in waves of nausea and hot flushes. Sexy! And if you’re lucky, you can have 8 or 10 of these a day!

I would tell you about the other day when, in desperate need of relief, I took a muscle relaxant. Bad move. It felt wonderful to have the edge of pain dulled, but the raw agony in my stomach was payback. I’ve been through another battery of tests yesterday and hopefully, I will have a more sensible idea of causes soon! Coeliac disease is on the table. As they say in Danish, den tid, den sorg. Directly translated, it means that time, that sorrow. Or, prance over that bridge later.

On a really positive note, I went for an interview yesterday – to work at a magazine! It was brilliant. They read my blog. They like the content. They liked my business experience. It felt like a great fit and I hope they think so, too! I was incredibly grateful I found some hidden well of strength to power through the throbbing eyeball-nausea-sweats. I wanted this opportunity SO much, I couldn’t bear the thought of trying to reschedule. Mind over effing matter.

I even managed to sit through Spooks (the movie) last night. Seriously, Jon Snow from Game of Thrones as a spy? What headache?! Drool. In fact, I might research therapy which includes looking at images of pretty stuff. Like Jon Snow. Hmmmmmmm.

(This post has been edited: my Breton Bestie wanted to know if the Jon Snow therapy is only for migraine/cluster sufferers. I said no. I think it is an excellent preventative measure as well! 🙂 )

Kanilsnúðar and kaffi (and koeksisters)

My sweet tooth is baring its fang(s) again, so we’re going on another round-the-world-tour to satisfy my cravings.

Icelandic kanilsnúðar, or cinnamon swirls, are available all over Scandinavia in one shape or another. They differ from cinnamon rolls in that they’re small, about two-bite sized, and not drenched in icing. Most recipes involve dry yeast, but it’s just too darn fussy for me, so my recipe uses baking powder for an equally delicious result (click on the recipe to see a bigger version to read/print).

#Cinnamon Swirls #buns #kanil

Heading south of the equator on our tour, let me introduce you to another delicious South African treat: the koeksister. The rough English translation is cake sister, which really doesn’t paint a picture of plaited dough, deep-fried & drenched in sugar syrup. So wrong, and yet, so right! We had them at our wedding, which may have been a mistake alongside the carrot cake with the thick, thick fondant icing. Our guests weren’t shaking for joy, they were shaking with sugar! Koeksisters are best eaten fresh, with a palate-cleansing cup of coffee, but can be stored in the fridge for a few days (they never last that long, in my experience).

I have been lucky enough to either have my friend, Hayley, make them for me, or just buy them from one of the zillion South African shops in London, but if I were to follow a recipe, I’d probably use this one for its simplicity: Tannie’s Koeksisters. The key is to make the syrup first, and have it really cool before you soak the koeksisters. And beware, prep and eating are both very messy. Persevere. The sugar rush will be worth it!

Searching for the mystery light

Song for today: Ace of Base – The Sign 

There was no plan to complete a photo assignment this weekend – I have four hours on Saturdays to hang out in indie cafes, to drink proper flat whites, to catch up with husband, and then read, research and plan for the week ahead. There was no time to chase the sun. However, when this photo opportunity came up while running errands, I couldn’t resist.


Giant Easter egg or alien spaceship? Used my front-facing camera on the smartphone for this one.

Westfield 2

Stardust? Lightstorm? Used my rear camera for this one, without changing position.

The lights are inside a large shopping mall – the first photo is of the OTT chandelier in the luxury brand section. The second shot is the floor reflecting the same lights.