Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Bloggers Night at La Rocas in Wakefield

Six bloggers, including myself, were very kindly invited to a night of dining at La Rocas Restaurant & Tapas Bar in Wakefield last Friday evening.  I had only met one of the other bloggers previously, but we follow each other on Twitter, so I am familiar with who they are and what they do. 

My husband and I were the first to arrive and we were shown to our table.  We were promptly asked if we would like to order a drink, so we ordered a jug of traditional Sangria, figuring we would share it with the other bloggers.  The Sangria arrived and it was very nice.  Light and refreshing as it should be, with fruit in it, albeit banana slices, which I have never seen before in a Sangria.

The others all arrived and after exchanging pleasantries and properly introducing ourselves, we awaited what was to be offered next.  Of course they were asked what drinks they wanted and shortly after, food began arriving.  We all commented on the same thing immediately.  Nobody introduced themselves to us and we really weren't told how the evening was to progress.  Putting that aside, as it is no big deal, we awaited to see what was on offer.

Craig, the manager/bartender/waiter, (we found out his name at the end of the evening) brought us out an array of various tapas dishes.  My biggest problem with the menu is it offers too much from too many regions.  It's Spanish, Greek, American, Mexican.  Think of a country and there is most likely something on offer from that region.  In addition to tapas, there are burgers and steaks on the menu as well.

We began with a Mezze Platter.  This was by far my favourite dish of the night.  It was a wonderful sampling of Olives, Parma ham, Hummus, Anchovies, Mozzarella, Goat's cheese with sundried tomatoes, Tapenade and very nice bread.  There was ample of everything on the platter.  I would have been content with that for my meal.

Following the Mezze, Craig brought us Ribs, Albondigas (meatballs), Jambalaya, Patatas Ailoli (potatoes with garlic mayo), Gambas al Pil Pil (garlic prawns) Aubergine, Chorizo sausage, Garlic bread and Nachos. Don't get me wrong the food was fine, and there were elements that were good.  I thoroughly enjoyed the Gambas and the Chorizo was nice too!  The Jambalaya was overcooked and mushy and I couldn't find anything in it other than rice.  Being an American, I am used to a good Jambalaya filled with chicken, sausage and shrimp and having a real bite of spice to it!  It's one of my favourites normally!  This lacked all of the above.  The potatoes were nice, but I never like to fill up on potatoes and the ribs were tasty.  I don't like Albondigas at the best of times, so I really am not one to judge.

Desserts were not worth noting.  I ordered Banoffee Pie and it was dense and glutenous without flavour, other than the slices of fresh banana.  The majority of the pie was a very thick crumb crust and an overabundance of whipped squirty cream from a can.  I would definitely give desserts a miss. 

After the meal, we were taken to the bar where Craig whipped up his magic as a bartender and presented us with six different cocktails. He was good fun to watch and knew his stuff.  I am not a big drinker and when I do drink, I tend not to drink overly sugary drinks.  This was my problem with the cocktails, but certainly no fault of Craig's or La Rocas, just individual taste.  Craig brought a breath of fresh air to the evening and because of him, it made the night much more memorable.  He is an asset to La Rocas.

I think my biggest problem with this restaurant is that it doesn't know what it is trying to be.  Craig told us the owner has a Chinese take away ( I think I am getting this right) as well as a Go Kart business.  I think they are trying to be all things to all people and this simply is very difficult to do.  If we were given the choice of choosing from the menu, it may have been a more successful night.  I personally would have stuck to a theme or perhaps gone for something as simple as a burger. 

Living in Leeds, it is a bit far for me to go, but if I were in the Wakefield area again, I would certainly give it another chance, deciding on the menu for myself.  It wasn't objectionable, it just wasn't great.  Saying that, it is still fairly new, so hopefully the owners will iron out the hiccups and turn this restaurant into a little gem.  I wish them all the very best of luck and I thank them very much for having me and my husband.

La Rocas
18 Wood Street
West Yorkshire

Monday, 31 October 2011

How Judy Touched My Heart With Broccoli

When I was 11 years old, my parents moved from a one horse town called Arnold, back to the suburbs of Baltimore.  Needless to say, I wasn't happy about this, being uprooted from my friends, but at the age of 11, one doesn't have much voice in these matters.

My mother found the house of her dreams.  She never wanted a rancher or bungalow, as it is called in the UK, but the real estate agent talked her into looking at it.  It was perfect.  Big, spacious, nice layout and a huge, basically unused kitchen.  The previous owners moved into the house new, only 2 years prior, took off their shoes every time they walked into the house and not once cooked in the kitchen!  It was a dream!  Stainless steel appliances, big double oven and a fridge freezer that opened by pushing a button.  Amazing stuff, considering this was 1968!  The family selling the house had a daughter my age and she introduced me to quite a few of her friends before she moved.  It was perfect, I had friends before our family even moved into the new house.  This new adventure was going to be just fine!

As soon as we moved into the house, of course we met our neighbours.  On one side was a couple with a grown son, two doors down was a family that had a son who was my age, on the corner was another couple who had grown children, but the best neighbour of all was the family on the other side of my new home!  They were Judy and Mickey, a young married couple with 2 small children at the time.  Myles was 3 and Stacy was only a baby.  I became a babysitter pretty quickly and I loved every minute of it!  Not too long down the road, Shari was born!  All three of the kids were at our house constantly.  They loved my mother's cookie jar and they called my parents Aunt Faye & Uncle Yummy!  If they weren't at our house, I was over their house. 

Shari at my house with my little cousins, Shari at the duck pond, Mickey & Judy 1976

Judy was very cool!  She was like my big big sister.  My real big sister was away at university and Judy who was older than my sister Debbie, stepped in as a surrogate sister when Debbie was away.  Judy was beautiful, very entertaining, incredibly gracious, selfless, talented and an all around wonderful person.  She became my confidante.  We both stopped biting our nails together, she tried to teach me to sew, but to no avail.  She helped influence me in many ways!  She inspired me when it came to cooking as she was a fabulous cook!  She was one of my mentors. 

As I became older, we became good friends.  They moved away from our old neighbourhood, but we never lost touch. Our relationship changed.  I was  now married with children of my own.  She still was a mentor to me, a confidante, but most of all, Judy was an inspiration! 

Judy became very ill and suffered for many years from complications due to breast cancer.  A few years before she died, she and Mickey visited the UK.  She was in such pain, but she still went sightseeing, kept a smile on her face and soldiered on.  She was so uncomfortable sitting, ate nothing, but just went along happily.  Judy never cried.  She never showed that vulnerable side to herself, but yet, when she said goodbye to me, she hugged me and sobbed!  We both did!  It was a moment that will stay with me forever.  We both thought we would never see each other again.  We did though, a couple of years later.  She made my husband and I lunch at her beautiful home.  She again was in such pain, but she did it all.  She laid a beautiful table and made a scrumptious lunch, always with her shortcut recipes.  I cleared the table and washed the dishes much to Judy's dismay.  She always wanted to do it all!  I insisted despite her protestations and I won.  While I was cleaning we talked and we talked and we talked.  She told me she was nervous about her next doctor's appointment.  She said she always feared what they would find.  Again, we welled up. 

Judy, Mickey & me 2007

Before I left, Judy found and gave me some of her old recipes that I had asked for, some favourites of mine.  One she had completely forgotten about, but I didn't. It was her Italian Broccoli Casserole.  I could still see her making it and I remember the first time eating it at their house.  I remember her lining up the broccoli spears in two neat rows in the baking pan! I remember me making it as a teenager and my mother made it frequently.  It was scrummy and it made me love broccoli!  She found the recipe along with others and gave them to me. Some she posted to me!  I have these and cherish them!  This was the last time I ever saw Judy!  She passed away not very long after.  I was so pleased I got to see her one last time.  She will live on with me forever because she had such an influence on me.  She was the first grown up that I really got to know that oozed coolness and greatness!  I miss her so much but I am so honoured that she shared a huge part of my life!  This recipe is made for you Judy with lots of love!  Thank you for everything and thank you Shari for inspiring me to share this recipe and for sharing so many of Judy's recipes on your own blog http://www.myjudythefoodie.com/

I had to tweak the recipe in several different ways because some of the ingredients are not available in the UK.  It still tastes as delicious, but it isn't quite as simple as her version.  It's still very easy though! 

First I will give you my version, after I will share the original!


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F/180 degrees C/Gas Mark 4


1 Kilo Bag Frozen Broccoli
2 Extra Large Eggs beaten
2 x 35g packages Colman's Four Cheese Sauce Mix
1 Pint/600ml skimmed/semi skimmed milk
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning ( I used a blend including oregano, garlic, basil, sea salt & pepper)
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
2 x 400g Napolina Chopped Tomatoes with Herbs - drain very well.
Homemade bread crumbs made from 2 day old sourdough bread mixed with seasoning to taste
1/3 c grated Parmesan Cheese
Salt & Pepper to taste


Cook frozen broccoli in microwave according to the directions on the bag or until broccoli is tender.  Drain well.

Make the cheese sauce according to packet instructions.  Empty the sachets into a saucepan.  Pour a little of the milk into the pan and mix.  Stir in remaining milk and bring to the boil, stirring continuously.  Simmer for 2 minutes. Remove from stovetop and set aside to cool slightly.

Put cut up bread into a food processor, add desired seasoning ( I added the Italian mix and a little more sea salt) and process.  Keeps well for other recipes in freezer.

Meanwhile, combine eggs, the Italian seasoning mixture and Tabasco.  Add a little of the cooled cheese sauce and mix so you don't get scrambled eggs.  Add the rest of the cheese sauce and stir until combined.  Next stir in the tomatoes and broccoli.  Pour the entire mixture into a 9"x12"x2" baking dish, sprinkle the desired amount of bread crumbs over the top, add the Parmesan cheese, top with some more bread crumbs and season with a little more salt and pepper. 

Bake the casserole, uncovered, in a 350 degree F/ 180 degree C/ Gas Mark 4 oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through completely.  Makes about 6 to 8 servings.

**FYI, I am making this with a corned beef/salt beef brisket and mashed potatoes for tonight's dinner!  YUM!!**

Recipe for the original Italian Broccoli Casserole:

2 x 10 oz packages frozen broccoli
2 beaten eggs
1 can condensed Cheddar cheese soup
1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning, crushed
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1 x 9 ounce can stewed tomatoes, cut up
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Cook frozen broccoli in unsalted boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes or until broccoli is tender.  Drain well.

Combine eggs, Cheddar cheese soup, crushed Italian seasoning and Tabasco.  Stir in stewed tomatoes and broccoli.  Turn the broccoli/cheese mixture into a baking dish, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.  Bake the casserole, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until heated through completely.

**FYI, initially I bought an Asda brand jar of cheese sauce, thinking I could substitute this for the soup which is not available here in the UK.  I tasted it first and it was not good, so opted for the Colman's mixture.**

I hope you enjoy this very easy delicious recipe from my childhood, first made for me by my very dear friend.  I also hope that this recipe creates some of your own memories and makes you smile like it does me!

As always, have a nice day y'all and thanks for reading!

Lisa (aka The Yummy Yank)

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Not A Restaurant Review, Just A Rant

There will be no photos to this blog because I had no intentions of reviewing a restaurant.  I just needed a good rant!

My daughters very generously gave me a gift voucher to any of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants last Christmas.  I was very excited to receive such a lovely gift and only last week was down in London to use it.  After looking at the menus online and not wanting to get all dressed up,  I decided my husband and I should go to York and Albany, situated between Camden and Regents Park.  There is no dress code, but we were told you could not wear shorts, even though shorts for a woman are quite fashionable these days.  I was surprised at this request, but of course it wasn't a big deal.

We went last Friday evening when the weather was hot and sunny!  We arrived about 30 minutes before our reservation and were lucky enough to grab a table out front, have a couple of drinks and watch the people of London go by.  Drinks were a lot of money, even for London.  My husband had a white wine spritzer and I had a classic Mojito, not one of the fancy ones and they charged £9.50, just for the Mojito.  Correct me if I am wrong, but that seems expensive.  More than being disgruntled at the price, I was appalled to see that there was a misspelling on the drinks menu.  Coffee only had one 'e'.  Mr. Ramsay is so quick to criticize others, he should look at his own properties before slamming someone else.

When we were ready to be seated, we were asked if we wanted to sit inside or outside in the courtyard.  Again, because it was such a lovely night, we decided outside.  The restaurant is lovely and so was the courtyard.  The ambiance was wonderful.

We couldn't decide what to get for starters, so we opted for three.  I overheard at the next table that the new Autumn menu was only introduced the day before and the host hadn't tried any of it yet.  That was a bit shocking!

First we got one of their "small plates" of salt and pepper squid.  That was very delicious and quite a big portion.  We also got the confit of rabbit leg, roasted loin, ham hock and kale terrine with caper and raisin puree.  There was liver on the plate.  I suppose it was rabbit liver, but it was liver nonetheless.   There wasn't a mention of liver on the menu and something like liver should not be left off of a description.  It was ok, but at £12.50 for a starter and not described properly, I wasn't impressed.  The third and final starter was the Warm Autumn Salad.  It was supposed to have artichokes, but I couldn't find any.  Saying that, I could barely find the salad.  At £8.50, it was about 3 mouthfuls!  It was delicious, but it sadly just didn't satisfy because of the minuscule amount.

For our mains we had Tagliatelle of crab, chilli and lemongrass!  The large portion was £16.50.  I can't even imagine what the small portion would have been because you could not get much smaller.  It was nice, but there was only a hint of crab.  I had plaice with mussels and artichokes.  There were artichokes this time and the mussels were very sweet and tender.  The fish was overdone and under seasoned.  When asked for salt and pepper, the waitress brought out two salt mills. 

For dessert we had a chocolate and peanut butter parfait which was delicious and a warm chestnut fondant.  Both were priced at £12.50.  I see the desserts on the menu online currently are £6.95.  I am baffled to say the least.  When the desserts were brought to the table, our waiter or host, not sure which, as we had so many people serving, announced the dessert as chocolate fondant.  That is exactly what it was with perhaps a few chopped chestnuts inside.  It was dry and chocolate.  NOT at all what I ordered.  The description on the menu did not say chocolate. 

So Mr. Ramsay, before you throw stones, look no further than your own restaurants.  You did not have continuity in service, you had mistakes on your menu multiple times,  your staff don't even know the difference between the letters 'S' and 'P' on condiment mills, your prices on menus online are inconsistent with actual prices on hard menus at the restaurant and your prices for what you receive are just too expensive!  I think Gordon Ramsay should maybe go back to his roots, start being a chef again, not worry so much about celebrity and get a handle on his own properties.  Instead of using foul language to the little Joe Schmoe in America, fix your own venues!

The voucher our daughters gave me should have been a substantial contribution for what we had, but sadly it wasn't.  There were elements to the meal that were good, but sadly the other elements overshadowed them.  Our meal, with very little drink cost a fortune and I for one will not be going back!

Thanks for reading.  My next blog will go back to normal!  I just had to get this off my chest!

Have a nice day y'all!

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Random Bakes of Kindness

There's a wonderful lady that I follow on Twitter named Vanessa Kimbell.  Vanessa is a food blogger & journalist, cookbook author and all around lovely person! She came up with a wonderful idea of doing a random bake of kindness to an unsuspecting, deserving person in your life.  It's quite easy to do and something that I hope I do on a regular basis.  I like to think of myself as a kind & giving person, but this random act inspired me!  So here it is!

I have an incredibly busy week ahead of me.  Four markets from Thursday til Sunday.  I haven't stopped baking and I have to say, I am already tired and I still have a lot more to do!  But I am not too tired to bake a little extra for a couple of lovely people. 

These people are the caretakers of the village hall and the hall in which I do my local market.  They aren't the "organisers" of the market, but yet they seem to do every bit of the work.  They get up at the crack of dawn to set the hall up with tables, chairs, electricity etc.  They give us, the stallholders coffee and tea throughout the morning, they are there to help any way they can.  They clean the hall after we leave.  They even go out to look for more stallholders so that the market can continue thriving.  This is not their job, but yet they do it happily, with a smile on their face and yes, the occasional and sometimes not so occasional moan.  They set up for childrens' birthday parties straight after a market or get ready for yoga held in the hall.  They maintain the hall to the highest standards and they are a part of our village community!  They often go unrecognised and often certain people think that this is what they are supposed to do as they get paid to do a job!  Perhaps this is so, but in my opinion, they go beyond the call of duty!  I am very proud to call them my friends!

So this random act of kindness is for you, Paul & Sherryl!  Thank you for all you do!  I know I for one appreciate it beyond words.

I frequently give them something after each market to say thank you, but in this instance, I want to dedicate my blog to them, because without them, there would be no market and not as much humour on the second Saturday of every month.

This Saturday I will be taking them my chocolate chip cookie bars.  I am making extra just for them.  Sherryl really shouldn't eat it as she is a diabetic, but she does treat herself now and again with the doctor's permission.  They are very easy to make and a very delicious treat!  I hope they enjoy them and think of me when I tell them they were baked just for them and a blog dedicated to them for their hard work and kindness!

Cheers guys and enjoy!

Until the next time, have a nice day y'all!

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank

Monday, 15 August 2011

All’s well on the cream tea revolutionary front

A little bit about this blog:
My husband Ian and I had a very restless night last night.  After a busy week of news, markets and fun, for some reason this was on his mind.  I give to you Ian's thoughts on the following subject! 

All’s well on the cream tea revolutionary front

The people took to the streets – well, more accurately, the pavements and patios of Yorkshire, on an August Sunday of sporadic sunshine.
We went to Betty’s – a North Yorkshire institution.

Some will have come to celebrate an occasion, others, after a brisk country walk or a leisurely stroll around the Harlow Carr RHS gardens. Some may even have come after church.
We went for a treat – after 6 days of hard graft.

It’s most likely, even customary, that you’ll have to queue for both the table service cafĂ© and the coffee shop, although we have been lucky in recent times. The queue itself is an example of how civilised we really can be – a subject to which I shall return.

Betty’s is not cheap, and yet you can probably get a coffee and pastry for only a few pence more than a high street coffee shop, and, just once in a while, it’s nice to sip out of fine bone china rather than chunky mugs.

You also get “served” at Betty’s. By young, and some not so young people in crisp white shirts - waistcoats for the men and frilly aprons for the ladies. They wear a uniform that is probably the same as when the small chain of cafes opened nearly 100 years ago.

Betty’s is high in the “top employers table” and the staff certainly appear to stay with the company, and do their job very well.

The customers’ attire will have changed considerably.
Nowadays, whilst there will still be those of a jacket and tie mentality, it’s quite acceptable to be in whatever makes you comfortable – be it shorts and t-shirt, or designer walking gear.

Now I don’t stand in the way of progress – note the Yummy Yank and I were most excited by our advances in application use of our smart phones over the weekend! But mobile phones are requested to be turned off at Betty’s.

What I like about Betty’s is the consistency (bar a couple of unrunny poached eggs which need to be addressed by the YY). Whilst styles and modes have changed over time, they present to us an unchanging, genteel and, yes, civilised aspect of our society. Something that tea-rooms all over the country are doing.

My parents had their own tea ceremony – unchanged, I’m sure in the 37 years that they graced my life. The loose tea, the warmed teapot, the tray set out with cups, saucers, spoons, tea strainer and jug of milk. And always, my father “would be mother”. How very civilised. I hope that I have some of their civility in me – and that I, in my part, have been able to pass the same to my children.

I really hope this, because we watched on in horror as many of our cities smouldered last week. Our politicians and police are now engaged in undignified point scoring over the “moral collapse of parts of our society”. And yet we spent a very civilised Sunday with a good cross section of our civilisation.

We noticed a young couple, sitting side by side. She poured the tea whilst, perhaps, he talked of his hopes and dreams – for the next week, next years, for life.

I hope that they, like us, will return over the generations – as parents, grand and even great-grandparents – to Betty’s. And that Betty’s will be unchanged and still, so very civilised.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Mood Food

I had an emotional night of watching late night films.  After I finished watching Philadelphia (not a good movie to watch at 1am), thankfully, The Jerk was also on another one of the hundreds of satellite channels to view.  The tears turned to laughter and eventually, I could go to sleep.

As I was lying in bed awake til the wee hours of the morning, thanks to an Indian tea which was not decaffeinated at Westbourne Spice (no fault of their own, I just love it), I started thinking about foods you eat or don't eat depending on your mood.  Moods really do dictate what we put into our mouth or not for that matter.  This has changed for me along with the aging process, but thinking long and hard about it, it is an interesting phenomenon as to how I react to situations and how food enters into them!

For me, the first clear cut hint of the correlation between food and moods was when my father died in 1980 at the age of 60.  He was far too young and I was far too young to lose him.   I was the baby in the family and I was certainly his little girl and he was certainly my daddy!  I adored him, I admired him,  I respected him, I laughed with him, I cried with him and I loved him.  My father had his first heart attack when I was 16 and it was a massive one.  He was lucky to have survived and I was blessed to have him in my life for another 5 years. 

I don't deal well with death.  I shut down, I screw up, I try and act like nothing has changed, when in reality my world is falling apart.  I don't give myself time to grieve properly, but I am breaking inside.  So when my father died, food just wasn't a priority.  I didn't eat, I couldn't eat. 

In the Jewish religion, after a death you have a period of mourning called Shiva.  It usually lasts a week and people come to visit the bereaved family in their home to talk, relive memories of the deceased and say prayers at various times throughout the day.  They also bring food - lots and lots of food!  In the Jewish faith, immediate family members do not do any sort of work during the Shiva period, we don't clean, we don't cook. Our friends and families come to the Shiva house to help throughout the day and evening.  Trays of food are set out by these wonderfully caring people and the mourners sit around the table to eat.  Most eat with gusto, most find food a diversion from sadness, most can almost forget for that meal the reason why we are sitting around that table in the first place.  I couldn't, I just couldn't!  I picked, but I couldn't eat.  My family history was always centred around the dining table with food being a focal point of everything good.  This was not good and it didn't seem right to be relishing a meal around a table that only brought back memories of laughter and love.  At least not at that moment in time!  It's funny, I have only ever dreamed about my father twice and to this day these dreams are so vivid in my mind.  In one my father was bringing a cake to his own Shiva. Strange when looking back, one of the dreams about my dad involved food!  Maybe he was telling me to eat!

In complete contrast to the sadness of the death of my father was the occasion of my first wedding.  Again, I couldn't eat!  I was far too excited to eat, far too elated and far to concerned to make sure the wedding went exactly to plan!  Of course it did, it went without a hitch.  My parents and I planned this wedding down to every minute detail, my husband to be was pretty much an invited guest.  Don't forget this was 1979.  Nothing was missing.  I got exactly the wedding gown I wanted.  I remember trying on the dress and just knowing that this was the dress I wanted to wear when walking down the aisle.  It was more money than we had planned to spend, but my mother said to me in the shop, "let's take it home, try it on for Daddy and when he sees you in it, he will see how beautiful you look and let you have it."  That is exactly what happened.  I tried it on, his eyes welled up and money was never an issue.  From that point, I knew this wedding was going to be perfect. 

The caterer was a good friend of my parents, so the menu was flawless and nothing was missing.  Canapes were flowing, several courses for a sit down meal, intermezzo after the fish course to cleanse your palette, prime rib of beef, desserts, fruit and even whole rounds of halvah were rolled out onto the floor.  The drink was flowing as well.  Only the best spirits were served at the open bar.  Nobody left hungry or thirsty.  However, I didn't eat.  I mingled, I talked, I danced, I made sure it was perfect!  I couldn't even think about the food, I was too concerned with everyone else being happy with the food and everyone else just being happy in general.  Besides, I was on cloud nine and up there, who needs food?

Next came the birth of my three children.  When I went into labour with my oldest daughter Amy, she decided she would take 42 hours to make an entrance in this world.  I didn't gain much weight with this pregnancy, although I ate like a pig.  In fact, I was instructed to drink milkshakes on a daily basis to put on extra weight.  Not a bad thing in my mind, milkshakes are always good.  Once labour started with Amy, I was told to eat very little as too much food can make one nauseous during the labour/delivery process.  I didn't want to eat very little, I was hungry.  I listened however, not realising it was going to be nearly 2 days before Amy was born.  Whilst at home in labour, not eating was difficult, I was hungry and so excited!  I wanted to celebrate with good food, but I had to contain myself.  Not an easy task, but achievable.  Once I was admitted to the hospital and induced, the thought of food didn't cross my mind.  I was in way too much pain to think about food.  Even the ice chips and sips of water weren't easy to get down.  Food was no longer a priority, getting this little one out safely was and at 7.32pm on the 14th of May 1982, my first of three bundles of joy arrived.  We were in the hospital for 5 days because of a dry labour and my appetite returned very quickly and the celebrations began with various foods being brought even to the hospital. Once home, of course that is when the celebrations really began and family life once again focused on food!

With daughter number two, Meredith was five days late and labour was only about 12 hours.  Our next door neighbour at the time was a wonderful cook and he had a theory when an overdue pregnant woman ate his wingy dingies (hot spicy chicken wings), they would induce labour. Of course I asked Don ever so nicely if he would make me a batch of his world famous wingy dingies.  He very graciously obliged.  I ate these wingy dingies with great gusto, not because of the thought of labour beginning, but because they were absolutely delicious. Spicy, crispy and saucy, three elements in chicken wings that make me very happy.  I'd like to say that the wingy dingies worked, but they didn't, they just gave me great enjoyment and a great story to relate.  Our next daughter Meredith entered our lives on the 13th of May, 1985 at 9.30pm with no complications and of course the celebrations began immediately, again focused around food and love!

Four years later, my baby, my Gabriella was born.  She was two weeks late.  I was massive.  My stomach announced itself before I even entered the room.  I remember asking my gynecologist if he was sure that he didn't miss something and he told me I was just being silly, that I wasn't that big.  He then excused himself for a moment, went out of the examining room and spoke to one of the other doctors.  He said, " I have this patient who is really rather large in there and I would like you to come and examine her to make sure I haven't missed another heartbeat."  Dr. Lowen walked back inside and I just gave him a little smirk and reminded him that I wasn't deaf, I was pregnant.  We laughed.  There was only Gabriella, Dr. Lowen did not miss anything.  I ate throughout the pregnancy, but nothing out of the ordinary.  I was big, she was big, end of story.  The day before I went into labour with Gab, we went to one of my favourite restaurants, Friendly Farms.  Since Gab was already just about 2 weeks late, I decided I should try Don's theory and get something spicyish, so I got their crabcakes which are simply divine.  Jumbo lump crab meat with virtually nothing else other than spices and deliciousness.  I ate both of them as I always do, along with coleslaw, french fries, green beans, cottage cheese and applebutter, pickles, succotash, hush puppies and rolls and of course ice cream for dessert.  I went for a walk after dinner along their beautiful grounds to the duck ponds.  I wanted to bring this baby into the world.  I felt fine and contented and very full!  I woke up the next morning at about 3.45 am with a little twinge and after about 15 minutes, my contractions were about 15 minutes apart so I called Dr. Lowen.  He told me to hold back until they were about 5 to 10 minutes apart.  He then called me back about 5 minutes later because his wife tapped him on the shoulder telling him that she thought he wasn't aware that he spoke to a patient who was in labour because he was asleep.  He asked if he told me the right things to do.  Very entertaining, but within that five minutes, my contractions were now coming fast and furious.  He told me to get to the hospital and when there they would call him to come.  We called my neighbour who came to stay with the other two girls. She saw I was in active labour, so all the jokes she was ready to dish out, she decided to keep to herself.  We drove to the hospital and oh my what a drive that was, I would say speed up or if going over a speed bump, slow down.  I was holding Gabriella in and I knew this little beauty was ready to enter my life.  We got to the hospital and they were asking us to fill in these forms, probably thinking I was a first time nervous mom. When examining me, they realised this baby was coming.  They called my doctor or so they thought, but they actually called my friend's father by mistake.  My friend Robin knew Gab was coming before mostly everyone.  He told them to call Dr. Lowen.  Knowing that he wouldn't make it, another doctor who was there for another patient delivered Gabriella.  They got me into the delivery room and 5 minutes later she was born!  She was anxious and ready to meet her mom and dad!  Gabriella was born at 4.59am on the 25th of June, 1989, my beautiful baby, my last!  Dr. Lowen never made it, he was my photographer after the birth!  It wasn't even 30 minutes after she was born that I asked for a sandwich!  I was hungry, I was over the moon and I had another love of my life!

My mother loved her food.  She was overweight and she was also a diabetic.  She didn't understand the seriousness of her disease, despite nutrition classes and stern talks from doctors and family.  She enjoyed eating and she loved all of the wrong things.  Her diabetes didn't surface until her 50's, so her love of food was a lifetime of passion and a hard habit to break.  Even after my father died, my mother continued to make Sunday dinners like nobody else could.  She loved going out to eat with her children and grandchildren.  She liked junk and she liked gourmet.  I don't think my mother had a discerning palette, she just loved to eat and she enjoyed the wonderful times that were centred around meals.  I clearly come by that love of food honestly and so do my children.  My mother sadly died far too young as well.  She had lung cancer, was in remission for 3 years and then when the cancer resurfaced, she lived only 3 weeks.  It wasn't until the last few days that my mother stopped eating.  She still wanted shrimp salad sandwiches from Maria's, she still had yearnings for some of her favourite things and because she was terminal, the doctors let her eat what she wanted and would adjust her insulin accordingly.  It was when my mom's appetite waned that I knew I was going to lose her.  We couldn't even entice her with a milkshake.  No appetite for my mom was wrong and unreasonable and my wonderful mother was dying.  She never made it home from the hospital, my mother died peacefully at the age of 71.  She never became unrecognisable, she never lost her dignity, she died the lady she was as she lived.  She left behind a wonderful legacy.  She taught me how to cook, how to enjoy food, how to love life.  Life for us is food and food for us is love!  I ate at my mom's Shiva house.  I don't know why, but I did.  I still fell apart, I still shut down, I still screwed up, but I ate.

There have been so many occasions where food has been a variable in my moods.  Celebrations, sadness, love, they all contribute.  My second marriage was an occasion with an abundance of food and drink because I wanted our friends and family to know how lucky, how happy and how very much in love I was with the wonderful man I married! It was a true celebration!  When our oldest daughter Charlotte (Ian's firstborn) got married, the food at her wedding showed the same!  It was a wonderful day of happiness and love shared with all!  Even her wedding cake was a cake of cheese because it is a passion of Charlotte's and she wanted to share that with every guest.  When our first granddaughter Grace was born, we sat around the cafeteria waiting for her arrival with food and drink and right after she was born, the entire family went to the pub to continue the celebrations.  Ian and I shared a pizza at 4am at a hotel in London in Grace's honour.  With everything that happens in life, food is involved, good or bad! 

When I was younger, I tended not to eat with stress.  I am now a woman nearly in my mid fifties and now I do eat with stress.  I eat Cadbury's Whole Nut, I eat Ben and Jerry's ice cream, I'll eat fruit and veg, I'll eat food, I just eat.  I also eat without stress.  I eat Cadbury's Whole Nut, I eat Ben and Jerry's ice cream, I'll eat fruit and veg, I'll eat food, I just eat!  The difference is, when stressed, I don't think I enjoy what I am putting in my mouth, I think I do it to preoccupy my mind, when I am not stressed, I get such delight from all things food!  When stressed, I eat the Ben and Jerry's from the carton, when not, I carefully spoon my Chunky Monkey into a bowl, slice a banana, cut up fresh strawberries and cherries and smother it in Hershey's Chocolate Syrup.  I mmmm and mmmmm at every mouthful.

There have been lots of ups and downs in my life.  I have come through them all a stronger and better person.  I love life, I love people, I love my work, I love, love, love my family and I love food!  Food has got me through a lot and will see me through a lot more.  My relationship with food is a love/love relationship and it gets stronger every day!  Moods and food - a great combination!

As always, thanks for reading y'all!
Lisa AKA The Yummy Yank

Friday, 6 May 2011

I Had A Weekend Off and I Liked It

I love my jobs, both of them!  They challenge me, they stimulate me and they keep me busy!  I wouldn't trade what I do for the world.  But every once in a while, I, like everyone else needs a well earned break and last weekend was my break!  It couldn't have happened on a better weekend.  The sun was shining very brightly in Yorkshire and the skies were the most incredible shade of blue without a cloud visible!  Plus it was reasonably warm, a nice long weekend to relax and do whatever I wanted to do!

The weekend officially began on Thursday night after my delivery to La Luna in Halifax!  I was pleased with the results of their order that I delivered, although there was one mishap along the way.  My "Elvis" cake shifted during delivery, so I had to give it a quick fix once at the restaurant.  The lovely owner Tony wasn't bothered, stating, "it looks homemade."  Very sweet, but I would have preferred it looking a bit better. Still all in all, I managed to recover it and was pleased with the outcome of everything.  Particularly the way the chocolate cheesecakes looked!  He was impressed with the Legendary Supersize chocolate cake and he immediately went for a pecan pie bar warmed with vanilla ice cream.  He was very happy!  We indulged in a very nice meal there, just light and casual, chatted away and made our way back home to begin our time off!  Woohoo!

Friday began with watching coverage of the Royal Wedding which I swore I wasn't that interested in watching.  I just wanted to see "that dress" as it is now referred.  The Duchess of Cambridge looked stunning and I was completely enthralled with the pomp and circumstance that only Britain can do so well!  Truly regal and impressive.  My daughters who live in London went to Hyde Park to indulge in a bit of wedding celebration and be part of history.  It was a party atmosphere, good humoured, good natured and what looked like good fun!  After the I do's were exchanged, my husband and I cracked open a bottle of champagne and toasted the happy couple!  I even made a wonderful breakfast of a cheese omelet and toast with strawberries.  Lovely!

When the wedding coverage was over, we went to Betty's Tea Rooms at Harlow Carr Gardens for a touch of afternoon tea!  We really were in the spirit of the day and you can never go far wrong at Betty's!  Always perfect, albeit a little pricey, but why not?  We shared a Club Sandwich and I had a chocolate slice while Ian went for his usual vanilla slice with the obligatory pot of Betty's Tea Room Blend tea and Ian had his cappuccino.  Yum!  It was another gorgeous day and the gardens looked sensational as they always do!  If I could figure out how to download photos from my phone on here, you would see just how beautiful it is!  Dinner was moules and crusty bread!

Saturday was a day where some of the chores got done, a rarity around here these days.  We potted some plants, most importantly some of my vegetable plants which will be used for cooking and baking! We went out to breakfast and then I came home and I made fresh asparagus soup and a wonderful trifle as we were invited to a neighbour's for dinner. I volunteered the starter and dessert to take the pressure off of our host, as it was an impromptu meal.  I LOVE asparagus soup!  Actually I love anything where asparagus is involved.  The soup was light and velvety, no cream needed.  I put 7 bunches of fresh asparagus, onion, celery, carrot, salt & pepper and fresh orange juice just to give it that freshness.  I tend to use a chicken stock but a vegetable stock is equally delicious! It was scrummy.  I really enjoy making trifle, as I give it my Yankee twist.  I start out with a pound cake or the closest British relative is the Madeira cake and soak it in a liqueur.  This time I chose Amaretto.  I then made my own jelly or jello, which I really enjoying doing.  For this trifle I made a chocolate Cointreau jello. Amazing!  I then layer using the cake, jello, fresh strawberries, fresh creme anglaise, mandarin oranges, almonds, fresh whipped cream and shaved chocolate. Using my giant brandy snifter and layered a couple of times, it is an exquisite dessert, delicious, but most of all, so easy!  Perfect.  I made two things and the two only took about 2 hours from start to finish!  Fantastic!  Even had time for a walk around Roundhay Park.  We had a lovely night with good friends.

Sunday we went to the Dales Food Festival so I could give it a good look over and decide whether I think I can do it next year!  The answer is in the words of President Obama, YES I CAN!  It was a wonderful three day festival held in Leyburn in the Yorkshire Dales.  There were activities for the kids, cooking demonstrations, guest appearances and a marquee filled with stall holders selling wonderful products.  I saw so many people I know and met so many that I follow on Twitter!  I could have bought basically everything there, but I stayed in control. Very unusual for me!  I bought some Pablano and Chipoltle peppers and intend to make a wonderful chocolate chili Mole (pronounced Molay).  Mmmm delicious on chicken, fish, basically anything!  Nice in a cowboy steak chili too!  I also bought some wonderful vegetable plants to add to my previous day's planting.  I will be fairly self sufficient (she says hopefully) on the vegetable and herb front!  Indulged in a piece of fruitcake with a wedge of cheddar cheese on top, but as much as I wanted to like it, I just don't!  I ate the cheese.  I am not a fruitcake person.  See I'm really not from Yorkshire!  Then sampled my way through basically every stall!  It was a good day!  What could be better than eating your way through a food hall?  After the food fest, we went to Brymor Farms near Masham for delicious homemade ice cream.  Just what I needed, a huge waffle cone dipped in chocolate filled with wild cherry and double dark chocolate ice cream!  I was in heaven!  If you've never been, it's a great day out with the kids as they have dairy cows there that you can pet and chickens of various sorts. Turkeys too!  Plus some of the best ice cream this side of the Atlantic!  Once home, later that evening we ate again.  Some lovely thick sirloin steaks on the bone bought at Fodders in Harrogate and some leftover asparagus soup!  You pretty much could put a pin in me to watch me pop.

Monday was another day of getting odds and sods done.  A trip to Ikea with free coffee for being a member of their family plan, then to Home Sense just because they always have good Sabatier knives at a reasonable price. I inadvertently threw out my paring knife and needed to replace it. Finally Staples for office supplies!  Home for awhile before heading to Westbourne Spice for a curry dinner! 

So as you see, we pretty much ate our way through the weekend, but enjoyed every last minute of it.  Tuesday I started eating healthy again.  I need to do something before heading to the states for my daughter's university graduation!  Can't wait!

And now folks, it is back to the kitchen and getting ready for Sunday's farmers market in Burley in Wharfedale. It's behind the Red Lion Pub and it runs from 10am til 2pm.  I hope some of you can make it there.  If so, please stop by and say hey!  I love meeting new people!

Enjoy the weekend.  Hope it stays sunny!

Thanks for reading and y'all have a nice day!

Lisa aka The Yummy Yank

Thursday, 21 April 2011

It's Blazing Hot

This spring in the UK has been the most gorgeous spring that I can remember in the 14 years of living here!  The sunshine and warmth are just enveloping the whole of Yorkshire!  The azure blue skies just put a smile on my face.  The birds are singing and enjoying the suet balls that we have put out for them.  I should be outside enjoying this weather, walking in the magnificent Yorkshire Dales or having a drink in the sun with friends.  My dogs are outside sunning themselves, but I'm not!

Instead, I have my trusty glass of water by my side, I am singing like the birds (I am sure my family are glad they live away) and I am still hot and even red faced!  Why?  Because it is a mega baking day!  This Sunday is Otley Farmers market, yes, even on Easter Sunday!  I have no idea what kind of day it will be?  Will it be busy because people want to have a nice stroll with their family in the beautiful market town of Otley?  Or will it be slow because people will be enjoying this wonderful weather by the seaside or barbequing with their families?  I don't have a clue!  I am preparing as normal and hopefully it will prove to be a good day!

My cake layers are done and now I am doing all of the bars.  Pecan pie bars, rocky road, butterscotch caramel dream are all complete and the chocolate chip cookie pie is in the oven.  Next comes my ginormous pans of brownies.  I'm doing pretty well considering I took two days off for the Jewish Holiday Passover.  I think I have caught up nicely.  Don't get me wrong, I still didn't leave the kitchen, as I had Passover meals to prepare and come up with some nice flourless desserts for us! A wonderful flourless chocolate cake was made and a gorgeous Pavlova with berries and cream.  The pounds are piling on!  My kitchen has become my new best friend and we treat each other with a mutual respect!

This week has been an interesting and exciting week for this Yummy Yank!  I met up with Tony, proprietor of La Luna restaurant in Halifax, Yorkshire and they are going to start serving my desserts at their restaurant!  I am completely blown away by this!  Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to open a small restaurant or bistro, but just couldn't rationalise it.  Restaurants are the fastest business to fail, you have to be there all of the time if you want it to work and there is a huge amount of overhead.  So, needless to say, it has been a pipedream.  I never thought as I get older, my dreams, in a different kind of way are becoming a reality and it is so satisfying!  Tony gave me a nice size order to start and hopes this will be a minimum order on a weekly basis.  To start, he ordered one New York cheesecake, two chocolate cheesecakes, one red velvet cake cheesecake, one Elvis cake, a supersize Legendary chocolate cake, 60 pecan pie bars and 40 brownies, with and without nuts.  I only hope that I can keep up with the demand because I don't want to give up the farmers markets.  Hey, I can't think of a better scenario than perhaps becoming big enough that I have to hire a couple of helpers!  Goodness me, how wonderful would that be?!!

La Luna should have my yummies by the middle of next week!  If anyone is in the Halifax area, stop by and say hello to Tony and crew and try one of the Yummy Yank's American desserts!  I want to hear what you think! 

Now back to my baking, as I can't fall behind!  Just thought I would share my excitement with everyone and tell you all that The Yummy Yank is taking orders and growing!  Please get in touch to say hey!

As always, thanks for reading and y'all have a nice day and hopefully wherever you are, you too are enjoying the sunshine!

Lisa (AKA The Yummy Yank)

13-15 Westgate

Otley Farmers Market
Sunday, 24th April 2011
Otley Market Square
Leeds, West Yorkshire
Otley has a highly successful Farmers’ Market which is held on the last Sunday in every month. It is an accredited Farma market which means that all the produce sold there is sourced as locally as possible.
The market sells fresh and organic produce, direct from the producer and sourced as locally as possible. It is an accredited FARMA market, which means that it adheres to the strict rules laid down by the recognised body responsible for running Farmers’ Markets throughout the country to ensure that the customers are provided with fresh, local produce.
Otley farmers market opening times are: 9am - 1pm.
13-15 W
13-15 Westgate
Halifax, HX1 1DJ
Halifax, HX1 1DJ