I miss London a lot. I love Park Slope and all, but our life in London was - except for the lack of family - pretty perfect. Gage and I had tons of mommy and baby friends in our area of Belsize Park, all other ex-pats. We had two regular play groups per week, at least one baby dinner, and many impromptu playdates with tea and cake. Our flat was as sunny as a London flat can possibly be, with a big kitchen where I loved to cook and bake, and Gage liked to help. We had a reliable, friendly cleaner who also babysat for us. We had an amazing weekly farmers market just out our front door, where I bought fresh vegetables and bread and fish every week. We were walking distance from the amazing London Zoo, where we had a membership and went at least once every other week. We were walking distance from two amazing parks, and toddler-walking-distance from a playground. We were also just 2 minutes from the Jubilee line - the clean, efficient, runs-every-2-minutes Tube would take us to central London in just 15 minutes, if we so wished to immerse ourselves in ancient culture, high tea or high fashion. (Well, Topshop is about as "high" as I would go but you get the idea.)
In our area we had a few nice pubs. There is just no adequate social/cultural American equivalent to the pub, and I won't even attempt to describe it's importance to English society here, but Sunday afternoons at the pub became a welcomed ritual in our expat life. Belsize Park is a beautiful, leafy, bit of suburbia just 20 minutes outside of bustling central London. Oh and did I mention that they have the best online grocery delivery imaginable? 1 hour delivery slots, free delivery with delivery pass, every imaginable gourmet and otherwise product available, including wine and beer and household goods! Ocado, how I do miss you. Oh, and like Park Slope, babies everywhere.
When I think of all that I get so very sad. I miss it so much, particularly my friends. On the other hand, we were so blessed to have been able to live there at all, and to have had the opportunity to befriend so many wonderful people. One of those people is Cory, who gave us some Pumpkin bars the day before we left for good, so that we could have something to eat on the plane. Gage and I gobbled up every last bite while Chris was napping on the plane, and it made me feel temporarily better (although I felt at the time like I was leaving home, and not returning.) Thanks again for those bittersweet bars Cory, and here's my updated version of them. I know they are a bit autumnal for the summery weather you're having over there, but here on the east coast it snowed again this morning. Who knew I would end up missing London weather too??
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars
adapted from Monique of Ambitious Kitchen
To make these truly vegan use vegan chocolate chips, and for true gluten-free use gluten-free oat flour.
Oat flour is available at most specialty markets (I used Arrowhead Mills brand) but you can also make your own by putting 3 cups of oats into your food processor and processing until it looks like flour.
2 cups oat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups canned pumpkin
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon molasses
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 tablespoons chia seeds, or flax seeds (optional - good source of omega-3)
2/3 cup chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place oat flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices in a large bowl and whisk together until well combined.
In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients (except for the chocolate chips) together until well blended. Make a well in the dry ingredient mixture and dump in the blended pumpkin mixture. Stir until just combined, then fold in the chocolate chips.
Grease a 9' x 9' pan generously with coconut oil. Pour in the batter and spread evenly. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for about 30 minutes, or until a wooden skewer or toothpick comes out with moist crumbs. As always, do not overbake!!