0
Healthy and yummy!

Healthy and yummy!

My toddler is a bit of a picky eater and I found a great recipe for toddler muffins which included oatmeal, bananas and yogurt here. I now bake a batch of muffins every couple of weeks. They are actually great for toddler and mom and make a really healthy breakfast or snack for everyone! Over time I have made a few tweaks to the original recipe and have tried some optional variations so that LO doesn’t get bored. I added a bit of fat, as my child is something of a skinny mini and I think she needs it. I also added more fruit, which meant I could reduce the sweetener. I have in the past found that I have run out of baking soda or baking powder and have had success using substitutes! You can also substitute some of the fruit with vegetables!

 

These muffins are quick and easy to make and even picky eaters seem to love them, so they are great for toddler picnics and playdates! I’m posting this recipe because I’ve been asked for the recipe almost every time I’ve baked them!

These muffins are also fun to prepare with a toddler. I recently bought a Kitchen Helper, which is a stool with railings on which a young child can stand to reach up to the counter in the kitchen. Since we assembled it, my toddler uses it almost every day! Anyway, toddler can help with measuring out, pouring and mixing. I also got my toddler to grease the muffin tins using olive oil and a pastry brush.

I’m finding that involving my toddler in food preparation does make her more open to trying the food that she is preparing!

Ingredients:

2-1/2 cup old-fashioned oats

3 extra ripe bananas – mashed up, or a combination of bananas and applesauce. I don’t see any reason why this won’t work with just applesauce.

2 eggs

¾ cup (6oz) plain yogurt

1/4 cup sugar, maple syrup or honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (we love Nielson-Massey Vanilla especially)

1/2 stick butter – melted (optional, but make the muffins so much more delicious and moist)

1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder (or 1/2 tsp baking soda)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda (or 1-1/2 tsp baking powder)

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Optional:

A handful of raisins or, for a treat, a handful of mini chocolate chips!

1/4 cup wheat germ or ¼ cup ground flax seeds (these add-ons change the texture of the muffins. My toddler was NOT a fan!)

A handful of chopped walnuts (or pecans)

Replace one of the bananas with a cup of shredded zucchini or carrot and add some more sweetener

Replace one of the bananas with 1/2 cup cooked butternut squash or sweet potato puree

Directions:

– Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly grease a couple of mini muffin tins or use muffin liners. I’ve made full-sized muffins too, but they take longer to cook and my toddler can’t actually finish a whole one!

– Grind oats until fine. They should have the consistency of flour.

– Add all other dry ingredients (baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon), and pulse until mixed.

– Mix remaining ingredients, except raisins/chocolate chips and/or nuts (bananas, eggs, yogurt, butter, vanilla and syrup) in a bowl until smooth. (The original recipe said to add these to the food processor, but I found that I lost a lot of the batter in the blades of the processor, so I mix it separately). Don’t worry if the batter is more runny than mine (pictured below), which it will be if you add more fruit. It will make for more moist muffins!

– Stir in raisins/chocolate chips and/or nuts.

– Fill muffin tin almost to the top. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until the tbounce back when pushed and a toothpick comes out of center of a muffin clean. This recipe makes approx 36 mini muffins.

Store in an airtight container or ziplock bag. These freeze really well and can be thawed by leaving at room temp for a few hours or microwaving for 30 seconds or baking in a warm oven for 5 mins. I tend to take them out of the freezer the night before they are to be eaten!

Muffin batter, more than halfway through filling muffin cups

Muffin batter, more than halfway through filling muffin cups.

Muffins cooling in tray.

Finished mini muffins cooling in tray.


1

Chocolate LabThis photo says it all! My MIL is visiting us at the moment. On Sunday we took her out for brunch and then on to the new Recciuti Chocolate Lab (like hubby, MIL is a bit of a chocoholic) in the up-and-coming Dogpatch area of town. Recchiuti is a local artisinal confectioner, whose creations are available in shops and in the store in The Ferry Building Marketplace. This is their first cafe. Hubby had a decadent ice-cream sundae and MIL and I had the chocolate tart pictured above. I was full up from brunch, and didn’t really feel like dessert, until I was this. Hubby pointed out that is was very small and he would polish off any leftovers (which there were and which he did!). The tart was exquisite. A perfect blend of Recciuti chocolate. My only criticism was that the decorations made it a bit messy to eat! The non-dessert food at the Chocolate Lab looked amazing too – beautifully presented and interesting. We might go again for lunch, but since it was a bit crowded and not particularly baby-friendly, I think it will be sans bebe! Check out the menu here! If you are in the neighborhood, other places to check out are Rickshaw Bagworks, who sell customized canvas/fabric bags (I love their bags. I bought one as a laptop bag/alternative diaper bag and two as lightweight handbags for use when I was pregnant and unable to tote around heavy leather handbags) and Mr & Mrs Miscellaneous, who sell amazing organic, seasonal ice creams! Also drop into Little Nib, a miniature Recciuti chocolate shop, to stock up on Recchiuti chocolates. I recommend the milk chocolate coated burnt sugar almonds! Little Nib only stocks a small sample of Recchiuti’s packaged confections (and local honey from hives on the roof of the Founder’s home). To sample the full compliment of Recchiuti confections you will need to go to their Ferry Building store!


0

IMG_2899

I concocted this recipe and I to find creative ways to make my baby eat eggs. I also found that it was a useful way to use leftovers fruits and fruit purees. LM loves bananas, but they have to be very ripe and she will often just take a bite or two. LM has also recently decided that she doesn’t like to drink milk, though we buy the wonderful local, organic cream-topped Strauss Creamery Milk for her. I can’t bear the though of wasting her leftovers, so I created these pancakes, which I make from these leftovers and to which I add any other leftover fruit/grain puree. The proportions are not accurate. I add pancake mix (I used Arrowhead Mills Organic Baking Mix).

Ingredients:

2-3 ripe bananas

2 large organic eggs, beaten

2oz whole milk

Enough baking/pancake mix to make a thick batter

Optional: organic berries/leftover fruit puree

Butter/light oil for frying

What you do:

1. Mash the bananas.

2. Mix in the beaten eggs.

3. Stir in milk.

4. Stir in any fruit puree.

5. Stir in baking mix a spoonful at a time, until the batter is a bit thicker than heavy cream/double cream consistency.

6. Stir in berries (if using them).

4. Leave the batter to sit for 10 minutes.

5. Pour 1 tbsp oil and a small slice of butter into the bottom of a griddle or heavy-based frying pan.

6. Drop teaspoons of batter into the pan. Flip over when lightly browned. Pancakes should be soft in the middle.

7. Repeat until all the batter has been used up.

IMG_2898


0

I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus from this blog because I was busy ‘cooking’, ‘delivering’ and taking care of a baby! Yes, Girl in Fog City is now the proud mama of a one-year old baby (henceforth referred to as ‘Little Monkey’ or LM). I rather suspect that my change in circumstances is going to influence this blog a lot!

In the past two years I have become even more familiar with the medical system in the US than I was before due to prenatal visits, hospital visits and pediatrician appointments. And yes, despite this, it does, in some ways, still remain very confusing to me.

And, yes, you probably guessed this looking at the photo above, I actually had a baby shower thrown for me!

Now that the babe is a bit bigger and less needy, Girl in Fog City is back!

 

 


0

Yes, we had a tsunami warning in San Francisco. No, we did not have an actual tsunami here – just some high waves, tidal surges and choppy seas. And although there were big signs on all the beaches warning people not to get into the water, some adrenaline-junkie windsurfers were out on the water in the bay, close to the Golden Gate Bridge. What I’m getting at, is that the tsunami had very little effect on San Francisco. Not that this has stopped enterprising t-shirt companies from coming up with a ‘I Survived the Tsunami San Francisco, 2011’ t-shirt. I did stop to wonder, who would buy such a t-shirt? I wouldn’t. Would you?

Post Script: This is a light post, but it should not diminish the severe and catastrophic effects of the tsunami on Japan and the Japanese people. Click here to donate to the Red Cross to help rebuild lives and homes in Japan.


0
Fay Park: A view of one of the to gazebos in the park from the lower level

I sometimes check out a very cool website/blog called Funcheap SF. A couple of weeks ago I was intrigued to find a listing for a secret barbecue, sponsored by Hansens Sodas. I am a bit of a fan of Hansens – they make really delicious sodas with no fake additives (except sweetener in their sugar free varieties) and no corn syrup. Anyway, it was free, so I RSVPd and was sent a secret password . . . ORANGE VERMILLION! Love it! Hubby was a bit cynical about it, but the location was on Russian Hill, at the foot of the crooked bit of Lombard Street, which was close to a ‘secret’ garden that hubby wanted to take me to, and to the San Francisco Institute of Arts, home of an amazing Diego Riviera mural that he thought I would like.

The barbecue was interesting. We lingered for photos and got free t-shirts and free cans of soda and headed off. The chicken sausages and spaghetti on offer food-wise was not appealing to us at 11am on a Sunday morning!

The advertisement for the secret barbecue on www.funcheapsf.com

Chicken sausages being barbecued at the food of the famous 'Crooked Street'

Barbecue guests eating sausages and spaghetti

So we ambled over to Fay Park, which was really a tiny little garden designed by famous landscape architect, Thomas D. Church. It is so tiny that you could very easily miss it. But it is a gorgeous little gem . . . a wonderful place to have a romantic rendezvous (we were the only people there when we visited), or a nice place to sit and read a book on a sunny day.

Sundial at Fay Park. Inscription reads, 'GROW OLD ALONG WITH ME. THE BEST IS YET TO BE'

Fay Park gazebo: A perfect place for a proposal

After pausing in the park, we walked over to the San Francisco Art Institute to see the famous Diego Riviera mural that it housed. The Art Institute itself is really pretty and very pleasant to walk through, with a courtyard and a pool with fish. The mural was amazing. I can’t believe it took me 2 years to come and see it. Read more about it here.

The entrance to the Art Institute of San Francisco

The beautiful courtyard of the Art Institute

"The Making of a Fresco Showing the Building of a City" by Diego Riviera. Apologies for the bad photo. The light was just not right for a photo!

The view of the courtyard of the Art Institute from the mural room


8

A Tomato! Image © pfly (via Flikr)

This blog is intended mainly for British expats or “wanna be” expats or people interested in linguistic differences between the UK and the US.

Having lived in the US for 2 years, it never ceases to amaze me how different the English spoken here is to the language spoken back home! Of course, being brought up on a diet of imported American movies and books, I, like many Brits (or many other English-speakers) felt I was quite au fait with American English. I was wrong. I knew some obvious words like, “diaper”, “candy” and “elevator”, instead of “nappy”, “chocolate” and “lift”. But I didn’t know the American words for “tap”, and “plug point” and “footpath”.

I hadn’t bargained on the accent being problematic. My accent, I mean. For the most part it’s been a good thing . . .a feature. People seem to assume that if you have a British accent you are very clever (super smart) and sophisticated. It only gets to be a problem if people actually don’t understand what you’re saying. It happens to me more often than I expected, and when it does, it’s usually with people who have very little exposure to foreign accents. Somehow, unless it’s a really strong southern or mid-western drawl (we don’t see much of either of these in Northern California), I can pretty much understand all American accents.

When I first started tutoring here, the kids were really amused by my accent. They used to try and talk like me and they still try and teach me to talk ‘properly’. One 10 year-old persevered with her ‘British accent’ for all of 5 minutes, after which she asked me, “That hurts. Doesn’t it hurt your mouth to talk like that all the time?” She couldn’t understand, when I told her that for me, talking like her would be a great effort.

Two years down the line, I find myself sometimes ‘aaah’ing my ‘aw’s, rolling my ‘r’s and changing my ‘t’s into soft ‘d’s in order to help shopkeepers and bus drivers and ELL children (English Language Learners – immigrants, who have been speaking English for less than 6 years), understand what I am saying. It takes a lot of effort and feels very . . . well, foreign!

So, with this combination of differences in phrases and pronunciations, and with the variety of people I have to communicate with, I had more trouble than I thought I would.

I thought it might be useful for me to write a glossary of pronunciations, words and phrases, to help others. I have included some words that are obvious as well as others I have picked up. I will keep updating this list as I discover new words.

Pronunciation Guide (a guide to getting yourself understood):

‘Aw’ – I struggled with this. So many people cannot understand my British pronunciation of the ‘aw’ sound. If this happens to you, you need to pronounce these two letters as ‘ahhhh’ instead of ‘aw’, what you would say with your mouth opened wide. So ‘awesome’ is pronounced ‘ahhhh-some’, ‘claw’ is pronounced ‘cl-ahhhh’ and ‘saw’ is pronounced ‘sahhhh’.

Words ending with ‘i’ such as ‘anti’ and ‘semi’ are pronounced ‘ant-eye’ and ‘sem-eye’

Glossary of useful words and phrases (English to American):

all purpose flour – plain flour

anticlockwise – counterclockwise

aubergine – egg plant

bonnet (of a car) – hood

booking (at a restaurant) – reservation

boot (of a car) – trunk

bright – clever

chickpeas – garbanzo beans

chocolate – candy (so candy bar is chocolate bar)

courgettes – zuccini

dustbin/waste paper basket – trash can

footpath/pavement – sidewalk

fringe (hair) – bangs

full stop (in grammar) – period

gynacologist – OBGYN, sometimes referred to as ‘OB’

General Practitioner/GP (doctor) – Family doctor, Internist

hayfever – Allergies. Whenever I’ve told people I have hayfever, they think I’m running a high temperature and am sick

“I feel sick.” – If you say this, people will interpret it as you are feeling generally unwell, literally ‘sick’. Better to say, “I feel nauseous.”

ice-lolly – popsicle

Jerusalem artichokes – sunchokes

kitchen towels/kitchen roll – paper towels (I really confused a shop assistant when I first went out to buy these)

nappy – diaper

oregano – pronounced ‘oar-ay-gno’, with emphasis on the ‘ay’

patent – pronounce the ‘pat’ to rhyme with ‘rat’ (no one seems to understand when I say, ‘pay-tent’)

petrol – gas

plug point/socket – outlet (I learned this when trying to get a faulty plug point fixed)

route – pronounced like ‘out’ with an ‘r’ in front of it, instead of ‘root’

rubbish – trash

sat nav (satellite navigation system) – GPS

self raising flour – This is not a common ingredient in the US. When it is available it is called ‘self rising flour. Get used to making your own at home: For 1 cup self-raising flour mix 1 cup all-purpose flour with 1 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp baking soda

sink – washbasin

skirting board – base board

soda – club soda/sparkling mineral water/seltzer

swede (the root vegetable) – rutabaga (and the swedes you get here are really small and nobbly, not like the monsters back home!)

tap – faucet (I discovered this when I had a leaky tap and was trying to explain the problem to a very confused plumber)

tea (as a meal) – this will not be understood. The term ‘tea’ is used for the drink. ‘Afternoon Tea’ as a meal consisting of tea, cakes, scones, cookies and sandwiches is something that is becoming increasingly popular in some cities. It is considered ‘very English’ and is seen as a ‘special occasion’ meal

‘tea party’ – In American English this term is used to refer to a conservative political movement rather than a party where tea and cakes are served. Read about the American Tea Party movement here

toilet/loo – restroom/bathroom

toilet tissue – bathroom tissue

tomato – Pronounced ‘tom-ay-to’ (the kids I tutor and the farmers who sell fruits and vegetables at the local farmers market do not understand the English pronunciation of this word)

tin/tinned – can/canned. Can can also mean toilet (I think)

trainers – sneakers (thanks, Jules)

“Well done!” (when said to praise an achievement) – “Good job!”

False Friends – you might think you know how to use the following words, but you probably don’t:

biscuit – a sort of a savory scone-like bread roll, commonly eaten alongside other food. Sometimes served with gravy

potato chips – potato crisps

hamburger – when seen in a recipe, for example, this could refer to a meat patty, or just to the ground up meat. There is a line of packaged pasta and powdered sauce mix called ‘Hamburger Helper” that you get here. The idea is that you need to add browned ‘hamburger’ or ground meat and water/milk to the contents of the package to produce a meal

holiday – In the US, this term is used to mean specific ‘holidays’ such as Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day etc. It is not used to mean time off from work/school. The word for this is ‘vacation’. So, you would ask “I’m going on vacation to London!” rather than “I’m going on holiday to London!”.

pound sign – this usually refers to the # on your phone. On automated calls, you are often asked to hit the pound sign when you’re done and this is what is being referred to

soda – means a sweetened soft/carbonated drink

tea – If you order ‘tea’ in America, you will most probably get iced tea or a pot or mug of hot water and a tea bag. You will most probably be offered a choice of teas, many of which are green or herbal. To make it clear what you want from the outset to avoid confusion, for example, order “strong, very hot English Breakfast tea with milk and sugar”. The milk and sugar will most probably come on the side.

Other things I have discovered:
Automated answerphones (especially the DMV one) in the US do not understand the British/English accent. So, if you have one (an accent), don’t waste your time trying to talk to them (automated answerphones). These machines don’t even understand my fake American accent!  Try and get yourself a real live operator to talk to (and pray that they will understand your accent!)

Americans have a very sweet tooth. Many savory prepared foods contain sugar and/or corn syrup and taste very (unpleasantly) sweet to the British palette. The main sinners are, bread (packaged), soups, salad dressings and sauces. I make it a point to check the labels of the foods I am thinking of buying before purchasing. I also try to buy bread made by reputable artisan bakeries and do not have vast quantities of sugar in them (Whole Foods has a good supply of these)

Other disconcerting things that people say:
“How are you?” from perfect strangers – they are not really interested in how you are, I think it’s their way of being friendly. I’m still not sure how I should be answering this question.

It is normal to pass some vague friendly comment as you exit a lift/elevator, even if the elevator is full of strangers. Comments I use include, “Have a good day!”, “Stay dry!”, “Have a nice evening!”, “Have a good weekend!”

“I love your accent. Can you say that again?” – I must admit that it does feel nice to get special treatment from shop assistants . . . initially. The novelty wears off after this has happened for the fifth time . . . on the same day!

There are benefits to having a British/English accent. People think you are smart and sophisticated. The flip-side of this is that they also think that you are polite, to polite to be pushy, and they will try to walk all over you and take advantage of your ‘politeness’. I find that when trying to get something sorted out, like insurance, or getting something fixed, I have to be very persistent and fairly aggressive for anyone to pay attention.

I will update this post as I learn more!


1

Low Fat Banana Bread

I was looking for an easy recipe to use up over-ripe bananas and I came across a Fannie Farmer banana bread recipe with no fat in it! I thought of my friend, the Fat Conscious Foodie, who is a fan of recipes with limited/no fat. FCF, this blog’s for you!

The first time I made it, the bread was undercooked and lacked somewhat in the flavor department. I subsequently tweaked the recipe and I LOVE the result. You can still make it with no fat, but a tiny bit of fat makes it a lot nicer.

This bread freezes really well. I cut it into slices and freeze with greaseproof paper/waxed paper in between each slice. To defrost, I simply take out a slice and pop it in the toaster. It’s delicious as is, or with a scrape of butter or cream cheese.

What you need:

3 ripe bananas

2 eggs

2 cups flour

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt (do not use if you are using baking powder)

1 teaspoon baking soda/3 teaspoons baking powder

1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)

2-4 tbsp butter, melted (optional)

1/2 cup walnut meats or candied pecans, coarsely chopped/crushed

Other optional extras (not used to make bread in photo above):

1 heaped tsp cinnamon powder – you can add more if you like cinnamon. Please note that if you’re adding more you should remove the equivalent amount of flour from the recipe to prevent the bread texture from being very dry.

A small handful of sweet raisins, tossed in 1 tsp of flour

What you do:

1. Mash the bananas, add the melted butter, beaten eggs and vanilla and beat together until light.

2. Sift together the flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and cinnamon (if using).

3. Add the flour/sugar mixture to the banana mixture and mix until well combined

4. Fold in the nut meats and raisins (is using) until evenly distributed.

5. Put in a buttered/greased  loaf pan 9 by 5 inches and bake 1 hour at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (176 Celsius). A toothpick inserted in the middle of the bread should come out clean when the bread is cooked. If bread is not cooked after 1 hour, return to the oven and reduce the temperature to 325 degrees F until cooked.

Batter in tin, ready to bake!

Allow to cool in tin for at least 10 minutes and then on a rack for a further 20-30 minutes at least before cutting.

This bread tastes even better the day after it is made.

To serve:

Eat as is or toasted with butter and/or cream cheese and a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar.


0

Fran: This blog’s for you!

I have been meaning to blog about some of my early experiences after moving to the States. I started writing this blog months ago, but it’s taken me a while to complete it!

When I first moved, I was lonely . . . very lonely. In addition to not knowing many people, I was slightly shell-shocked at finding myself married, away from friends and family and missing my job more than I ever expected to (my freelance work had not yet taken off).

I did, what I realize now, a lot of new expats/or newly married women do: I fell into the habit of watching television. I didn’t watch all the time . . . just those times when it was to dark to go out for a walk and when I was bored.

I first became hooked on a channel called The Food Network, or TFN. I aquainted myself to a host of celebrated . . .or more accurately, ‘celebrity’ American television chefs (which is another sub-species entirely).

It did not take me long to realize that cooking skills were certainly NOT a prerequisite for being a host on the shows that this channel broadcasted. Having said that, some of the hosts, such as Ina Garten (pronounced Aye-nah), known as ‘the Barefoot Contessa’, were talented cooks. I watched Ina cook classic stews, roasts, vegetables and cakes and did pick up some good recipes from her. I got to know her husband, Jeffrey, and the various (mostly male) friends who came to dinner, and, as the best dinner guests do, usually arrived hours before the meal to arrange the table decoration and flowers to a professional standard.

Then there was Giada de Laurentiis, who annunciated any Italian terms in a very patronizing way as she cooked. Her show was usually themed – ‘family picnic’, ‘spa day’ and so forth. Any irritations were to some extent forgiven, as I really liked a lot of her recipes (I even went as far as to borrow one of her books from the library!).

Some of my new culinary ‘acquaintances’ had big personalties, which the US audiences seems to like, such as, the extremely irritating (at least in my opinion) Rachael Ray. Rachael, who has coined phrases such as ‘YUM-O’ (translation: yummy), ‘delish’ (translation: delicious) and ‘Ee-Vee-Oh-Oh’ (translation: extra virgin olive oil). Needless to say she now has her own talk show (so much for my opinion! The American audiences and the TV bosses have spoken).

Some of the hosts, were on another plane, in terms of character, personality and culinary skills!

Watching these these ‘chefs’ at work became strangely compelling to me – I’d watch the drama unfold in each episode . . . I mean show (and it was drama, believe me!). I was sometimes disgusted by the food and at times I just knew things are going to get worse, but I couldn’t help but watch!

The two most memorable personalities in this category are ‘Miz’ Paula Deen and Ms Sandra Lee.  I am going to tell you a bit about them, in case you haven’t come across them.

Name: Paula Deen

USP: Southern accent, with perculiar tendency to say ‘Y’all’ as many times as possible. Also known for her propensity to add butter and or extra-heavy cream (UK translation: extra thick, double cream) to everything.

Memorable dishes:
1. Hamburgers – Paula Deen style – you have to watch this on YouTube to believe it! I’m not going to give the game away! It is truly the most disgusting thing I have ever seen!
2. Deep Fried Macaroni and Cheese – Paula made regular mac and cheese, let it cool, cut it into squares, dipped each piece in egg and breadcrumbs and deep friend it!
3. Deep Fried Cheesecake – To make this culinary masterpiece, Paula first cut a slice of ready made cheesecake, which she proceeded to cover with whipped cream and chocolate sauce. She then wrapped the whole thing up in phyllo pastry and deep fried it. As if this was not enough, she served it by dusting it in powdered sugar and topping with more whipped cream and chocolate sauce!
4. Lasagne sandwich in garlic bread – enough said!
5. Donut bread pudding – I wonder if Krispy Kreme Donuts is one of PD’s sponsors. She seems to enjoy using these deep-fried artery cloggers in a lot of her recipes (see Hamburger)!

Paula is still going strong, in addition to her TV shows, restaurant and books, she’s got a line of cookware, food, spices and but when she does eventually retire, she has been training up her ‘bohys’, Bobby and Jamie, to carry on the celebrity chef tradition (they already have their own website and a number of cookbooks)!

The incomparable Paula Deen (Image © lifescript)

Rapidly moving onto . . .

Name: Ms Sandra Lee

USP: Humble beginnings and color-coordinating sets. In the show I watched that was presented by her, Semi Home-made with Sandra Lee, Sandra shared her techniques for “combining fresh ingredients with specially selected store-bought items” to produce wonderful meals (which translates as, how to cheat in the kitchen). And there was ‘Cocktail Time’ on each episode, at which point Sandra always seemed to brighten up considerably. She seemed very fond of those cocktails!

What struck me as strange about this show was that Sandra spent all the time she ‘saved’ by cutting corners with her food, on creating elaborate themed ‘tablescapes’!

Memorable dishes:

1. Kwanzaa Cake – the most hideous thing I have ever seen! A ghastly conconction of Angel Food Cake (store bought), ready made icing mixed with cocoa powder, cinnamon and ready made (fruit) pie filling, topped with pumpkin seeds and acorns. You have top see this to believe it. BTW, Kwanzaa is an African American holiday. created in 1966. Read about it here.

2. Hanukkah Cake – Another hideous cake, also made with Angel food cake. This one’s frosted with blue colored store-bought frosting and filled with marshmallows (non-Kosher), and decorated with faux pearls.

3. Ice cream shaped like a baked potato. Essentially this is store-bought ice cream molded into a baked potato shape, dusted with cocoa and topped it with a ‘pat’ of butter shaped/colored frosting. As Sandra says in the show, ‘I am recreating all of the wonderful toppings for my baked potato in a sugar form’. One question – why would you want to do that?

Memorable decorations and (in)famous ‘tablescapes’:

Grandma Lorraine’s Birthday Cake – a recipe from Sandra’s beloved grandma who worked in a cafeteria and was “a great cook”. It’s made with ready-made cake mix, with juice from a can of peaches and raspberry extract. The cake is put on an upturned foil container and iced with lurid pink and green (ready-made) icing. Watch the ghastly creation take shape here.

– ‘Italian Topiary‘ – skip over ‘cocktail time’ in this youtube clip and have a look at the unforgettable centre-piece on her table. This is the one to watch if ever you need cheering up! This clip made me laugh so much that my stomach hurt!

Sandra Lee (image courtesy of the Sandra Lee Semi-Homemade Enterprises Inc.)

I think it was Sandra who turned out to be the final nail in the coffin for my relationship with TFN. I overdosed on those hideous tablescapes and became hooked instead, on a show called , The View, which happened to be on in the mornings when I was at the gym. I also started to get busier with work, so there was not so much time for TV!


1

Giants fever hitting San Francisco! Even our local pizzeria showed its support!

Baseball is a big deal in the US. If you are a foreigner like me, but have watched any popular American films, you would know this. Keen to experience this important facet of American culture since arriving here, I have tried to persuade Hub to take me to a to watch at least one baseball game, but alas, this has not yet happened.

‘Our’ local team is the San Francisco Giants. Check out the team anthem, here – I can’t stop humming the chorus! And, a few days ago it won the MLB (Major League Baseball) World Series, which is a BIG DEAL. Yesterday there was a ‘ticker tape’ parade to celebrate the win, which bought the city to halt. I knew very little about baseball before arriving in San Francisco. I have always thought of it as the American version of cricket/rounders. This was confirmed by my very patient friend, F, who explained the basics of the game to me. In the past two years my biggest exposure to the games held in the city, have been when I’ve had to listen to Hub complaining about the traffic and parking problems downtown caused when a game was on. I was also used to seeing locals wearing orange and black Giants  t-shirts and baseball hats.

But when the Giants starting doing well in the  World Series, the whole mood of the city changed and I began to pay more attention to what was going on. When The Giants won, the city erupted with happiness. My friend, L managed to capture the feeling in her Facebook Status update where she said, “I find it impossible to believe that there is a place on the planet that is more happy than San Francisco has been these past couple of weeks. Amazing nights of victory and fabulous weather – cheers to the 2010 champions of happiness and baseball.” (Thank you L, for allowing me to quote you).

Smily, happy San Franciscans! I loved this one's Hawaiian Giants shirt!

The last time the Giants won the World Series was in the 50s, when they were a New York based team! As some of the newspaper headlines indicate, the wait for victory has been ‘sweet torture’.

My parents are visiting from the UK. They arrived a week ago and were quite bemused by the fact that several people, ranging from our building security guards to shop assistants, beamed at them and told them how lucky they were arriving in time for the World Series playoffs in which the Giants were playing!

In fact, a week ago I was buying a phone chip with my dad in a T-mobile shop downtown. I asked the person serving us who had won the previous day’s game. “The Giants!” he boomed back and to my dad’s amusement, he ‘high-fived’ me!  That has never happened to me before!

So when the Giants won overall, and the parade was scheduled, and the weather forecast was for sunshine, my parents and I decided to go and soak up some of that happiness and atmosphere and see the parade. We went to the Civic Centre and were submerged in a sea of orange and black. We managed to find a spot, where we caught sight of the procession of players and staff, riding in cable cars. We joined in the cheers of ‘Fear the Beard’ (referring to the beard worn by Giants’ pitcher, Brian Wilson and several other Giants).  There were a lot of people in front of us and the civic centre itself was packed, as some people had camped out from as early as 4am.

This was my view of the parade. I just about managed to catch sight of the team!

One of the many 'Fear the Beard' t-shirts worn to the parade!

We didn’t stay for too long as it was very hot and crowded. We came home instead and watched the speeches and presentations on TV, however being there, for even a short time was quite an experience!

I really must be more persuasive with Hub or find someone else to go to a ballgame with me!

Heading home, we spotted this extremely cute little Giants fan in a cheerleader outfit, fast asleep on her dad's shoulders!