Thursday, 27 September 2012

Change of Seasons, oh yeah and some new recipes

Ah yes the change of seasons.  Still throws me off living in Sydney being that it is backwards!  Although I will say this spring feels much more like spring-time to me… maybe I am doing a much better job of just accepting and going with the flow.  Thinking back to last year, I was a hot mess around this time.  To be fair, I was in the midst of the culture shock/wallowing in self-pity phase of my life.  During this time I cried over lack of pumpkin treats, foliage and BC football games.  It did not feel right to be in September/October and not be taking out cozy sweaters and putting away summer dresses.  I was angry that it was so different here.

What a difference a year makes my friends… right now life is good.  Must have something to do with being at the beach as the weather gets better! We have a long weekend coming up and are heading to Jervis Bay with some friends.  The hubby and I have never been, even though it is just a couple hours south of Sydney.  Should be a lot of fun... even if the weather is a bit cool like they are predicting we will still do some bush walks and kayaking.  One of the beaches there apparently has the whitest sand in the world.  

Like I said, life has gotten really good here in Australia with all our crazy adventures and good friends. Not to say that I don't get homesick or miss things about the US, but I feel like I am much better able to appreciate things here.  I was too busy this week to get a lot of good pictures around the house and new area, but I will do a quick post of that next week sometime. 

Anyways, I don’t want to go on and on about all that.  As promised (umm months ago) I will try to be better about recipes and such.  I think I mentioned that a friend had bought me a cookbook by Bill Granger.  For those who don’t know the name, he is one of the big name chefs here in Australia.  In Sydney he has several nice restaurants known particularly for the breakfast. 

The cookbook is great.  Filled with lots of traditional/modern Australian cuisine type stuff.  I have tried a bunch of them over the past few months and will be posting several over time.  First up oat, pear and raspberry loaf.  Brace yourselves for this one, because I completely adapted the recipe to my taste.  The original is amazing, but not necessarily what I would be eating on a daily basis.  I have made it with raspberries, blueberries and strawberries and have used all different apples and pears (pretty much whatever I have on hand).  It works well with pretty much everything.  My version is a bit healthier with less sugar, butter and using wholemeal flours.  Strawberries are in season now and have been on sale so that is what I used today along with some pink lady apples.  This is good timing for baking to bring stuff along on the road trip (which may be a bit of a long drive with holiday traffic).

Okay here we go...

Most of the yummy ingredients- missing honey though oops.

All the ingredients for the crumble ready to be mixed up.

Perfectly mixed and crumbled!

The oats getting all ready to go... these make this recipe taste like a delicious bowl of 
oatmeal in bread form.

Mixing up all the ingredients for the batter.

 Half the batter already in the pan topped with all the chopped fresh fruit... now ready to top off with remaining batter and crumb topping.

 One of the muffins straight from the oven... I need to make sure they tasted okay before bringing them on our road trip!  Okay fine... I had a couple... but just to make sure they came out fine.  And they did :)

Oat, Apple and Strawberry Loaf 
(or muffins depending on your mood)

Yield: 2 loafs or 2 dozen muffins


½ cup rolled oats
2/3 cup brown sugar
¼ cup whole meal flout
1 oz chilled butter cut to small pieces

2 cups rolled oats
3 cups boiling water
1 tablespoon canola oil
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 ½  tsp ground cinnamon
3 cups whole meal flour
1 tsp sea salt

3 ripe apples (or pears) finely dices
1 ¼ cups berries fresh or frozen (thaw and drain frozen berries and chop up larger berries such as strawberries)

- Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC)
- Grease muffin or loaf tins with cooking spray

- Make Topping

  •  Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix together with hands until well incorporated and small clumps begin to form.  Set aside.
- Make batter

  •  Place oats in a bowl and top with boiling water.  Let sit until luke warm in temperature.
  • Mix the oil, sugar, and honey in a bowl.
  • With an electric mixer add the eggs one at a time, beating well until mixture slightly thickens.
  • Add the vanilla.
  • Sift flour, salt, baking powder and cinnamon to bowl and fold to combine.
  • Drain any excess water from the oats and fold them into mixture until just combined.

- Spread about ½ to 2/3 of the mixtures into prepared muffin tins or loaf pans. Top with fruit/berries. 
Top with the remaining batter and then sprkingle the topping over as evenly as possible.
Bake loafs approximately 1 hour 10 minutes.  Bake muffins approximately 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Recipe adapted from Bill Granger's book Best of Bill

I also baked these beauties today.  Recipe for them is below as well.  Not sure where I got this one initially… it was in my recipe box and I remember making them probably in high school and college.  Most likely something from my mom… but no source to quote on where it is from exactly! Typically recipes similar to this are called Monster Cookies.  You can switch out the chocolate chips for anything else... butterscotch or peanut butter chips, other small candy etc.  Options for that stuff are kinda limited here down under so I stuck with the M&Ms and mini chocolate chips.

And yes, I had to taste test these too.  Don't worry, they are delicious as well.

Monster Cookies

Yield: 24 large cookies

1 stick butter (softened)
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups of creamy peanut butter
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cup quick oatmeal
1 cup M&Ms
1 cup mini chocolate chips

- Preheat oven to 375ºF and prep cookie sheets with parchment paper or cooking spray.
- Cream together the butter, sugars and peanut butter with an electric mixer until fluffy and creamy. 
- Add the eggs one at a time and vanilla mix until just combined. 
- Add the baking soda and mix well. 
- Fold in the oats and then the chocolate chips and M&Ms. 
- Use a cookie scoop or large spoon to make rounded balls of dough.  Press down slightly on dough to flatten.
- Bake for 10-12 minutes until slightly brown on outside.
- Cool on parchment paper.

Wow that was a lot of recipe posting for one day.  I am off to pack up for the weekend away.  Hopefully the weather is good and I am back next week with lots of fun pictures and such. 

Until next time, I leave you with this gem of a picture of me and Uncle Glenn from our trip back to Boston in June.  Uncle Glenn knows all too well my love of all things pumpkin (and how much I miss all the pumpkin spice goodness being away) and picked up some canned pumpkin for me.  Have I mentioned before you can't get that here?! Anyways, here is the ridiculous picture of us with a can of pumpkin.  I have perfected some pumpkin recipes coming up next week  :)

Monday, 17 September 2012

Disney World Awesomeness and 1/2 Marathon Take 2

So, even though we were just in the states in June and have been crazy busy since then, we went back. Long story short, the hubby had a work training seminar they wanted him to go to and last minute we planned a trip back.  Because of the ridiculously long travel time, I normally would not have wanted to go myself. Really, there was only one thing that would get me to do the trip... yes that's right, a trip to Disney World (oh and also Harry Potter land at Universal).

Indeed I am like a child that has never grown up.  I still love all things Disney... I am especially partial to Disney World.  Because of this obsession, we packed up yet again and did the close to 20 hours flying to get to Orlando. It was ridiculously hot and humid while we were there (an almost welcome break from the cooler weather here... although it is warming up now).   Typical Florida weather... although not very conducive to my 1/2 marathon training.  It resulted in some pretty early morning runs... even then at 6am it was still close to 80 degrees and felt like I was swimming after about 30 seconds outside due to the humidity.  Really Florida, you are killing me.  Although, being up early has its benefits... that peacefulness when there is really no one else out and about, less cars on the road to worry about and best of all no lines when I go to get pumpkin lattes or ice coffee at DD or Starbucks post run! Side note, I got my full fill of all things pumpkin including my favorite coffee drinks, pumpkin scones and bagels with pumpkin cream cheese (I don't even remember Dunkin' Donuts having this before, but it was amazing).  Sorry for the pumpkin tangent.  I also wouldn't have seen this if I didn't get up early... so it's all good.

Overall, it was a great stress free trip.  The hubby had a few training days, but we arrived early to do some days at the parks, meet up with friends and enjoy a bit of a mini-vacation.

Here are some photo highlights from the trip.  I will warn you now, brace yourselves for the amazing t-shirt display throughout the trip.  Yeah, I am that awesome.

We started out spending the weekend at Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure.  It has been a while since we have been to either park, and the whole Harry Potter area was new for us.

Umm... the hubby just likes this place.  We didn't actually eat here or anything... just a picture out front.

First look at the Harry Potter area... exciting!

More Hogsmead stuff...

And Hogwarts...

We decided we liked these little guys from Despicable Me.  They were all over the place... apparently we are late jumping on that bandwagon. 

A random Popeye statue.  

Next up we had all the Disney parks... here are a few fun pictures from that part of the trip...

And here my obsession with pumpkins continues!  I had never been to the parks this time of year so I was a bit excited...

It was also an excuse to practice with all the different camera settings...

Okay last one...

Woo group photo with Donald at the Mexican pavilion at EPCOT.

Yeah, we are that awesome.

Oh yeah, even better.

The hubby snapped this picture.  I thought it came out good... even though I hate this ride with a passion.

Last night... belated anniversary dinner and drinks at Jiko.  Good times.

That brings me up to speed to this past weekend.  Woo!  The blog is finally up to date again.  So, this past weekend I ran my second 1/2 marathon.  Who knew I would become such an avid runner here down under!  Anyways, it went really well.  I knew what to expect this time, so I had an idea of how hard to push myself and still make it through.  I cut off more than 6 minutes from my first half... not bad if I do say so myself.  It was a great run overall as well... fantastic sunny 60 degree morning, the run pretty much started going over the harbour bridge and finishes up at the opera house.  Pretty cool experience.  Highlights: Bruce happened to start playing on my playlist while running the bridge and the finish line at the opera house.  Legs are super sore today, but well worth it!

Okay... everyone is up to date on our lives now.  This is good because there is a ton of stuff coming up in the next few months with travels and visitors!  Per usual, I will try to be better about keeping this more current :)

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Post-US Trip Recap and "Winter" in Sydney

Delayed yet again- I feel like all my posts should start this way :/

Here is the quick recap of life in Sydney in the weeks after our first trip back to the states…

First we had some visitors from the states stay with us for a few weeks in July.  It is really nice to have good friends visiting Australia… it gives us a chance to experience things again with them and appreciate how amazing it is here.  As with anything, you start to forget how great things are when it is just your day to day life.  We did lots of fun outings to the zoo, wine country, all around Sydney and drove around to spot some kangaroos in the wild.  Good times indeed.

A bit blurry, but you can kind of make out the kangaroo there.  
Sorry about the poor picture quality (iphone from a distance), we have our new camera that I have been 
playing around with.  This will remedy the issue of bad pictures!

Lovely picture of the girls during our wine tasting adventure.

Next up, we spent a weekend in the Blue Mountains for Christmas in July- Woo!  It actually was quite chilly out at night and in the mornings… actual freezing temperatures cold!  I don’t think we have experienced those temps for a while, except for a short time while in Tasmania.  It really did make it feel a bit like Christmas.  We had a proper Christmas dinner, a tree and a fire going at night!  Those who know me well, know that I am obsessed with baking Christmas cookies.  Since I didn’t do too much baking last Christmas here (80 degree heat with no AC does not mix well with baking!) I went a bit crazy for this weekend.  Sorry no recipes to go with these yet, things were a bit too hectic at the time to take pictures of the process.

Some pictures with the new camera.  This was at Wentworth Falls.

 Not sure where we were exactly here... But a pretty picture anyways.

The hubby and I in front of the Three Sisters.

Gingerbread biscotti.  These were ridiculously good.  I will be making them again and will definitely post the recipe.

The required Christmas Sugar Cookies.

Just some of the other cookies I made... I'm telling you I went baking crazy!  Yes, those on the right are peanut butter kisses that a lot of people back home make for the holidays.  Long story with these ones, but pretty much no one besides Americans like Hershey's Chocolate.  
So even though I have a stash here, I filled it with homemade chocolate-peanut butter ganache instead, as to keep all our friends from the UK happy :)

The other reason things have been slow with blogging was our move (I know, excuses and more excuses!).  We have relocated to our new home for the next year.  This move was big and super time consuming.  We are in a house right by one of the nice beaches in the Sydney area.  It makes me feel like a real adult living in a house versus an apartment!  So, the move was crazy in part because it is an old home that was in somewhat of disrepair from the prior owners.  I repainted pretty much the whole interior (except for our “junk room”- yeah we are obnoxious and have that much space now).  This process took over 3 weeks pretty much full time for me.  Completely worth it though.  It really made the place look much better.  Then we had to fill up the space with more furniture than we had… this of course meant quality time (eeks) at Ikea and searching gumtree for finds.  This is still a work in progress.

This doesn't really show the space well, but this was about half way
 through painting the living room area.

I will say that I have been feeling over the past 6 months or so that life here is really good. However, since moving, life here is amazing!!!  I don’t know if it is just being right at the beach and walking there, having a space that feels more like “home”, or just liking the area… but the hubby and I can not stop talking about how great life is.  Clearly this is a good thing ☺

Weekend bushwalk from the new place.

View when finishing our morning run on the new route along the beach. 
 Pretty great way to start the day!

Next up for big accomplishments was City2Surf.  This was the longest run for the hubby to date.  The run goes from the CBD out to Bondi… 14km with a good uphill portion in there.  I pushed him for training for this one… he was a really good sport, but I don’t think he was very happy with me (especially dragging him out on cold mornings while in the Blue Mountains!).  The race day itself was a lot of fun… it is the biggest run in Australia in terms of numbers of people running (they claim it is the world’s largest run) so there is a really good atmosphere throughout the run.  I was super proud of the hubby for training for this one, since distance runs are not his favorite… this was one of the big checks off the Australia “To Do” list for us.   Probably going to stick with the shorter fun runs now though… next up, repeat of the Santa Fun Run in November!

View from running with the crowds down towards Kings Cross.

Pre-run picture...

Post-run.  Still standing :)

Okay, those were the highlights of those few months.  Here are a couple other pictures we took with the new camera over the past few months...

I was trying to be all artistic with flower photos.

On a walk along Lavender Bay


This one is my favorite.  The end of a day at the Taronga Zoo and this poor guy had clearly had enough... The hubby has called it "Come on Mate" :)

Next up, a recap of trip #2 to the states…