Beans for Breakfast?

Hi Guys, I'm baaaaaaaaaack!
First, let me apologize for completely abandoning the blogging stratosphere for the last month. It was exam time, then I was gone for two weeks, and when I got back, I was so overwhelmed with a desire to spend time with my family that I pretty much disowned all social media for a while. And for that, I apologize.
But the past is the past, right, eh?
If any of you didn't know or need some catching up (I don't know, maybe because you live under a rock or something. Heeh- just kidding, I like rocks.), I just got home, er, lastweek, from a two-week trip to Europe! That trip was one of the most life-changing experiences I have ever had. God taught me so much over those two weeks, and I was able to see Him and experience a relationship with Him in a completely new culture. I like to say I was able to un-Americanize my relationship with Him, to strip away a lot of the man-made rules and traditions that had become doctrine in my life.

But more on that later, folks!
I've got... dun dun DUN!

Food Pictures!!!

What else did you expect. If you send me to a foreign country, and I shall experience the food.
I shall and I did!
This post will be an attempt to describe many of the foreign delicacies experienced by yours truly on her lovely stay in the United Kingdom.
Here... we... goooooooooo! (Peter Pan reference)

Both this and the above picture were taken at this adorably entrancing little coffee shop on the outskirts of London, Kahaila Coffee Shop. It's a coffee shop by day/church by night. The ministry they are doing there is what we are called to do: live with the world, loving the people, and letting them see Jesus in us (and also letting them see that we, as followers of Jesus are not some weird legalistic freaks, but we are those who cling to the freedom and hope by which and for which we were created. Now, off my soapbox...).

I had my first European meal at Kahaila, and it was delicious! It was a fresh baguette with sliced ham (albeit not like the fake, processed ham that we have in the states, but real, thinly sliced, smoked ham (it had a really salty, smoky flavor), fresh mozzarella, and rocket (a type of spicy lettuce). I also had a cafe Americano (expresso shots diluted with water, a perfect morning wake-up if you ask me), my first of many in that delightful little place I called home for two weeks. The meal was quite a scrumptious introduction into the European food world.

This was a delightful meal with the rest of my team at Nando's, a place famous for their chicken! The restaurant/menu reminded me of a mix between Zaxby's (their love for chicken) and Buffalo Wild Wings (because of the options for different spice options for your chicken.) I got a mediteranean chicken salad, with the least spicy seasoning option (spices are my thing, spicy is not). Once again, delicious. The salad had a base of fresh greens, which were referred to over there as "mixed leaves," grilled chicken, pickled olives, celery, and peppers, sun-dried tomatoes, fresh cherry tomatoes, and salty, good quality feta cheese.

Aaaaaah, Cafe Nero, how I grew to love Cafe Nero. One of the many many cafes that were around every street corner, the ambiance of this little coffee shop intrigued me. I had several little cafes that I grew quite fond of, and this was one of them. Once again, I had my Cafe Americano, and I was ready to start the day.
Two shots of expresso, a little bit of steamy water, and a whole lot of love.
In other words: happiness in a cup.

Good news! I conquered my fear of pizza! Pizza has definitely been one of my fear foods. After a bad experience with a deep dish pizza in Chicago (well, the pizza in combination with car-sickness), I had sworn off pizza for about two years. But when pizza was served (as in, the only food option that was available), I didn't want to be rude (or, ahem, hungry), I ate it! It turns out, my affinity towards pizza only extends to poorly made, greasy, fast food pizza! Once pizza enters the realm of well-made (using fresh ingredients), culinary masterpieces, it's a good thing! I mean a good thing! This pizza was delicious! Ultra-thin crust with freshly grated mozzarella, arugula, and sun-dried tomatoes; I was in love! (This was actually the first of the three times I had pizza on the trip. But it was well-made pizza, my friends. Well-made.)

We had dinner one night with one of the families that we were working with in Manchester, and two of my friends and I were able to go early and help make dinner! All of my friends knew that I was a food freak foodie, and so when we were deciding who would go and help, they let me go! I was able to get in my kitchen therapy for the trip, no doubt. Wonderful!
We made a bruschetta (basically toasted french bread with a salsa-like topping of tomatoes, onions, peppers, garlic, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, sea salt, and fresh cracked pepper.).
This is the plate that I made out of the dinner buffet that we had that night. Technically it was supposed to be grilled chicken, roasted potatoes, and then a salad on the side. Buuuuuuuuuuut, I did... this. My culinary creativity got the best of me, and it was quite tasty!

This was a sandwich from another one of my favorite cafe (probably my favorite cafe, Pret A Manger). But this cafe comes with a back story. I had seen quite a few of these Pret A Mangers all over London and Manchester, and at first (to my shame), I thought that it was known for country cooking or something because, in my head, the cafe was pronounced "Pet A Manger" (Manger: you know, like a feeding trough for animals.) For some reason, every time I read the title, I failed to see the "R" in "Pret," and I just assumed the little shop had something to do with farm animals. I finally swallowed my pride long enough to ask one of my friends how to pronounce it, and I was informed that it's Pret'-uh-mahnjay', French apparently. Then it became a joke on my team; yes, my hair may be read, but I still have my blonde moments. And I may or may not have silently referred to it in my head as "Pet a manger" for the rest of the trip.
Anyway, the sandwich pictured above was a prawn salad with a lemon mayo aoli, I believe, rocket (lettuce) and fresh whole grain bread. I also had a fruit salad (not pictured). (Then I worked the whole meal off with a good game of lazer tag with some of the locals).

This picture was too cute not to share. I had dinner with one of the families at the church we visited, and this was the set up! The whole meal/setting reminded me very much of a childhood, whimsical, alice-and-wonderland type feel.
It. was. adorable.

This trip entailed quite a bit of "fear food: conquering for me. This time I ate a casserole... prepared by someone other than myself! I don't eat casseroles very often, er, ever, because there is an untold amount of cheese/grease/butter that can sneak their way in in exorbitant amounts. Let me clarify, butter/cheese/grease are not bad things, but too much butter., cheese, and grease does not produce a happy body, which does not produce a happy Lauren. 'Nuff said, eh?

Um, well you see, this is a sandwich. And an apple...
There's a story behind this meal, but my hands are getting tired, and I want some yogurt (I've promised myself yogurt after I finish this blog post).

Pizza #2: I believe it was called the "Virtuous Veg" pizza. Topped with mushrooms, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and fresh cracked black pepper, it was a good time. A really good time, guys.

I believe I put this breakfast on instagram already, but it was too delectable not to blog about it as well. A very simple meal, but quite well done. Thick slabs of fresh sourdough bread that had been buttered and toasted, smoked salmon, poached eggs, fresh fruit, and black coffee, it was a breakfast fit for a king. or a Lauren. A breakfast fit for a Lauren.

Pizza #3: the last of the pizzas, and the best of the pizzas. I got this at "Zizzy's," a cute little Italian place close to our hotel. Pungent goat cheese, oven-roasted aubergine (eggplant), olives, bell pepper, mushrooms, tomatoes, arugula, and a smokey marinara sauce piggybacked on a delicious whole wheat crust. My favorite pizza, by far.

My friends and I found this creamery along the coast of the Irish sea. Some of the flavors they had were outrageous, but all of them were very cleverly put together, and the ones I tried (The rhubarb crumble and chocolate coconut) were divine!

I just happened to eat in one of the oldest pubs in London, and now I know why it's still there: the food was heavenly. 
This was one of my friends burgers; I couldn't help but take a picture of it so I could show it to you guys. My camera was practically begging me to capture the moment... so I did.
This was my meal at the old "Black and White" (the name of the pub). Let me tell you guys: you see that mushroom on the top of my salad? That was the best mushroom I have ever put in my mouth. I mean it, and I do take my mushrooms seriously. The rest of the salad was comprised of "mixed leaves," zucchini, cucumber, tomatoes, red and yellow bell peppers, a honey mustard sauce, a mayonnaise-ey sauce, and seared roast beef so thick and juicy that it practically fell in the "steak" category.

Full English Breakfast!!!
How could I go to England without having a full English breakfast? Answer: you can't (okay, technically you can, but-using my third grade vocabulary-you would be LAME).
Our last day in Manchester before heading back to London we had a full English breakfast. I am definitely glad I had it, but talk about "fear" food. If there was one word that I could use to describe it, it would probably be: greasy. It consisted of gigantic links of pork sausage, fried eggs, chips (fried), mushrooms (sauteed in buttah), beans (because everyone eats beans for breakfast, right?), toast (oh! Not fried! Whoo!), country ham (fried), and a broiled tomato. Sadly, I couldn't bring myself to eat the chips (fries) after discovering that I could literally wring the grease out of them like a towel. Yes, that was the deal breaker, but I did eat the eggs, ham, mushrooms, beans, and toast! It was quite an experience. And coffee! Can't forget the coffee.

Last (and very much least) was the airplane food. While I was excited at first to be able to dine 10,000 feet above ground, as soon as my meal was given me I remembered: this is airplane food. Airplane food. When is airplane food ever good (except for when you pay an extra hundred bucks for a seat in first class). I have to say though, it was good for airplane food. Well... eh.

Overall, it was quite the culinary experience. I tried a lot of new food, saw a lot of new things, and was able to see that the "American" way is not the only way. Yes, coffee shops are a perfect afternoon respite, you can eat beans for breakfast, airplane food won't necessarily kill you, baguettes make the best sandwiches, well-made pizza is not something to be frowned upon, hot tea is the nectar of the Englishman, sugar is much cuter in cube form, and old pubs cook the best mushrooms.

**Note: feel free to comment! I fixed the comments on my blog so they will now show up if you have any suggestions, questions, or comments. Thanks, guys!

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