November 28, 2008


I have been having withdrawals from writing!!!
I feel like a part of me is missing and with today being thanksgiving in these neck of the woods and me bustling around trying to create a delicious meal for my friends and family, I thought it only appropriate to at lest TELL you what we are having for our last American thanksgiving. I know we will keep this tradition going in Australia but I am assuming it won't be quite the same celebrating with a bunch of Aussies (turkey isn't exactly a bird we get excited about, in fact I didn't even know you could have ground turkey!)

This year Nic and I decided to have thanksgiving at our friends house, the Croydons'. Kathleen and Jim have been with us since the very beginning. Their youngest daughter Clare is my eldest son's very best friend and it has been that way since they first met at the grand old age of 18 months. Kathleen and Clare came to visit us when we moved to Italy and then last year they dropped in on us in Virginia, we are only hoping we will see Jim with them in a few years when they come to Australia!
Kathleen is a fantastic cook, she always has something simmering on the stove or cooking in the oven, in fact I think I gained an extra ten pounds when I was pregnant with Alex due to Kathleen's desire to fill me full of delicious, tasty meals in those nine months. I wanted to do something special for her and decided to cook thanksgiving for her and her large family (the last I counted we are up to 26 people!!) Jim always cooks a turkey on the charcoal grill for thanksgiving, so this year I am brining mine and stuffing it with a sausage and cornbread stuffing. Nothing compares to the flavor of the charcoals but I am confident it will be juicy and tasty (I used the brine recipe from 'tastiest white meat Eva'). Along with the turkey I have made a version of the roasted cranberry sauce from last month's Sauveur magazine. Instead of using orange, I used a pink grapefruit and didn't add the jalapenos. The flavour is tart with a sweet edge- I'm excited!
Jim tells me it is tradition to have some apple sauce on the table and said 'Mott's' brand is fine, where I replied "not bloody likely!!" So I made a batch of apple sauce with a dollop of butter, cinnamon stick and a pinch of salt- boiled it all down to a lovely mush, we'll have to see if it passes the test.
Vegetables going along side the turkey and sausage stuffing are roasted parsnip and brussel sprouts, roasted delacada squash with a sage butter sauce and green beans slowly cooked with bacon, shallots and garlic. The only vegetable that was a must for Kathleen and Jim was the mash potatoes. Nic and I on the other hand feel the roast spud is a must, so I am making both and I am also adding some celeriac to the mash to peak a bit of interest.
After we have stuffed ourselves with the above food we are then going to cram in pumpkin pies and baked polenta cake served with roasted plum compote with buckets of whipped cream.
HAPPY THANKSGIVING to you all and enjoy the feast you have no doubt prepared, I am hoping to have photo's when we arrive in Australia next week.......

November 18, 2008

The last supper on Hinman

Time has come to face facts-although the cupboards are not bare the floor certainly is and dining on the floor with the kids is proving to be a challenge. Alex seems to think that the whole floor is considered the 'table' and proceeds to flick himself all over it while munching on his sandwich. Max on the other hand doesn't really do anything except eat and encourage his brother to fool around. 
I have decided to take a sabbatical from the blog until I have interesting food adventures once again. For the next few weeks while we're transitioning countries I'll take this time to gather thoughts and photos and then hopefully have a few interesting tales to tell when I am back on track again. Until then, enjoy the festivities of Thanksgiving, Christmas and what ever else comes you way. 
I'll be back......

November 15, 2008


The day has finally come, the guys from the moving company have arrived and the packing has started, the count down is on- 3 weeks until we board the plane and begin life back in Australia.  A new phase of blogging is ahead of me and I am intrigued to see the differences in food/styles (if any) when living back in Australia compared to the States.

 On the eve of having the kitchen whipped out from underneath me I decided to make one of my old favorites for dinner- Moussaka. I remember eating this when I was a kid and loving it. I probably thought it was another way of making lasagna, I know my mum was smart when it came to mentioning the layers of eggplant (meaning, she didn't!). I was a bit rusty on remembering how it was made so I hopped on line to look up a few recipes. The only helpful part about that was knowing what NOT to do. I didn't want to be in the kitchen for hours, nor did I want to use every pot and pan in the kitchen so I decided to make it up as I went along except for the white sauce that goes on top, I got that from an all time favorite "The PWMU centenary Cook book" (PWMU being Presbyterian Women's Missionary Union) The sauce is more like a souffle, a must for all to try!

 Anyway, back to the meat part- I bought a pound of ground lamb, on the Internet they say to use beef or maybe lamb but in my opinion it isn't moussaka if it isn't lamb! Because it was a family meal I wanted to  add vegetables, so I diced up some green peppers, carrots and celery along with onion and garlic. I got my pan smoking hot, added a little oil and browned the meat, once the temperature had dropped a little in the pan I added 1 tsp of cumin, 1/4 tsp turmeric and 1/2 tsp cinnamon along with a bay leaf and simmered it for about 10 minutes to reduce all the liquid. When the liquid was all absorbed I added the vegetables along with 1 tablespoon of tomato paste and a can of strained and diced whole tomatoes- mixed it all in, turn down the heat to a simmer and left it for about 15 minutes. Once it was all simmered, check the seasoning and then leave to cool. Fry your eggplant in olive oil until soft then layer the meat sauce and eggplant in a square pyrex dish.  Once it is all in the dish, rinse out your pan you cooked the meat in and make the white sauce. 
 When the cheese sauce is made, pour over the layers and bake in a 350 (180) oven for about 40-50 minutes. When you pull it out of the oven you'll notice the white sauce looks like a soft pillow- but as with all souffles, it doesn't last for long. I made this in under an hour, so that was pretty cool for a moussaka, especially when the Internet recipes would of had me in the kitchen for double that time.

Basic white sauce from The PWMU Cookbook

2 Tbsp All purpose flour
1 Tbsp butter
1 cup (250 ml) milk
sat & pepper to taste
3 Tbsp parmesan cheese
2 eggs -separated

Melt butter on medium heat, once melted add flour and stir until smooth and blended.
Add milk and whisk to remove lumps, bring to boil, add seasoning and boil for 2-3 minutes stirring constantly.
Once thick and smooth cut heat, add grated cheese and stir until combined then beat in egg yolks.
Whisk egg whites until stiff and gently fold into sauce. 
 Pour cheese sauce over meat and eggplant mixture and bake. 

November 13, 2008

Chicken and Beans

With the cold air blowing in from the lake it isn't any wonder we are craving hearty soups, ragu's and blowing the dust off the crock pot. Vince was playing around at work the other day looking for a new idea for beans. Whilst 'playing' he came up with a great recipe for the restaurant and I took the same idea and ran with it for us at home. I loved his idea of using a basic veggie combo (onion, celery and carrot) cutting it smaller for color and flavor and also giving the family- vegetables upon vegetables without them really noticing. Because the onion, carrot and celery are chopped into a small dice, it takes the eye away from the green beans they are mixed with yet giving the dish extra color, texture and making it look very appealing instead of the regular steamed beans. I also added a tin (can) of black beans for added fiber not to mention it is a great filler for the boys, plus they love beans!

When you have sweat the chopped veggies in olive oil, add some freshly chopped tomatoes (the big beef ones are great for stewing), garlic and fresh thyme to the mix for an added flavor hit. Saute until onion is transparent then add your top and tailed green beans, salt and pepper, a little water or white wine to help steam the beans then pop a lid on top, turn down the temperature to low and leave for about half an hour to forty minutes. Stirring occasionally so they don't stick to the bottom. About ten minutes before serving, add a tin of drained black beans if desired.
With the beans I served chicken wings (yes we do love our wings!) I always go for an Asian marinade with wings so I decided I needed to branch out a little and I came up with a lovely, mild and very easy marinate with absolutely not Asian influence. I left the wings to marinate for about 3 hours and that was fine, of course it would of been better if it was longer but that just wasn't going to happen. I simply turned the oven on to 500, got it really hot, placed the wings on a tray sprayed with olive oil and baked them until they were nicely browned and crisp- about 15-20 minutes.
The meal went down a treat and the beans were really yummy the next day cold (Alex didn't eat all of his due to the tantrum he was having about life) and Max could of eaten all the wings on his own if I'd let him. I am looking forward to trying this marinade on some chicken thighs for the BBQ when we get back to Australia.

Chicken marinade
2 shallots, peeled and roughly diced
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
1- one inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly diced
1 tsp whole black pepper corns
1 tsp dried oregano
olive oil to blend (approx 1/4 cup)

Place all ingredients into a food processor or blender and pulse for 10-20 seconds.
Pour over meat and marinate for 3- 12 hours

November 11, 2008

Pear & Pine nut cake

Have you ever gone to make something at home and find you only have half the ingredients, or your one egg to short? It drives me to distraction!  I usually always check ingredients before I start anything so I don't have the disappointment half way through and find I have to abandon my efforts. However, on the day I decided to make the pear cake I was a little blase´, the phone rang as I was heading into the kitchen to begin. Instead of finishing my conversation and getting on with the cake I decided (as every mother does I am sure) to do two things at once for a time saver- hmmmm!
Firstly I have to grate the pears- no worries, then soak them in brown sugar along with the pine nuts, first problem. I only have half the amount of sugar that is required, what do I do?
 a) abandon the recipe and feed the kids grated pear
 b) get off the phone and go to the shops or
 c) continue with the phone call and use what I have.
That's right, I choose C

Next step- sift all flours and put to one side. Right about this time my friend was at a good point in her story so I had to decide weather or not to cut down the amount of flour I am using to balance out the sugar or do I keep on going with the normal recipe because I have all the pears? I decided on a lesser amount of flour and hope for the best while totally engrossed with the story at hand.  I am almost at the end of the cake when I go and get the three eggs required only to find two left in the fridge- a slight freak out! So I go to the cupboard and get out the oil to finish up the recipe- we have none. By this stage it was time to get off the phone and concentrate on the cake!
Long story short, I got Nic to pick up some oil from the store on his way home and decided to go with what I had and see what happens.
The cake was made, it rose beautifully, looked good and I have to say it was pretty yummy. The texture wasn't as even as it usually is, however I think I might stay with cutting back the sugar due to the fact that it is much better for the family with half the amount and it still tastes yummy.
Below is the original recipe for all those of you out there who check your cupboards FIRST and wouldn't dream of making a cake while chatting on the phone! The lime and cream cheese frosting is delicious also, however Nic didn't think it went well with the cake- I disagree, so see what you think?

Pear and Pine nut Cake

3 pears,grated with skin on
2 cups brown sugar
3/4 cup pine nuts
3 cups all-purpose flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon powder
23o ml vegetable oil
3 eggs

Preheat oven to 350 and spray a 9 inch spring form cake tin with cooking spray, set aside.
In a large bowl place in grated pear, brown sugar and pine nuts, stir to combine and leave to sit for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile sift flour, baking powder and cinnamon together in a separate bowl and put aside.
After 20 minute, add eggs and oil to pear mixture, stirring to combine, once all mixed add flours and fold into mix.
Pour into sprayed cake tin, place on a oven tray and bake in  the oven slowly so the cake isn't heavy. Cooking time is around 1 hour, maybe a little longer depending on your oven.
Cool in tin for 5 minutes and then remove side and continue to cool.

Lime and Cream cheese frosting
5 oz cream cheese
zest of one line
juice of half lime
1 Tbsp salted butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until well mixed. Spread over cool cake and serve.

November 7, 2008

Friends to lunch

Alex and I had lunch guests today. Alex also had school and one of our guests is a pilot who had to be up in the sky later in the afternoon- meaning I needed to get Max and Alex to school on time (and pick Alex up again before guests arrived- thanks ML!), clean the house suitable for guests and make something we could linger over, yet eat in a timely manner. This is when soup, salad, bread and a few nibbles is the perfect combo!
 Because I had Alex with me and not his brother, I needed to make sure lunch was 'Alex friendly', meaning nothing spicy or over the top different. 
I made a cauliflower, leek and fennel seed soup- perfectly white for Alex and very tasty not to mention quick. Firstly I saute the chopped leeks in butter along with the fennel seeds. When the leeks have wilted I added chopped cauliflower (whole head) along with a peeled and chopped potato (for a thickening agent). Once it had been sauteing for five minutes, I then filled the pot with stock and a cup of milk, just barely covering the tops of the veggies. Bring it to a boil, simmer for ten minutes and then puree in a food processor. 
Making this the day before helped on time and the flavor really develops- you end up serving a delicious soup that you merely heated through.
 Along with the soup I served a goat cheese, avocado and bacon salad (bacon complimenting the soup), dressed with a balsamic and garlic vinaigrette. I had a 'picky plate' of olives, sliced cheddar cheese and a cucumber salad dressed simply with lemon, extra virgin olive oil and sea salt- I knew Alex wouldn't eat the bacon salad because of the lettuce but the cucumber salad was devoured!
 It was great to catch up with friends and having Alex join us at the table wasn't to bad which I owe all to the 'picky plate'- It gave him something to do!
Thanks for a great afternoon guys.
PS There was dessert but there is a story, so I'll tell it tomorrow!

November 6, 2008

Burgers on election night

It's happened, Obama brought it home (cheers and wolf whistles yeah, yeah!!) and what a way to celebrate with the most American thing I could think of- The burger.
  It was a long, glorious day for the boys and I yesterday. The kids got let out of school at 12 so they could use the local schools as voting stations, which meant we got to hang out at the beach on a warm, sunny November afternoon while the candidates were sweating bullets! We met up with a gang/gaggle of friends and the boys (and girls) played non stop making use of the summer treat that was left for us. I tell you this bit of back ground for you to understand why it wasn't possible to eat together as a family last night. I had dinner all planned, burgers- quick, yummy and a family favorite but for my little guys waiting until dad got home at 5.30 was near impossible. The sun had worn them out and all they wanted to do when we finally arrived home a few minutes before 5 was eat and go to bed!
 I usually do oven potato chips with burgers but I knew that would be pushing it with the boy so I grated up some carrot and onion and mooshed it in with the beef for a veggie hit. Searing them off, adding extra sharp cheddar and a piece of tomato for Max, dinner hit the table just before Nic walked in the door and the boys were scoffing, licking their lip with approval. It wasn't until the last couple of bites that Alex spotted the carrot yet he polished off every last bit!
 Now ours on the other hand were of the 'classic' variety. A delicious meat patty, seasoned with salt and pepper and then thrown on the gill with onions- oh how I love grilled onions, especially with the crisp very, very browned bits! To turn it up a notch I added a good dollop of  Kerrygold garlic butter and let that coat the grilled onions while I waited for the Swiss cheese to melt all over the juicy patty. Simply served with lettuce and thick tomato slices, this was pure heaven for the meat lovers we are.
I congratulate Obama in his victory and raise my beer and toast a very simple yet scrumptious meal the American burger can be if you just put a bit of thought into its construction, be it for a 3 year old or a thirty-something year old.