Tuesday, July 31, 2007

My First Blogging By Mail

This is a really cool blogging event that was organized by Stephanie at Dispensing Happiness, where everyone who signed up had to send out a box of their favourite things. How great to be able to share with others, the things you love and then to receive a lovely box of goodies from somewhere else in the world. Thanks Stephanie for putting so much work into such a wonderful event.

I need to apologise to Stephanie and Eva though, as it has taken me a week or so to get this post up. My parents are currently visiting from Australia and are keeping me very busy. However, I finally have a couple minutes to myself and am happy to be able to put up a post about the very thoughtful box Eva sent to me from Switzerland. Unfortunately, she didn't tell me which blog she has, so I can't link to it, but if Eva is reading this....please send me a note and I will remedy the situation ASAP.

The first thing I noticed about the box that Eva sent, was it was from Fisher Scientific, a company that I order from all the time at work as a scientist, so I wonder if Eva is also a scientist....small world!!

Anyway, she themed her box around lazy Sunday mornings, which is a really cute idea. She included a huge bag of biscotti, which I have been working my way through, as well as some asian cookies that she really likes. She gave me two coasters that I could put my tea on if I wanted, as well as some farmer's market honey and Swiss chocolate. She also included 2 CD's for me to listen to. Last but not least, she had read that I like growing my own food and that I like thai basil, she included some seeds of thai basil that I can grow myself.

Thanks Eva, for a little taste of Switzerland!! And thanks Stephanie for organising such a fun event :)

Monday, July 30, 2007

Citrus Risotto with Garlic Chilli Prawns

This recipe comes from Bill Granger's Bills Open Kitchen. It was in the lunch section, but I found it was definitely big enough for a light summer dinner. I had to use some prawns I had in the freezer, so this was perfect, as I love risotto as well. Very tasty and pretty quick, easy and healthy. Even my visiting parents liked it :)

Citrus Risotto with Garlic Chilli Prawns
(Serves 4)

6 cups chicken stock
1 tbs olive oil
1 small brown onion, finely diced
1 tsp sea salt
1 3/4oz butter
1 1/2 cups arborio rice
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tbs lemon juice
freshly ground black pepper
2 small red chillies
2 garlic cloves
2 tbs olive oil, extra
20 green prawns (shrimp), shelled with tails intact and deveined
1/4 cup roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Place a large saucepan over medium heat and add olive oil, onion, salt and half the butter. Stir until the onion is translucent, then add the rice and stir for 1-2 minutes, or until rice is well coated.

2. Gradually add the stock a cupful at a time, stirring constantly and making sure the stock is absorbed before adding more. This should take about 20 minutes and the rice will be creamy. Remove from heat, then stir in the remaining butter, lemon zest, lemon juice and pepper to taste. Cover the saucepan and leave to sit for 3 minutes for the flavors to develope.

3. Meanwhile, pound the chilli and garlic in a mortar and pestle. PLace the extra olive oil in a frying pan over high heat and heat until hot. Season the prawns with salt and pepper, then cook for 2 minutes, shaling the pan, until the prawns are just opaque, then add the chilli and garlic and cook for 1 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

4. Stir the risotto and divide bewteen four bowls. Toss the prawns with the parsley then place on top of risotto.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

BLT and Potato Salad with Basil Oil

These two recipes come from August Bon Appetit. The BLT is on the front cover and I just had to make it, it looked so good. I also had a load of baby new potatoes from my CSA and wanted to do a potato salad to use them up. This was an awesome one! I highly recommend. Another great summer meal.

This recipe called for burrata cheese, which I could not get my hands on. So I used a cheese from a local dairy called Merry Goat Round cheese. It is a soft cheese, that is almost like brie, but made from goat's milk. Very tasty. However you could use mozzarella, or some other soft cheese.

Best Ever BLT
(Makes 6)

4 3oz packages of thinly sliced pancetta
6 large slices of fresh heirloom tomatoes
1/2 cup torn fresh basil leaves
6 tbs olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp course kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
12 slices of egg bread or brioche
18oz Merry Goat Round cheese
4 cups baby arugula

1. Working in batches, cook pancetta in a heavy skillet over medium heat until brown and crisp. Transfer to paper towel to drain.

2. Place tomato slices in a shallow dish. Add basil, olive oil, oregano and salt and pepper. Turn to coat and let stand for 30-60 minutes.

3. Place 6 toasted bread slices on work surface. divide cheese among bread slices and spread to edges. Top each with 1 tomato slice, then pancetta slices, dividing equally. Top with arugula and cover with remaining slices of bread, pressing slightly to adhere. Serve.

Potato Salad with Basil Oil

1 cup whole fresh basil leaves plus 3 tbs thinly sliced basil
1/2 cup plus 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 1/2 tbs unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tbs dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped red onion
2 pounds new potatoes

1. Add basil to processor with oil and process until basil is finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and season with salt.

2. Whisk vinegar and mustard in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining 2 tbs olive oil, then stir in red onion and 3 tbs thinly sliced basil. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Place potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until tender, about 17 minutes. Drain, then let potatoes stand until cool enough to handle. Cut into small pieces and place in a large bowl. Drizzle dressing over potatoes and toss to coat. Pour over basil oil and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Farmer's Market Salad

This recipe comes from the August edition of Bon Appetit and was great for using all the produce I received this week. It was very healthy and tasted great. Awesome served with crusty bread.

Farmers Market Salad with Spiced Goat's Cheese Rounds
(Serves 4)

goat cheese rounds
2 tbs sesame seeds
2 tsp ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
16 1/3" thick rounds of goats cheese (from an 11oz log)
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
1 tsp dijon mustard
5 tbs olive oil
1lb baby new potatoes, halved
1lb green beans
8 cups mixed salad greens
1/3 cup small fresh basil leaves
12oz assorted small tomatoes
1/2 up black olives (such as Nicoise)

1. For goat's cheese rounds, line baking sheet with waxed paper and mix first 6 ingredients in a shallow bowl. Dip cut sides of goat cheese rounds into spice mixture to coat. Place on prepared baking sheet and chill until ready to serve. Can be made 1 day ahead.

2. For the vinaigrette, whisk first 4 ingredients in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Season with the salt and pepper.

3. For the salad, steam the potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and cool. Steam green beans until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Rinse under cold water, drain and pat dry with paper towels. Combine greens and basil in a large bowel. Add enough vinaigrette to coat and lightly toss. Arrange on a platter. Add potatoes and green beans to same bowl, add remaining dressing and toss. Arrange potatoes and beans atop greens, scatter tomatoes and olives over and surround with goat cheese rounds.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More Goat's Cheese

As regular readers may know, I am in love with goat's cheese. So when I had to use a bunch of thai basil, I decided to stuff some chicken with the basil, some goat's cheese and sundried tomatoes. Yum!! This is the first meal I have cooked for my parents in a few years and thankfully they were very happy with it.

This is super easy, really quick and so yummy. I served with some roasted CSA potatoes and some other veg that I got at the farmers market.

Chicken Stuffed with Goat's cheese, Basil and Sundried Tomatoes
(Serves 4)

4 chicken breasts
1 5oz packet of goat's cheese
about 8 sundried tomatoes packed in oil
1 cup thai basil leaves
2 eggs
1 cup bread crumbs

1. Make a slit in the side of each chicken breast. Combine the cheese, basil and tomatoes, then stuff a quarter of the mixture into each breast.

2. Whisk together the 2 eggs, then dip each breast in the egg, followed by the bread crumbs. Lay on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes at 350F. Serve with roast veggies that have been baked for 45-60 minutes.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Pasta With Pesto, Tomatoes and Goat's Cheese

Tonight I am home alone and I couldn't be bothered doing anything fancy, so I decided to toss together this really quick and easy pasta that I first had years ago at my friend Lisa's house. She used orzo, which I prefer, but I didn't have any so I used some rotini that I had in the pantry. She also didn't have the goat's cheese, but I think it makes a really nice, creamy addition to the dish.

Basically all you do is cook up the pasta, drain it (leaving a tbs or two of the pasta water behind), then stir in some fresh or store bought pesto (as much as you like, usually 1 or 2 tbs), some chopped cherry tomatoes and then crumble over some goats cheese.

I actually made some pesto the other day from basil I recieved from my CSA, but decided to freeze it for later use. The pesto I used tonight came direct from Italy. My friend Lindsey was lucky enough to get married in Italy last year and was kind enough to bring me back a gorgeous little jar of pesto and this is what I used tonight.

This is a super tasty meal that can literally be thrown together in 10 minutes. Perfect for me tonight as my parents come in from Australia tomorrow to visit for 3 weeks and I am madly trying to get the house (and kitchen renovation) under control!! Ok, back to the cleaning :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Deja Vu

Well, you know you have made too many different meals when you can't even remeber that you made something before. I was super excited to post the grilled peaches and pork recipe that I made for tonight's dinner, until I realized that I had already made it!! I didn't make this realization until I entered the title for my picture into its folder and it came up as already there. Crazy!!

Anyway, you can check out the recipe here. I liked this even better the second time around. Its a great recipe and I am happy to have found it again....however, I'm sorry I have nothing new to post tonight.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Tuna with Sorrel and Green Peppercorn Aioli

I received some sorrel in my CSA box this week and had no idea what to do with it. I had never even heard of sorrel before, so I set out on a quest to find out what it was and how I could use it. Turns out it is a herb (which I'm sure nearly everyone but me probably knew) and that it apparently tastes somewhat lemony. I read that I could use it in salad and that a lot of people will make sorrel soup. However, being summer and pretty hot, I didn't want to go the soup option, so when I found a recipe for sorrel and green peppercorn aioli by the New England Herb Company, I decided to go for it. I decided to serve it with grilled tuna and salad and it turned out great.

The green peppercorns gave this aioli a very spicy flavor which went perfect with the tuna. The salad was a watercress, carrot and capsicum salad that I found on the Taste website and utilized my CSA baby carrots. This was a super healthy meal and very fresh and tasty.

Grilled Tuna with Sorrel and Green Peppercorn Aioli

4 x 5oz tuna fillets
salt and pepper
1/2 cup sorrel
1 tbs parsley
1 clove garlic
1 shallot
1 tbs green peppercorns
1 tsp vinegar
1 egg
1 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper

1. Prepare grill. Season tuna with salt and pepper, then grill a few minutes on each side, until desired doneness.

2. In blender combine first seven ingredients for ailoi and puree until blended. With blender running, slowly add oil until sauce thickens. Remove from blender and season with salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready for use. Place a spoonful on top of tuna, or serve in a small ramekin on the side.

Watercress, Carrot and Capsicum Salad

1/3 cup currants
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup pistachio kernels
1 bunch watercress, washed, dried and sprigs picked
1 red pepper, halved, deseeded and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and julienned
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1. Combine currants and lemon juice in a small bowl and set aside for 15 minutes to soak.

2. Combine watercress, pepper and carrot in a large bowl. Add the oil and currant mixture, then top with pistachios. Toss gently to combine.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Gnocchi with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

I have had a packet of tri-coloured gnocchi from Wholefoods sitting in my freezer for a couple of weeks now and I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with it until I saw this recipe on the Taste website. It was a bit of a twist on a classic and was very tasty. I love pesto and I love sun-dried tomatoes, so I was very happy to combine the two. This dish was absolutely super and even hubby approved.

Gnocchi with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto
(Serves 4)

1 red pepper
1 cup of fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
2 tbs pine nuts, toasted
6 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained
2 vine-ripened tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed, chopped
3 tbs tomato paste
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 cup grated parmesan cheese
150ml olive oil
1 packet of potato gnocchi

1. Place pepper, basil, garlic, pine nuts, tomatoes, tomato paste, chilli powder and half the parmesan in the bowl of a food processor. Process to combine, then slowly add the oil until a smooth sauce forms. Season with salt and pepper.

2. Pre-heat grill (broiler) to high. Cook gnocchi per manufacturer's directions, drain and toss with the pesto. Divide between 4 oven proof dishes, top with remaining cheese and grill for 2-3 minutes. Serve.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Beef with Thai Basil

I received some thai basil leaves in my CSA box last week and I finally got around to using them. I have never cooked with thai basil before and wasn't really sure what to do with it. Therefore, I turned to a cookbook I bought a couple of months ago called Food of Thailand. There was a great recipe for beef with thai basil that was super easy and nice and healthy, so I decided to use my new found basil in this recipe. In the book, it was served as is, but I think in hindsight I would have liked to have served this with some rice.

The thai basil had a very different flavor to regular basil. It is said to have more of an anise flavor, but it tasted more lemony to me. Anyhow, if you can get your hands on some of this interesting herb, I would recommend this recipe as a way to try it.

Beef with Sweet Thai Basil Leaves
(Serves 4)

1 tbs fish sauce
3 tbs oyster sauce
4 tbs vegetable or chicken stock, or water
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbs vegetable oil
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 bird's eye chillies, lightly crushed with the side of a cleaver
1lb beef rump or fillet steak, finely sliced
1 medium onion, cut into thin wedges
2 handfuls of thai sweet basil leaves

1. Mix the fish sauce, oyster sauce, stock and sugar in a small bowl.

2. Heat the oil in the wok or frying pan and stir-fry half the garlic over medium heat until light brown. Add half the crushed chillies and half the meat and stir-fry over high heat for 2 to 3 minutes or until meat is cooked. remove from the wok and repeat with the remaining garlic, chillies and meat. Return all the meat to the wok.

3. Add the onion and the fish sauce mixture and stir-fry for another minute. Add the basil leaves and stir-fry until the basil begins to wilt. Taste and then adjust the seasoning if necessary. Spoon onto serving plate.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

BBQ Harissa Pork on Zucchini Couscous

I have been trying to make this meal for nearly 2 weeks now, but something alwasy keeps coming up. I finally got around to making it tonight and it was pretty good. The couscous was supposed to be made with zucchini and haloumi, but I didn't have any haloumi, so I used feta. I also added some sweet potato greens from my CSA box, as I needed to use them up. All in all, a pretty healthy meal.

BBQ Harissa Pork on Zucchini Couscous
(Serves 4)

1.5lb pork tenderloin, cut into 2cm cubes across the grain
3 tsp ground cumin
3 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp caraway seeds
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbs chicken stock or water
1 large zucchini, ends trimmed, halved lengthways, cut crossways into 1cm slices
2 cups of sweet potato greens, rinsed and chopped
80g feta, cut into cubes
1 cup couscous
2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup loosely packed coarsely chopped parsley
2 tbs finely chopped fresh mint
2 tsp finely grated lemon rind
pinch of salt

1. Thread pork onto skewers. Place in a glass or ceramic dish. Combine cumin, coriander, caraway seeds, chilli, garlic and stock or water in a bowl. Rub over pork to evenly coat. Cover and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

2.Pre-heat BBQ on high. Add pork skewers and cook 3 minutes on each side or until cooked to your liking. Transfer skewers to a plate and cover with foil for 5 minutes to rest.

3. Meanwhile, place some olive oil in a medium fry pan. Add zucchini and saute until golden brown. Add sweet potato greens and saute for a few more minutes until wilted and tender. PLace couscous in a large bowl and pour over boiling water. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for 5 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Stir to separate the grains. Add zucchini mixture, feta, parsley, mint and lemon rind to couscous and stir to combine. Season with salt.

4. Spoon couscous onto plates, then top with pork skewers and sprinkle remaining parsley. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Keeping It Local

I was quite proud of our dinner tonight as nearly everything was either from our CSA, the local farmers market or my own garden. I made Grilled Onion and Steak Sandwiches from the Cooking Light Grilling magazine, with corn on the cob and a creamy potato salad with lemon and fresh herbs from the July edition of Bon Apetit magazine.

This was a great meal, as everything was grilled (yes, I even boiled potato's on the grill), because we just got our new oven and it is not yet hooked up. The steak was actually marinated in cola (two of the things that came from the supermarket) which made it really tender and very tasty. The potato salad was lovely and fresh, not at all heavy like some can be and the potatoes themselves came from our CSA farm and were incredibly tasty. The corn was from the farmers market, so was about as fresh as it gets.

The onions were supposed to be vidalia onions, however to buy these locally I would have had to go to Georgia. Only onions grown within a few miles of the town of Vidalia can be called vidalia onions, so there is no way I can get them locally. However, I did buy some beautiful spring onions at the farmers market, which are pretty much identical to vidalia onions. Just as nice, but I think even better as I was able to support the local farming community by purchasing them. All in all a wonderful summer meal with nearly everything purchased from within a few miles of our house. I feel like that's something to be proud of.

Grilled Onion and Steak Sandwiches
(Serves 6)

3/ cup cola
2 tbs red wine vinegar
1 tsp coarsely ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1 bay leaf, crushed
1 pound flank steak
3/4 cup minced arugula
1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
6 thick slices of onion
6 kaiser rolls
12 slices tomato

1. To prepare steak, combine first 7 ingredients in a ziplock bag and add steak. Seal and marinate in the fridge for 2 hours. Remove steak from bag, reserving marinade in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave marinade on high for 2 minutes or until it boils. Set aside.

2. Prepare the grill. Prepare the dressing by combining arugula and mayonnaise. Set aside.

3. Place steak on the grill and grill for 8 minutes on each side, or until medium-rare (or desired doneness). Remove steak from the grill and cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Place onions on the grill rack and grill 4 minutes on each side, basting occasionally with reserved marinade. Place rolls on the grill rack, cut side down and grill for 2 minutes, or until lightly browned.

4. Cut steak diagonally across the grain into thin slices. Spread 2 tbs of of mayonnaise on bottom half of roll. Divide steak, tomato and onion evenly among rolls. Place top half of roll on top and serve.

Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs
(Serves 8)

3 pounds of potatoes
3 tbs rice vinegar
3/ cups of mayonnaise (I used low fat)
3 medium green onions, thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, cut into 1/3 inch cubes
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
2 tbs fresh chopped dill
1 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon peel

1. Bring potatoes to a boil in a large pot of water. reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until potatoes are tender. Drain and then let stand until cool enough to handle.

2. Cut potatoes into 3/4 inch pieces. Place 1 layer of potatoes in large bowl and sprinkle with some vinegar and salt and pepper. Continue layering potatoes with vinegar, salt and pepper. Add all remaining ingredients and toss. Season with salt and pepper.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Pollo in Padella

This literally means chicken braised in the pan and the recipe comes from the Vol 4, Issue 5 of Delicious magazine, the Italian edition.

This was the perfect meal for a night like tonight, where we were both coming and going at different times. I made this dish in 30 minutes after work, then was able to let it sit on the stove, to be reheated when hubby got home from class and then again when I got home from the gym. The beauty of this type of meal is that it just gets better with time. Its lovely and healthy too and super tasty. I highly recommend for any night, but especially a busy one.

The only changes I made to this were to keep the sauce ingredients the same, but to halve the chicken to make 2 instead of 4 serves. We tend to like a lot of sauce on our pasta and our chicken, so if you are like me and want more sauce, then I would either halve the chicken like I did, or double the sauce and keep the chicken the same. If you are a true Italian who likes your sauce as a condiment, then follow the recipe as is. Enjoy!!

Chicken in Padella
(Serves 4)

1/4 cup plain flour
pinch of dried oregano
4 chicken thighs and 4 drumsticks
20g unsalted butter
1 tbs olive oil
1 onion halved, sliced
150ml dry white wine
400g can of chopped tomatoes
1 large fresh tomato, chopped
1 tbs tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tbs salted capers, rinsed and drained
100g mixed black and green olives
1 tsp castor sugar
2 tbs parmesan cheese
2 tbs oregano leaves

1. Mix the flour with the dried oregano and then lightly dust the chicken with the flour. Melt the butter and olive oil over medium heat in a large based fry-pan. Add the chicken, a few pieces at a time, brown well for 2-3 minutes on each side, then remove and set aside.

2. Drain excess fat, then add the onion and fry for 5 minutes until golden. Add the wine and bring to a boil, stirring. Boil for 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes and tomato paste, garlic, capers, olives, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir to combine, then return chicken to the pan. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until chicken is cooked through.

3. Serve scattered with parmesan and fresh oregano.

I've Been Tagged!

For my very first Meme, thanks to Katie at Other People's Food.

“I have been tagged to post 8 random facts. I have to post these rules before I give you the facts: Each participant posts eight random facts about themselves. Tagees should write a blogpost of eight random facts about themselves. At the end of the post, eight more bloggers are tagged. Go to their blog and leave a comment telling them they're tagged."

I’m not sure I have 8 interesting facts about my life, but I shall try to come up with something worth reading!!

1. I used to do competitive ballroom dancing (a little like “strictly ballroom”, for those who have seen the film). In fact, I have danced for most of my life, up until about 5 or 6 years ago. I started out doing ballet when I was 4 and then went on to do tap and jazz as well. But my heart was stolen by ballroom when I was about 14 and I went on to do it competitively until I was 25. I just loved it!! I loved everything about it, the dancing, the costumes, and the music. It was a very hard thing for me to give it away and I still miss it all the time.

2. Which brings me to I guess the second point about myself. I am a scientist and completed my PhD in 2002. That’s also how I ended up in the USA, as I moved here to do my postdoctoral studies. However, having said that, I don’t particularly like my job and would love to do something else…either related to cooking, travel or something to help the environment….. or even forensics (keep reading)

3. This one is a little weird to admit, and I hope it doesn’t turn anyone off reading my blog, but my dream job was to be a forensic pathologist…you now, like the guys who perform autopsies. Yes, I get that some people find this creepy, but to me it was always fascinating. I wanted to be like Kay Scarpetta in all those Patricia Cornwall novels. Without doing a medical degree, this is never going to happen, but I am still hopeful that one day I could perhaps be an assistant to the medical examiner…I can still dream at least.

4. As a kid I moved around a lot. My Dad was in the army, so we were never in one place more than about 2 years. So because of that, I have lived all over the east coast of Australia. It wasn’t particularly conducive to making friends at school, but in hindsight I am happy to have experienced living in so many different places. It sure makes for some interesting stories at least….like the time we had a python on our back porch…….

5. I love love love to travel! It is one of my favorite things to do and if I were independently wealthy, I would spend all my time traveling around the world. I have been fortunate enough to do my fair share of traveling and have been to some wonderful places, such as Italy, France, England, The Netherlands, USA and one of my favorites, French Polynesia. But I still have a huge list of must see places before I die, with some at the top of my list being Machu Picchu, Bhutan, Morocco, India, Nepal, Africa, Spain……and the list goes on and on and on.

6. I met my husband, who is American, in Europe when we were both on the same bus tour (Contiki for those who know of it). We didn’t hook up straight away, but remained friends for a couple of years. However when I moved to the USA for my postdoctoral work, we finally got together and a couple of years later were married on the beautiful island of Maui. The reason for the location….it was halfway between his family home of New Jersey and my family home of Australia. Couldn’t have asked for a more perfect place though, as we both love the hot weather and the beach. We were lucky enough to honeymoon in French Polynesia, our second trip to those beautiful islands. And we will definitely go back again when time and funds permit!!

7. My mother does not like to cook. I read a lot about people’s mothers on their blogs and about how they got their love of cooking from their mum’s. But that is definitely not the case for me. My mum hates cooking and only does so, so that we don’t starve. In fact, I recall her saying when I was younger, that if money were no object, she would eat out every night. And baking…forget it! I have no fond memories of baking cookies or cakes with my mum, as she never got near a baking pan. I never really cooked all that much either. But when I moved away from home and started cooking for my hubby, I found that I really loved it and have never looked back. Sometimes things are a bit of a learning curve for me, and my baking doesn’t always turn out so great, but I certainly have taken a liking to it and now when my mum comes to visit, she is happy to have me wait on her….and I of course, also have no objections.

8. Last but not least….I have taken a very keen interest in growing my own food. My dad used to have the greatest veggie patch, which would yield some fabulous tasting food for our table. And I never really thought about doing it for myself until this past year. I have a lovely patch of herbs growing in our small garden that have been great for a lot of the dishes I have cooked. But I really want to expand my repertoire and hope one day to have a big enough garden to be able to comfortably feed our small family. For now, in our small townhouse, I can only squeeze in a few things. It’s enough to get me started though and to see if I am at all competent in small-scale farming. This past weekend I planted some seeds for beets, chard, zucchini and snow peas….all great late summer and fall crops. I will be reporting on their progress later in the year, but for now I just hope that they germinate, so I will wait with baited breath for 2 weeks, to see if their little heads push up through the dirt and flourish in the sunshine. Wish me luck!!!

Thanks Katie for wanting to know more about me :) Now I am hoping to get to know more about the following blogs.....tag, your it!!

Little Paths
Straight From The Farm
Vicious Ange
Tummy Rumbles
Should You Eat That
Ms. Adventures In Italy
Green Gourmet Giraffe
A Taste Of Tina

Sunday, July 8, 2007

It's A Hot One!

Wow, the weather is sure heating up and we were lucky enough to enjoy 2 lovely days soaking up the sun at the beach. Tonight however, I had some time to make a great pasta dish and an even better loaf of bread.

The pasta comes from Cooking Light summer grilling magazine and was made of grilled vegetables and goat's cheese. I utilized a bunch of veggies from the farmer's market, making this a lovely, fresh dish perfect for summer. Grilling them on the BBQ brought out the sweetness, which was perfect with some goat's cheese. Perfect!

The bread I served with it was a garlic, herb and feta pull-apart that came from the taste website. So yummy, with the bread being lovely and soft and fluffy, with some extra flavor from the herbs, which I am proud to say were grown in my own garden.

This was such a great summer meal and the pasta was very healthy with all of those veggies. Definitely 2 thumbs up from myself and hubby.

Pasta with Grilled Vegetables and Goat's Cheese
(Serves 4-6)

1 large zucchini, quartered lengthwise
1 red bell pepper, cut into 4 wedges
1 leek, trimmed and halved
1 14oz can of artichoke hearts, drained
1 head of radicchio
1/2 tsp salt divided
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
cooking spray
4 cups hot cooked rotini (I used tri-coloured)
1 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
3/4 cup goat's cheese, crumbled
2 tbs fresh chopped basil

1. Prepare grill. Arrange zucchini, bell pepper, leek, artichokes and radicchio in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle evenly with 1/4 tsp of salt, pepper and garlic. Lightly coat vegetables with cooking spray and then place on the grill rack. Grill 3 minutes on each side or until browned and tender. remove vegetables to the cutting board and chop into bite-sized pieces.

2. Place pasta in a large bowl and sprinkle with remaining 1/4 tsp of salt, tossing well. Stir in grilled vegetables and tomatoes. Sprinkle each serving with goat cheese and basil.

Garlic, Herb and Feta Pull-Apart
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 packet of yeast
2 tsp castor sugar
3 1/2 cups plain flour
1 tsp sea salt flakes
olive oil to grease
2 tbs finely chopped fresh parsley
1 tbs finely chopped fresh thyme (I used a combination of regular and lemon thyme)
1 tbs chopped fresh basil
80g feta, crumbled
1 tbs olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbs milk

1. Combine water, yeast and sugar in a bowl and let sit for about 5 minutes, or until frothy.

2. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Make a well in the center and add in the yeast mixture. Use a wooden spoon to stir until combined, then use hands to bring the dough together.

3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Brush a bowl with oil to grease. Place dough in bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Set aside in a warm, draught-free place for 45 minutes or until double in size.

4. Heat oven to 410F. Brush a loaf pan with oil to grease. Combine the parsley, thyme, basil and feta in a small bowl. Punch down the dough with your fist and knead for 2 minutes, or until dough has returned to original size.

5. Divide into 18 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 6cm disc. Combine oil and garlic in a bowl. Place 6 discs in the pan. Brush with oil mixture and spoon over 1/3 of the feta mixture. Continue layering with remaining dough, oil mixture and feta mixture. Cover with a damp towel and set aside in a warm, draught-free place to proof for 30 minutes or until almost double in size.

6. Brush pull-apart with milk. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

We're Back In Business!!

After what seemed like a very long week without an oven, sink or dishwasher, we have finally gotten our kitchen to a state where our appliances are hooked back up. We are not finished by any stretch of the imagination, but at least I can cook now.

Tonight I made a dish that I had planned on making last Sunday and I wanted to do it before the veggies I bought at the farmers market went bad. It is a rustic looking ratatouille and goat's cheese pie and was very nice. It has lots of veggies and could be served with a salad and crusty bread. One note however, I had quite a bit of leftover ratatouille mixture, so you may want to cut back on the amounts shown below. For me though, I am happy to have the leftovers :)

After eating out for the last week, it was good to have a home cooked meal. Its good to be back in the game!!

Ratatouille and Goat's Cheese Pie
(makes 4)

2 cups plain flour
150g chilled butter, chopped
1 egg yolk
2 tbs ice water
1 tbs olive oil
4 green zucchini's, coarsely chopped
2 red onions, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200g semi-dried tomatoes
200g char grilled capsicum (peppers), coarsely chopped
200g char grilled eggplant, coarsely chopped
1 cup feta stuffed green olives, halved lengthways
1/4 cup water
150g goat's cheese, crumbled
1/2 cup finely shredded fresh basil

1. Place the flour and butter in the bowl of a food processor and process until it resembles fine bread crumbs. Add the egg yolk and water and continue to process until the dough starts to come together.

2. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth. Shape into a disc and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, onion and garlic and cook for 4 minutes or until soft. Add tomatoes, capsicum, eggplant, olives and water and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes or until heated through. Set aside for 15 minutes to cool.

4. Pre-heat oven to 450F. Line a baking tray with non-stick paper. Cut pastry into quarters, then roll each piece into a 20cm disc. Spoon the zucchini mixture evenly amongst the pastry discs, sprinkle with goat's cheese and fold the edges of the pastry to partially enclose the filling, leaving the center open. Press the edges to secure and place on the prepared tray.

5. Bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until pastry is golden and cooked through. Place the pies on serving plates and sprinkle with basil.

Monday, July 2, 2007

No Kitchen = No Food

Well, I had warned in previous posts that the time would come when my kitchen became completely without function... and that time has come :( I currently have no sink, no dishwasher and no oven, therefore no food....but fear not, we are not starving. Yes, the diner down the street has seen us a couple of times in the last few days and last night when we went for dinner at 10pm, after a very hard day of construction and removing moldy drywall (yes, I know...ewwww), we were even recognized and cordially greeted by a past server. Scary!! I don't think I ever want to be known as a regular at our local diner. But in any event, the cooking is on hold for at least a few days until we get our base cabinets in and can reconnect the plumbing and the oven.

We do have our trusty BBQ that will probably get a work out tonight, but I don't think kebabs will be that interesting to read about. So, for the next few days, I apologise for the lack of posts and hope that you guys bare with me whilst myself and my hubby work our butts off to obtain our nice new and much improved kitchen!!!