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Posts Tagged ‘Recipes’

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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Sometimes you have to forget all you’ve ever learned about portion control, good carbs versus bad carbs, and trans-saturated-you-will-die-if-you-eat-these-fats.  For our normally very health-conscious house, this was a few weeks ago.  Ryan was celebrating a Birthday and we had some left over apples.  Those are our excuses.  You know there always is at least one.

For Ryan’s Birthday I cooked him his all-time favorite Mongolian Beef.  I had been looking for a winning recipe, one that rivals our favorite Chinese place back home.   While I don’t know if I can claim the title yet, Ryan thinks it’s the bomb-diggity and who am I to disagree?  I use the Mongolian Beef recipe from Blog Chef (whose pictures look much better than mine…where is that natural light when you need it?) but I add a red peppers (capsicum, here in Australia) to mine.

I also serve mine with the very unhealthy…wait for it…coconut rice!  (Insert gasp here).

Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 30 minutes

Servings: Makes 6 servings

2 cups water
1 1/2 cups canned unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons (packed) golden brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups basmati rice (about 13 ounces), well rinsed, drained
1/2 cup sweetened flaked coconut, lightly toasted

Combine 2 cups water, coconut milk, sugar, and salt in heavy large saucepan. Bring to simmer, then stir in rice. Cover, leaving slight opening for steam to escape. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 12 minutes. Cover tightly, remove from heat, and let stand 10 minutes. Transfer rice to bowl; sprinkle with toasted coconut.

Later in the week we were discussing what to do with our left-over apples that were going to go bad.  I was leaning towards something healthy like, you know, just eating them.  Ryan, on the other-hand, wanted to try an Apple Tarte Tatin again and basically sat on me and twisted my arm until I caved.  At least that’s my recollection of how it went down.

Apple Tarte Tatin and I have a sordid history. It was the one recipe who bested me…bad.  I don’t need to reopen old wounds but lets just say it has to do with burning sugar and unwittingly subbing cayenne pepper for cinnamon.  Bad.  Anyway, I found a new ATT recipe from the tried and true, Smitten Kitchen and this one was a hit.

It’s not a set-and-forget recipe but who doesn’t enjoy bathing apples in caramelizing sugar and nearly a stick of butter?

One of my favorite things about this is that it’s not really about presentation.  The apples are supposed to be a bit messy and the puff pastry goes on top and is flipped on its end later so it doesn’t matter how it looks in the pan.

The hardest thing is the flip.  Once it’s out of the oven you have to flip it upside down.  I left this to my equal parts strong and nimble husband.  Then you cut and serve with a bit of cream.  As they say in Oz, You beauty.

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We love to cook and I get plenty of practice at it preparing dinners while Ryan is working.  Just call me Suzie Homemaker.  One of the things I love about cooking in Oz is the deciphering the recipes.  There are, of course, the simple conversions that must be done from Metric to US but Australians have a way of making cooking — like everything else– really relaxed and fun!

For example: converting mililetres to cups, no problem?  Or kilograms to pounds, done!  (With the help of my friend, Google).

But who on earth knows what a “glug” of olive oil is?  Or a “knob” of butter?  When these terms showed up in recipes I was cooking I looked them up online and to be honest, I’m not convinced anyone really knows what they mean.  A “glug” can be equated to a “good portion” or “maybe a tablespoon” while a “knob” is “sort of like the size of a walnut” or “around a large tablespoon”.

Sometimes even the commentary in the instructions can provide entertainment.  My all-time favorite so far was when I made my first attempt at beef stew.  The recipe was Best Ever Beef Stew and the author of the recipe had an interesting way of explaining each step.  In step 2, for example, the author says, “…transfer [beef] to dish and pour red wine into de-glaze frying pan. Stand back, eyebrows are good.” The one that made me laugh outloud was when she or he encouraged the seasoning of the stew.  “Use cracked pepper or freshly ground. (Ready ground pepper is the devil’s dust and should not be used.)”  O.M.G.  So true.  So true.

Despite the challenges, we haven’t done so bad in the kitchen.  Our favorite so far has been Jamie Oliver’s Parsnip and Pancetta Tagliatelle with Parsnips.  We left out the parsnips and subbed bacon for pancetta.  It was delish!

I have to admit that it all adds an extra element of adventure in the kitchen these days.  My main order of business has been cooking and I haven’t baked anything other than cookies, but I rather suspect (or hope) that precise measurements are given there.

Happy Eating!

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Most days, Ryan and I marvel in the fact that we’re newlyweds living in Australia.

We are so busy exploring our new city, meeting new friends, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen, that we don’t have time to be all “boo-hoo” homesick.  Don’t get me wrong, we miss our friends, family, and home everyday, but forging our new life together in this country is pretty amazing.

On days like today, however,  the 4th of July, our nation’s Independence Day, home feels a particularly long ways away.  So to help ease some of the ache, I planned to make an American-Summer inspired meal for my husband, featuring brats, sweet corn, and a cucumber salad.  For dessert I planned Red, White, and Blue parfaits.  Easy peasy, right?  Not.

As it turns out, brats are not easy to come by in Australia and neither is whipped cream.  I spent no less than thirty minutes in Woolsworth (Wooly’s, to the locals) trying to locate both of these items.  I could’ve gone with hotdogs instead of brats but stubborn me was going to find brats (gosh darnit!!).  After ten minutes I ended up finding the one package of brats (no lie) among the stacks of sausage, kielbasa, and hotdogs.  Score!  Then began my quest for Cool Whip…

Aisle after aisle and multiple trips down the same aisles, I ended up asking someone who was working, only to find out that Cool Whip does not exist in Australia.  Whaaaaaa?!?!?!  Oh, this was the ultimate travesty to a Cool Whip lover like me.  But alas, when the reality of my “spoildness” came into clear view I graciously decided that thickened cream would suffice.  Who knew that by trying to make a “home-inspired” dinner, I’d end up frustrating myself and missing home more than before?

Ultimately, the meal ended up being a perfect taste of home.

And we finished dinner with these yummy Red, White, and Blue Parfaits, recipe courtesy of a lovely little website.  Thanks, Better Homes and Gardens. You never disappoint!  🙂

To top off our American holiday from Oz, I recently discovered (from a fellow American ex-pat’s blog) Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, and the President of the United States, Barack Obama, had sent this supportive video message to those of us living and working overseas.

We, as Americans, sure have a lot to celebrate and for which to give thanks.  One of those things is our accessibility to and working ability in places like our lovely host country, Australia.  So today on our nation’s Independence Day, I’d just like to say, “God Bless America! (And Australia, too)”

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