Showing posts with label Cooking. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cooking. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

A Makeshift Aussie Thanksgiving

I am completely aware that it is probably way too late to be doing a Thanksgiving re-cap post.  So please forgive me while I ignore Christmas and travel back in time a few weeks to Thanksgiving.  :-)

This year's Aussie Thanksgiving celebrations were very different from last year's...

Last year, we hosted Thanksgiving at our house with several of our expat friends.  We had a huge feast, and I cooked all day for basically two days straight.  It was a blast!  You can read about Thanksgiving 2012 HERE.  Last year, I was also extremely homesick around this time.  It was our first big holiday here, and it just felt extra far away that day. 

This year, Thanksgiving was nearly overlooked simply because it was only a week or two after we found out about our move, so things were just way too chaotic to really think much about Thanksgiving or homesickness.  We had been invited to a big expat Thanksgiving celebration, but we decided to pass.  We just felt like we needed a weekend to get things going for our move and just felt a little anti-social at the time I guess. 

But I surely couldn't let the holiday go completely unnoticed.  So on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, David and I had a small makeshift Thanksgiving meal for two.  I roasted a chicken and some vegetables and made two mini apple pies (my favorite Thanksgiving treat!).  We drank wine and just enjoyed a quiet evening.  It turned out really nice, and I think it was just the perfect way to celebrate given our situation at the time. 

This look burned... I promise it wasn't.
Our little Thanksgiving spread
Mini apple pies!

We will probably never have such a low-key Thanksgiving again.  But it was nice.  Different, but nice.  And it was fun to think that we will be back home for Thanksgiving next year! 

PS. The roasted chicken recipe is AMAZING.  I've made it several times, and it always turns out great.  I was intimidated to roast a chicken, but this is so simple!  The recipe is for two, but it's easy to just do one chicken.  I added carrots and onions to the veggies underneath the chicken. So good.  Try it the next time you want to make an easy meal that looks impressive :-)

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Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Day In the Life

Day 15, Wednesday: A Day in the life (include photos from throughout your typical day - this could be "a photo an hour" if you'd like)

I've seen plenty of these "day in the life" posts, and I've always liked the concept.  I love that they capture simple moments in an ordinary day.  So, I was excited to see this prompt for today's post.  However, I didn't realize how difficult this would be.  I kept forgetting to take pictures, and I had no idea how long it would actually take to put together this post.  Also, I almost feel a little embarrassed at how uneventful this day seems.  But, nonetheless, I am glad I finally had a good reason to complete my own "a day in the life" post.  I'm sure it will be fun to look back on in the future!  Here goes...

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

4:40 AM: The dreaded sounding of the alarm.  My husband's alarm went off at 4:25 though, so I'm kind of already awake. 
4:54 AM: I don't remember pressing snooze, but apparently I did.  Now I literally have to sprint to get out of bed and throw on clothes since we have to be out the door by 5:05 AM. 
5:05 AM: Out the door to take David to work.  Luckily, the drop off spot has recently been changed and it's only a 5 minute drive (it was previously 10-15 minutes).  I get the easy part of this commute.  Poor hubby gets his car ride with me, then rides this bus for 20 minutes to the ferry, 30 minute ferry ride to the island, and then one more bus ride to the office.  Gross. 

5:15-6:00 AM: During this time, I am usually SO tempted to get back in bed (and sometimes I do).  However, I've been trying to force myself to stay up after dropping David off so I can work out before getting ready for work. Today I was successful!  To let myself completely wake up, I usually turn on the morning news, and check my email/read blogs for a while. 

6:00 AM: Workout - For the past couple years, I've turned into quite the home workout addict. I've used various workout DVDs/programs, but right now I'm working through the Brazil Butt Lift DVDs.  Not my favorite, but it gets the job done. 

7:20-8:10 AM: Shower, make bed, etc. to get ready for work.

8:10 AM: Out the door by 8:10 at the latest or I'll be late to work.  I took the photo of what is considered "traffic" in this small town.  This was a line of about 10-12 cars MAX waiting to get through a roundabout.  I waited no longer than 3 minutes.  Having lived in and survived the traffic of both Los Angeles and Houston, this is laughable to me. 

8:30 AM: Start my work day.  I work at a school for students with special needs, and Tuesdays and Wednesdays are my days working with the students in the very high needs class.  Most of the students are wheelchair-bound and non-verbal.  While at first intimidated, I now LOVE working with this group.  My day here involves lots of sensory play, intensive interaction, lots of lifting/transferring (sometimes it feels like a second workout for the day), feeding, toileting, etc.  I wish I could include more photos of this part of my day, but unfortunately (for obvious reasons) I can't.  Here are a few peeks though...

Confession: I cheated, this schedule was actually from the day before, but today was very similar

Lunch time for the kiddos!
Lunch/recess duty for me. Bleh!
1:30 PM: Today was just a half day of work.  I had plans to run some errands before heading home, but I get a text message from a friend right as I'm leaving work asking if I can give her a ride to pick up her car from being serviced. 

3:00 PM (ish): Home.  I didn't get to eat all of my lunch at work (it was a crazy day), so I sit down to finish my lunch while catching up on Dancing With the Stars. 

3:30 PM: Feeling exhausted from work today.  Unfortunately, today was one of the toughest days I've had there since I started.  One of the kiddos was having some really severe medical issues (seizures) off and on for nearly two hours.  And of course, it was a day we were down a teacher aide- so it was pretty chaotic.  And draining.  Usually around this time I try and get some cleaning or errands done, but today I'm beat.  I veg out on the couch finishing DWTS and begin drafting this post.  Days like this can really take a toll, so I definitely needed this break.   
4:00 PM: Get side-tracked by a video that a friend sends me of this cutie singing Bruno Mars on the Ellen Show and then end up watching way too many Ellen clips (ADD much?).  You must watch this adorable video.  I dare you not to smile/laugh/cry.

4:30 PM: Time to start getting dinner ready.  On the menu tonight: Ginger Sesame Chicken with Broccoli. 

5:45 PM: Leave to pick up David from work.  Dark when I drop him off, dark when I pick him up.  No daylight hours together.  Boo :-(

6:15 PM: Dinner and catching up on our days.  Followed by throwing our lunches together for the next day. 
7:00 PM: Usually around this time, David is exhausted and wants to just veg out in front of the TV.  We usually watch Friends and The Big Bang Theory (two of the few American shows they play here).  Watching the Big Bang Theory with my husband could have been #11 on yesterday's, "What Makes Me Happy" post.  This show cracks him up, and I love when I look over and catch him looking ridiculously happy, like this:
9:00 PM on: Between being "old and boring" and our early mornings, this is kind of the beginning of the end of the night for us.  Getting stuff ready for work the next day, getting ready for bed, etc.  Every once in a while, David has to do more work at home in the evenings.  Thankfully, tonight was not one of those nights. 
10:00-10:30 PM: Good night!  
Catch up with my "Blog Every Day in May" challenge here:

Day 2
Day 3
Day 4
Day 5 (Oops! :-/ I did blog on day 5, just not following the prompt...)
Day 6

Monday, February 04, 2013

Recent Baking Adventures

It's no surprise that my "Sweet Tooth" board on Pinterest has the most pins out of all my boards.  I admit, I have a major sweet tooth.  And it doesn't help that I really enjoy baking (much more so than cooking).  Good thing I don't actually let myself bake all that often, or I'd really be in trouble.  Recently, I've tried two new Pinterest-inspired baking recipes that have become immediate favorites.  I'm sharing the links to the recipes below, and I highly suggest that you add these to your "must bake" list.  You won't regret it. 

**Nutella-Stuffed Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies**

I've made these cookies twice and I was equally impressed both times.  I'm not going to re-type the recipe here, because I think the original recipe author deserves the credit (and I'm just too lazy for that).  Plus, her pictures and explanation are way better than mine.  Here is the link:

Nutella-Stuffed Brown Butter and Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

A few tips from my experience baking these:

-It DOES seem like an annoying step to brown the butter, but ohmygoditmakesahugedifference!  So worth it!  I am seriously considering using browned butter every time I make any kind of cookie from here on out. 

-Speaking of browned butter- just like the recipe says, it seems to take a long time, and I started to think maybe I didn't do it right or maybe I waited too long.  Then all of a sudden you do notice that the butter starts to turn an orange-y color and it really does begin to smell nutty.  Watch it carefully, or you'll miss/burn it. 

-I found that chilling the dough did help, but for me, the time she suggested made the dough much too difficult to work with.  The second time I made these, I chilled it just for an hour and that seemed to work better for me. 


**Cabernet Ganache Swirled Brownies**

I made these just this past weekend for an "Afternoon Tea and Cake" party I was invited to.  With brownies, I am usually pretty loyal to a homemade family recipe that I've used forever, but when I saw that this recipe incorporated wine, I had to try it out.  They turned out great- so delicious!  If you didn't know there was wine in the brownies, I don't know that you would necessarily identify wine as the flavor in the brownies, but there is definitely a notably different (good!) taste to these brownies. This recipe just added more evidence to my argument that wine really does make everything better.  Here is the link:

Cabernet Ganache Swirled Brownies

A few tips from my experience baking these:
-My batter didn't seem to be as thick as it looked in the recipe pictures, but the brownies still turned out fine.  Looking back on this, it probably had something to do with me being a little heavy-handed when I poured the wine.  Oops :-)  I will measure more carefully next time. 

-The recipe author says to let the brownies set for at least a couple hours.  I didn't listen, because it was late and I HAD to try these before I went to bed, and the brownies were pretty gooey.  I like gooey brownies, but these had me a little worried.  I stuck them back in the oven for about 5 minutes (yes, with a piece already cut out), and then exercised better patience and self-control and let them set over night.  They were perfect by morning!

Happy baking!  Enjoy! :-) 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Day Recap

Our first Australian Christmas shaped up pretty well!  We slept late on Christmas morning and when we woke up, we were excited to see that Santa had found us in Oz! 


We spent the first couple hours of our morning talking on the phone and video-chatting with each of our families.  I've said it a million times, but thank goodness for technology- I love that we can feel so much closer to our friends and family, especially on holidays like Christmas.  By the time we had talked with everyone, it was time for brunch.  We had a yummy egg casserole and pumpkin spice pancakes that I of course forgot to photograph. 

Then, we were finally ready to open our stockings and presents.  We were so grateful for our families who were generous enough to send gifts all the way across the world!  We are very lucky!  Being just the two of us, it was a little less eventful than the usual Christmas day present opening chaos/excitement that I'm used to from celebrating Christmas with a large family, but it was still fun. 

We had planned on trying to make it to the beach on Christmas day, but by the time we had talked to all of our family members, eaten, and opened presents, it was a little too late to do that.  We changed plans quickly and decided to take a walk around the marina and Spinnaker Park.  It was a beautiful day, and we had a great time just wandering around. I really need to go down there more often- it is such a nice park, and so nice to just be near the water and cooler ocean air.  

For Christmas dinner, I made my very first roasted chicken (Pimenton Roasted Chicken).  It turned out AMAZING.  You MUST try this recipe that I found on Pinterest, via my friend Anne.  It is so simple, and it turns out great!  The potatoes (and I added carrots too) that cook underneath the chicken are to. die. for.  I would almost make the chicken just to eat the potatoes.  Seriously- try it.  You won't regret it!  Not so sure how excited David was about it, but I was super excited that after dinner, I found one of my all time favorite movies on TV- "You've Got Mail."  I know it's not specifically a Christmas movie, but it still felt somewhat Christmas-y, and it was a fun way to end our evening. 

Of course we missed our families like crazy, but we ended up having a nice, quiet Christmas. No doubt I prefer the craziness and chaos of our big-family Christmas celebrations, but we made the most of our situation this year.  Hope everyone had a great Christmas! 

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Countdown

We're closing out Christmas Eve here in Australia- a day ahead of most of you.  Here's a quick look back at how I spent the last few days leading up to Christmas day!

I spent most of Saturday and Sunday baking up a storm.  I love baking in general, but this time of year, I feel particularly compelled to bake.  Many of the people we know here in Gladstone are out of town for the holidays, but I wanted to put together some Christmas treats for those who were still in Gladstone for the holidays. Solidarity, right? :-) 

I made:
-My mom/grandma's famous Hungarian Crumb Coffee Cakes
-New pinterest find: Buckeye Bark
-New Pinerest find: Snowball Cookies/Russian Teacakes

It was fun delivering these treats!  I'd really been having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year, but this really helped!

Probably one of the best Christmas presents I'm getting this year is that my husband who has to work 6 day work weeks every week has two. full. weeks. off!  It's so nice to have him around more than just a couple hours a day!  On Sunday night, we shared a bottle of wine and watched Elf.  LOVE that movie! 

On Christmas Eve, I went to mass at this cute little church in Gladstone.  It was quite small, and by the time I got there it was standing room only.  This church has ZERO A/C, but luckily, it had been a cooler day because of rain that morning, so it wasn't too hot (remember, it is the middle of summer here).  I remember feeling this way when I went to church while studying abroad in Spain too, but it truly is so comforting to be able to go into a church (regardless of the language and regardless of where you are in the world) and have such a feeling of familiarity and predictability as far as traditions go.  I loved that I was literally on the other side of the world, but still was singing the same songs and listening to the same readings as I have every Christmas since I can remember.  

After mass, I drove by this pretty tree covered in Christmas lights in "downtown" (if you could call it that) Gladstone. 

For Christmas Eve dinner, we had quite a feast.  And believe it or not, all of these recipes were from Skinnytaste-one of my favorite websites for healthy recipes.  We had:
-Garlic Mashed Potatoes
-Roasted Parmesan Green Beans
-Spinach, Prosciutto, Mozarella, and Sundried Tomatoes Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

Honestly, I really do not consider myself all that talented in the kitchen.  I follow a recipe pretty well, and that's about it.  But I do have to say that this dinner turned out AWESOME!  I especially loved the pork tenderloin- and it really wasn't all that difficult. 

Off to bed now!  I hope Santa finds us in Australia tonight :-)  Happy Christmas Eve to all you US folks! 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Ninjabread Men

On Friday, my friend Kim invited me over to make gingerbread men and watch a holiday movie.  When I got there, she told me that when she had sent her husband out to get a gingerbread man cookie cutter, he had returned with ninjabread men cookie cutters instead.  Aren't they funny- and way more exciting than plain old gingerbread men anyways?! 

This is the recipe we used (Gingerbread Cookies).  They were yummy and super easy, but if I were to make them again, I would probably add more spices (ginger, cinnamon, and cloves) and maybe even some more molasses.  The ginger taste in these cookies was very subtle, and I usually like a stronger ginger taste/spice. 
Once you finish making the dough, you are supposed to refrigerate it for about 2 hours- just the perfect amount of time to watch a holiday movie, so that is what we did.  We watched “The Holiday.”
After the movie was done and our dough was ready, we got back to our ninjabread men.  Here’s how they turned out:
In progress...
Final product!
These Ninjabread men didn't last long at all in our house- they barely made it through the weekend.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Down Under

Although I completely understand why, I have to admit that I was still a bit thrown off that Thanksgiving wasn’t celebrated here in Australia.  How U.S.-centric of me, right?  But I mean really, why Aussie’s wouldn’t celebrate this American holiday is just beyond me.  But so are a lot of things here.  Anyway, needless to say, the actual DAY of Thanksgiving was quite underwhelming- no day off, no Macy’s day parade, no turkey, etc.

The day after Thanksgiving here- which was actually Thanksgiving day in the U.S. (welcome to my life of adding/subtracting hours and working out being a day ahead of everyone), was a little more exciting since I got to video chat with lots of my friends and family during their Thanksgiving festivities.   I love run-on sentences.  And fragments.  Lauren, can you correct that for me? Or maybe you better not.  My parents and brother spent Thanksgiving outside of Philadelphia with some of my mom’s extended family.  It was so fun to talk to everyone and see everyone thanks to FaceTime.  But I won’t deny that it made me pretty sad at the same time.  On this day 14,000 miles seemed EXTRA far away.  I promptly called my sister in Washington to commiserate that neither of us were there.  I also got to talk to my grandma and my dad’s extended family back in Phoenix.  I love you FaceTime and Google Video Chat!

To distract myself from being a little homesick, I got started on my long list of items that needed preparation for the Friendsgiving dinner David and I were hosting on Sunday.  This was my first time hosting Thanksgiving (or any type of gathering with a meal really), and man it was seriously a lot of work!  Add to that some difficulty in finding typical Thanksgiving dish ingredients and the world’s smallest oven, and I was definitely a little more than stressed about the whole thing.  Here are some of the dishes I made in progress:
Pioneer Woman Dinner Rolls - Definitely underestimated the amount the dough would rise!
Cinnamon Toasted Almonds, Pie Crusts, Stuffing, Gravy
My favorite apple pie! (Forgot to get a picture after it baked)

I was most nervous about the turkey.  It just seemed like such a daunting task.  I regretted not helping or at least watching my mom prep the turkey all those years.  I tend to get a bit squeamish with raw meat, so I always just avoided that part.  Well anyway, with a little (ok a lot) of help from my mom, my sister, my friend Anne who is an amazing cook, YouTube, and a few other websites, I am happy to report that my turkey turned out great!  I actually made two turkeys, since the largest turkey I could find was 10 pounds- and we were having 15 people over.  I made one the night before and the other the day of.  So glad I did it that way!

Being grossed out at the prospect of getting up close and personal with this raw turkey.  
Turkey 1 and Turkey 2 (stuffed) - both successes!
Carved turkeys

Our guests also brought either a favorite side dish or dessert, so we had TONS of food!  Here’s a look at the spread:
And everyone appropriately stuffing their faces:
I’d say it was a success! 

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving weekend with friends and family!   

Here are some of the recipes I used if anyone’s interested:

Pioneer Woman Gravy:

Bon Appetite Herb Roasted Turkey:

Martha Stewart Pie Crusts:
Martha Stewart Pumpkin Mousse Pie:

And a few other recipes that I’m probably forgetting or that don’t have a web link…