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Vegan “Beef” Stew with Quinoa

Not wanting to venture out of my apartment this past bitter-cold, cloudy Saturday, I decided to get in the kitchen and whip up something toasty. I was craving something warm, something fragrant, something hearty. I wanted a meal whose aromas and flavors would fill my little Philly apartment with extra cozy comfort.I settled on making a vegan rendition of beef stew, bringing back memories of cloudy afternoons spent in London pubs, with robust meals lining the menus. I replaced the standard meat in this recipe with seitan, braising it with vegetable broth, which allows the veggie alternative to really soak up all of the flavors melding next to it in the pot. I also added one of my favorite, protein-rich grains, quinoa, to give the stew a little extra special bulk. I hope this vegan stew brings as much comfort to your home as mine.

Vegan “Beef” Stew with Quinoa

-1 Tbsp. olive oil
-1 large onion, chopped
-1 carrot, sliced
-1/3 green bell pepper, finely chopped
-3 cloves garlic, minced
-1 bay leaf
-8 oz. seitan beef strips
-1 cup vegetable stock
-2 Tbsp. vegan Worcestershire sauce
-2 tsp. thyme
-1/2 tsp. sage
-2 Tbsp. ketchup, optional
-1 dried red chili pepper (You can substitute red pepper flakes, to taste)
-2 cups cooked quinoa
In large sauce pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onions, peppers, and carrot. Saute 2 minutes. Add garlic, chili pepper, and bay leaf, and saute another 3-5 minutes, until onions are translucent. Stir in spices, ketchup and Worcestershire. Add seitan, and saute 2 minutes. Add vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, and cook until carrots are tender and stock is evaporated, stirring as needed (30-45 minutes). Remove bay leaf. Toss in quinoa. Serve with a drizzle of tobassco, if desired.

101 Reasons I Want to Live in London

Just kidding.  I wouldn’t make you read through 101 reasons because even I wouldn’t want to read through that many…although I could probably create that list if I really wanted.

Here are a few that stick out:

1)  Much of London is beautiful.  The houses, the bridges, the architecture in general, the people, everything.

2)  The summer weather is perfect.

3)  For a city, there are a plethora of wonderfully built parks.  And no, they aren’t planted right next to highways (ahem, Philly).

4)  Free events all the time.  Free music.  Free fun.  FREE.

5) There are very few bugs.

6) The pub scene is pleasantly chill, and the people are surprisingly friendly.

7)  The accents never get old.

8)  The diversity is delightfully rich.  Listening to the numerous languages utilized all over the place is beautiful and inspiring.

9)  The tube is clean and easy to use.

10)  I’ve never felt so safe in so many areas of a city.

11)  Borough Market

12)  Cheers!

Reasons not to live in London:

1)  It’s crowded.

2)  The buildings are old = mold.  I’m allergic to mold.

3)  The drivers are, well, a tad crazy and impatient.

4)  Peanut butter is not utilized as frequently as I’d like.  (Minute, but I’m running out of negatives too quickly!)

The positives definitely outweigh the negatives…especially since the positive list could go on and on and on.  Who knows.  Maybe one day I’ll end up in London?

I’m sad to see it end, but my program in London has come to a close.  I look back and couldn’t have asked for a better trip.  I feel like I’ve thoroughly explored much of the city.  I’ve hit a lot of non-tourist spots and have met a lot of interesting and entertaining locals.  And in a month or so, the magazine we’ve been working on, primarily covering London’s music scene and culture, will be released!

I’ve done London the way I wanted to do London.  I think I’ve truly grasped a feel for the city.  In some ways, call me crazy, but I feel like I know London better than Philly.  I’ve seen what this place is capable of offering.  I’ve experienced a bit of what it’s like to live in one of the most diverse, populated cities in the world.  I’ve grown.  I’ve become a tad more independent, cultured, receptive.  I’ve learned to let go, go with the flow, embrace getting lost, let life come as it’s going to come.  Stop planning, start doing.  When there’s so much to experience, it’s not worth getting wrapped up in what’s to come next.  That’s when you miss what’s right in front of you.

Am I ready to go home?  No.  But am I happy, satisfied, fulfilled?  Yes.

Until we meet again, so long London.

Top Ten British Candy Bars

I’ve never eaten so many candy bars within a six week time span.  In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten this many candy bars in my entire life.

But, for some odd reason, I chose candy bars as my topic for a “Top Ten” project required for the London program in which I’m involved.  More than two handfuls of candy bars later, this is what I’ve put together.

(And for the record, yes I shared these candy bars with my friends.  But yes, I did consume far too many candy bars these past few weeks.  Oh well.  Still alive and kickin’.)

Top Ten Candy Bars to Eat in the UK

Few can resist chocolate.  Once you’ve had a taste of British chocolate, resistance becomes even harder.  Don’t think America’s versions of British candy bars will suffice either.  The ingredient list differs and the taste degrades.  With convenience stores on nearly every block in London and so many chocolate choices to choose, here are the top ten British milk chocolate candy bar picks.

1.  Boost
2.  Starbar
3.  Double Decker
4.  Mars
5.  Yorkie with Raisins
6.  Kinder Bueno
7.  Cadbury Fudge
8.  Cadbury Dairy Milk
9.  Nestle Toffee Crisp
10.  Terry’s Caramel Bite

Have you tried any of these UK candy bars?  What’s your favorite?  Did I miss one that should make the list?  (Consuming any of these bars purchased in America doesn’t count because they truly are different.  Check out this NY Times article, which explores the differences further, if you don’t believe me.)

Tea at the Orangery

Monday afternoon, I had a chance to have an official British tea at the Orangery in Kensington Gardens.

The traditional scones with clotted cream and jam (strawberry), along with an assortment of petite tea sandwiches and pastries were served.  The tea offering that afternoon was a classic- English Breakfast.

Having previously worked in a tea house, I’m accustomed to the typical tea customs and love the whole ritual of tea time.  It’s a tradition I wish were more common in the states.

Regent’s Park

Spread across 410 acres, Regent’s Park is one of London’s largest and most beautiful public parks.

Known for its flower gardens, the park contains over 300,000 roses of 400 different varieties.  Queen Mary’s Garden, situated in the south center of Regent’s park and named after King George V’s wife, features 9,000 begonias as well as a “national collection of delphiniums.”  There are 5 designated garden areas within the park.

Other features of Regent’s include a large outdoor theatre, a community gym/sports arena, multiple cafes, a tennis center, a boating lake, and several playgrounds.  Also, located on the northern end, is London’s zoo, containing over 650 animal species.

One of London’s finest places to both relax and get a little exercise while enjoying some fresh air.