Saturday, 18 November 2017

I have been remiss in my duties. I logged into this blog app and it told me that my last entry was 7 months ago. That shocked me. It doesn’t even seem like I’ve been writing in Australia for that long. The passage of time is slow and fast at the same time.

Anyways, I had a request from my mother who recently visited to send her my recipe for my Mexican rice. Since she was also telling me repeatedly how long it had been since I’d written, I decided to combine the two tasks.

My Mexican rice has progressed from the original and become a combination of recipes and personal preferences. So this is very tailored to me and Fraser’s tastes, so adjust based on how flavorful you like your food!

You start with one whole diced onion (any colour will do, I prefer yellow though). Pour a quarter cup of good olive oil into a sauce pan and heat over medium. Add the onion at any stage. I like to add before it’s hot because then I can hear it start to sizzle and know how it’s progressing. This may not be cooking protocol but it satisfies my controlling nature. Depending on my mood and how tired my knife is, I’ll chop up a couple of cloves of garlic and add. It’s not necessary though. I just think garlic should be in everything that is not considered a “sweet” food. Add some diced capsicum to this. Again this recipe is very flexible and you can use any colour. I’ve done it without either onion or capsicum, it can be based on your crisper contents. Any other veggies you think would be yummy in a mexicano rice you can add once the onion and capsicum (aka peppers) are softened. So tonight I added a bunch of diced cherry tomatoes that were on the verge of going off. Personally, I don’t like any fruit or veg that are over-ripe so this kind of dish tends to occur when we have an excess of veg that need to be dealt with. Sautée until soft and then add the spices. This again is where you use your own taste preferences. I like food heavily spiced so I use a lot more than is normal. I add 3 tsp oregano, 3 tsp cumin, 3 tsp coriander, 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp chilli powder (ours is very hot so add to heat level you desire), 3 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper. This is all estimated since I kinda dump it all in and judge by colour of the rice. Then add between 1 and 1 1/2 cup of basmati rice. Cook for a couple of minutes, soaking up the oil and spices. Dump in 1 can (400g) of diced or whole canned tomatoes (if they’re canned then break up with a spoon).

IMG_1996Fill that can up all the way (if using 1 1/2 cups rice and about 3/4 full if only using 1 cup rice) with water and pour in. Add in a can of beans (400g) either red kidney or black beans, depending on what you have on hand or your preference. Cover and cook between 15-20 min. Add 1 cup of frozen corn about 5 minutes before you’re done cooking the rice. Don’t be afraid to lift the lid and stir. Some of my occasional add-ins include chopped jalapeños (fresh or jarred), tomatoes, coriander (fresh).

Tonight I served it with fried chicken breast and it was an awesome combo. Highly recommend.

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I’ve been really utilizing our slow cooker lately. It’s really turned into my favourite tool. I love to cook but as my mom has always said, food that is prepared for you by someone else always tastes better. Well a slow-cooker has solved this conundrum for me! I cook in the morning and enjoy it and then eat in the evening but it feels like someone else did all the work. Double enjoyment!

So this recipe is dedicated to my Auntie Ruthie who also knows the beauty of the slow cooker and has taken such good care of my parents at her place. This is slow-cooker chicken and chickpeas curry…yummm. I will like the proper recipe below.

Heavily salt and pepper whatever type of chicken you would prefer. We used drumsticks and wings but I would change this after trying the recipe. Because of the long cook time, the bones degrade a lot, this adds a lot of flavour but you end up picking out cartilage and bits which I hated. In future I would use thighs and breast, but alas… Brown it in a heavy sauce pan covered in olive oil and salt and pep. Remove the chicken to plate.

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Sautée diced garlic, ginger and onion in olive oil until soft in the same pan used for chicken. Then add curry paste (decide on type based on spice preference), we used vindaloo because we like it hot. Add the browned chicken.

Add canned tomatoes and chicken stock, stir and break up and cook for a couple of minutes. Then transfer the entire mixture to your slow cooker. Cook on low for 5.5 hours or on low for 3.5 hours. Then add the chickpeas and coconut milk and cook for a further 45 minutes. Serve with rice and fresh coriander for deliciousness.

https://www.stayathomemum.com.au/recipes/slow-cooked-chicken-and-chickpea-curry/

To finish this post I want to put up a couple of pictures of grandma. I think about her a lot, but especially during November since it’s close to her birthday. She was an extremely abused woman and survived some incredible things. Her children all overcame obstacles and are all incredible people and she was THE coolest grandma ever. I miss her a lot but I am so glad she got to meet Fraser and give me her seal of approval on him. I almost hated the meeting between them because for the first time she wasn’t giving me 100% of her attention and was alternating between hugging and grilling him. She was the coolest lady and I think was incredibly misunderstood but without the tools to deal with her trauma and explain her failings to others. I really respect her accomplishments and learn from her mistakes. I know she’s at peace now and cackling down at me while I give Fras hell. I know she’d appreciate me keeping him on his toes while I take such good care of him. That’s something she passed to my mom. My father and me were incredibly spoilt but Shirl kept us honest and humble enough that it didn’t make us lazy or unappreciative of said spoiling. This has translated to all my aunts and uncles. They are the most selfless people, but they haven’t raised spoilt, entitled children. We’re all pretty ok (if I do say so myself).

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Monday, 3 April

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick and think of you,

Caught up in circles confusion is nothing new,

flashbacks, warm nights, almost left behind, suitcase surrounds me, time after…

 

Dramatics? Yes I am proficient at them. Growing up on a steady diet of 80’s romantic movies  and novels I feel adept at this. Listening to Cyndi Lauper sing ‘Time After Time’ seems almost tame to how dramatic I can take things. But for me, if I can’t go a bit dram every once in a while, then whats the point. When it comes to the important stuff, i don’t get dramatic, I am realistic. So when I’m dealing with the frivolous I do think it’s important to be dramatic (for my personality). Me and Fraser just had an in-depth discussion about this tonight. Raccoons started it. I love raccoons. My first school project I can remember was about them and I love them. So to make me happy, Fras was showing me raccoon videos online, cuz he knows I love them. This lead us to dog videos and we got to discussing how desperately I want a puppy and therefore to discuss my dramatic/realistic personality. As desperately as I want a dog, I am realistic enough to realize that it’s not fair of me to own one. I don’t have the monetary freedom or the residential permanence to take a baby in yet. But damn, it’s hard. Luckily his mamma and pappa have the cutest pup, so I live vicariously through them and Pancho.

 

It’s hard to write on this blog now that I work and I’m comfortable in the kitchen. I’m still the main cook for the household, but now that I’m used to cooking for us it’s not as exciting. I don’t take the photos of the meals I used to and I also don’t have the alone time in the house to upload said pictures (and with australian internet, that is a commitment). So that leaves me with unlimited space to speak about myself and my experiences and that’s where my shyness kicks in.

But the best thing ever just happened, “My Heart Will Go On” by the one and only Celine Dion just came on my iTunes and that gives me something to discuss. Something my father especially will love… Around the age of ten (about a year after Titanic came out) I became obsessed with this song and the entire soundtrack and in my most favourite dress (a red wine coloured dress with tramslucent long sleeves and an embroidered bodice; an empire waist a-line that hit me just above the knee) I felt like a goddamn queen. I lip-synced this song for a video recorder that my father could barely contain his giggles to record.

Anyways, this just leads me to think about how great my childhood stories are versus my cooking talks. So, yes, I have made some awesome meals lately (especially thanks to Yvonne’s amazing cook book gift) but they just all seem boring compared to my dramatic iTunes ballads currently playing and the stories those songs seem to dredge up. Here are some pics to distract y’all:

 

Monday, 12 December

When I was 17 my parents took me to New York City as a high school graduation present. Not only was this the coolest present ever but it’s just another reminder of how above and beyond my parents have always gone for me. Five days in New York for three people over spring break is expensive to say the least…and that doesn’t include the fact that prom dress shopping took place. Another very cool thing about this trip is that two of my school friends and their families were going there at the exact same time, one of whom was, and still is, my best friend Suzanne. Thinking about it now, the fact that the two of us at seventeen years old were let loose into NYC is insane to me, but man we had some fun.

One night for dinner the three of us and the three Kings went to dinner at an Italian restaurant called Carmine’s. This dinner has turned into legend for our families and our friendship. The food is served as if portioned by giants. When you order the spaghetti and meatballs. You got a tray of spaghetti and one meatball. Said meatball was the size of a human head. The whole dinner was done this way and everything was split up between the participants. Part of why it was such a good experience I think was because of how other-worldly it felt. I’m pretty sure we laughed from start to finish. The finish being the largest sundae I have ever seen and promptly helped devour. Another fantastic part of dinner was the people. Right beside us there was a table of three New York business men. For arguments sake let’s say they were the lawyers for a mafia family. Similar in stature to Robert Duvall in the Godfather, although much louder and drunker. We watched them go through cocktails and wine and then aperitif, getting louder as they went. The parents ended up engaging them at a certain point although my teenage embarrassment at my parents being human resulted me in remembering nothing of this exchange.

For me, Carmine’s, seeing Spring Awakening off-Broadway (in which a nude sex scene is simulated on stage) with my parents, traversing Central Park and other assorted areas with Suz, watching my dad attempt to break up a fight on a subway platform between a man playing a ukulele and an annoyed drunk man, and freezing my ass of in Times Square were the highlights of this fully packed five days. The point of this is that what is probably most talked about by my parents is the holier than thou meatballs from Carmine’s. And what do you know, they came up again recently when my mom disclosed to me that Carmine had written a cook book and given up all the secrets to the meatballs, and they apparently are up to snuff. I got the recipe from her and decided to give them a go even though we are a beef-free household. The reason being that awhile ago Fraser told me he had a craving for a bacon cheese burger. Well this tickled my fancy as well so I went looking for a substitute recipe.

I was originally just going to go our typical route of a chicken burger. This was until I found a turkey burger recipe that seemed comparable. Since the success of this I have been on a kick with ground turkey. Turkey burgers, turkey tacos, turkey spagbol, fried turkey and rice, we have had it. Now that I’ve mastered ground turkey I can’t get enough of it. Not only is it way healthier AND cheaper, but it tastes just as good. Plus something about this heat has made me mad for mexican food (it’s all about my homemade salsa PLUS the store-bought stuff), and I can’t get enough of it. Which may be starting to drive Fraser nuts. So I’ve been trying to mix it up lately (after eating turkey tacos 4/7 nights in a week I think he was about ready to revolt.

Since Carmine’s recipe called for beef and veal I decided to make mine half with ground pork to add a bit of fat and juicy-ness to the turkey. Now this recipe calls for everything to made in bulk. And I followed it. The amount of times Fraser looks at me in the kitchen like I’m a crazy person is too many to count. But this time I definitely saw where he was coming from when I was elbow deep in tomato juice while separating 12 cans worth of plum tomatoes from their juices. It did seem a bit excessive. The upside of this is that even at this moment we have at least two more meals of Carmine’s meatballs (with a Georgia twist) in tupperware in the freezer waiting to be eaten.

This recipe comes with a high recommend from me and Fraser. It’s very straight forward and easy and the results are awesome. We had spaghetti and meatballs that night and then the next day we had hot meatball sandwiches which is making my mouth water just thinking about it.

 

I’m going to jump back a bit now for a second. Back in October I finally decided to make my own sushi. The sushi here is garbage to put it politely. We once spent about $50 on takeout and all the yummy tuna rolls we ordered…ya, those were canned tuna. This still baffles me. This is one thing I miss horribly about Vancouver, not only the amount of sushi places EVERYWHERE, but how good and reasonably priced they all are. Vancouverites, you are truly spoilt, please go eat some right now for me, I will gladly taken on the calories for you. It is also surprising because the quality of fresh, local fish we get in Byron is awesome. I first got the idea when I went to buy salmon at the market and the guy informed me that it was sushi grade fish. I looked at him for a second and then asked just to make sure my stomach wasn’t causing my brain to hallucinate: I can eat this raw? Yes, you most certainly can. Music to my ears.

I found seaweed and a bamboo roller at the supermarket and finally attempted it. It obviously wasn’t as good as professional sushi (which I think was mostly due to the seaweed quality), but damn it was satisfying.

 

Last week we went through a crazy storm. It started in the middle of the night and woke both me and Fraser up at about 3am. Now something waking Fraser up: not unusual. Something waking me up: very unusual. Like almost all the Reimers before me, I am a very heavy sleeper. Being woken up by anyone or anything before I am ready results in a very upset Georgia. The number of times we haven’t gone surfing because Fraser is too afraid to wake me up is embarrassing. I can’t help it. I treasure my mornings and my sleep, and I’m a bitch if you interfere with them. The first step is acknowledgement though right?

But back to the storm. It went on for around five days and was intolerable because it only seemed to rain at night and resulted in dead calm during the day. In this heat and humidity the second the wind stops I die a little inside. My Russian and Canadian blood cannot handle it. I actually developed a rash on my neck called Sticky Heat rash. If you look it up, its cause is an unusual amount of sweating. CHECK. That I have been doing, especially doing physical work in it. One night while watching the Good Wife with Fraser and melting like the Wicked Witch of the East, the rain began and so did the frogs. The frogs here are soooooo loud and they frequently sound like they’re in the house. Which they have been in since the sun room is not sealed up completely. So this night I got up and went to look out the door to see if I could spot them since we couldn’t hear my laptop over the rain, thunder and frogs. I couldn’t see anything so I hopped back into bed. After a bit it became intolerable again and Fraser got up to check.

“Georgia! Are you kidding?! It’s right here!”

“huh?” (Fraser is constantly fucking with me so for once I didn’t really pay attention)

“It’s right there! In the room”

Well that got my attention since I had come face to face with a cane toad crushing one of my tomato plants just the other day and those guys are scary and poisonous. I screamed at Fraser, asking him where. He helpfully yelled back “THERE” (if there was a sarcasm font, I would be using it here). At this point I’m standing on the bed convinced a gigantic cane toad is about to devour me whole when I see it. It is in fact right there, sitting stoically just inside the frame of our bedroom door. Thankfully it isn’t a cane toad but a very adorable green tree frog. He started hopping further into our room and so commenced the evenings adventure to capture, carry and release said frog. I got part of this on video but unfortunately I can’t upload videos to this site. Luckily I have a picture of the frog out on our fence.

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In trying to find out the species of frog (Litoria Caerulea – Green Tree Frog), I discovered that the Byron Shire has 28 species of frogs living in it making it one of the highest diversities of frogs in any one place in all of Australia. Now that’s pretty cool. Luckily our (me and the frogs) hero managed to sweet talk the amphibian onto the end of the broom and was then carried back outside to his proper home. Thanks Fras!

Since I’ve been absent from blogging the past couple months, a new hobby has taken its place. Gardening. I grew up surrounded by herbs and vegetables and flowers all grown by my parents and grandparents. Our first house sat on the front of a large lot and the entire backyard was cultivated by my parents and turned into a wonder every summer. Every spring would start at Hobb’s and home depot. Gathering seeds and seedlings and planters and soil. The standouts were the mums, or Chrysanthemums, tomatoes, basil and parsley. The parsley gets a mention even though it did not become a garden regular. This was because I loved parsley as a kid. My mom would grow it in the herb garden and I would go and eat the entire shrub in one sitting. It was very hard to plead innocence when my teeth, tongue and lips were stained bright green. She gave up on growing that after a few short (glorious) summers.

I’ve mentioned the basil and how it got turned to pesto every summer. The same happened with the tomatoes, although not as dramatically. They were used in salads and sauces over a longer period of time but the smell of fresh, homegrown tomatoes warm from the sun has always been a favourite smell of mine. Since this is the first time I’ve had a backyard of my own since our home on 29th I decided to get my hands dirty again. As part of my birthday present from my parents I had a bit of money to spend on myself, and so I went straight to Bunnings – the Australian home depot. I started out small. Soil and couple pots and four types of seeds. Then it turned into a couple packs of seedlings and then more seeds and more pots and a hanging basket and a mini greenhouse, and the addiction flared up with a vengeance. I started with some favourites: cherry tomatoes, giant Russian sunflowers, sweet peas and chilli’s. These I started from seeds in a little greenhouse. It took some fiddling with since when kept in the greenhouse the soil temperatures would reach 100° very quickly during the day. It became necessary to remove the seeds early in the morning and then return them to the greenhouse as the sun started to go down. The seeds eventually became seedlings and then got transplanted and now I’m just waiting on some tomatoes and chillies and flowers to start! In total I am growing the following: tomatoes, sunflowers, chillies, sweet peas, zinnias, mint, salvia, coxcomb, lavender, rosemary, jasmine, marigolds and gerberas.

And finally, here is what we had for dinner last night: Our favourite turkey-zucchini burgers with bacon and cheese and homemade fries!

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This is Fraser headed to dinner. Does the blurriness demonstrate how much he loves my snap-happy camera work?

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Monday, 18 July

It’s been cold here for the past week or so, overcast and windy with the occasional bit of rain, and it’s made me crave winter food. Thick stews and soups, carbs and meat. This isn’t making the turnaround from pesto easy, but I’ve found a couple of healthier solutions. I came across a recipe for apricot glazed chicken drumsticks and knew I wanted to try them. The picture on the recipe reminded me of these chicken wings my mom used to make that I loved. We called them sticky chicken due to the fact that every part of you that came into contact with them became sticky. Bits would get stuck to your teeth, your face and hands were a mess and using a paper towel to clean up was out of the question. 

After the success of the apricot drumsticks, and the fact that I had another 8 drumsticks in the fridge, I wanted to try my hand at the sticky sauce. Unfortunately it was still the middle of the night in Moscow so I had to find a recipe I thought might be comparable. While they were still delicious, they were nowhere near the perfection of the other recipe. My mom has since sent me the sticky recipe, which originated with my Auntie Lini, but after two rounds of glazed chicken, I needed a chicken break.

I, like my father before me, am not a banana lover. I don’t dislike them as I did when I was younger, but they are still not something I go out of my way to eat. So when Fraser bought bananas at the store last week…well, they were destined to go bad. The solution to this was simple and is probably the real  reason bananas exist in the first place: Banana Bread. And we had three perfectly overripe bananas. My mom thinks the trick to perfect banana bread is fully rotten bananas, and since I grew up eating hers, I can vouch for the validity of this. My mom used to buy a bunch of bananas and let them go bad and then freeze them. This way you can pretty much make banana bread whenever you damn well please, which should be very often. She sent me two recipes, one she has used and one from her friend Helen in Moscow. Since Helen’s recipe called for sour cream, which I happened to have, and my mom had vouched for it, I decided to try it out. I’d say it was a successful venture as the loaf was half done by the time we went to bed and gone by lunch the next day. I now have six bananas slowly rotting on my counter awaiting their true purpose.

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Oh na na bread obviously has chocolate chips in it.

As the cold continued and my pasta cravings intensified, I came across a lower calorie and lower fat version of eggplant parmesan. Instead of breading and frying the eggplant, you roast it in the oven, and use the low fat versions of the cheeses. I made a basic tomato sauce for this and let it simmer on the stove for an hour while I prepped the eggplant. After slicing it up, you want to salt the eggplant and then let it sit out for at least 30 minutes so as to extract some of the moisture. Then you lightly brush it with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes in the oven. You layer your tomato sauce, eggplant, ricotta mixture and mozzarella in a baking dish and top with leftover mozza, parmesan and I added some breadcrumbs for a crunchy crust. I thought it was an excellent substitute for lasagna or the traditional eggplant parm, even though I burned my tongue once or twice.

My mom has been telling me about this tea called golden milk for a while now and yesterday I finally gave it a try. It’s an Ayurvedic drink mainly made with turmeric and milk. Turmeric is believed to be an anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, antioxidant, digestive aid, memory aid and a blood purifier, among other positive things. The recipe my mom sent me includes a number of other ingredients that have health benefits as well. The tea is a neon yellow colour due to the turmeric and is quite delicious, and at around 5pm I realized I’d hardly eaten anything all day and was not very hungry. When reading about some of the ingredients I discovered that virgin coconut oil, while higher in saturated fats than other oils, is a strong appetite suppressant ( and I’d put a tbsp of it in the golden milk). Not all fats are bad fats, and coconut oil keep your body feeling full for longer.

With golden milk, you bring all the ingredients to a boil and then simmer on low for 10 minutes. These include fresh turmeric, ginger, peppercorns, raw honey, coconut oil, a non-dairy milk (I used almond milk), water and a cinnamon stick. After this I went on an internet search of different ways to consume turmeric. I found a variety of juices and cleanses and decided to take different parts from different ones and make up my own recipe. I hauled the juicer out of the closet and after cleaning and re-assembling it, went to work. My recipe is a rough estimate of what I did since I wasn’t measuring. I put about four 1-2 inch pieces of turmeric, three 1-inch pieces of ginger and three lemons through the juicer. After not using a juicer for years, I’d forgotten how much fun they are, and pulverizing my ingredients was great entertainment. I then added around a tsp of honey and another of coconut oil, a dash of cayenne pepper and cinnamon, peppercorns and a bit of hot water and whisked this all together for five minutes or so, making sure everything was dissolved. I then added this glass of concentrate to a water jug and then filled it with filtered water. I poured a glass over ice and was pretty impressed with the result. It was quite lemony, which I love, but not too strong in one flavour or another. I think there’s room for improvement, but for now I’m quite happy with my new health drink!

Sticky Baked Chicken with Apricot, Sage and Lemon Zest

Lighter Eggplant Parmesan

http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/golden-milk-turmeric-tea

Helen’s banana bread:

Sift 1 and 2/3 c flour with 1 tsp baking soda, 1/4 tsp. cinnamon and 1/2 tsp salt. Combine 2 eggs and 1 c and 2 tbsp sugar, beat until fluffy, then slowly add 1/2 cup of oil. Mash 3 1/2 bananas and add 2 tbsp sour cream, 1 tsp vanilla and 2/3 c chocolate chips, stir to combine. Add to the egg mixture and the fold this into flour. Pour into a loaf pan and bake for 45 to 1 hour at 350 degrees.

Monday, 11 July

The healthy eating has definitely been on hiatus these past four days and it’s all thanks to pesto. Three out of four dinners were pasta, as were two breakfasts, and there was even a brunch of nutella crepes! It all began Wednesday night when I made the decision to make some homemade pesto. The fresh basil at Coles is really lovely and I’d been craving pasta something fierce for a while. This pesto is a big part of my childhood and accompanies memories of hot summer days spent with my cousins. The recipe comes from my Uncle Piero’s mother Maria and it’s truly the best pesto I’ve ever had.

The house I grew up in sat at the front of a long lot. This left a huge amount of yard for gardening, playing and even a tree house thanks to my dad and uncle. My parents grew a huge variety of plants and were very dedicated gardeners. One part of the garden was for the edibles. Herbs, vegetables and occasionally some berries. One plant they grew a lot of was basil. The basil would grow against the side of our house, bright green and fragrant, until one day in the summer when, at the height of its growth, it would all be torn out of the ground. The leaves were ripped off and washed, and then blended up in huge batches to make enough pesto to last us all year. The backyard basil cull usually happened on a hot Sunday afternoon when my mom’s family would come over. All the adults congregated in our tiny, hot kitchen, drinking wine while us children ran wild around the neighbourhood. Once the pesto was done and a huge amount of noodles had been boiled, either my dad or Auntie Lo would whistle to corral us back to the house where we’d get our plates of food and disappear again.

When I moved home to Canada without my parents at 19 my Auntie Lo would often send me home from family dinners with frozen tupperware filled with this pesto and the noodles to go with it. Nothing makes a broke college kid happier than a home cooked meal and leftovers!

The recipe makes a huge amount of sauce which you can then store and keep for an easy meal at a later time. This will not be happening for us, not this time anyways. I went out Thursday morning and did a big shop. Spent $22 on just under 2 cups of pine nuts. Yes, my jaw dropped too. When I told Fraser how much they were he asked me why I didn’t just buy some pre-made sauce. After I directed a long look filled with horror and disgust his way, I informed him that it would be worth it.

After blending up some of these golden pine nuts with the garlic, salt and a portion of the olive oil, you start blending the basil leaves up in small batches, adding the olive oil slowly as you go. Once this is blended very well you add finely grated parmesan, blend some more and voilà! you have your pesto.

Cook up some noodles, such as spagettini or capellini, then steam potatoes and green beans to add to the pasta, and you have some traditional Pesto Genovese. This was definitely one of the most rewarding meals I’d made, not only for how it tasted, but for Fraser’s reaction. He actually licked the plate when he finished. Nothing makes the cook happier than her food being enjoyed, and I could tell I knocked his socks off.

Saturday, 11 June

This morning we got up and went into Byron for some breakfast at a little place called the Dip. We had planned to do some walking around afterwards but we were both too full and lazy once we finished. I hadn’t been up to the Byron Lighthouse yet so we decided to drive up. Whale watching season as started here on the coast and I am eager for a glimpse of some migrating humpbacks. I guess a lot of other people had the same idea on a Saturday morning around 10:30am, weird, and there was no parking available at the top. We decided that sometime next week we’d do the walk up and take it in that way. From what I saw from the car it’s absolutely beautiful, so I’m looking forward to that.

The past couple of days have been pretty busy with lots of cooking and outings. On Wednesday we ate quite well with some Turkish and Mediterranean food. I tried a Turkish chicken shawarma recipe and paired it with Turkish pilav and a simple chickpeas salad. This pilav was delicious. After being soaked in hot water and salt until the water cooled, 1 cup of rice is rinsed again and then cooked in 3 tbsp of butter and 1 c of chicken stock. Seasoning with salt and pepper after. It was very easy and incredibly delicious.

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buttery ricey delighty

For the salad I just chopped up onion, tomato, cucumber and parsley, mixed in one can of chickpeas, and whisked lemon juice, olive oil, salt and cumin together for dressing. We had a fair amount of this leftover which I ate the next day for lunch. I even think it tasted better as the chickpeas had softened up from soaking up the dressing overnight.

The chicken was grilled after being marinated in a lovely variety of herbs and spices and we couldn’t decide if we liked this chicken more or less than our other shawarma style chicken dish. Fraser did like this yogurt dressing recipe better, while I liked the other one. This one is thicker and less lemony, and has chopped garlic in it. I also mixed in some chopped parsley which was nice. Next time I think I’ll combine these two dressing recipes. Using the same amount of lemon juice from the first one and then the chopped garlic and parsley from the second.

Before I had made dinner that day I experimented with a new popsicle recipe. I had previously thrown together some using greek yogurt and leftover fruit compote. They’d been ok, but not a fan favourite in this house. Fraser had brought up the idea of a creamsicle which intrigued me and I had found a recipe that looked good. This recipe also claims that each popsicle is only 53 calories which seemed reasonable. So I whisked together orange juice (I bought the good stuff – Nudie – which is only made out of real squeezed oranges), low-fat greek yogurt, some vanilla extract and a bit of sugar. These are a huge improvement over my experimental ones. We’ve only got two left right now and I think these will be a repeat recipe.

Thursday night ended up being quite the chaotic kitchen experience. I have a bunch of recipes on my reading list that have yet to be attempted so I sometimes ask Fraser to decide which one I do. On Tuesday he had decided on Wednesday’s meal which left me with a balsamic chicken and roasted vegetable dish for Thursday. Stay with me and I’ll continue listing the days of the week for you.

Thursday we got up early and went to the beach. This was our first visit to Brighton and Ocean Shores since the storm and you could definitely see the change in landscape and a huge increase in the number of seashells in the sand. Fraser hadn’t thought it would be warm enough for laying out on towels but I had layered up in my spf 50 and put on my bathing suit anyways. I’m pretty proud that I’ve now been here a month and I haven’t gotten burnt yet (which is quite the feat with my ghostly complexion)…downside is that my complexion is still ghostly. It ended up being surprisingly hot and we relaxed on the sand for a couple hours. We stopped and picked up groceries for dinner on our way home, as well as a blow dryer. I’ve finally admitted that I do not want to live without one and that taming my cowlick is sometimes necessary.

Upon returning home I began the kitchen extravaganza. This meant prepping what I could for the veggies and marinade since we were in the middle of a scheduled power outage from 9am-3pm that day. I brined the chicken and put it in the fridge and then tried not to open the door again. After I’d done all that I could for dinner prep I turned to making graham crackers. Now here I’m going to digress and just talk about these crackers for quite a while and then return to dinner.

A couple weeks ago when we were in the middle of severe dessert withdrawal and trying to figure out something to make, Fraser found a recipe for a low-fat cheesecake. I’m going to mention our chocolate disagreement again because it’s a big part of my struggle. Dessert to me means chocolate. If I’m out to dinner and looking at a dessert menu, I automatically scan it until I see the word chocolate. My favourite kind of ice cream is chocolate, just plain chocolate. You get the drift. Cheesecake is a dessert me and Fraser can very much agree on though (but chocolate cheesecake…just saying). So the next day when we’d gone shopping we’d picked up some cream cheese. Just to have on hand, in case of cheesecake emergency.

I’d tried to pick up graham crumbs once last week, but after not finding them in the flour section I’d gotten distracted by some list item or other and forgotten. So I went back on Wednesday with them specifically on my list. I don’t like shopping of any kind, it’s usually a speed game for me, so if something’s not on my list there’s only a 25% chance it gets picked up. Now I searched that Supa IGA high and low and could not find even a hint of graham crackers. So, I googled it. Aussies have a lot of different names for regular supermarket items, so google has become my best friend when I can’t find something. Red pepper = capsicum. Green onions = scallions. Baking soda = bi-carb soda. But this time when I googled I got some interesting links popping up. All of which were asking ‘WHY DON’T YOU HAVE GRAHAM CRACKERS IN AUSTRALIA!?” Maybe they weren’t that aggressive, but this accurately portrays my shock and outrage. How does this wonderful country not have graham crackers? How do they eat s’mores? How do they make crust for cheesecake? HOW? I returned home and told Fraser. He, for once, responded appropriately to my grocery store tale of woe. He didn’t believe me and thought I just couldn’t find them and was being dramatic as usual, because what country doesn’t have graham crackers! The new plan emerged. I was going to make my own graham crackers, so that I could make them into crumbs and then make them into crust. Already I was tired.

I found a Martha Stewart recipe and realized I didn’t have whole wheat flour (which is where these crackers get their name) or wheat germ. So dinner was put on hold and I returned to Supa IGA for the 47th time this week. I found the flour right away and then spent the next 30 minutes combing that store for wheat germ – the setup is very confusing (bad) – which I finally found over by the hot dog buns, mmmkaay.

At this point it was too late to even start them, so they got put on hold until the next day. And now we’re finally back to Thursday evening. After prepping the veggies and marinade, I started making the graham cracker dough. It was simple enough and only used an entire block of butter…for our health. After the dough is made you quarter it and then roll each quarter out between two pieces of parchment paper and then put them in the freezer for 20 minutes before baking. This is where the nights problems began. First off we don’t have a rolling-pin. So I tried a new roll of garbage bags I found in a drawer – the roll was too soft to be effective. Then I settled on a bottle of soda water, this worked ok and I stuck with it. After rolling out 1/4 of the dough to what I thought was 1/8 of an inch I went to start the second dough ball. Enter problem number two: we were out of parchment paper. So seeing as time was ticking away I saran-wrapped the remaining dough and stuck it in the fridge.

 

The power had returned during this adventure so I started dinner properly. Another hurdle we have in this house is that our oven is in fact a toaster oven. And while it’s a really nice one and gets really hot, yadda yadda, it is still the size of a toaster oven. This meant that with the amount of veggies that needed to be roasted alongside the chicken, there was not going to be enough room in this oven. I decided to just roast the veggies and to cook the chicken on the stove. This was necessary since not even all the veggies fit on the pan.

Fraser had mentioned having quinoa alongside this, so we’d picked up some of that as well. The veggies went in the oven (minus the mushrooms and red pepper which I decided to also do on stove top). Then I put the two pans of chicken on the stove. When those were almost halfway through I put the quinoa on. Add one stove at 425ºF, three gas burners on high and one unseasonably warm day together and you get a very sweaty and increasingly overwhelmed Georgia. Fraser and a glass of sparkling wine were called in as reinforcements.

 

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my calmer half at work

The dinner turned out surprisingly good. The potatoes weren’t cooked completely through, but since they weren’t in the original recipe and I was finally sitting down, no one cared that much. The pans looked burnt to hell, but since it was a balsamic marinade this was to be expected (they’re still soaking). While the recipe had turned out to be for four (how did I miss that?), it ended up being nice as we finished it off for lunch yesterday.

 

After dinner I cooked my prepped sheet of graham cracker. It turned out delicious, but I obviously hadn’t rolled it out thin enough as it was still quite soft and chewy, not hard like a cracker. As this was all scientific experimenting we decided to dispose of the product into our stomachs and try again with the next dough ball.

Friday morning we went into Tweed to catch the 10:30am showing of The Nice Guys with the retirement crowd. Definitely the best people to see a movie with. They don’t play with their phones or talk and I love them for it. The movie is pretty original and we both really enjoyed it and had some good laughs. Upon arriving home we had the leftovers for lunch and then I made my second attempt at the crackers. These I rolled a lot thinner and they were much closer to a graham cracker. Once those were cooled I set about making the cheesecake, finally. Since this all began so long ago I don’t even know which recipe Fraser had originally found. I just picked one that looked good off skinnytaste and gave it a whirl. My crackers turned to crumbs quite nicely and I mixed them with butter and pressed them into the pan for a crust. This was much trickier than I thought it would be. You spray the pan with cooking spray first so it’s quite slippery and the crumbs will get stuck on your hands if you mess with them for too long. I fiddled with it for a while until I was satisfied and then moved on to the cheese portion of things. The filling is cream cheese, yogurt, lemon juice, sugar, vanilla extract, flour and egg whites. Once it’s done you pour it over the crust. The tricky bit was putting these dollops of strawberry jam on top of this and then swirling around. It’s very pretty. I’d bought some of that real fruit, no sugar added, healthy real jam. This was probably the wrong call. It did not want to spread and create pretty red swirl across the top of my cheesecake. It was also not the pretty bright red of normal strawberry jam, but the more dull, golden brown colour of homemade jam.

After it cooked and cooled I decided to cut up some strawberries and place them on top since I was annoyed mine was not as pretty. Fraser told me that looks don’t matter, it’s all about the taste. This kind of logic was not asked for. By the time the cheesecake had cooled to room temperature and was ready for the fridge it was already 6:30pm. Cheesecake should be refrigerated for a few hours before eating so we decided to save trying it for today. Willpower is hard. So now that breakfast is hours behind us, we’ve decided to be cheeky and have a slice for lunch to see how it turned out. I am very excited.

The results are in. It’s good, especially the filling. The crumb base did not live up to my expectations. Now what I think went wrong is the amount of crumb base. This recipe called for 1/2 c of crumbs mixed with 1 tbsp of butter. I think, for my pan at least, this wasn’t enough. The crust was too thin and not dry and crunchy enough. Next time I would stray from the recipe and make the crust a lot thicker, but overall it was quite tasty and not too heavy (tasting).

Links:

creamsicles: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/vanilla_orange_freezer_pops.html

shawarma: http://www.skinnytaste.com/shawarma-spiced-grilled-chicken-with-garlic-yogurt/

pilav: http://www.petersommer.com/turkey/turkish-food/pilav-rice/

graham crackers: http://www.marthastewart.com/343771/homemade-graham-crackers

balsamic chicken: http://www.skinnytaste.com/balsamic-chicken-with-roasted/

strawberry swirl cheesecake: http://www.skinnytaste.com/strawberry-swirl-cheesecake/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, 7 June

Yesterday Fraser got an invitation to his schools ‘Executive Dean’s Awards Ceremony’ as he came top of his class in three out of four of his courses last semester. I’m incredibly proud and very excited to go and see him accept his awards. In lieu of this we are going to try to be extra healthy for the next 10 days (no more brownies sadly), as June 17th is the big night.

Yesterday we’d planned on the chicken salad route. Originally we were going to have a chicken caesar, but after the news I switched up the menu. I found a rosemary chicken salad recipe that sounded really good on skinnytaste (probably my favourite website these days) and decided to give it a whirl with a couple of modifications. This salad had bacon in it which, while delicious, was deemed unnecessary by me. I also decided to brine the chicken before hand and make up my own marinade for it since the recipe had called for it to be cooked in the bacon fat (yum).

I learned about brining from a chicken sandwich recipe I did a while back and I was impressed at how much juicier the chicken had turned out. Most brining is recommended as an overnight thing, but this guy had a thirty minute timeline for his which suited me. 8 cups of water with 1/3 c salt and 1/4 c sugar, mix it until dissolved, insert raw chicken and stick in the fridge. For the marinade I mixed a small amount of olive oil, Dijon mustard, salt and rosemary. I covered my pan in a thin layer of coconut oil and then set it to cooking.

While this cooked I finished the salad. Romaine, arugula, tomato, red onion and avocado with a light mixture of olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon, salt and rosemary as dressing.

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Throw it all together when the chicken is hot off the pan and prepare to ingest some perfection. I love rosemary, so I may be biased towards this meal, but it’s one of my favourites so far.

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the finished product

Now to figure out what I’m making tonight….

 

Rosemary Chicken Salad with Avocado and Bacon