Like most Americans, I am a huge fan of Thanksgiving. It’s basically Christmas without gifts. You can get together with your family and/or friends and eat until you have to loosen your trousers. What’s not to love? What one my favourite things about Thanksgiving is the dessert – and lots of yummy pies. Sadly, my children do not like pie. So a few years ago I had to come up with the perfect pumpkiny dessert. And here it is – a pumpkin cake so delicious and moist, plus it’s dairy-free.
My kids ask for this cake, even when it’s not Thanksgiving. I made one at the weekend to bring to a Friendsgiving celebration. My family were sad that they didn’t get enough, so I will be baking more this week. I like to bake in a bundt tin, because bundt cakes look fancy. It’s gratifying baking a simple cake and having people think that it’s more effort than it is. And this is seriously the easiest cake ever!
My family and I eat out at least once at the weekend. We just love restaurants. And we love trying out new places. The kids are now 10 and six, so we are no longer limited to pizzas and burgers. A couple of months ago, we tried out Maison Du Mezze in Kingston upon Thames. It’s a new-ish restaurant in the area and we were keen to expose the kids to Lebanese cuisine. And they loved it, which is always a relief when you try new food. So when Maison Du Mezze invited us to return a few weeks ago, we jumped at the chance.
Maison Du Mezze Kingston are offering an amazing deal this summer – kids eat free! For every main meal purchased, you get one free dish from the children’s menu. This is such a bargain, especially in the summer holidays when it feels like you are just throwing money around. But besides saving money, the food is utterly delicious.
Last month I did something pretty unusual. I said goodbye to Husband and the kids, and I went off to Italy for three days. I hadn’t traveled on my own for almost 20 years. I was a bit anxious beforehand, but it felt quite liberating to do something on my own. It was like ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ with just the eating. And it turns out that Catania is a great city if you love food.
If you’ve never heard of Catania, it is located in Sicily by the sea. This means that you will find the most amazing fish and seafood. And with the growing popularity of wine being grown near Mt Etna, your meal will be complemented by some terrific wines. And because it is Italy, it is beautiful and the people are absolutely lovely.
It can be so tough going on dates when you have young children. Besides getting a babysitter, you have to deal with the fatigue that comes with the evening. So sometimes Husband takes the day off and we have a day date. And this is what we did this week. After a lazy morning, we went to see the Han Solo film and then went to Cau to try out their new summertime menu.
We’re very lucky to have a huge array of wonderful restaurants in Kingston, and Cau is especially nice as it’s right on the river. As it was a sunny day, we sat outside, and of course we drank cocktails. One of my favourite cocktails ever is the Passionfruit Mojito, which they happen to serve at Cau. It is so delicious and refreshing that I can never just have one. Thankfully we ate lots of yummy food, so I wasn’t stumbling home.
Okay, you obviously can’t have a dinner party without cooking. But you don’t have to be the one doing the cooking. At least that’s what I discovered last month. The lovely folks from La Belle Assiette offered to send a chef to my house so that I could host a dinner party with minimal effort. You all know that my kitchen skills are basic, and this service seemed to be made for me. So I invited three of my lovely mum friends over for some dinner and plenty of party.
When you book with La Belle Assiette, you choose your date and time as well as the menu you’d like. Menus start at £39 per person for up to six people. And that’s the most work you’ll have to do (apart from making sure you are well stocked on wine and Prosecco). The chef will contact you to confirm arrangements and menu. As I am lactose-intolerant, I made sure the menu would have milk substitutions.
January was so cold and grey. And I was off the booze, which didn’t help. But come the 31st January, it was time for some fun. Some of my mum friends and I went to Wimbledon Park to check out the opening of NYEAT – a new restaurant and cocktail bar. We were quite eager to enjoy American cuisine and sample lovely cocktails.
Actually, after over four weeks of abstaining from alcohol, I was afraid to try a cocktail. I had a gin and tonic (with Brooklyn Gin – amazing!). My friends were drinking mojitos and porn star martinis, and I have to admit being a bit jealous. But as I felt buzzed off one G&T, I knew I made the right choice. NYEAT offers a huge array of cocktails. I’ll need to go back when I can handle booze again.
When I was a teenager, my friends and I used to go to Pizza Hut all the time. We loved their salad bar and personal pan pizzas. But I haven’t been to Pizza Hut much since my early 20s. A few months ago, we happened to be near one and had dinner there while my daughter was at a party. We were surprised at how good it was and vowed to take her (Moozles loves a salad bar). So last weekend we went to the new restaurant in Kingston-upon-Thames to try out the new menu.
First of all, I noticed how family-friendly Pizza Hut looks. There is lots of banquette seating, the colours are bright without being garish, and the artwork shows pizza-related superheroes. The children’s menu has a little and bigger option. My five-year old had the smaller meals and my nine-year old had the bigger one. And while we waited for our food, we all enjoyed the salad bar.
I’m not the only one, am I? Who cooks dinner on a two-weekly rotation? I’m not a confident cook. I make nice dinners, but there isn’t a huge amount of variety. I feel uncomfortable trying new recipes. And even if you have everything you need, it is always tougher and takes longer than expected. Recently, in an effort to add variety to our family dinners, I have been trying out the HelloFresh family meals. And I wanted to share how we got on.
Husband and I are acually already big fans of HelloFresh. We normally get a box every other week. Husband loves cooking but gets stuck for ideas. The weekdays are so busy, that it feels easier to cook the same things over and over. But I want my children to try new things and to expand their tastes. So I’m trying to be more adventurous. And that’s where the HelloFresh family box comes in.
Dining in London is equally difficult and easy. On one hand, you have a huge array of restaurants to choose from. On the other hand, there are a huge array of restaurants to choose from. The choice can be overwhelming. There are a few websites and apps out there that help find restaurants in London, but I’ve recently come across a new app with a twist. I recently booked a meal, and paid with it using Cake.
Let me be clear. I didn’t bake a cake and use it to pay for my meal. Obviously that would be amazing. What I did was to download the Cake app onto my smartphone and use it when I was meeting up with a girlfriend a few weeks ago. Now booking a restaurant isn’t tough, but Cake offers more than that.
One of the things I miss most about living in the UK is that I miss the wonderful 4th of July celebrations in the USA. You get a day off to spend with your friends and/or family, eat BBQ and other delicious food and then finish the day with fireworks. I have only been to one expat BBQ in 15 years, and it is really tough to celebrate the day when it isn’t often on a weekend. But this year, Jackson + Rye invited me and some friends to celebrate the 4th of July.
I grabbed my two favourite American expat friends (strangely, I know quite a few expats in my neighbourhood), and off to lunch we went. We would have loved to have our 4th of July meal on the actual fourth of July, but it was Sports Day, so we had our celebration on the fifth of July. Besides the joy of a mid-week meal, it was lovely going out for cocktails and great food with wonderful girlfriends.