My food blog update

Tuesday, March 4, 2014
So I named my food blog.  Well someone else did, but they let me know that there is nothing wrong with simple and in an instant they ended my misery  (Thank you, Sweetheart)! I nearly went with something to do with Pond Hopper, but as I've mentioned in the past, this isn't a blog I share with many and didn't want to risk drawing attention from the wrong people.  I won't say just yet what I went with because the site may be up, but it's far from ready to be viewed.  I've been working really hard to get it going, but I don't have the time to put into it that I'd prefer to so it's going much slower than I'd like.
All of my spare time for the last few weeks has been spent cooking, baking, shooting photos of everything I cook and bake, and developing the website.  I have been obsessed and can't sleep at night thinking about it all.  I hate when I don't know what I'm doing and lately, with the site development, I'm doing nothing but winging it.  If something isn't working or I'm unsure how to get the result I'm looking for, I stay awake at night trying not to think about how to make it work.  I will get there in the end, but like I said, I'm short on free time.
The baking is going really well.  I haven't baked anything other than the odd cake in many, many years so I wondered how it would go.  I knew it would have to be done because with shows like 'Bake Off' being so popular, people will expect baking recipes.  In the last few weeks I have made brownies, four different varieties of cakes, two cupcake recipes, two different cookie recipes and a very bad batch of cinnamon rolls.  Dough is apparently not my strong suit, but I bake a mean cake, I'm excellent at icing and my cookies have been lovely!  I guess baking is a lot like riding a bike.  So I have no doubt the dough will come in time because I used to be really good at it.
One of the things I didn't plan well was writing the recipes as I go.  That takes time I don't have.  With the baking, I've had no choice.  I'm only just getting back into it so I've taken notes as I went, but with the cooking it's been a different story. I've cooked some amazing meals and then photographed them, but didn't think about writing out the recipes.  When I cook, the process is organic.  It takes on a like of it's own.  It just flows and I don't think about taking the time to keep notes.  So, now I have a bunch of photos and a whole lot of recipe writing to do.  I really need to start recording the process or something because I could definitely see me burning something because I've stopped to write some notes!
Anyway, here's some of the photography from the last few weeks...

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Tuesday, February 11, 2014
Trying to name my food blog is killing me!  I might just go with 'Erren Cooks' just so I can get on with it!  But it's so boring!!  Everything I come up with is taken!  It's like I can't come up with  even one original thought!  I can't believe I'm using this blog to rant, but I'm so fed up!  Ok, rant over.

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My first attempt at food photography...

I'm about a quarter way through my food photography course.  It's just a basic course, but I'm so glad I've decided to do it.  Over the weekend we were invited to someone's house for dinner so I baked a cake with my little boy and tried out some of what I've learned so far.  This was the end result..

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Split Pea Soup

Thursday, February 6, 2014

This recipe has moved to my new food blog.  Click here to be redirected.

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Slow Cooker Beef Brisket

Cook time: 4-6 Hours
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Serves: 4-6


Olive oil, for searing
1 2lb/1kg brisket
1 handful of fresh parsley, chopped
3 stalks celery with leaves, chopped
2 bay leaves
4 cups/1litre beef stock
1/2 cup/120ml Sherry (or red wine)
2 tablespoons tomato paste/UK Tomato Puree
2 medium onions, chopped (I used 1 red 1 yellow, but any will do)
4 large carrots, sliced
4 medium potatoes 
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 Tablespoons plain flour
Salt & Pepper to taste


In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Season the brisket on both sides with a good sized pinch of salt. Sear the brisket in the hot pan until browned.
To the slow cooker, add carrots, potatoes, celery and bay leaves. Put the seared brisket on top of the vegetables. 
In the same skillet you used to brown the brisket, add some more oil if needed and heat over medium heat.   Add the onions and saute until tender, but not soft, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic cook another two minutes.  Add the flour and coat the onions.  Add the sherry and stir well to avoid lumps.  Add the the stock, tomato paste, and salt & pepper. Pour the mixture over the brisket, and cook on high for 4 to 6 hours or low for 8 to 9 hours, until the meat is fork tender. 

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014
I am going to be posting a bunch of recipes I've been meaning to post for a while now, and need to get on top of before I start my new food blog.  I want as many as possible that I can have done so I'll only have to retake photos when the time comes.  I'll try to throw in other posts as well, but apologize in advance for all the recipes in one go!

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Eggplants and Aubergines

Monday, February 3, 2014
Among the many projects I'm working on right now, I am in the process of starting a food blog. I've sold six of my recipes to a magazine in the last year and have one more being published this month so I've been given the confidence to give it a go. It will combine three of my passions: Photography, Cooking and Writing so it's a no-brainer. Plus, if I'm a good enough cook to be published, surely I have to be good enough to get a following on a blog as well. I wish it was all about the food. That part is easy. I am a good cook. I've been doing it my whole life (my mom worked when I was growing up and I cooked dinner for the family from a very young age), but food blogs are about so much more than being a good cook. The photos have to be good - really good. If you don't have a good photo on Pinterest, you're dead in the water. So I am learning food photography. I got a DSLR camera and a good lens for Christmas & my birthday so I have the equipment. I've also started a food blogger course as well as a course on developing Wordpress websites and blogs. It's been a really long time since I've done any web design so I'm rusty. I started with a site for a new business my husband is starting and although I was pulling my hair out in the beginning, I am getting back into the swing of things (slowly, but surly).
Naming a food blog is the first hurdle I will have to get over. I came up with a great name or so I thought until I asked for feedback. I was going to call it 'Eggplants and Aubergines' Aubergine is the UK name for an eggplant so I thought it was a clever play on words being an American living in England, but Americans shot it down (even though all the English people I talked to thought it was a great idea because English people speak American and they got it). Americans couldn't wrap their heads around the word Aubergine and thought it wasn't memorable enough. I have to know my market and listen to my target audience and half my target audience is on that side of the pond. Lesson learned - don't buy the domain name until you've tested the market first! So Eggplants and Aubergines will never come to be. I'll get over the heartbreak in time.
It's back to the drawing board I go. The trouble is that the market is saturated and everything I come up with is taken. I want something clever and classy. I do not want to call it something using words like YUMMY or EATS I want to make it slightly more sophisticated. I love words like crave, scrumptious, delectable and luscious (although I've been told it sounds too sexual - leave it to me). Every name I come up with has been  taken and probably was from the word go. I am at a total loss and it's driving me crazy.  If I don't come up with a name soon, I won't be able to start.  Luckily, I have to finish a couple of more projects before I can get stuck in so I have some more time, but I'll need a good idea soon.

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Playing with my new lens...

I got a new camera lens for my birthday last week.  I don't have a lot of time to play with it, but this is one of the first shots I took...

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A Plastic Plant

Monday, January 6, 2014
I was talking to a close friend the other day about this blog.  I told her if this blog was a plant that needed my time and attention, it would have shriveled up and died a long time ago.  I told her that maybe it's time I shut it down and say good-bye to Pond Hopper.  She said, 'So it's a plastic plant. It doesn't need your time or attention.  All it needs to do is sit there until you need it.  Your blog has helped other people in the same situation feel less alone.  Your blog has helped you through the rough times.  It's your connection to the rest of the world when you feel you don't have one.  It's given you your voice'
She is a good friend.  Everything she said was true, but here is my real problem I've had in recent years with this blog - Too many people know about it.  I know, that's what most people want out of a blog right?  That was never my intention though.  I know it may not seem it because I don't have tons of comments on my posts, but I get a lot of emails from not only readers, but requests to review products or to back the latest travel or expat website, service or even the occasional TV show.  I never wanted to make money from this blog.  It was exactly what my friend said it was - my connection to the rest of the world when I didn't feel I had one.  It's not the strangers I mind seeing it though.  The people I know that are the real problem.  When I started out, nobody knew about this site.  I didn't tell my family about it (and still haven't) and told only my closest friends.  I did that because I wanted to tell the truth without worrying about what anyone else thought about it, but through the years people have stumbled across it (some welcome and some not so welcome).  It has come up in conversation with people I've known here in the UK.  "Passerbyers" is how I refer to most people I've known here.  People who stay around for a little while and in time, pass me by (Sometimes quietly and seamlessly and sometimes not).  No one stays for very long and when they move on knowing about this blog, I wish I never let them know about it.  People I don't care to share my life with can just pop on here and catch up or have an insight I wouldn't give them other wise.  There are others that know about this blog that haven't passed by as of yet, but will in time.  They would find offense in my saying certain things because in some strange way, they believe they aren't like the rest and that I should see them in a different light, so I can't tell the truth and in turn, I say nothing.
Case in point: I recently vented on Facebook about something that happened at my son's school that upset me (without mentioning the school's name or anyone in particular). A few days later, I was confronted by the assistant head for having a 'rant' on Facebook because one of the Moms I'm Facebook friends with, went to the school and told them about.  Now don't get me wrong, 99% of the people I'm FB friends with don't know about this blog, but it just goes to show that people can't be trusted with even the smallest of things.  They will spread it like wildfire and before you know it, you are fighting a battle, you don't need and never asked for.
Does what I am saying make any sense?  If we've never met and you follow this blog, don't get me wrong - the posts are more for you than anyone (with the exception of a select few important people I've shared this blog with that know me personally).  It's the passerbyers from my real life that I wish I could stop from seeing it so I can go back to speaking my mind and telling the truth.
So what do I do?  Do I close down my beloved Pond Hopper and start fresh on a new unknown site? Do I add a user name and password function to view this site?  Do I leave it up for prosperity and start keeping a personal journal instead?  I don't know, but please feel free to give your opinion because now is the time.

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