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Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

One of the things we will miss about Melbourne is the sheer number of things to do!  You could spend several days just exploring the city but if you wanted something more quiet there are heaps of things to do within an hour or so of the city.  We recently spent a couple of days on the Mornington Peninsula.  It was a birthday getaway weekend for me organized by my darling husband and just another way for us to soak in our last moments in Australia.

There were many amazing parts to the weekend but a few highlights included:

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  • An 8 km walk around Fort Nepean where the first allied shots were fired during World War I and World War II.  August 5 1914, a shot was fired from a gun barrel to capture the German ship Pfalz as she was attempting to leave Port Phillip Bay.  Then on September 4 1939, a gun barrel shot towards an incoming Bass strait trader Woniora who failed to stop for inspection.  Apparently those were the only two shots of aggression ever fired from Port Phillip.  DSC_0077-003
  • A fabulous and relaxing overnight stay at Summer Place B&B in Flinders with an absolutely amazing gourmet brekkie.  Meg and Norman were the perfect hosts.  Shoot me an email or comment below if you’d like more details about staying there.  It was heaven.

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  • A delicious fish ‘n chips from The Rocks in Mornington.  Sitting out on the outdoor patio overlooking the water we shared a fish ‘n chips and quinoa and veggie salad.  We looked dreamily at the super yachts and sailboats and savored every morsel of one of our last Australian fish ‘n chips.

Aaand I just noticed that most of our highlights involved food and eating.  For a second I thought about adding a few more of the “other” activities we enjoyed while on the peninsula but then I thought, Eh…we are who we are. 

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Melbourne has a HUGE coffee culture and I can openly admit that we’ve assimilated quite well to that aspect of the city.  If you’re a regular reader, you’ll remember from my earlier post that it took us awhile to get used to the ordering system but now that we’ve been here a year and a half, we’re quite proficient in the language of Australian coffee.

Melbourne boasts some of the best coffee in Australia.  The baristas are trained and some consider their work to be an artform.  While I won’t go that far, there is definitely a difference between a good and bad coffee.  A good coffee makes you close your eyes, lick your lips, and say, “mmmm.” Australians, you know what I mean.  The only disappointment is that a coffee of this quality can cost anywhere between $3.50-$6.00…a lot for a cuppa Joe.

But all is not lost, dear reader.  A friend of ours recently told us how to make a homemade latte, without a machine.  It takes more time than just brewing a plunger coffee but as is so often the case, it is worth the wait.

Homemade No-Machine-Needed Latte

  • 2 heaping teaspoons/serving instant coffee grounds
  • Equal parts raw sugar
  • 2 tablespoons water/serving
  • 1 cup/serving milk (or you can use half water/half milk to make more of a cappuccino)

Whisk first three ingredients together for several minutes until you’ve got a wonderful froth and your kitchen smells like a café. Heavenly.

Split the froths between mugs.

Meanwhile, bring milk just to the boil but don’t let it burn.  Remove from heat immediately and pour into the coffee mugs.

ENJOY!

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Two times a week I venture to a market to replenish our produce.  Melbourne markets vary in shapes, sizes, frequency, prices, and offerings so while we do have our favorite, we like to spice things up a bit and check out different markets from time to time.  Last week we ventured to the Dandenong Market.

We were met with a river of pedestrians and cranky drivers before we even entered the parking lot.  Before we got out of the car Ryan turned to me and said, “Just so you know, I already know I’m not going to like this place.”  “Thanks for the warning,” I replied.  Fair enough, I thought.

This was our bounty from the Dandenong Market.  You’re looking at the results of a typical trip, minus the salmon that we immediately refrigerated.  We’ve been loving silverbeet and lil mandarins…but not at the same time.  We also can’t get enough of the mangoes when they’re in season.  I’m already salivating over the chicken, avo, and mango salad I plan to make with the first in-season mango.  But, I digress…

Bottom line on the Dandenong Market:

+Good prices and quality produce, meats, and seafood, although we didn’t see a ton of organic, sustainable or free-range options.

-Too many stalls and vendors to choose from and too many people to shuffle through.  Let’s face it, sometimes you’re in the mood for a stroll, a leisurely walk around the market to peruse the produce and people watch.  Most times, I am not.

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The Goodness of Granola

Newly inspired from our B&B stay at Cockatoo Hill in Queensland we came home immediately and found a great recipe for granola to eat over yogurt.  Not surprisingly, we found THE recipe from Heidi Swanson‘s Super Natural Cooking.  This “GRAIN-OLA”, as she appropriately calls it, is easy and delicious and wholesome.

The first time we followed her recipe precisely but on the second batch we got a little creative.  See our take below.

Grain-ola
Adapted from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Cooking

4 cups rolled oats
3/4 cup unsalted raw sunflower seeds
1 cup walnuts, chopped into quarters
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups assorted dried fruits (Heidi recommends a tropical fruit mix but you can use cranberries, apricots, cherries, anything!), chopped
Grated zest of 2 oranges (surprising, but delicious)
3/4 cup honey
1/4 cup coconut oil (we subbed macadamia oil)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Add honey and coconut oil to a small saucepan and whisk together over low heat until combined well.  Meanwhile combine oats, sunflower seeds, walnuts, coconut, and zest in a large bowl.  Pour honey/oil mix over dry ingredients and stir  to coat.

Spread mixture evenly onto a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 40 minutes, stirring every 5-10 minutes to prevent edges from burning.  Allow to cool.  *Add dried fruit and mix together.  Cool completely and store in an airtight container.  We store ours in small jars which also make them perfect sized thoughtful gifts.

*In Heidi’s recipe, the fruit is mixed in before the granola is toasted but, having tried it both ways, we prefer to add the fruit in later so it keeps its texture and doesn’t get too chewy.  Totally works either way.

The grain-ola makes a tasty snack or brekkie.  Snack on it alone or serve with milk or over yogurt.  We prefer Jalna Organic Bio-dynamic Bush Honey Yogurt.

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Obsessed.  That’s probably the only appropriate adjective to describe my feelings towards ricotta.  Sometimes I get an unhealthy attachment to an ingredient and that said ingredient will make an appearance in most of my meals that week.  I have plenty of ways of justifying this; for ex:we save money buying larger portions and then, of course, we wouldn’t want to waste any of it so I have to use it up.  It’s all very reasonable I assure you.  Last week I made a special relationship with Ricotta.

I’ve been scouring my favorite blogs lately as part of our new efforts to go vegetarian 2 days/week and came across several recipes using ricotta.  The use of the ingredient made me look like a master chef when put in Plump Pea Dumplings from 101 cookbooks.

Ricotta also showed up in our Lemon Ricotta Kale Gnocchi from Eating with S.O.L.E.

I even made the gnocchi myself with a bit of whole-wheat flour and spelt flour based on recent inspiration from Shanna’s — from food loves writing — post about homemade spelt ravioli.  (By the way, I did make the spelt ravioli a few weeks earlier with a homemade bell pepper sun-dried tomato sauce that was to-die-for.  The leftover spelt flour was used in the gnocchi.)

Finally ricotta featured in brekkie in our lemon ricotta pancakes or pikelets, as they were called in my cookbook.  I topped the pikelets with slow-cooked cinnamon apples from my husband’s suggestion.  The pikelets themselves had no sugar so the cinnamon apples added the perfect touch of sweetness and were a healthier substitute for butter and syrup.

All of these meals had two things in common.  Ricotta, of course.  And deliciousness.

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In a recent post I tried to convince you, our readers, that we still have some of our cool… got it goin’ on, you know?.  Not convinced yet?  Well, this weekend we went out to trendy Fitzroy neighborhood and had a night out at Kanela, a popular flamenco and tapas bar on Johnston Street.  Having studied a bit in Spain (and having a not-so-secret obsession with anything to do with Spanish culture) I was very excited to hit up this hot spot with a couple of friends of ours.  The experience was a bit of a mixed bag.

CONS:

Food: If you stay to watch the show there is the option of a $60 pp which includes a tapas per person and then paella for the table to share, along with bread and olives.  The portions were decent and we left full.  The tapas were pretty average and the paella was not really to my liking but traditional in terms of what you’d expect of a Spanish paella (mariscos, pollo, arroz, and saffron). Going into the night you sort of know that you’re paying for the performance anyway, not the food.

PROS:

Decent drink/wine list: I myself sipped a lovely Tempranillo…or two…when in Spain, right? 🙂

Fun atmosphere: From the quaint space, the Spanish décor and guitar music overhead, I felt like I was back in a bodega in Sevilla.

Performance: The evening includes a 40 minute performance by flamenco dancers, a Spanish guitar player, and a singer.  The music and dancers were as good as any I’d seen in Spain.  Flamenco is so amazing and emotional and moving.

I will mention that I thought the performance could’ve been a tad longer, maybe a full hour, given what I mentioned above.  The place was slightly overpriced for the quality of food which could’ve been well compensated for if the performance had been longer.

As we left around 11:15, Johnston street was really coming alive.  We noted that most of the young’uns were just starting their night as we sleepily and slowly made our way to our vehicle.  Once in the car we talked about how we “belonged” there and how well we fit in with the trendy crowd.  And then we laughed.  And yawned.  And headed for home.

Kanela Flamenco Tapas Bar & Restaurant on Urbanspoon

*Photos from Kanela

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These newly married days we wonder if we’ve lost our cool.  True, we never had much of it…but now on any given night we prefer to make dinner, cuddle up, and watch TV or read (that is, when we’re not traveling).  I know what you’re thinking, ‘WHOA – how much excitement can one couple handle?’  But those who know us from the ragged race that was our life in the US know how far we’ve come to reach this sort of balance, peace, this place of un-coolness.

So every once in awhile we like to live dangerously, step outside our comfort zone, and hit up a cool cafe.  You know…the ones with the cool factor, that make you feel cool by just being there.  Three Bags Full in Abbotsford (near Richmond) in Melbourne is one of those places. Their website describes their cafe as “Fresh house made produce and specialty coffee”.  Cool, right?!  🙂

There’s nothing special about the interior.  It’s a converted warehouse so the walls are brick and pretty bare.  Truly it’s mainly the waitstaff — who are waaaay cooler than I could ever hope to be — and the light fixtures that give the place its personality.  Can someone PLEASE tell me where I can get those teacup lights for over our as-of-yet-non-existent kitchen breakfast bar?

And before you ask, no I wasn’t paid for this post.  This is out of sheer love or maybe they slipped something into their heavenly ricotta pancakes (below), ricotta hot cakes with baked fruit and orange infused ricotta, to be exact.  Yes, most importantly, the food is to-die-for so you can enjoy a fabulous brekkie while you bask in all your coolness.


Three Bags Full on Urbanspoon

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