Saturday, January 29, 2011
And then (on this last leg of our trip), we'd return to our cozy little cabin for some wine and Scrabble and those last few rays of daylight ...
(and Shrek, for Nelle). Shrek, at least 4 times in the 4 nights we were here ... (but hey, it's a holiday.)
And today, our last day in California - we met Big Sur itself.
And though it lacked the tang of artichoke, I made a pretty awesome last-night salad out of all our leftovers. No photos, sorry. But I will tell you about it. Just in case you ever feel like throwing all that stuff out at the end of a trip ...
Leftover lettuce (aka mixed greens)
Leftover bread and butter and garlic
Leftover veggies (we used sweet potatoes and tomatoes)
The dregs of the balsamic dressing we bought upon arrival
1. Boil whatever needs boiling (such as the potatoes, and the eggs). Chop and cool. Set aside.
2. Thinly slice the onion and caramelise it in copious amounts of butter. And by caramelise, I mean cook over low heat until nice and brown and bubbly and yum. If you happen to be packing (or writing blog posts) at the same time, try not to let the onions get (shall we say?) blackened. If so, remove the blackened onions and just use the brown ones.
3. Butter slices of bread and saute until golden. Remove the slices and rub each golden side with a clove of garlic you've sliced in half.
4. Now, assemble. First - the mixed greens. Go on - fill the plate! Top this bottom layer (as attractively as possible) with the veggies, eggs, and onions. Then, the garlic toasts (2 per plate is best). Stack them up nice and high. These? Think of them as your giant croutons. Grate cheese over them ... so it gets all melty. Oh, yeah. Then drizzle the whole thing with your leftover balsamic dressing.
5. Enjoy with the rest of the drinks you can't take home with you because they're too heavy (or at least that's what you tell yourself).
Well, considering you were going to throw all this stuff out ... this buys you major brownie points!
And ending on garlic? Well, they're no artichokes, I know. But, the garlic capital of the world isn't so far from here ...
Thanks California, for a great end to a great holiday.
PS. Funny. I just realised last year we took our little family holiday to the Olympic peninsula (you know, that region of the States with hardly any sunshine and lots of fictional vampires?). And this year? Garlic-land. Just interesting. That's all.
NOTE: I'm having some issues with my comment form. I love hearing from you! So if you don't see where to leave a comment, just click on the individual post and it'll appear at the bottom. It just doesn't seem to behave on the front-page. Thanks!
Wednesday, January 26, 2011
But urban girls (like me) can channel their inner Granny - and what was Granny all about? Frugal living. Not wasting. Baking and cooking with love.
Yep, I can do that! Dare I say it? Yee-haw!
Sunday, January 23, 2011
I have fallen in love with a cheese.
I never expected it to happen, but ... well ... there's no going back now. The only thing is that it's going to be a long distance relationship for awhile. Until I can convince some Aussie cheese-makers to start making it for me. (Please? Will you?)
My true love is called Smokey Blue. And, as it sounds, it's a blue cheese that's been smoked.
It's amazing all on its own, or with crackers. And it tastes unbelievable in the sandwich I had today. Want to try it? Find yourself some smoked blue cheese ... and get ready to fall in love ...
Your favourite bread (I used honey wholemeal)
Super-thin apple slices
A handful of baby spinach
Smokey blue cheese
1. Toast your bread. Assemble.
I estimate this'll cost you less than $2 per sandwich.
And Robbie? You know you are the true love of my life ... I could never give you up for a cheese.
(Even one as good as this.) Promise.
Thursday, January 20, 2011
As if you need more sunshine, all you Phoenix-ites.
Yes, I'm talking to you ... with your postings on Facebook about wearing shorts in the winter, and going swimming. You, with your orange- and lemon-tree photos everywhere. And, hey kid! - you going outside ... without 3 layers and a parka ... to draw on the sidewalk ...
Oh, and by the way, thanks dear friends for letting us come and visit you in Phoenix this winter! We had a great time - enjoying the sunshine, taking photos of all the lemons, playing hopscotch out front ... uh ...
Anyway, I'm going to change the subject now and tell you about the amazing lemonade my friend Amy made when we were visiting! Ready?
Here's how it started, of course:
Lemons off a friend of a friend's tree. Of a quality and quantity that just had to transform into more than mere zest and frozen lemon juice cubes ...
And so, it became liquid sunshine!
Recipe by my lovely friend Amy
15 min prep + 1-2 hrs cooling
6 medium lemons, preferably organic
5 c water
1 c fine raw sugar*
*If you don't have this, just grind some of your regular raw sugar in the blender or spice grinder!
**Try to use organic ingredients when you can.
1. Wash the lemons and peel the zest. Save it for later!
2. Cut the lemons in half and juice them - by hand, or whatever fanciness-level juicer you own.
3. Heat 2 c of water and the sugar in a saucepan over med-low heat, until the sugar dissolves. Set aside.
4. Combine everything in a pitcher and stir to mix. Stick in the fridge for a couple of hours, and serve with ice! If you're impatient, as I often am - just add more ice and you'll be set straight away.
Well, if you're lucky enough to get your lemons for free ... this is amazingly cheap! Just the cost of the sugar - which is maybe $0.25! Otherwise, try to pick up lemons at the farmers market.
And of course my beloved Brisbane is nothing like Phoenix when it comes to sunny, warm-ish winters ...
Tuesday, January 18, 2011
i hate it when my baby's sick.
when she's burning up and i've given her medicine and it hasn't helped yet. and she's aching and feeling 'wobbly' with chills. and there's nothing i can do.
and now she's sleeping ... i can hear her soft breathing. but even still, i want to wake her up ... feel her forehead ... hear her voice ... make sure she's ok. i lay back down and cover myself up. tell myself - stay in bed ... close your eyes ...
i know she needs the sleep right now. but me? i lie awake thinking all those bad thoughts i usually keep at bay.
all the fears in the back of my mind rush at me. because i'm old enough to know how the world works, and i'm a mum now. and she's ... my heart? my hope?
Is the longest day.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
My Nelle. She's a sub-tropical girl ... growing up with leaves that don't fall off trees, and flowers blooming all year round, and a garden that produces the best lettuces in the winter (not the summer).
So here we are, in the Rockies, and there. is. snow.
Like magic. Nelle believes the snow will bring Santa back. And why can't we have Christmas again?She wants to have a snowball fight, and build a snowman, too ... that is, till she feels how cold the powder is on her bare fingers. She's fascinated with the way her boots smush into it, and how she leaves footprints behind.
I'd almost forgotten how beautiful snow can be.
And when we get a little too cold, and we come inside ... we'll have to make something warm to drink. What'll it be? Hot tea? Chai with honey? A steaming cup of cocoa?
Something warm and cozy and rich in antioxidants ... something to snuggle up with ...
1 1/2 c water
1 green tea bag (the 'green')
2 Tbs fair-trade cocoa powder (the 'black')
2 Tbs coconut sugar* (or use rapadura sugar, or brown sugar)
1 1/2 c whole milk
2 dashes of cinnamon
*I found this at the natural food store and thought I'd try it. I mean, coconut products are so good for us! (and yummy). But substitute any brown sugar if you need to.
**Try to use organic ingredients when you can - and, at the minimum, fair-trade cocoa.
1. Heat the water in a small saucepan to just below boiling point. Remove from heat and add the green tea bag. Steep for 3-5 minutes.
2. Remove the tea bag and add the cocoa powder, sugar and 3/4 c milk. Heat again to just below boiling, stirring until the sugar and cocoa dissolve. Remove from heat, stir in the remaining milk.
NOTE: you can heat up all the milk at once ... I just split it because I like to drink my cocoa straight away, and if I don't add cold milk it's too hot!
3. Pour into two mugs and add a dash of cinnamon to each. Cuddle on the couch, get yourselves warm.
And now we're warm, the two of us. And we look outside at the snow and wonder ... might those prints out there possibly ... just maybe ... belong to Santa?
I love magic.
Friday, January 14, 2011
Today, Nelle and I are hanging out at the airport. We missed our flight - and the next one isn't for 6 hours. Oops.
Oh, it's not all bad ... I've drawn her a train track on a piece of paper and she's rolling Thomas around and around and around. I've got my coffee, and a patch of sunshine through the window, and a happy toddler.
And on the TV at the gate, CNN is talking about the floods back home, in Brisbane. It's surreal, seeing my city inundated ... breathing a sigh of relief because our place is on a hill, and fine ... but knowing some of our friends' houses have been completely filled to the ceilings with water.
And the lady sitting next to me, and all the other people here at the gate, have no idea that this is real. That this is my city. These are my friends. That I can verify this isn't just something CNN's made up. I feel like I have a secret, something no one else knows.
It occurs to me that it's hard to imagine the reality (even for me, who lives there), because - hey, the news inundates us with news and pictures of catastrophe all the time, right? We kind of get used to it. Because at the same time as the flood in Brisbane, there's one in Brazil ... and one in Sri Lanka. It's almost overwhelming, isn't it? So we turn off a little bit. We couldn't possibly care and help everybody who's in trouble ...
But you know what? We can start. Do a little bit - and make a big difference.
If you're in Brisbane-
A brisbane blogger (Digella) has started a movement to take homebaked goodies to the SES emergency crews who are working tirelessly to help flood victims. If you want to participate, check out her website for details about where to take food.
2. Volunteer for clean-up!
The Lord Mayor of Brisbane has posted lots of information about volunteering around Brisbane here. Or help out your friends and neighbours.
Donate time, money, food, clothes, your spare bed.
(Our department at UQ has banded together to set up a Facebook site - so that people who weren't flooded can help those who were clean out their houses. And they're cleaning the campus day care centres, too! Wow.)
If you're anywhere-
Lots of lovely, crafty people are donating merchandise for the cause. You can read about some of these here.
2. Donate to the Premier's Queensland Flood Appeal!
Any little bit helps ... and you can find out how to donate here. This is the primary disaster relief fund for the flooding - even the Red Cross will direct you there.
And you know what? Already, $55 million has been donated by generous people out there. Wow. (But lots more will be needed, trust me)
3. Or, donate to the RSPCA.
Lots of animals have been displaced during the flood as well ... pets, wild animals, livestock. Help them out here.
Do whatever you can, with whatever you have to give. Even if you're far away, like I am.
And, to all of you in Brisbane - our hearts are with you. Truly.
Saturday, January 8, 2011
I can't stop eating these. I'm sitting in a hotel-room bed, wrapped up in an 80s-style floral blanket, listening to the low rumble of the heater under the window, watching The Biggest Loser ... and I can't stop eating these.
The irony is not lost on me.
But hey- check out where Nelle and I went today:
We had a day to ourselves - just us girls, on a road trip through the desert. So under a winter sun, we explored the prickly vistas of Joshua Tree National Park.
We had the greatest adventure - no preconceptions, no plans. Just driving till we found a lovely viewpoint or a little trail to wander along.
And wander we did. Over rocks, through the sand, among an incredible diversity of plants. Under cold blue skies. Holding hands most of the way.
These are the days to remember forever. Simple and special.
And, of course, ending with cookies in bed. (For me, anyway - sorry, kiddo.)
Adapted from Michael Ruhlman's Ratio
10-15 min prep + 10-15 min baking
225 g softened butter (or 2 sticks)
1/2 c maple syrup
1 Tbs poppyseeds
zest of 3 oranges
3/4 c wholemeal flour
1 1/4 c unbleached plain flour
*Use organic ingredients when you can.
1. Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Line a cookie sheet with baking paper.
2. With a mixer or a whisk, cream together the butter and maple syrup. Add the poppyseeds and orange zest and mix thoroughly.
3. Add the flour and mix thoroughly.
4. Make Tbs- sized balls of dough and roll them into spheres in your hand. Put them 5cm (2") apart on the cookie sheet, and just before you put them all in the oven, use a fork to flatten them slightly.
5. Bake for 10-15 min, until lightly golden. Remove the cookie sheet from the oven, let it sit for 5 minutes, and then transfer the cookies to a rack to finish cooling. Store in an airtight container for up to a week.
For a 100% organic batch, I estimate it'll cost less than $6. Or $0.20-$0.25 per cookie.
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
They only use 3-4 ingredients, and often those you need to use up by the end of a holiday. You can make a big batch and fill leftover crepes with savoury stuff for lunch, or slather with peanut butter for a snack, use them for enchiladas or cannelloni.