August 6, 2011 § 9 Comments
The times in life when I wished I had a camera:
- Watching a man on a stand-up paddle board be surrounded by dolphins at Bondi Beach, from the cliffs above.
- Many nights of laughter with friends, just to capture the moment.
- Seeing the sunset over Charlotte’s skyline from the middle of a traffic jam
- I should never leave my house without a phone or camera.
- Michael Moore will release Fast Food Animal Nation in the fall of 2011.
- The next Man vs Wild will see Bear Grylls holding his own in a chain restaurant.
- Slice 2 zucchini lengthways using a mandolin
- Use the grating attachment in a food processor to grate 2 carrots. Set aside. 1 beetroot.
- In a blender, mix a handful of walnuts, 2 tbl sundried tomatoes, the carrot and 1 tbl coconut oil until chunky. Set aside
- Next process 1/2 cup cashews and enough water to make a smooth consistency. Add the grated beetroot.
- In a glass square dish make a single layer of zucchini ‘pasta’. Add 1/2 nut topping and another layer off zucchini. Add remaining nut topping, final layer of zucchini and top with beetroot cheese and a sprinkle of chia seeds.
July 22, 2011 § 7 Comments
‘The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive.’
The words that started an empire.
I read my first Harry Potter book, The Chamber of Secrets, when I was 13 years old, three years after The Philosopher’s Stone had hit bookshelves but before Potter Mania had engulfed the world. From that moment the spell was cast and I devoured book after book in quick succession. It wasn’t until page 640 in book number four, The Goblet of Fire, that I had to learn patience. Slow months went by as I awaited the release of Prisoner of Azkaban, my young mind nearly exploding in anticipation of what the Hogwarts crew was up to.
And so it goes with many of the great series.
It was late December 2001, I was coming out of the cinema after watching the first Lord Of The Rings film with the Batman and my dad. The clock had just gone 3pm yet the temperature outside still sat on 42˚C (c.100F). I was on a little sugar high from choc-tops and Maltesers and the back of my legs had gone to sleep about an hour prior. Standing in the carpark, without words at the AWESOMENESS that was LOTR, Batman and I thought we would absolutely die if we had to wait an entire year for the next installment.
It was 1999, the streets were drowning in rain, I was 11. We were at a coastal town, having enjoyed breakfast at a seaside cafe watching the storm punish the nearby sand. Batman wanted to get back to the hotel where he would have access to cable. Unfortunately for Batman it was nice weather for Ducks and chickens to trawl second hand bookstores and antique shops in search of the next volume of Trixie Belden, my favourite all-time series, first published in 1948 and not easily accessible at the local library or bookstore. Store after store after store until finally we came upon a man selling rocking horses and old books.
It was mere weeks ago when separation anxiety once again reared its ugly head. NB and I had been loyal followers of the HBO series Game of Thrones, staying up past my bedtime each Sunday evening until the final nail-biting episode. Again, an entire year must go past before I will be reacquainted with those friends.
Now, you may ask what on earth all this talk has to do with pirate cupcakes? Good question!
Another series that has spanned nearly a decade is Pirates Of The Caribbean. While I enjoyed the first POTC, very much actually, it wasn’t one of those “ARE THEY REALLY MAKING ME WAIT FOR THE SEQUEL…” kind of films.
But I do love pirates, and all things nautical.
Yep, you heard right. Toenails. O.P.I has released a Pirates of the Caribbean range and I loved their jeweled, ocean green lacquer. A combination of blue and yellow food colouring and I think I got pretty close!
Tell me blushers, what movie, book or show has hooked you the most?
June 17, 2011 § 8 Comments
Some months ago I wrote part one of Pennsylvania. It seems such a distant memory with all that has happened and perhaps it is too far gone to go into any great detail. I guess, all in all, there were just a couple of things that I wanted you to see:
Like these hot sauce labels…
And this Philly cheesesteak
June 13, 2011 § 4 Comments
Gosh I can be silly sometimes.
This Saturday past we travelled up to Raleigh for a wedding. Considering that the weather was sweltering I had packed a bag with a pretty light summer dress, a pair of strappy sandals and a hundred pins to sling up my hair and keep my neck cool. Makeup would be bare summer essentials: bronzer, clear lipgloss, mascara. The next day I would have a fresh change of shirt and shorts for the drive home. How cool, calm and collected did I sound?
That was until we were driving into Chapel Hill, two hours from home, when I turned to NB and asked:
“Did you put my bag in the car?”
NB: “Did you ask me to?”
BS: “No….ohh gosh!!”
I had a mental image of my overnight bag sitting on our bed beneath the ceiling fan and light that I also didn’t turn off (add electricity bill woes to wardrobe disaster!)
NB looked and me and I looked at NB. NB looked down at the (now unflatteringly sweaty) skirt, singlet and flip flops that I was wearing and I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.
NB: “How did you forget your bag?”
And this is where food comes into the story, once again addling my brain and dominating my attention.
BS: “I was hungry and decided to make a smoothie before we left…I brought the smoothie with me at least!” I said, holding up a long empty glass. “It was delicious!”
Luckily NB saw the funny side and was happy to make a detour into Macy’s. I’m not adept at clothes shopping on a good day but under a time constraint with the thought of appropriate wedding attire hovering over my head, talk about pressure! It was on like Kong. 10 minutes, a knee length blue dress and a pair of wedges later and we were back out the door. And thank goodness for RH, who hooked me up with makeup, shampoo, jewelry and all the other essentials. Beware, having me as a house-guest may result in a raid on your bathroom cabinet!
But as they say, all’s well that ends well. The wedding was beautiful, full of song and beauty and love, good food and fine company. As for my little faux pas, if I had the time again I probably would still choose the smoothie. It was just really good.
Tell me Blushers, what was your biggest OMG fashion moment?
Banana & Berry Smoothie
1/2 frozen banana
1 cup mixed berries (blueberry and raspberry used above)
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup milk (almond milk used above)
Pour into chilled glass.
Add 1/4 cup cold coconut milk
Swirl with a teaspoon to combine.
Remember your bag.
June 7, 2011 § 7 Comments
I have spoken before about my addiction to cookbooks and how it was a heartbreaking experience to part with so many of my hardback-bound friends when I moved to America. While I miss flicking through Neil Perry’s Simply Asian and Georgio Locatelli’s Italian Bible: Made In Italy I am happy to report that they have both found a comfortable home with The Duck.
This isn’t to say that I left them all behind. I decided that as an Australian arriving in the Southern states of America I would need such classics as: Food We Love (AWW), 5 Of The Best (delicious magazine), the perfect cookbook I & II (David Herbert) and Simple Essentials: beef, lamb, pork (Donna Hay). Since arriving I have also acquired two Paula Deen cookbooks (Paula Deen’s kitchen classics & Paula Deen and friends), thanks to a lovely dinner guest who generously gave me her own copies, as well as three second hand copies of the Carolina’s version of CWA recipe books.
So it would be frivolous and unnecessary to say I need another cookbook.
But I reeeeaaalllly want this one – Man With A Pan: Culinary Adventures Of Fathers Who Cook For Their Families. This collection of stories and recipes was brainstormed and edited by John Donohue, the blogger behind Stay At Stove Dad and well-known editor for ‘Going Ons About Town’ in the New Yorker . I’m yet to get my hands on a copy but basically Donohue has gathered fathers from across the realm – think everyone from Stephen King and celebrity chef Mario Batali, to a fireman in Brooklyn and a bond trader in LA – and had them share their food memories and favourite dish.
I can’t wait until this book is sitting on my kitchen table and what a better gift for Father’s Day (June 19)… wives, mothers, daughters, this will be the gift that keeps on giving!
June 6, 2011 § 8 Comments
I don’t have a great memory, I never really have. Studying for my final school exams I must have made at least 100 identical copies of my notes in an attempt to carve the words into my brain. And it worked. For the next week I could have told you anything about Australian troops in Vietnam, flawlessly quoted the exisentialist tragicomedy that is Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, talked my way around a Japanese dinner table and written a business plan for a company up to their eyebrows in debt. Unfortunately as soon as I had submitted the papers all of that information fell out my ears.
“We’re more of the love, blood, and rhetoric school. Well, we can do you blood and love without the rhetoric, and we can do you blood and rhetoric without the love, and we can do you all three concurrent or consecutive. But we can’t give you love and rhetoric without the blood. Blood is compulsory. They’re all blood, you see” … (thank goodness for Google!)
But one thing I am good at is sensory memory. As food lovers we would all experience how taste can take us back to another time, another place. For me the taste of Weetbix with cold milk reminds me of eating midnight cereal with my Dad. The taste of Weetbix with hot water and warm milk reminds me of breakfast with my Aunt and her rascals with the pleasant musty smell hay in the air and the promise of sweet Blue Ribbon ice-cream. A crunchy peanut butter & Vegemite sandwich is synonymous with after-school snacks at my Nan’s kitchen table and any strange combination of ingredients under grilled cheese on toast is me as a young girl sitting at the farm and eyeing my plate with scepticism. Never again will I be able to eat sweet potato with tahini without remembering BR’s kitchen table and her mum’s spring vegetable pasta.
But it’s not only taste, but scent, auditory, tactile and visual.
The smell of star jasmine and honeysuckle is springtime back home and the touch of burning hot asphalt on sun-toughened feet takes me back to beachside holidays, especially when paired with the ice cream truck melody. The jingle of keys, wallets and lipsticks in a large handbag remind me of the thrill of going through my grandmother’s purse every time I saw her, the world of the grown woman was exciting beyond belief. Panic At The Disco will always be linked in my memory with The Batman circa 2008, and Boom Boom Pow is peddling my heart out in a spin class in 2010, watching the massive thighs of the instructor and expecting to die.
It’s funny the things that make you remember: the smell of leather shoes, a frosty nose and dragon’s breath, fluorescent lights in a city train station, Kings Of Leon, burnt toast. I can’t explain it and I can’t control it. I also can’t predict what memories will be created from what I’m hearing, tasting, touching and smelling now in 2011, in North Carolina, at 23.
Just something to think about. Tell me Blushers, what makes you remember?
May 16, 2011 § 15 Comments
“If we didn’t have birthdays,
you wouldn’t be you.
If you’d never been born,
well then what would you do?
If you’d never been born,
well then what would you be?
You might be a fish!
Or a toad in a tree!
You might be a doorknob!
Or three baked potatoes!
You might be a bag full of
hard green tomatoes.”
~ Dr Suess
It’s not uncommon to see Marvel characters wandering the streets.
This Thursday past marked my first birthday in the Northern Hemisphere and what a novelty it was to wear a sundress out to dinner on the 12th of May! As I mentioned earlier it is tradition for my family to extend birthdays for as long as possible, so not only did I get my early birthday present and my lovely birthday dinner with friends, but then NB whisked me away to the mountains for a weekend in Asheville, North Carolina.
I would describe Asheville as the love child of hippy Bellingen (NSW) and trendy Bangalow (NSW) with a little Manly (Sydney) chill thrown in. The city is eclectic, but not in the slightly grotty way that can be parts of Newtown, and it thrives on organic, sustainable living. Asheville’s architecture is as diverse as its population, with a nod to both Parisian chic and Greek Revival as well as the Federal design you might expect to see on a southern plantation.
If it’s architecture you’re after then wait until you catch a glimpse of Biltmore Estate, the extravagant 175,000 square foot residence built on 125,000 acres. The Biltmore House was designed in 1889, by architect Richard Morris Hunt, for George Washington Vanderbilt and his wife Edith Stuyvesant Dresser. The family moved into the residence on Christmas Eve, 1895, and can you believe it, they only had one child to fill the 38 guest bedrooms! No wonder they were always hosting parties! A visit to Asheville would not be complete without touring this amazing home ($60). Not only will you get to see Napoleon Bonaparte’s chess set in the library, you’ll also get the chance to ogle the three massive kitchens (main kitchen, meat rotisserie kitchen, pastry kitchen), giant walk in pantries and one of the first ever industrial cool rooms… but remember to save time to nip across to the wine tasting as you leave the property.
The food scene in Asheville is incredible and I’ll tell you now that one night is simply not long enough to eat your fill! As I said, Asheville is all about the local, the organic and the sustainable. Expect to find restaurant menus that are shaped under a strict farm-to-table philosophy. Here are 30 places to get you started.
We arrived in Asheville around noon and went directly downtown in search of lunch. The downtown area is about the size of five square blocks, busting at the seams with cafes, restaurants and bars. My ears were filled with live music coming from a nearby tavern while my nose was leading me towards the tantalising aromas floating from within a small Himalayan restaurant. As much as I wanted to fill my belly with curries and flatbreads and rice, we had booked a Spanish tapas restaurant for dinner and I was trying to save my appetite. Instead we followed the stairs that lead to Wall Street, a little road that sits above the main downtown shops, and found an organic vegetarian cafe that I had been reading about the day before.
The Laughing Seed is a global fusion vegetarian restaurant with friendly staff and interesting cocktail combinations. We perched outside at a table covered by the leafy pergola, hoping that the rain wouldn’t sweep in sideways and wet our feet. I know NB had only said yes to ‘the hippy place’ because it was my birthday weekend, but from the moment we sat down I watched his eyes scanning the plates of nearby diners in hungry anticipation.
The menu is a terrific combination of appetizers, sandwiches, salads and entrees (i.e. an Australia main course) that incorporate tastes from Louisiana to Asia and anywhere in between. I had read great reviews about the raw spinach-pesto manicotti (zucchini noodles stuffed with live sunflower-spinach pesto, cashew ricotta, and fresh basil served over sun-dried tomato marinara with house-marinated olives), and in hindsight I wish I had ordered it, instead opting for the Open Market Plate on which I chose to have dhal, tempeh and steamed vegetables ($8). The plate size was modest, which is perfect for me at lunchtime, but if you are a big eater I would recommend one of the bowls or sandwiches. My little serving of yellow dhal was creamy and delicious and hit the spot that was still craving Himalayan curry. I also really enjoyed the grilled tempeh and I’ll probably begin to use this in cooking, instead of tofu, in the future. The steamed vegetables were a bit on the plain side, although they were steamed to perfection with a nice bit of crunch, I would have liked a little sauce to drizzle over them. It was a yummy little meal for me but the menu is so excellent that next time I’ll not try to design it myself!
NB was tossing up between the cuban sandwich and the special of the day which was a vegetarian version of a Philly cheesesteak, using seitan instead of meat. Our waiter recommended ordering the Havana Cuban (herb and spice battered organic tempeh, crispy housemade pickles, black bean spread, tomatoes, caramelized onions, Swiss cheese, and Asheville’s Lusty Monk mustard on grilled flaky Cuban bread. $10) which turned out to be a delicious choice and came with a side of crunchy jalapeno fries and creamy pesto pasta salad. I think the meal basically converted NB and it reminded me of the time that BR introduced her boyfriend to Pure Wholefoods, one of Manly’s organic cafes. While initially there was plenty of knuckle dragging and nail biting, apparently these days you can’t keep him away from the haloumi burger on Sunday mornings!
We left Laughing Seed Cafe with bright eyes and bushy tails, ready to explore our way through the champagne second hand bookstore (yes really) and the French chocolate lounge.
Other places to eat in Asheville:
1. Dinner at Curate, 11 Biltmore Avenue, 828 239 2946.
This was the only tapas restaurant that I had been to since Kika in Darlinghurst, and it was even better than my first experience. Make sure you book ahead because the place was bursting.
Must haves: chorizo with olive oil potato puree, lamb skewers, grilled green asparagus.
Not as much: potato bravas.
2. Breakfast at Early Girl Eatery, 8 Wall Street, (828) 259-9292
Traditional southern cooking, made from scratch with a local focus. This place is cheap as chips so order a few dishes to share for the table and get a real sense of what it is to enjoy a good southern breakfast.
Must haves: Ginger and pumpkin bread (3.25); grits with cheese ($2.25) these ones are the perfect texture, more like rice pudding than mushy oatmeal; omelette with local fillings ($7.95).
Not as much: Everything is excellent, and even the coffee tastes more fresh than is usual in American cafes.
3. Thirsty Monk Pint House and Beer Bar, 92 Patton Avenue, (828) 254-5470
What a fun place to stop for a drink and a nibble. We ordered the Local Flight, which was a selection of four beers from the local breweries for $6. We tried #1 Nantahala Pale Ale, which I thought was a bit reminiscent of James Boag and very yummy, #2 Highland Cattail Peak wheat beer, hints of raspberry on the palate, #3 Pisgah pale ale, a little more gingery, and #4 Pisgah Red Devil. To accompany our drinks we shared the hummus platter which included original hummus, chipotle hummus, tabouli, sundried tomato tapenade and thai cashew butter (NB’s new favourite spread) $7. The pizza also looked delicious and we were entertained by a man dressed as a nun running in and stealing another patron’s beer.
4. A sweet treat at Marble Slab creamery, 14 Biltmore Avenue
BS to NB: ‘Can I be fat?’
NB: Yes, of course!
BS to server: Peanut waffle cone with dark chocolate ice cream smashed with Oreos and coconut and topped with whipped cream.
…Also come to experience a real American milkshake, where it’s so thick you can’t suck it up a straw.
NB summed it up when he said that in Asheville I was able to find my food-town soulmate. What a revelation! Tell me Blushers, where do you escape to for a weekend away?
May 12, 2011 § 17 Comments
Last week I started a Cheap&Cheerful category on Blushing Strawberries’ with these fritters, and thank you to everyone who gave me tips on making a more ‘attractive’ fritter. I’m looking forward to trying again tomorrow, once I buy corn at the farmer’s market.
Lately NB and I have been looking into the Paleo Diet and the Primal Blueprint diet. In the coming weeks I will share one or two in depth posts on the subject, but for now let’s just summarise them as eating the way a caveman would eat – if it does not run, fly or swim, or if it isn’t green, then don’t eat it. Of course that is a wild generalisation and there are many nuances to the theory, which that statement has denied. But basically it is about eliminating all carbohydrates, grains and legumes, all processed foods, most sugars and dairy (a little bit of fruit is ok).
Before NB and I make any grand statements about how ‘We soo, totally eat Paleo now’, I thought I should recap on my history of sticking to a diet:
B/S on Detoxing – “Remember that this diet is not meant to impinge on my sociability”
B/S on Vegetarianism – “I remember once when I was a teenager, maybe 13 or 14, I decided to become a vegetarian. The memory is sadly clear. At breakfast I declare myself vegetarian. Five hours later I smell my dad cooking bacon. I renounce my newfound diet.”
Not that NB can claim to be high and mighty: Do you think Cheerios or Cheetos are more Paleo?
But we are slowly trying to include meals that fall in line with this way of eating, at maybe a 60/40 or 70/30 ratio. Which brings me to last nights Cheap&Cheerful dinner – a primal blueprint salad.
Now while Paleo may seem a little extreme for beginners, the Primal Blueprint diet offers a little more leniency, and Mark’s Daily Apple is a great starting point if you are interested in more information. One of the ‘sensible vices‘ allowed under PB is cheese. Here is what Mark has to say:
“While we aren’t diehard fans of all dairy, “the power of the cheese” is right on. However, we do believe in skipping the weirdo processed stuff reminiscent of school lunches. Play it snooty and go for the good, aged stuff. Not only is aged cheese a fermented food, it contains little to no lactose. It’s also got good fat, essential nutrients, and a wallop of protein. But this will all be mere peripheral chatter once you’re actually enjoying. The satisfaction surpasses all of the above.”
Truer words were never spoken! The satisfied look on NB’s face when he bit in to a sesame-chilli goats cheese balls, and his following proclamation that this is the BEST healthy meal I have ever made, is enough to keep this chef satisfied all summer long. Because after all, why would we want to eat healthily if it doesn’t taste delicious?
Goats cheese salad with spinach stuffed chicken breast
The money-saver aspect in this dish comes from using whatever you have on hand in your crisper or your garden. By using up leftover spinach and tomatoes from the previous nights dinner, I was able to stuff the chicken and wrap them in bacon from the freezer. You might have some sundried tomatoes or mushrooms lying around, which would work a treat. Choose whatever herbs are in your pots, garden or fridge and buy the goats cheese from a deli, not the supermarket, to save money on packaging.
2 medium sized chicken breasts, halved crossways
2 tablespoon of pesto (optional)
2 cloves garlic, crushed
large handful of english spinach, washed and roughly chopped
8 cherry tomatoes, thickly sliced
4 slices bacon or prosciutto
1/2 butternut pumpkin or acorn squash, diced into 3cm cubes and tossed with olive oil, thyme and salt
2 large handfuls of baby spinach or mixed mesclun
1/2 red apple, finely sliced into fans
Herb goats cheese balls
50g goats cheese
1/4 cup basil leaves, finely chopped
1/4 cup Italian parsely, finely chopped
zest of one lemon
Sesame Goats cheese balls
50g goats cheese
1/4 cup sesame seeds
2 tablespoons chilli flakes
1 tablespoon toasted fennel seeds (optional) or poppyseeds
Preheat oven to 160C, 350F and roast pumpkin on a large baking tray.
Meanwhile, to stuff chicken, make a wide insertion into each half, making sure that the knife does not puncture through the breast. Rub 1/2 tablespoon of pesto inside each cavity. Heat 1tbl oil a large based frypan over medium heat and begin to saute garlic. Add in spinach and cook until just wilted. Allow to cool before stuffing each chicken cavity with 1/4 of the tomatoes, and spinach mixture. Wrap to enclose with bacon and secure with a toothpick.
For goats cheese balls, take a tablespoon of cheese and shape into a round using the palm of your hands. Coat half the balls in the herb mix and half in the sesame mix. Drizzle with a little olive oil.
Serve chicken, pumpkin and goats cheese atop baby spinach, tossed with a dressing of equal parts olive oil and balsamic vinegar, as well as a squeeze of lemon and a teaspoon of dijon mustard. Garnish with extra herbs and apple slices.
May 8, 2011 § 2 Comments
Check out these strawberries on My Little Expat Kitchen. A coffee, a croissant and a bowl of berries would put me in Sunday morning heaven.
(As it happens I just quickly ate leftover Thai Green Curry, standing infront of the open fridge door as I prepare to head to work Mother’s Day Brunch at the restaurant. Alas, a Blusher can always dream!)