Wednesday, July 22, 2015

NHS - What To Expect

Sorry Ive been MIA. I just kinda feel like I've got nothing to blog about. If you have some suggestions for blog topics let me know!

Today Steve & I went to our first doctors visits in the UK. I'm not a big fan of doctors so it took 2 days of excruciating tooth pain to get my butt to the office.

We registered with a local GP a week ago so I knew I had to call the office at 8am to make a same day appointment. They gave us back to back appointments of just 10 minutes each. Odd - but I figured they would just run over if they needed more time. The Brits aren't exactly known for being the most punctual (hello buses and trains for example).

We arrived right on time, signed in at the front desk and sat in the waiting room. Steve went first and came down right at the 10 minute mark. Then it was my turn.

The Dr was nice enough, she didn't introduce herself which I found a little odd. There was no nurse to run basic tests, see what was going on, I went strait into the doctor's office. She asked why I had come in and I explained I had a few things I wanted to talk to her about. Instead of saying "OK, what do you want to start with" she said "well we only have 10 minutes". EXCUSE ME?! Yes I get that I'm not at the ER (A&E) but in this day and age professionals not only offer their services but also customer service.

I explained about my mouth pain and my fear of being in pain when I was home for the next two weeks. I wasn't expecting her to open my mouth and examine my teeth but I figured she would ask a few questions - nope. She asked what I was taking for the pain (Advil & Tylenol PM) and she said "how about some codeine?" What??!! Codeine is what I had when I had major oral surgery. There was no discussion of follow up with a dentist or anything.

I explained the weird pains Ive been having with my feet, the big transition of driving everywhere to walking all the time. I explained I self diagnosed one issue I was having but it wasn't improving & she looked & told me to just put a topical pain reliever on it. -_- not impressed at all.

I also mentioned the depression and anxiety that Ive been dealing with since I moved here - pretty typical for an expat, and she suggested I read a website. Again -_-

I realize that I don't technically pay for the NHS as I am not working, but Steve pays a crazy amount of taxes every paycheck & when I start working I will be paying those taxes as well. I guess I was expecting more in-depth care. I realize things are handled differently here but to say I am frustrated is an understatement. Thankfully Steve's job has international insurance so I will be able to see a podiatrist back at home as well as my GP.

As far as the depression and anxiety I am going to reach out to the expat community and see if I can find someone Steve and I can talk to.

Have you ever used the NHS? Did you have a good experience?

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Post By Request

I made dinner last night, like I do every night & when I posted a photo on Instagram & Facebook I had a lot of friends ask for a recipe, so I figured I would post it up here! Forgive me for the lack of step by step photos - I wasn't planning on posting this one :)

Creamy Pepper Pasta

1 table spoon of Olive oil
1 Large onion (I love onion so if you're not a fan you can do a small one)
4 cloves of garlic (again, love of garlic so this is a taste thing)
6 basil leaves (1/2 tablespoon if using dried)
2 good shakes of red pepper flakes (these are HOT so again, adjust to taste)
1 large jar of spaghetti sauce (I used sauce that has pepper in it, if you use a plain sauce, add 2-3 chopped sautéed peppers)
1/2 cup of heavy cream (next time I'm going to try Greek yogurt to cut some calories)
Salt & Pepper to taste
3/4 box of angel hair pasta

Sauté oil, onion, garlic in a pan for 3-5 minutes, till the onions are clear (if you are adding peppers, sauté them with the onions & garlic). Add basil & red pepper flakes & continue to cook for another minute. Add spaghetti sauce, salt, pepper & cream and lower heat to a simmer. This will cook while you cook the spaghetti. 

Fix the pasta according to the box - angel hair tends to cook much faster then other spaghettis. 

Top your meal with fresh chopped basil & take your Instagram picture! Voila! 

For the sausage, in the US I would have used an Italian sausage, but here they don't have it so I used Venison & Pork sausages which were delicious. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday Meal

Sorry I've been MIA for the last week, just been one of those ruff weeks. 

Last night I made a really simple, delicious meal & I figured I would share it with my readers. Because we get our grocery delivery on Tuesdays the meals I fix on Sunday & Monday nights are usually pretty simple. Plus who wants to fix a super complicated dinner on a Sunday or Monday night? I know I don't. Here is my recipe for One Pot Pasta!

One Pot Pasta

Time: 20 minutes

2/3 box of linguine (or spaghetti)
1 pack of cherry tomatoes - cut in 1/2
1 large onion - finely chopped
5 cloves of garlic - chopped
Handful of fresh basil (10-15 leaves)
3 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 large lemon - cut in thick slices
4 1/4 cups of water
Parmesan cheese - freshly grated is best

This is truly a one pot meal, which doesn't just save on time, but it also saves on the washing up (Steve's job). Please note - in the photos you will see 2 different pots, I switched mid cook for better photos (judge me!). I wouldn't recommend doing this!

First I put the cup up tomatoes, onions, lemon, basil, salt & pepper, olive oil & water in the pot. I don't turn the heat on until everything is in the pot - keeps things from sticking to the bottom. 

Add your pasta. If you have a skillet I recommend using it so your pasta is submerged from the start. 

Here is all of the ingredients simmering away. I cooked this on high & I made sure I kept stirring the pot so things didn't stick to the pan. Bring the pot to a boil(no lid - we want water to evaporate), then bring the temp to med-high & let the pasta cook for another 9-12 minutes. Most of the water will evaporate & you will be left with a think creamy looking sauce. The cheese will also add to this in the next step. 

Switched pots! Again, do as I say, not as I do. This just seemed to be prettier to look at. This is after the it finished cooking so it's off the hob. While the pasta is still hot grate some fresh parmesan cheese over the top and mix it in. The heat of the pasta and pot will melt it. 

Here is the final product on the plate! I just added some more parmesan cheese (we love cheese) and of course fresh chopped basil. I mildly cheated because I used a second pan to grill the chicken (we don't have a grill) but I'm still calling this a one pot meal. 

If you have different veggies around the house feel free to use them too! Or even grill some zucchini & squash with your protein and add them to the pasta. It's a great "everything but the kitchen sink" kind of meal.

Do you have a go to "one pot meal"? Do you know a good recipe linkup I can use when I post recipes? Will you be trying this recipe? 

Monday, July 6, 2015

Home sick & Homesick

Hello! Sorry I've been MIA the last few days. It's been a super eventful and not so eventful last couple of days. Thursday night I had a great dinner out with a new friend (yes - real life friend in Reading!) Steve joined us for the last part of the meal & ate my leftovers.

Unfortunately Steve & I both got salmonella food poisoning so by Friday morning we were pretty miserable. We spent they day laying around our flat, moaning and wishing we had Gatorade & saltines (how a country lives with out saltines we have no idea but they will be in our suitcases on our next trip home). I'm a terrible patient and with Steve being sick too I was a terrible nurse. Saturday was more of the same - laying about, napping, crying and moaning. We were invited to a 4th of July BBQ in town but unfortunately that didn't happen.

Saturday night I thought I'd be brave and fix a simple pasta and red sauce for dinner. I was chopping up some fresh herbs for the sauce and cut a pretty decent chunk out of my finger :( Remember when I said I'm a terrible patient? When you add blood, crazy amounts of pain & fear I turn into a real monster. I'm not sure Steve has ever seen me freak out as much as in that moment, it was not pretty to say the least.

By Sunday to say I was a bit of a mess would be an understatement. Between the pain of my finger, being hungry but not really being able to eat properly and just being ornery from being cooped up inside. Add watching back to back to back to back episodes of Say Yes to the Dress on TLC means I was pretty much crying at every scene of moms & dad & brides (so 90% of the show).

Unfortunately between the holiday & being sick meant homesickness sort of took over & I had a mini meltdown that ended with tearful phone calls to my parents about everything that had happened this weekend. The 4th of July was almost always spent with my parents, participating in the annual 10k Peach Tree Road Race, swimming at the house, BBQing and just enjoying the day together. Thankfully my trip home at the end of the month is helping with the homesickness I'm feeling these days.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

You Don't Have What in the UK?!

Being an expat isn't easy. You miss your friends and your family, your pets, your city & the things you're used to. You do your best to pack & bring things to make your new life abroad easier, things you don't think you can live without. Thankfully Steve & I didn't move to a 3rd world country, heck they speak the same language here! But in spite of research & careful packing there are still things that we miss & then there are things we simply can't believe they don't have in the UK.

Redbox - Blockbusters are gone, I saw 2 movie rental stores in Belgium (I used to visit them when I lived there 14 years ago) yet the UK hasn't gotten Redboxs yet! It's crazy! All of these people who commute and walk to work, as busy as the city center is & the grocery stores are Redbox would make a fortune here! I now feel like we have to go see all the movies we want to see in the theatre. Since we don't have cable, just regular TV we're at a bit of a loss on how to watch new movies. Any ideas?

Baking section at the grocery store - There are plenty of food items I knew we'd be hard pressed to find once we moved across the pond, things like Crisco, pancake mix & coffee creamer to name a few. One thing I didn't think I'd have an issue finding is things like a good brownie mix, or even break & bake style cookies. They have them, but there's only one or 2 brands and they're not very good. I guess people bake from scratch here

Capers - they have bagels, onions, tomatoes and amazing smoked salmon. They serve them all together for a yummy breakfast sandwich yet they are missing that salty pickled taste of capers. Not sure why they don't have them, I'm hoping I can go to a higher end grocery store and fine them.

Dryer sheets - dryers seem to be a bit of a rarity here. Houses are small & most washing machines are located in kitchens, thankfully ours isn't. But without dryers being the norm, dryer sheets are hard to find. I think big super markets might carry them but the small local sainsburrys I go to, they don't have them.

Coupons - back at home I was a couponer & I had the stockpile to prove it. I really loved it, it was a major stress reliever for me. Obviously the money saving was awesome - I bought in bulk when stuff was on sale & therefore we simply "shopped" in our garage. A lot of people laughed at my hobby, including Steve, until he ran out of body wash one day and didnt have to use mine or go to the store, he just grabbed a bottle from the garage.

Part of my stock pile

I'm sure the longer we are here the more things we won't be able to find. Are you an expat who can't find everyday things where you live?

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Semi Wordless Wednesday

Later this month Steve turns the big 3 0! We were planning on doing a scotch tour of Scotland with some friends but unfortunately work is requiring him to be in Boston & NY for his birthday. I was really not looking forward to spending 8 days here on my own. As much as I like living here its still not super easy & being alone would have been really tuff. I was talking to my parents about the situation and I got a little miracle. Dad found a dirt cheap flight to Atlanta! So I'm flying home for 2 weeks when Steve heads to Boston for work. We're a little disappointed to not be spending his birthday together but we're planning a nice 4 day trip in August to celebrate.

I'll be spending the first week or so of my trip in Atlanta, running errands, helping my mom & dad, seeing friends and laying in target just breathing it all in. Then we are headed to Asheville for a week of R&R. These are my plans for my week in my favorite city in America!

I am finally going to try BBQ at 12 Bones

I can't wait to drink some Rocket Girl!

Dad and I are going to drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway

I can't wait to eat at the Grove Park Inn

Mom & I will go for drinks in the foyer of our favorite hotel, the Grove Park Inn

Asheville has some of the best breweries & I plan to drink lots of good beer

Even if we don't take the LaZoom tour I will love seeing the big purple bus around town!

We might take a trip to sliding rock and take a dip

Tubing! I plan to go tubing at least 3-4 times during my visit!

I can't wait to visit multiple waterfalls in the area!

I am over the moon that I am getting to home for 2 weeks. I am going to eat lots of Mexican food & chick fil a, visit friends, meet new babies & most importantly see my parents who I'm missing a lot!

Do you have any super exciting plans for the month of July? Fan of Asheville - anything else I should do?  

Friday, June 26, 2015

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner

I'm the one who does the majority read all of the cooking, but since Steve sometimes reads this blog I shouldn't say that of the cooking. I don't mind, most of the time, because I really enjoy being creative in the kitchen. Now that I'm not working I tend to watch a fair amount of food network. Its one of the few decent channels we get, as 20+ of them are home shopping channels. So when I watch food network I get inspired and itchy palms to get into the kitchen and make something yummy.

Unfortunately the furnished apartment we have wasn't furnished to my medium standards in the kitchen. Crappy pots and pans, no measuring devices, just not good. Now that my stuff has arrived I feel much more at home in the kitchen & its more fun. Mind you, I was worried as my oven is about 1/2 the size of a normal US oven... hello no thanksgiving turkey this year. But my biggest pan fits inside, barely. 

So I decided I would start blogging about some of the meals I fix. Sometimes it will be a recipe I have made myself, aka I didn't google a recipe. Sometimes I will link up to another blog or website where I got the recipe. If I do make any changes to the recipe I will let you know. 

Tuesday night after watching too much food channel I decided to do a chicken bake, but I was going to upgrade it. What you're looking at is my turkey bake. I filled my pan about 1/2 an inch deep with white wine (didn't measure because it depends on the size of you pan). Then I added 2/3 of a bag of baby potatoes all cut in quarters. Then I cut up some peppers, onions, shallots & garlic. It's a little like stone soup, just sort of toss in what you have laying around the kitchen aka what I did. 

This is my new favorite thing! Piri Piri seasoning goes into pretty much everything I make theses days. Its a perfect blend of onion, garlic & peppers (aka the base of 90% of my meals). I seasoned the turkey with this, but again, you can use chicken or pork. 

Once all the veggies and turkey were in the pan I sprinkled a good spoonful of french mustard around the dish and put the lid on. This way the dish sort of steams itself in the oven while its also cooking. Leave the meat on top to begin with, somehow it makes it juicer. 

Voila! This is the same dish after being in a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes. Keep in mind, this varies depending on what meat your using and how much you cook. Never a bad idea to keep check it after 30 min or so. 

After you pull it out to check it, go ahead and mix it up. Spoon the yummy wine over everything, mix the veggies with the meat, it won't look as pretty but it helps disperse the flavors. Pop it back in the oven for another 15 min or so. Again cooking times depends on what meat you're using. 

I didn't get a photo of the next step, forgive me. Use a slotted spoon to get the turkey out of the pan as well as most of the big veggies. You want just the liquid in the bottom of the pan left. It will have bits in it, mostly shallots and garlic which is perfect. Get your cream out, either double or single, depending on what you have on hand and slowly pour into the pan and keep whisking. Feel free to add a little more mustard. This will make the cream sauce. I like to do it like this because this wine is full of all the yummy bits from the dish & it saves you using another pot. 

Not the best photo of the dish but Steve loved it. Plus it makes really yummy leftovers aka what I'm eating for lunch today. 

 For dinner I wanted to use up the pineapple I used earlier to make a special smoothie for Steve's migraine. I bought a whole pineapple instead of a can and I didn't want to leave it after I'd cut it up. I got the idea from watching Ready Steady Cook.

Here is the link to the recipe: Griddled pineapple with a yoghurt and mint syllabub

Sounds fancy? That's what I thought but I had all the stuff so I figured why not. Grilled the pineapple in our grilling pan, folded the extra cream from my mustard sauce in with the yogurt & added a little honey. They recommend serving it in a wine glass - see below - but I was too scared I'd break the glass so I dumped mine into a bowl. The fresh mint really

The fresh mint on top really made it yummy. So easy and if you're already grilling this summer its such a quick think to throw the pineapple on the BBQ after the meat has cooked. 

Did you enjoy reading about my cooking? Would you try this recipe for yourself? How can I improve these type of posts?