Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
It's old news really, but our Halloween was pretty quiet. We didn't end up getting any trick or treaters, but it was a good night. We lit our jack-o-lanterns, ate homemade pizza and Butterfingers (yummy peanutty buttery toffee chocolate bars), and watched Ghostbusters.
In early November, we went down to New Orleans again. We went back to the French Quarter for lunch, and Jon got his first tattoo. It's an outline of a swallow (no colour or shading). He's wanted a tattoo for a while, and got some money for his birthday (back in July) to get one. Anyway, it was quite quick (about 20 minutes), healed pretty quickly and looks really good (check out the pics on Flickr). Afterwards, we drove over to Magazine St (in the Garden District) for coffee and a look at some second hand clothes and antique shops. It was a nice day.
Just thought I'd share this picture too. It's what I saw on my iPhone map of our entrance to the freeway leaving New Orleans (we were on Claiborne/I90, trying to get on to the I10)... eek!
We went to our first game of football – LSU v Louisiana Tech. We tailgated all day, then headed over to the stadium in the evening. We missed the first quarter rushing my backpack (not allowed in the stadium) back to the car, but once we got in and found our friends and seats, it was exciting. The stadium was full, everyone was dressed in the LSU colours and sung/cheered along to the marching band. Football and the Tigers are so huge here, so it was great to get to a game (and lucky for us, LSU won).
We spent Thanksgiving day watching the Macy's parade on tv, followed by the National dog show, and some episodes of The office (we have become addicted to this show, and watched five seasons in one week on Netflix). We also made a pavlova and some cheese and vegemite scrolls, which we took to dinner at Jon's supervisor's. It was a nice evening with lots of food – including an 18 pound turkey!
Demcember's been nice so far too. We got a little bit of snow on Friday night. I don't think I've ever seen falling snow, so it was pretty exciting. We'd been hearing in weather forecasts that there was a chance of snow, and while talking to Jon's family on Skype, we heard some people outside and they sounded pretty excited. We both rushed to the window and saw SNOW! It wasn't a lot, but enough for us to take our cameras outside for some photos like this (more on Flickr):
This weekend we did a bit of Christmas shopping. It is starting to get cold here, so we also got some jumpers and slippers to keep warm! Sunday was our first wedding anniversary, so we treated ourselves to pho for brunch, coffee and beignets for afternoon tea, and our favourite dinner – etouffee (with chicken, andouille AND prawns!) We also made some mini red velvet cakes with cream cheese icing, which we ate while watching Best in show. Awesome!
So that's everything. Until next week :)
PS. Hi Sam! Grits is ground corn. It's common in the South, and can be eaten for or with any meal – like the shrimp and grits, or as a side to eggs and bacon for breakfast.
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
4 cups water
Salt and pepper
1 cup stone-ground grits (could substitute with polenta if you can't get grits)
2-3 tablespoons butter
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese (we used a combo of mostly cheddar and some parmesan)
455g shrimp/prawns, peeled and deveined
6 rashers bacon, chopped
4 teaspoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
1 cup spring onions, thinly sliced
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
we also added some cayenne pepper and a pinch of paprika for more spice
Bring 3 cups of the water to a boil. Add salt and pepper. Add grits to one cup water, mix, then stir in to the boiling water (this will help prevent lumps) and cook until water is absorbed, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter and cheese.
Rinse shrimp and pat dry. Fry the bacon in a large skillet until browned; drain well (but leave a little fat in the pan). Add shrimp and cook until pink. Add lemon juice, bacon, parsley, spring onion and garlic. Saute for 3 minutes.
Spoon grits into a serving bowl. Add shrimp mixture and mix well. Serve immediately. (Was good with some asparagus on the side.)
Friday, October 30, 2009
Anyway, with a big bowl full of good pumpkin flesh scraped out, I thought I'd make something tasty, and found this nice recipe. I'm not sure about the canned solid-pack pumpkin... I've not seen this before, and not sure why it even exists. It sounds like something Sandra Lee would use in one of her 'semi-homemade' recipes, even with stacks of pumpkins around like there are now. Yes, we think 'half-baked' is a more accurate description of her 'cooking'. Anyway, I microwaved/steamed the flesh with a little water, and mashed it to use in this.
1 stick (approx 115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/3 cup caster sugar
2 cups cake flour*
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger (I didn't have any, but grated in a little fresh ginger when adding the pumpkin)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
1/2 cup buttermilk mixed with 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cups canned solid-pack pumpkin
* I hadn't heard of cake flour before, but looked it up and found a substitute recipe here. The cornflour with plain flour seemed to work out fine.
Two 8-ounce packages (approx 455g) cream cheese, softened
1 stick (approx 115g) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups pure icing sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
So, for a half batch of the cupcake mix, I made about a quarter batch of this icing. I hardly measure anything when making icing anyway, just throw it all in! Inspired by this Jamie recipe, I decided to add some lemon zest instead of the maple syrup, and a dash of milk.
Make the cupcakes:
Preheat the oven to 350° (175°C). Line a cupcake pan with liners.
In a stand mixer (or by hand with a wooden spoon like I did!), beat the butter and sugars on medium speed until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, salt, and pepper into a medium bowl.
Add the eggs one at a time to the mixer, scraping down the sides after each addition. Alternate adding the flour and milk mixtures, beginning and ending with the flour. Beat in the pumpkin until smooth. Scoop the batter in to the cupcake liners — you’re looking to get them 3/4 full.
Bake the cakes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 20 to 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes on racks completely.
Make the icing:
In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. If you are doing this by hand, I'd recommend beating the cream cheese and butter together first, to soften. Then, sift in the icing sugar bit by bit, to avoid lumps.
Enjoy! They are quite delicious. I'm off to make pumpkin scones and soup for dinner.
Monday, October 19, 2009
A couple of weeks ago, we headed down towards the Gulf of Mexico, to a town called Cocodrie. Jon and a couple of others from the lab organised a five-day work trip based at research centre called Lumcon. The trip there took about two and a half hours. We had to drive almost to New Orleans, then down through a place called Houma. Lumcon was about 40 minutes from there. The last part of the drive was most interesting, as we started seeing more and more water, and houses only metres away (gators in the backyard anyone?!). We were amazed at how flat it was – the water met the land at practically the same level, so a little bit of rain would mean a little bit of flooding, but I'm pretty sure they get a LOT of rain... Most houses were on stilts. It was quite a strange place, different from anywhere we've been before.
Not long after we arrived, we went out fishing with two researchers from Lumcon. It was quite a calm, clear day, really nice conditions (but no fish). Jon and the others went out each day over the next few days, and worked in the lab, while I stayed behind and read, or took photos. We went out for dinner one night and spent a few hours one day at Coco Marina getting Red drum samples from charter boats while they were being cleaned up. It was a good trip, but we were also happy to get back to our apartment (and away from the swarming mosquitoes).
Last weekend, we had our first tailgating experience and it was utter madness! The LSU Tigers (no. 4 team) were playing the Florida Gators (no. 1 team). We knew it would be crazy and crowded, but thought if we were going to see what tailgating was like, this was the week to do it! It actually started Friday night (day before the game). We went to campus for a get together at around 6pm and already the cars and RVs had started to arrive. We got to campus at about 11am on the day, and drove around for ages looking for somewhere to park. We ended up about 20 minutes walk from campus because all carparks and nearby streets were absolutely packed. I'm not sure whether I am explaining this very well though. It was much worse than trying to find a park around Christmas time at Chadstone shopping centre – does this help?
After lunch (hot dogs of course), we went for a walk around campus and the 'RV village'. Our idea of tailgating was probably a bit old school compared to what it is. People set up their tents (like mini marquees) and RVs with BBQs and loads of food, seating, flat screen TVs and sound systems. We actually found out that people pay up to $5000 per season to park their RVs on campus near the stadium. Often people don't actually go to the game, they just come to tailgate. We left at about 6pm and got home in time to watch the game (Tigers lost 13-3). It was a fun, but quite exhausting day.
I've maxed-out our Flickr recently with heaps of new photos, starting with this one of my groovy bike, and lots from our Lumcon trip. Will post the tailgating photos soon. I've also set up a twitter account. I'm finding I'm not so good at sitting down to write posts (as the date of the last post would show), so we'll be able to upload shorter 'tweets' more often, here.
Y'all take care, until next time :)
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
2 tablespoons oil
1 pound (about 450g) ground beef
1 cup chopped brown onion
3/4 tablespoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 bay leaf
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bottle dark beer
1 (400g) can crushed/diced tomatoes
1/2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Heat the oil in a large heavy pot over high heat. Add the beef and brown well, about
10 minutes. Add the onions, chilli powder, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon, and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until the onions soften, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the beer and cook until the foam subsides, about 1 minute. Add the tinned tomatoes, tomato paste, salt and sugar to the pot.
Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally to prevent the chilli from sticking to the bottom
of the pot.
Jon had some chilli in a hot dog, I had it on a baked potato with cheese and coleslaw. We had the left overs with coleslaw and fresh tomato salsa in tortillas. Yum!
1 pound white flaky fish
1/4 cup canola oil
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon chilli powder
1 jalapeno, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
8 flour tortillas
White cabbage, finely shredded
Red onion, finely sliced
Mayonnaise and/or sour cream
Squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoon oil
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 chilli, sliced
1 jalapeno, sliced
1 tablespoon hot sauce
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander leaves
Salt and pepper
1 avocado, flesh smashed
Squeeze of lemon
Salt and pepper
Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Place fish in a medium size dish. Whisk together the oil, lime juice, chilli powder, jalapeno, and coriander and pour over the fish. Let marinate for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove the fish from the marinade place onto a hot grill, flesh side down. Grill the fish for 4 minutes on the first side and then flip for 30 seconds and remove. Let rest for 5 minutes then flake the fish with a fork.
Place the tortillas on the grill and grill for 20 seconds. Divide the fish among the tortillas and serve with the coleslaw, salsa and avocado.
For the salsa:
Heat oil in medium saucepan, add onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add tomatoes, chilli and jalapeno and cook until tomatoes are soft, about 15 to 20 minutes. Puree the mixture with a hand-held blender or crush with potato masher and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes. Add the hot sauce, oregano, coriander and lime juice, and season with salt and pepper, to taste.
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
Was a long weekend here in the US for Labour Day, so Sunday afternoon we headed east on the I10 for our first trip to the 'big easy'. Only took us about an hour to get there, but what felt like another hour after that stuck in traffic and trying to find a car park. Narrow streets and people everywhere! We had no idea it would be so busy but found out later this long weekend is time for the Southern Decadence festival.
After lunch at The Market Cafe, we spent the rest of the afternoon looking around the French Quarter. So what did we see? Street performers and buskers, tarot card and palm readers, souvenir shops selling feathered masks and colourful beads, and bars selling beers and daiquiris to go. Lots of people, food, colour and music. Lots to see and do in New Orleans. We're looking forward to returning again soon!
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Recipe from Ina Garten, Food Network
4 tea bags
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (5 to 6 lemons)
1/2 cup superfine (caster) sugar
3 lemon slices
Steep the tea bags in 4 cups of boiling water for 10 minutes. Discard the tea bags and allow the tea to cool.
Combine the lemon juice, sugar and 4 cups of cold water in a large pitcher. Add the tea and lemon slices. Serve over ice.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 andouille sausages (or other smoked sausages)
4 pieces chicken maryland or thigh (with bone)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (or salted would be fine)
3/4 cup plain flour
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
2 celery sticks, roughly chopped
1 green capsicum, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic
1 (stubby) beer (newcastle brown ale worked well)
4 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoons paprika (or to taste, we put in about 3 tablespoons)
Pinch cayenne pepper (or to taste, we put in about 2 teaspoons)
1 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 spring onions, chopped (we didn't put any in)
Set a Dutch oven (cast iron pot) over medium heat and add a 2-count (a couple of tablespoons) of olive oil. Add the sausages and brown slightly. Remove and set aside on paper towel. Season chicken with plenty of salt and pepper and add skin side down to the pan. Cook over medium heat for 7 to 10 minutes, then turn to brown both sides of the chicken. Remove and set aside on paper towel.
With the pot still over medium heat add 2 tablespoons butter to melt with the fat (from the sausage and chicken) then add flour and whisk to incorporate, and then swap to a wooden spoon. Cook until it is nice and brown (you want a nice deep rich coloured roux – aim for the colour of peanut butter), about 10 to 12 minutes.
In a food processor add the onion, celery, capsicum, and garlic, and pulse to roughly chop. Add the vegetable pulp to the pot with the roux and stir with a wooden spoon. Cook over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes to sweat out some of the moisture, then deglaze the pot with the beer. Add the stock, bay leaves, paprika and cayenne. Return the chicken pieces to the pot and simmer until the chicken is tender, about 1 hour. Remove the chicken pieces from pot to a cutting board and shred the meat. Discard the bones and return the meat to the pot. Cut the andouille sausage into chunks and nestle back into the pot amongst chicken to heat through.
Give it all a final taste and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with plenty of parsley and spring onion. Serve with rice.
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Monday, August 17, 2009
Jon heard from someone at work that there are a couple of asian grocers here. Keen to make fried noodles, the asian grocers were our next stop after the market. We found everything we needed from the Saigon Hong Kong Seafood Market – fish, soy and oyster sauces, fresh rice noodles, chinese broccoli. We also picked up a cheap mortar and pestle. It was great, just like any shop we've been in at Box Hill or Springvale. Vietnamese music playing in the background, Hennessy behind the counter, food sitting out that should be in a fridge... there were some pretty funky smells coming from the 'seafood section' too...
After a chat on Skype, we headed out to Ralph & Kacoo's for dinner. This place was recommended to us by a girl from the local cupcake shop for some Louisiana cuisine. Jon had shrimp topped steak, and I tried the Atchafalaya. Not bad, but maybe not the 'seafood excitement' the front door told us we'd get.
On Sunday, we had brunch at IHOP. Light, fluffy pancakes drenched with pecan maple syrup. Need I say more?!
We've passed a shed style fruit and veg shop called Southside Produce a number of times, and this weekend we actually went in to get a few things for the week's meals. It was great – everything seemed fresh and seasonal, but they also had some nice looking breads (not just the sugary, over packaged crap they sell at the shops – hence my bread baking), olive oils, dairy products, local sauces and honeys. Will definitely go back.
In the afternoon, I stuffed and baked the jalapenos from the market (recipe here). I used salami instead of chorizo and didn't bother with the egg though. They turned out deliciously hot and cheesy, mmm! For dinner, Jon made a favourite – fried noodles. The chinese broccoli we bought was a little bitter, but other than that, they were tasty!
Friday, August 14, 2009
Our new place is a one bedroom, one bathroom apartment in a big complex of hundreds of apartments. It already has a fridge, microwave and dishwasher (most apartments here do). We also have central aircon and heating, a fireplace (didn't think it got that cold here though!), nice high ceilings, plenty of storage and a balcony. It's also in a great area – not too far from work for Jon and close to shops and restaurants.
We've pretty much bought everything here from Walmart – tv stand, coffee table, couch, desk and chair, lamps, bedside tables and a mattress that came in a box. Yes, that's right, a REAL mattress in a BOX! (check out the pics on flickr).
It's been great to finally get a place, set it up and be able to unpack. It's still kind of weird to think this is our new home though (for a while). I'm imagining friends and family coming to visit and stay here with us, it's quite strange!
It's also so great to be able to cook again. We're keen to get in the kitchen and try making some southern food – etouffee, gumbo, jambalaya, and sweets like beignets and red velvet cake. Stay tuned for some recipes!
Friday, August 7, 2009
We have been staying in a trailer (!) since we arrived almost two weeks ago. It's on the LSU AgCenter 'farm', and across from the research station where Jon will be working. We are surrounded by green grass, trees and fish ponds.
The trailer's been pretty good – it has electricity and hot water, so we have aircon, a fridge, microwave, stove, shower and toilet. It's been a bit hard to cook though, so I'll admit that we've had more microwave dinners and take-away than we would normally, but it's only temporary!
The others in the lab (where Jon will be working) have been great help, picking us from the airport (five hours after we were due to arrive), giving us lifts to the shops, and to look at apartments. Speaking of which – we signed the lease on a one bedroom apartment this week, and are keen to move in so we can unpack and finally start to settle.
Right now though, we are looking for a car to buy. Public transport here (we've been told) sucks. I've seen a few buses around, but really, you need a car to get around because everything's so spread out.
There is either a Walmart, Albertsons or Winn Dixie on almost every corner (otherwise it's a take-away chain). These are the mega chain stores, kind of like a Safeway or Coles put together with a Big W or Kmart. So you can pretty much buy anything there for cheap. We haven't come across any greengrocers, butchers or bakers, apparently they are quite uncommon here (I guess due to the gigantor stores taking over). We know of a farmer's market held downtown every Saturday though, so that's on our to do / go to list.
Also worth a mention is that the folks here like their sport. We had an idea that college sports were very popular, but didn't fully comprehend until passing the home stadium (Tiger Stadium) on the way to the farm from the airport. It is the same size as the MCG – no kidding. The stadium seats a hundred thousand! Their home baseball stadium seats about 40,000. Also there is a chain of shops called Tiger Mania that sell all the uni/team merchandise. You also see the team colours (purple and gold) everywhere here.
It is warm and steamy! I'd say the weather (or mainly) the humidity (80% +) was harder to get used to than the time difference. It's different to an Aussie summer because that's a drier heat. Here, the air feels so thick and heavy. By the end of each day you kind of feel a bit gross and in need of a shower.
We stayed at a hotel in West Hollywood. Our room had some interesting artwork, and zebra print sheets (maybe this will give some idea about the artwork?!). Possibly not the nicest area or hotel, but definitely ok for three days. Would probably be great if you're the kind that likes to 'paaarty' ... we did hear a few people getting back noisily in at the wee hours of the mornings.
We spent an afternoon in Santa Monica, which turned out great after paying $40 for a taxi to get there! We weren't entirely sure where we wanted to go, so got a bit conned by the driver who told us it 'wasn't too far' ... sucked in. (Got back to the hotel by bus for only $5 though, so not too bad.) The shopping was good, came across some nice shops like H&M, Urban Outfitters and the very lovely Anthropologie. Saw some buskers, walked down the pier, and took some photos of the people on the beach that had walked half a kilometre to get to the water and were eating the sand cos it was so windy!!
A couple of other things to note: the coffees are BIG, and the cars are REALLY BIG. You can buy beer from a pharmacy. Oh yeah, and they drive on the wrong side of the road!
Friday, July 31, 2009
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
We've set up this blog to document our adventures overseas and keep in touch with everyone in ozland. We'll try to post often and have set up a flickr page to share photos also. So, hello, welcome and please feel free comment :)
PS. I'm no writer, so apologies in advance for any poorly written posts!