Pumpkin Pie - Post Thanksgiving {expat pro con list}

I’m not like other bloggers.

Other bloggers were going on about Thanksgiving since the first of November, I’m mentioning it today the last day of November - a time when other bloggers are shouting about Christmas.

I live in the now, not in the future. Which means that when I get around to blogging it’s the past. I suppose next year I will have this post to share early….just thinking out loud.

Celebrating Thanksgiving as an expat is an experience in itself. I’ve made a Pro/Con list to try to explain.

Pro and Cons of Thanksgiving as an ExPat: 


  • You can buy a turkey on the day, because no one else needs one. 
  • Pumpkin Pie 
  • If you get tonsillitis and need to cancel Thanksgiving no one really misses out but you.
  • Having those friends try Pumpkin Pie!
  • No pressure
  • Inviting friends to celebrate with you.


  • Having to give history lessons to friends and family about what Thanksgiving is. 
  • Having to have it on the following Saturday because the Thursday isn’t a day off. 
  • Having to source a pumpkin or pumpkin puree (Waitrose stocks Libby’s Pumpkin Puree) 
  • Not having my family around. 
  • The lack of Thanksgiving decorations.

I went from not celebrating it at all because as a 22 year old I didn’t cook. Then I tried having it Thursday after my husband got in from work, but that was a stress and way too much to eat at 6 or 7 o’clock in the evening. Then I moved it to Saturday, which worked until one year I got tonsillitis and had to cancel because no one else was around to take up the cooking it was all me or nothing. It seems more hassle then not these last few years, but it’s something I want my girls to see as a holiday even if the rest of the country doesn’t.

One day I hope they love Pumpkin Pie as much as I do. I remember my first taste of pumpkin pie was after we moved to Terre Haute, Indiana and had Thanksgiving with one of my dad’s co-workers who invited us to his house. It was a big affair with loads of people. My fifth grade teacher was there and it was super weird seeing him there.

Food has always been used to celebrate and I hope to pass this recipe down to my girls one day. It’s not an original or anything I got it from Joanne Chang of Flour bakery in Boston, Massachusetts, but it’s super good and all recipes come from somewhere!

Pumpkin Pie 

Short Crust Pastry Pie Crust

140g plain flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
128g unsalted butter, cut into 8/9 cubes
1 egg yolk
2 tablespoons cold milk

Mix the flour, sugar, and salt together. In a freestanding mixer or with a handheld mixer mix in the 8-9 cubes of butter. You want the cubes fairly big because you don’t want them completely incorporated into the flour mixture. You want lumps of butter in the dough.
Gently beat the egg yolk and milk together and add it to the flour mixture. Beat on low until the dough just comes together, it will not be a smooth dough … yet.
Dump out onto a lightly floured surface and bring the dough together as best you can into a ball. Then smear the lumps of butter into the dough by using the palm of your hand and pushing the ball down and away from you. Turn the dough ball and repeat for 4 turns or so or until the butter is stretched through out. Bring it back together into a round disk, wrap with clingfilm and place in the fridge for a minimum of 4 hours. I always make this the night before I want my pie.

Pie Filling

454g (1 can) pumpkin puree
150g light brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
200g condensed milk
170g evaporated milk
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
180g double cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Remove the shortcrust pastry from the fridge and roll it out between to sheets of cling film or on a lightly dusted work top, to about 1/8 inch (.32 cm) thick and about 12 inches (30 cm). Line a pie tin/pan/plate trim or crimp the over hang. Don’t trim it too much as there will be shrinkage in the oven. Leave to chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
While you wait heat the oven to 180C or 350F.
Line the pastry with greaseproof baking paper and fill with baking beads or your choice of dried grains and blind bake for 35-45 minutes.

While it’s baking make the filling by mixing the pumpkin puree and brown sugar in a meduim sauce pan over a medium heat, stirring until it’s a thick paste 35-40 minutes or so. It will have reduced almost by half and be a lot darker. 
Whisk in the spices: ginger, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and salt. Then whisk in the condensed and evaporated milk.
Beat the eggs and egg yolk with the cream until combined before gradually whisking it into the pumpkin mixture.

Remove the baking paper and baking beads from the baked crust and add the pie filling. Place in the already heated oven for 45-50 minutes until the pumpkin filling is set, it will puff up a little, but the middle should still have a little wobble. Leave to cool for 2 hours before serving.
When it’s ready to be served top with whipped cream or make it al a mode with a scoop of ice cream. I used a cinnamon biscuit ice cream that suited the pumpkin pie perfectly!

notes: as mentioned above this recipe is adapted from Flour by Joanne Chang, another version of this recipe can be found here. I reviewed both flour and flour too here on the blog. My cousin reviewed it as well and went for a book signing back in the day she wrote about her experience here!
I am entering this into my own blogging challenge The Pastry Challenge! with my friend and fellow blogger Jen!

Captain America Shield Sugar Cookies & Trailer

Today I saw the new Captain American Civil War trailer and I have to say I haven’t been this excited to see a movie in a while. It looks amazing!!

Watch it below.

Anyway it’s interesting because last week I borrowed my friends star cookie cutter and made these cookies:

I just used my tried and trusted sugar cookie recipe and followed this videos instructions!

Mine weren't as round because I might have been a bit squishy when cutting it. Also I don't think I divided my dough very well as I ended up with some cookies missing layers and stuff. I also maybe made too many stars. But over all they turned out well and were tasty - chewy in the middle and crunchy on the outside.

Draw 500 Fantastic Foods by Zoe Ingram Review & Giveaway

When I was studying art I always thought paintings of fruit bowls were really boring. That is until I took painting, art history, and art foundations. Which taught me so much more then just looking at pictures.

Drawing the most common place things are the best way to develop your artist style. There are those lucky people out there who just look at something and their brain just transfers it to paper, canvas or whatever. I was never one of those people. My art takes time and practice.

To say I've been out of practice is an understatement.

When I saw this doodle/sketch book I new I had to have it. When I'm planning on what to make next I always doodle little sketches next to my list. I should actually keep some of them. Perhaps I can start showing them off here, British Bake Off style. The drawings of the cakes and bakes are probably my favorite part of the show!

Throughout the book are Zoe Ingram's food drawings to get you started and give you inspiration. She shows great ways to shade and tint your images with thick and thin lines. If you happen to have the food item you want to draw in your fridge or cupboard grab it out and study it! Everyone has their own style - copying work is great when learning, but you'll never get anywhere without being original! 

I've enjoyed this book so much the publishers sent me two copies! One for myself and one to giveaway! I have included a package of 12 colored pencils that are double sided to give you a total of 24 colors! With fun color names like 'fudge' and 'bubblegum' I knew it would make a perfect pair! 

For your chance to win a copy of Draw 500 Fantastic Foods and Derwent Academy Flip Pencils (24 colours) follow the instructions in the Rafflecopter below! 

Must be a UK resident and 18 years of age. I do check that the winner has done what they said they did to enter. If the winner does not respond within a week a new winner will be chosen.  

notes: I was provided the book to review and to giveaway from the publishers Quarry; all opinions and images are my own.

Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food by Nigella Lawson {review and signing}

About 7 years ago I left a job I hated to take care of my baby. Taking care of a baby all day is … it’s hard, easy, difficult, rewarding, exhausting, wonderful, boring, incredible, tiring, fascinating, lonely, and the best thing I ever did. The difference for me was that I was in a different country far far away from my family (I still am) and having only lived here for a few years I didn’t have many friends. The  ones I did were single and in full time jobs.

However I did have the Food Network on all day as back ground noise. With reruns of Nigella Bites and Nigella Express on all the time I fell in love with Nigella’s easy going relaxed approach to food. It was also around this time that my cookbook obsession started.

A few years later and another baby I was in my town centre and I saw that she was going to be visiting the WHSmith of course I was there and had my copy of Kitchen signed. I wrote about it on my first blog Pages of the Mind here. It meant that I couldn’t miss Nigella visiting Reading again with her new book Simply Nigella!

Nigella, for me, is like that song or scent that takes you back to a different time or place. When I watch her or read her books I am transported to that time when I was a young women learning how to be a mom and wife without loosing myself in the process.

Nigella had a love of food and worked in journalism. She put the two together and became one of the biggest UK foodies ever! She is, to me, the Elizabeth David of our time. They are both strong women born to upper-class families who did what they wanted and succeeded due to their own hard work and dedication.

As always Nigella was friendly and gave us a couple of minutes of her time! The signing was in the early evening so I brought my girls with me again and Nigella was asking them questions. Both were a little shy and not fully understanding who she was and why were were there. Hopefully one day they will be interested in food like me and they will fight about who will inherit my signed copies? Or maybe they will have their own signed copies one day!

Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food is possibly following a trend like Jamie’s Everyday Super Food. However as she says this is the food she’s eating now. Through Nigella’s books and TV programs we see her extensive cookery book collection full of old and new books and magazines! I would love to visit her library! It seems like she’s constantly educating herself on food and it’s why people, like me, love her! It’s also why I believe she’s writing about the food she’s eating now!

The book reads like a Nigella book and that’s what I like the comfort and familiarity of her voice (written and spoken) mixed with all new recipes! I love it, but perhaps I am a little biased? Give it a look through and decide for yourself!

notes: all opinions are my own, I bought my own copy to have signed by Nigella at Waterstones Reading, for more information see my contact/policy page. If you don’t know who Elizabeth David is read more about her here. Everyone should know who she is! I wrote about the Nigella Kitchen signing on my first blog, which happened to be all about books!! Picture down below... the girls were so little!!

Butternut and Halloumi Burgers {Simply Nigella by Nigella Lawson}

I bought a butternut squash. It wasn’t part of the plan. Meaning it’s not in anything that I had planned for dinner nor was it even on the shopping list. It was there and I wanted it.

It sat on the counter for almost two weeks. I kept staring at it thinking “I need you, to use you before you go off that is. I just don’t know what to do you with you?” Curries and soups kept going in and out of my head, but it just wasn’t right.

So, I opened my new Nigella book, Simply Nigella and bookmark that I didn’t know was there opened the book right here:

Okay the picture doesn’t really tell us much, but it had a butternut squash in the picture. So, I turned the page to see what the recipe was and it was for Butternut and Halloumi Burgers.

The fact that I had halloumi cheese in my fridge as well seemed too much of a coincidence. The only thing I was missing was pittas. If you read my previous post you will know how I solved that problem!

So, with all the ingredients in my possession I made lunch! I love how there are very few ingredients and it made a filling and tasty meal!

Butternut and Halloumi Burgers:

1 butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
225g halloumi cheese (or buy it already sliced)
pitta bread

Heat the oven to 200C. Slice the top thinner part of the squash into rounds. Not too thin, not too thick. Depending on the squash and how you cut there should be 4-8 slices. Spread the oil over the bottom of a baking tray and lay the slices of squash on top. Sprinkle half the oregano on top and flip the slice over and sprinkle the rest on top. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes.
Once the butternut squash is soft and browning around the edges add the cheese slices and bake for a further 10 minutes or so. If you have worked with halloumi cheese before you know it doesn’t really melt, but it does heat up nicely!
Before you take the slices out of the oven stick the pittas in your toaster for a few minutes to warm them up. Slice them to make a pocket and take the butternut/cheese slices out of the oven and add them into the pocket and enjoy!

note: recipe is adapted from Nigella's new book Simply Nigella - I had my copy signed! Find out more in my next post!!

If you want to make your own pittas check out my last post!!

Pittas {Radical Times}

There are many times in my life I told myself I couldn’t do something because I clearly didn’t have the skills to do it. And sometimes that is totally the case, I don’t have the skills to take apart a car engine and put it back together again. Now if I took the time and learned the skills to do just that, take apart and put back together a car engine then I could and I might. 

This is how I’ve felt, amongst other things, about making bread. I’ve been told how easy making bread is, but when I tried the first couple times it didn’t really turn out well. So, then I just assumed it’s something I’m not very good at. 

The more I have courage to attempt bread bakes the better I’m getting at them aka I’m gaining/learning the skills needed to make bread. So, when I stumbled across a recipe (more on that in the next post) that asked for pittas I thought to myself why not make them myself!? 

It was a radical idea at the time, trust me. 

It took a lot for me not to go out and buy some instead. I told myself no, I said to myself “You said you were going to make them so you’re going to make them!” Just so everyone knows it’s really okay to talk to yourself especially when encouraging yourself to do something you know you can do and you’re just trying to get away with taking the easy way out. 

I wasn’t going to make pittas on my own so I went to my trusted bread book titled: Simply Good: Bread by Peter Sidwell. Yup forget Mr. Hollywood Peter really knows what’s what. I also love his Simply Good: Pasta book, just so you know. 

It really couldn’t be easier. The first batch I put in the oven actually were better then the first as I rolled them out a bit thinner and the second batch were a bit thicker and didn’t balloon the same way. Those I just toast and cut up and dip in hummus! 


500g strong white bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
300 ml water
1 tsp fast-action yeast
1 1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoon olive oil

In a big bowl stir the flour and salt together. Measure the water in a measuring jug and mix in the yeast, sugar, and olive oil. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the liquid mixture. Using a spatula or wooden spoon start to bring the dough together, then use your hand until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl. Lightly flour your work top and transfer dough from the bowl to the work top and knead for about 5-10 minutes. Mine took exactly 7, it should be smooth and springy. 
Leave to rise in a warm room for 30-40 minutes about 10 minutes before it’s due to be risen, heat the oven to 200C and line two baking sheets, I baked them in two batches, but you could bake them in one. 
Once the dough is doubled in size, knock it back by gently kneading it for several seconds, on a floured work top. Divide the dough into 12 portions as best you can. Carefully roll the portions in your hands to make an oval shape (like if you were making a snake with Play-Doh) then roll them out with a rolling pin until they are about the thickness of a pound coin or 1/2 cm. 
Place them on the prepared baking sheets and bake in the heated oven for 5-10 minutes. As I mentioned I made them in two batches so while the first 6 were in the oven I was rolling out the other 6. The should turn golden brown along the edges and balloon up; which gives you a pocket to fill with whatever you want!

This is how I filled mine... I'm writing all about it in my next post, so look out for it!

notes: recipe is adapted from Peter Sidwell’s Simply Good Bread as mentioned above. I have also linked it up with the Bready Steady Go challenge hosted by Utterly Scrummy Food and Jen's Food!

Lush Christmas 2015 {event & product review}

When I first started blogging I imagined my blog as a magazine. One where you’d find some of this and that but it always coming back to food.

In the early days I would talk about cupcake related clothes, cards, and jewellery. There were also posts from my sister, who used to be a shregular contributor, every weekend. I used to even post every dessert and/or sweet treat I had when I went out. 

All that changed when I discovered Twitter and Instagram. Now all that sort of stuff appears on those social media outlets without me having to write a post about it. It’s about priorities, like everything in life.

The reason this is all being brought up is because I am going to go back for a moment and share with you my fun night at Lush in Reading.

They had a local bloggers event the other night and allowed us to check out all the new products. There are so many I couldn’t even begin to go through them all, but I will share with you what I bought and some of the things I couldn't stop smelling.

Before I get into fun bath stuff I have to just mention that it's funny how most of these scents are in fact food smells. Or more specific seasonings and herbs that make food smell and taste good. However, I don't recommend eating anything unless of course it says it's edible. Lush stuff is all natural and stuff.

Oh and one more thing! There is no bag charge at Lush because their bags are already recycled and can be recycled again! Bonus!

If you like my photo video please give it a like on YouTube, I don't upload or use You Tube much, but if you like it I will try to do more! Possibly even getting brave enough to do a vlog! But any feed back is welcome!

I couldn't resist a chunk of the Reindeer Rock soap, it's an anti-flammatory soap and smells of lingonberries and sweetness. It's sitting in the bathroom and you can smell it as you walk it! Love it! the Yog Nog was a close second along with Father Time all three were amazing, but the hieroglyphics  on the Reindeer Rock sold me.

I also bought the Soft Coeur massage bar and Fairy Dust to go with it. The massage bar has a cocoa scent and makes your skins feel amazing. The dusting powder is to matte it out a little and together makes you smell amazing!! The massage bar is more of a rich smooth smell and the Fairy Dust is sweet.

I also picked up Santa's Lip Scrub which is exactly that a lip scrub to help keep your lips silky smooth this winter! It's very cherry like. I love the lip scrubs all year round so super excited to see a Christmasy one!

Then I picked up Fun! It's a Play-Doh like substances that can be used to play with, wash or shampoo with! They have fun Christmas themed ones like Snowman that comes with white, orange, and black.  There was also a Santa one too! But I went with the gold one that's limited edition and smells like their popular Honey I Washed the Kids soap (caramel and honey). I am debating on keeping it for myself or putting it in my girls Christmas Eve box.

Then last but not least a new cinnamon shampoo bar. I love their shampoo bars and it's been ages since I actually bought one! Haven't used it yet because I am a dirty bum. Not really, but really I only wash my hair every other day or so.

There were so many new bath bombs and I feel a little bad not going into them, but I just don't take baths. Our bath tub is not deep enough or comfortable enough for me to take a bath without feeling annoyed and frustrated. A few I couldn't stop smelling was Cinders which smelt like a hot fruit punch. I also couldn't stop picking up the Magic of Christmas which is a star shaped reusable Bubble Bar that smells of cloves and almond with a cinnamon stick it smells like Christmas should!

Lush makes a great Christmas present and they have lots of already boxed gift boxes. Some locations even do spa days, check out their website or catalog for more information. This is not a hint for my family and friends...but it might be!

Thank you to Lush Reading for inviting me along to your blogger event! You can find them in the Oracle: 90 The Oracle Shopping Centre, The Oracle Shopping Centre, City Centre, Reading RG1 2AG or Follow them on Instagram and Twitter for information about events and going ons at their store!

Like wise if you're interested in seeing products and foodie stuff that I no longer post on here check me out on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

note: I was invited to the event, but I was not given anything in exchange for review or this post. Products mentioned are ones I bought for myself and I am sharing them with you because I like them.

Fairy Tale Baking by Ramla Khan (book review) & The Three Bears Caramel Porridge Flapjacks

As a self taught baker I have seen so many different baking books. It is how I taught myself to bake by reading book after book after book! I had two thoughts when I first glanced at this book, Fairy Tale Baking: first was “Bakes based on fairy tales, cool!” secondly I thought “I hope it’s not just cake decorating, I am not all that good with fondant.”

My first thought was correct and my second a fear that dissipated as soon as I started to read it. Not that we don’t see fondant in the book, it’s just not all fondant if you know what I mean.

Each fairy tale or classic tale picked by the author, Ramla Khan, has 4 different bakes or treats to accompany the chosen tale. Making it perfect for party planning. As she says in the introduction a few of the recipes could be adapted for other stories. All it takes is a bit of your creative thought!

The introduction gives the basic skills and techniques you will need for the recipes in the book and Ramla Khan gives us basic recipes for cake, cookies, and the different icings or frostings.  Each chapter is a tale and before we get to the tasty treats we get an expert or a shortened version of said fairy tale or classic story.

The Fairy Tales you’ll see in this book are:

Sleeping Beauty
Goldilocks and the Three Bears
Jack and the Beanstalk
Hansel and Gretel
Little Red Riding Hood
Snow White
Princess and the Pea
The Snow Queen
Peter Pan
Alice in Wonderland
Beauty and the Beast

For example for Sleeping Beauty she gives us recipes for a Sleeping Beauty in a Bed Cake, Spindle Churros, Bramble Tartlets with chocolate thorns, and Meringue Kisses. That’s just a teaser of the creative and gorgeous looking recipes in this book. Each recipe is accompanied by pictures of the finished product and where needed some of the techniques.

I was quite taken with Goldilocks and the Three Bears. There is a Bear Cake, Caramel Porridge Flapjack (recipe below), Chocolate Chair Cupcakes, and a Gingerbread Bed.

The flapjack are technically a no-bake recipe that is super easy and produces a sugary treat that is just right. My only niggle was that the recipe called for a 6inch or 15cm square cake tin. It’s not a size I have ever used. An 8 inch square was way too big and my circle 7 inch was just not the right size, but my 2 lb loaf tin was just right for the job!

Caramel Porridge Flapjack

115g unsalted butter
125g dark brown/muscovado sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup
300g rolled oats

Line your 15cm/6in square baking tin or like me your 2 lb loaf tin or two 1 lb loaf tins with grease proof paper. 
Melt the butter, sugar, and golden syrup until the sugar has dissolved, it should be smooth and shouldn’t feel grainy. I would watch it closely as sugar can easily burn if it gets too hot, keep it on a low heat. Pour in the oats and stir to coat. Pour into prepared tin and smooth it out with a spatula. Leave to cool in the fridge while you make the Caramel Chocolate topping.

Caramel Topping

400g tin of dulce de leche or ready made caramel
200g white chocolate, broken up
150g icing sugar, sifted

Mix the caramel and chocolate together in a medium sized sauce pan over a low heat and stir until smooth and combined. Add the sifted icing sugar, if it’s not sifted it may cause clumps. Be sure to stir it in well before pouring it on top of the oaty flapjack base. It should smooth out pretty much on it’s own, but use a spatula or icing palette knife to make the top nice and smooth. 
Keep in the refrigerator for a minimum of 2-3 hours or over night before slicing into squares.

As these are so rich you could cut them into three different sizes one that’s bigger for Papa Bears, one that’s just a bit on the smaller side for the Mama Bear who’s sweet tooth isn’t that sweet, and one size that is just right for Baby Bears!

notes: Fairy Tale Baking by Ramla Khan published by Apple Press, Quarto UK was released late October (SRP -£12.99) It was given to me to review, no other compensation was given please see my contact/policy page (tab above) for further information.