Happy Birthday Mr 416expat’s Dad!  For a moment, just imagine what his birthday is like.  Every year he shares his birthday with all those trick or treaters.  He is a quiet, kind, and generous soul.  Happy Birthday!!

Did you know that when baking, you can often replace some (but not all) of the recipe’s oil with apple sauce?  It’s an easy way to cut the fat from a recipe and also add another (subtle) flavour.  It’s important to note the you can’t cut out all the fat, I usually leave at least 1-2 tbsp of oil in the recipe.  The remaining oil is substituted 1:1 with the apple sauce. This means that if your recipe calls for 1 cup of oil, you use 2 tbsp of oil and 1 cup less two table spoons of apple sauce. Pretty easy eh?

Now, about the apple sauce.  It’s Fall.  There are a lot of apples about.  Some of them are a little bumpy and bruised but the neat thing is, they’re perfect for applesauce.


4 cups of apples, chopped
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp sugar
flavour additions: try any of these – I love applesauce with ginger – 1 knob (1 inch or so) ginger, sliced; cinnamon, nutmeg – the choices are pretty endless

Combine the apples, butter, sugar, and whatever elements you’re using for flavour in a saucepan.  Cook over medium heat until apples are soft and squishy.  You can use an immersion blender to blend, but I just give it a really good stir. It makes the apple sauce a bit lumpy bumpy (others would say rustic).

Use your applesauce in a muffin recipe, try it as a hot sauce on top of ice cream, stir it (cold) into yoghurt or as a topper for your cereal.  Or, as Mr416expat and I did today, eat it from the saucepan.

Making applesauce at home is easy, it makes your house smell all kinds of lovely, and it’s a great way to use up those less than perfect apples.  Give it a try!



30 Minute Meal Madness

Jamie Oliver (yes, him again) has a new book out in England.  Entitled, Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals, its premise is that even good meals can be whipped up in only 30 minutes.  To prove the point, Jamie has a new series on Channel 4 also entitled Jamie’s 30 minute meals, where he goes through various meal themes.  I say themes because he creates an entire meal (sometimes including dessert pudding) without individual recipes but instead as a process or series of steps whereby all the elements come out at roughly the same time to be served.

I watched a number of the episodes via laptop and thought it looked kind of hectic but the food itself quite good.  Also, I started work this week and no longer have the luxury of taking the afternoon to plan my dinners, do the shopping and luxuriously cook dinner with a glass of wine in hand.  Therefore I gave it a whirl.

I decided try Jamie’s Roast Beef with baby yorkies, carrots, crispy potatoes, and onion gravy.  Roast beef clearly can’t be made (properly) in 30 minutes, so I was eager to see what Jamie had in store.  I watched the episode previously and so knew what to pick up at the grocery store and also had a sense of what I was in for.

I can’t post the recipes for these as part of what makes the recipes is Jamie’s writing and descriptions (and to copy them here would be all kinds of illegal).  I hope you can click through the link above to check it out.

So what did I think?  The recipes are laid out in a way that I cook.  I start different elements at different times, and cook as more of a fluid process.  I liked how the recipes are written but had to re-read them as I went through the 30 minutes as there was so much going on at once and the techniques were ones that came natural to me.  The episodes move quite quickly and make use of kitchen appliances such as blenders, food processors, microwaves and electric kettles.  For example, instead of slicing the onion for the gravy by hand, you use a food processor, to cook the carrots and potatoes more quickly, you boil a kettle and pour that in the pot with the veg.  The techniques did speed up the process (I used a mandoline as our food processor is living above my in-laws garage) but I actually enjoy the slicing and dicing that goes along with cooking, let alone working on my knife skills.  Trying to prepare the meal in 30 minutes was a bit mad.  I think I was close, but by the end my kitchen was a disaster.  I think I prefer a slower pace where I can take my time, clean up as I go and enjoy the process.


the finished product

That said, the finished product was excellent.  Mr 416expat was blown away by the flavours involved.  Jamie Oliver does know how to throw together some amazing flavours.  While I like the premise and the recipes, I think I’ll cut out the 30 minute requirement and cook according to my own schedule.

My Favourite Pancakes

Alright.  You might get upset with me for this.  I’m just going to say it.  I hate pancake mix.  I think it’s silly and I don’t have a place for it in my life.  I love making pancakes.  I make them nearly every weekend.  I make apple pancakes, blueberry pancakes, plain ones and chocolate ones.  But I don’t use a mix.  Even when camping or going to the cottage I don’t see the point of a mix.  I can prepare all the ingredients ahead of time anyway.  What does pancake mix offer me that I don’t have?

As such, I would like to share my pancake recipe with you.  It’s not fancy.  It’s not mind blowing.  It’s my pancake recipe and I love it.  I don’t know where I got it, but have it written in my recipe book (this is a book I write recipes in, nothing more).  I love it and that’s all there is to it.

I would like to thank Mr 416expat’s parents for bringing us maple syrup.  They have allowed us to continue our pancake tradition without bankrupting ourselves buying syrup at Waitrose.  The Brits aren’t so fussy on maple syrup.

I'll have to explain the wonky apple slices won't I

I'll have to explain the wonky apple slices won't I

that is a thing of pancake beauty

At this point I would normally post more pictures, but the thing is, we ate the pancakes right away.  There was not time.  Therefore there are no more pictures.  Sorry about that!

About the apple slices.  I thought I would use my trust mandoline again but it turned out that my apples were too fat and wouldn’t make the nice pretty slices I thought they would.  Instead I ended up with pac man shaped apple slices. No matter – they still tasted fabulous!


1 c flour – this can be any combination of all purpose, whole wheat etc
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt – I usually just shake the salt shaker over the bowl and hope for the best
1 egg
1 c milk
1tsp oil

Add the dry ingredients to a bowl (that would be flour, baking powder and salt).  Beat the egg and combine it with the milk and oil.  Add the wet to the dry and stir till combined.  Sometimes it’s a bit thin, just let it stand for a minute and it will thicken up.  Heat a fry pan, add a little knob of butter.  Add the batter to the pan – small circles or one big one in the middle, it’s up to you.  Flip the pancake when (1) there are bubbles popping throughout the pancake AND (2) it looks kind of dry around the edges.  Finish cooking the second side (will be faster than the first) and serve.

If you want to take the mix camping/to the cottage etc:

Combine your dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt) in a ziplock bag (or other fancy camping contraptions)

Omit the oil

Bring an egg and milk (you can use dried and rehydrate if you’re all that hardcore – I’m not – I usually just wrap up the egg (or pre-crack it) and bring the milk in a nalgene)

You can mix it all up in the nalgene (add the dry to the wet and shake)

Jamie’s Onion Gravy

Jamie Oliver is a fairly well-known celebrity chef.  You may have heard of him.  I quite enjoy his recipes and have a number of his cookbooks.  We’ve been to a couple of his restaurants in London and I have enjoyed watching his various programs on channel 4.  You could say he’s built a fairly successful empire around food and cooking.

Six times a year Jamie (or his people) publish a food magazine entitled “Jamie – making you a better cook.”  I saw it while in Brighton and picked it up to read on the train home.  It is full of fall recipes, breakfast options and is in line with his philosophy of preparing good food with simple ingredients and eating it together.  This particular issue included recipes from his latest book, 30 Minute Meals.  The layout of the actual meals is interesting.  Instead of each part of the meal having its own recipe, the preparation is laid out in terms of a timeline.  You prepare all the elements at the same time, moving according to what takes longer to cook etc.  It’s definitely interesting and I look forward to testing it out!

This time however, I was pulled into the article entitled “Saucy Affair”.  It featured four different sauces, a honey-mustard, a salsa verde, a red wine sauce and an onion gravy.  They’re all really good!  We’ve had a variety of different gravy’s while in London.  It often accompanies bangers and mash (sausages and mashed potatoes).  I thought I’d give the onion gravy a try to see how close I could come to replicating a good bangers and mash dinner.  I have, after all, recently become a British Citizen!

I know, I used more onions than the recipe called for...I'm a rebel what can I say careful, they can cut your fingers off...use the safety

a lot of onions safely sliced with the mandoline

watch the browning process...

first they wilt...

then they turn a beautiful golden can keep going but I got impatient

and added the sage and wine - can you blame me? The house smelled amazing at this point!

not sure what happened to the bangers and mash, here's the chicken though

Onion Gravy – Adapted from Jamie Issue 13

4 onions – thinly sliced – if you have a mandoline now is the time to pull it out!
1 tbsp butter
olive oil
a glass of white wine
1 tsp sage
a glass of chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
2 tsp corn starch

Heat a large pan on medium, add the butter and olive oil.  Add the onions and turn the heat to low.  Cook the onions slowly, stirring occasionally, until they’re stick and golden in colour.  Turn the heat up to medium-high, add the wine and allow it to reduce by half.  Add the sage and stock.  Mix the corn starch with a bit of water (less than 1/4 c for sure) and add to the gravy.  This thickens the gravy.  Bring it all to the boil (cornstarch has to boil to thicken).  If you like a thinner gravy, feel free to leave our the cornstarch.  Add some salt and pepper to season and serve!

We had this the first night with bangers and mash (sausage and mash) and then a night or two later, I used the gravy to cook chicken breasts.  YUM!

When cooking chicken breasts I like to sear the outside (high heat with a bit of oil, cook until you get a nice brown colour, then flip and get the same colour on the other side) and then throw it all into the oven to finish cooking.  To use the gravy when the breasts were nearly cooked in the oven, I added the gravy and let it all finish cooking together.  It made a great sauce!

Chocolate Museum, Bruges

Our second day in Bruges included a trip to a very silly Chocolate museum.

The Spanish brought chocolate to Europe from Mexico, and the Belgians (being traders as they are) stepped into the game.  Basically, they added milk to chocolate and got all fancy.  Highlights were a live demo, as below:

The non-PG milk-from-the-udder-shot, as below:

The non-PC chocolate of the world family picture (note yellow Chinese chocolate, and the guy with a bone in his nose):

And, the piece-de-la-resistance:

I wish this photo wasn’t so blurry.  They had made a life size DARK CHOCOLATE BARACK OBAMA for display in the museum.  Also, he has the wrong button fastened on his suit.

Bruges, Belgium

While Mr 416expat’s parents were visiting, they treated us to a trip to Bruges, Belgium.  Mr 416expat has gone on several business trips to mainland Europe but this was my first trip!  Armed with a Rick Steve‘s guide we were ready!

Rick Steve's Guidebook and Flemish Stew with Frites

We stayed at Jan Brito, a small hotel with a fabulous breakfast and very cosy rooms!  Breakfast is very important to me.  I love a good continental breakfast…yogurt, pastries, cheese, meats and fresh orange juice and I’m ready to go for the morning!

The city centre of Bruges is a UNESCO world heritage site.  It’s quite touristy with lots of lace shops, horse drawn carriages, and chocolate shops but there are loads of side streets to explore with neat buildings and stores.  One of my favourites was Fred and Ginger.  Their baby clothes are super cute and really unique.  They’re not afraid of bright colours in Belgium!  Unfortunately they don’t have stores outside of Belgium and don’t ship to the UK.  I think once Mr 416expats niece or nephew arrives he’ll have some shopping to do on his next business trip to Brussels.

Here are a few pictures of the city:

Swans...they have a lot of swans in Bruges

Bruges has been described as the Venice of the North due to its many canals

Bell tower in the Market Square

Bell tower at night

Market square

Statue in the Market Square

Bruges at night

Basilica of the Holy Blood

Inside the Basilica of the Holy Blood

Dumon - family owned and operated

view from the top of the halve maan brewery makers of Bruge zot

more from the roof of the brewery

finally a beer i like...belgian cherry beer - Mr 416expat says it's not really beer

On our last day in Bruges Mr 416expat and I rented bikes from the hotel and biked to Damme, a small village 5km outside of Bruges.  It was a chilly day but the sun was warm and the road was flat.  The bike ride was really lovely.  I got my farm fix seeing some Holsteins (Jersey‘s are cuter), sheep, turkeys and geese.

Cycling towards Damme

really lovely bike ride

view back towards Bruges

Damme Town Hall

As we stood in front of the town hall, the clock stuck half past and the bells started.  It was really pretty and we have video/audio but wordpress isn’t playing nice and you’ll have to wait for Mr416expat to get home from work to sort it out.

church in Damme

After cycling around the village and countryside we stopped for a break to warm up.  Best idea ever.  We stopped in Tante Marie, a patisserie with the best hot chocolate!  It was a fabulous treat!

Mr 416expats americano served with shortbread and chocolate mousse

my hot came in a tea pot

geese! they looked happy...a little nervous about Christmas, but happy and well fed

sheep! just like on the farm at home

this guy was also worried about Christmas

It was a great trip!  Thank you to Mr 416expat’s parents for a great trip away with them!


We’ve been lucky enough to have Mr 416expat’s parents visiting us for the last two weeks.  Although 400 sq feet is a little cosy with four people, we’ve had a great visit and really enjoyed showing off some of our favourite spots around London.  Having them visit has also given us an excuse to try out some of the more touristy attractions.  Here are a few pictures from our night time trip on the London Eye.  I’m pretty sure Mr 416 expat’s parents will have many more to show when they get back to Canada.

view from Westminster Bridge towards the London Eye


View from the Eye looking at St Pauls in the distance


pretty much the highest spot


Waterloo Station


Westminster and Big Ben (the name of the bell, not the tower!)


unsure what building this is, but it had a nifty light show


I think picture taking is genetic (all pictures taken on the trip by Mr 416expat or his dad)


Tomorrow morning we’re heading to Bruges, Belgium for a few days.  We’ll definitely post pictures when we get back and maybe some recipes?