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 As promised a little flashback to our overseas family holiday in July to the USA. First stop, New York. We stayed in Manhattan for 5 nights and I have to say I think this was one of the trip highlights for me. We did loads of walking, hop on and hop off buses and even caught the subway (Baby J’s first train trip). We typically ventured out in the morning and explored non-stop until mid-afternoon when we had a refreshing snooze back at our hotel. Then we were out again late afternoon and evening for some more sight-seeing.

 We were in the city for July 4th and it was quite busy, especially at night. Time Square was quite crowded at night (and I’m sure my perception of ‘crowded’ is actually just typical compared to the super busy times of year).

 For the Felicity TV series fans, you may recall Dean & Deluca. A great gourmet small goods store. So being the kind-of foodies that we are, Hubby and I definitely made a stop here and of course some purchases. We got something to keep up our energy levels (US style with a peanut butter and jelly doughnut) and then some rock candy sweets, salt with shaved truffle, maple syrup (which I then stupidly packed in carry-on luggage so hopefully an airport staff enjoyed some yummy syrup). We ventured to this region (Soho) a couple of times as we loved this area and there was some great shopping to be had.

 

 We of course checked out Grand Central Station and felt lost just in the station, so decided to properly investigate any train lines we would take rather than just get on a train on a whim.

 

 On 4th July, although many places were closed for the holiday fortunately for us the Metropolitan Museum of Art was open. We had a great day wandering through one smallish section for half a day. I loved seeing works I had studied in school. It was particularly cool to see in person some of Chuck Close’s works. Hubby was in disbelief that the works were paintings as they look like photos.

 

 After our morning in the Met we found some buskers on the steps (and even bought the group’s CD).

 

 Also in New York, Hubby and I went to see a Broadway show. Lucky for us my folks came with us so they looked after Baby J while we were at the theatre. We saw Gore Vidal’s, The Best Man  and some great actors were playing (James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Eric McCormack and Candice Bergen).

 After New York we stayed at Niagra Falls for a night and then drove to Indiana to see family. Keep posted for the next holiday flashback.

Being Thankful

 Despite being a little delayed in my post about Thanksgiving, the sentiment remains. Having an American father-in-law, each year we have a family lunch for Thanksgiving on the last weekend in November (in the US it is the last Thursday of November, but obviously here in Australia we are all working mid-week). It’s always a great day with a yummy feast to remind us all how fortunate we are. As I sit here writing this post, I have had my weekly bible study and thinking about giving thanks is such a reminder for me that everything is God given and it is such a joy to give thanks and praise to Him. In my day-to-day ups and downs it can be easy to lose sight of the big picture and to remember all of the wonderful blessings I have. For me, family is such a huge part of who I am. Hubby and I are very close with our families and are thankful for having their support generally and in looking after Baby J every week as I go to work part time. [And I’m sure Baby J is thankful for having his poppy and grammy to look after him.] Having a patient, kind, living and understanding husband is also a huge blessing. My hubby makes everything easier and I definitely need to take a leaf out of his book more often! Now, who could forget Baby J and the wonderful change he has brought about in my life too!

 While contemplating all the things to be thankful for, it was great to share a meal with family. And what a great meal it was. To end the meal we were spoiled with some homemade pumpkin pie and pecan pie from hubby’s aunt and a coffee-caramel layer cake from my sister in law. I must admit, I no doubt will soon be over-shadowed by another family baker as my sister in law has been creating some amazing sweets and treats.

 

 

 

 

Oh and because all of the pies and cakes made me want to try some new recipes, the photo below is a tart I made last week for an afternoon tea catch-up with a friend. The tart has a chocolate pastry, peanut butter on the base with peanut brittle sprinkled over next, chocolate ganache, then melted peanut butter swirled through the ganache. Last month I also made another new tart along the same lines – it had a sweet short crust pastry base, walnut praline, salted caramel and chocolate ganache.

 

 

I do have a day of baking coming up on Tuesday with my mother in-law, two sisters-in-law and my hubby’s nana. This will be a first year at having a backing day and I am super excited as we’ll be making some yummy biscuits for the festive season! I look forward to posting about those treats later this week.

 Recently we were invited to the wedding of some dear friends. And wow! I think this couple should go into the party styling business. I adored the heart-felt and bespoke feel of the whole wedding. The invitation was an online in a blog style format that highlighted all the things that make the couple unique and was loads of fun with some sweetness in there too of course. The ceremony and reception was at Bella Vista Farm and made a beautiful back drop for the celebrations. We got to have some fun with some trivia and games about the couple on arrival before having some yummy punch while getting our hay bale all comfy with some blankets ready for the ceremony. Oh and so much fun after the ceremony celebrating the night away with the couple to a great band and enjoying the photo booth.

 

 

No party is complete without bunting.

 

 

A trivia tree to learn all about the couple.

 

The ceremony.

 

Oh, some fairy floss (yummo).

 

And fire twirlers.

 What a wonderful tim was had celebrating the wedding and beginning of a marriage of two friends. May their love for one another be never ending.

Seeing citrus

 

Oh dear, I do feel a little sad for neglecting my blog of late. But I’ll get back into the swing of things with a bit of alliteration for the title of this post (if you’ve read previous posts you may notice that I find it hard to steer clear of alliteration – it just rolls off my tongue so easily when I type my titles J).

 Yes, so many, many things have been happening. We travelled overseas, Baby J had his first birthday at Knox, Indiana with my in-law’s family (oh and my folks came along too), then catching up with everyone and everything after a month away. Crazy-busy work for me and dear hubby (who had to work lots of nights for the school term after we returned from our overseas jaunt). And then any snatches of time I have sadly get eaten up with very important things to do – like paying bills, doing my tax, preparing for presentations.

 But hooray I am finally sitting down to get back in the swing of regular posts. Now, lucky for us my in-laws have some citrus trees. A very robust lemon tree and also a grapefruit tree for us to share the spoils. In a few years we’ll also be able to add orange and lime to the list. And double-lucky for us, we LOVE citrus! Hubby did a few big collections of the fruits and we delighted in trying different recipes with them. To name a few we had grapefruit meringue pie, lemon chicken, Moroccan inspired lamb (with lemon), lemon-mustard potato salad, lemonade, grapefruit curd, grapefruit juice, lemon cupcakes, lemon coconut slice, gooey lemon slice. Oh yum, just writing about them makes me want a piece of something tart.

 Here is a photo of my grapefruit meringue pie. With the extra grapefruit curd leftover, I used it to fill some macarons (which of course were coloured a vibrant yellow).

 

 

And while I don’t have a photo of the gooey  slice, I have the recipe below as a few people asked me for it and it is now a hit with their families.

 

Gooey Lemon Squares

 Ingredients for the base

– 225g plain flour

– pinch of salt

– 50g icing sugar

– 175g unsalted butter

– 5 mL cold water

 

Ingredients for the lemon layer

– 4 eggs

– 450g caster sugar

– 2 tbsp plain flour

– 1/2 tsp baking powder

– grated zest of 1 lemon

– 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

 

Method

– Oven @ 180 C

– sift flour salt, icing sugar together

– rub butter and flour mixture until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Add water and toss lightly with a fork until the mixture forms a ball

– press the mixture evenly into an ungreased baking dish (33 x 23 cm). Bake for 15-20 minutes, until light golden brown. Remove from oven and leave to cool slightly.

– Make the lemon layer by beating eggs, caster sugar, flour, baking powder, lemon zest and lemon juice.

– Pour lemon mixture over the cooked crumb and return to the oven to bake for 25 minutes. Leave to cool in the baking dish placed on a wire rack.

 

 

On another citrus note here are some orange and poppy seed cupcakes I made and shared with some lovely families from my local Australian Breastfeeding Association group on an impromptu picnic we had at Richmond.

 I am now off the citrus wagon but am delighted to let you know I have made my first batch of ice-cream for the warmer months. It was just a plain vanilla bean flavour, but was the perfect accompaniment for a new chocolate, salted caramel and walnut tart I made.

 I’m hoping to do some flashback posts to show you some favourite snaps from our holiday. (And by typing that I will feel obligated to make another post soon.)

It’s quite a cold and dreary Saturday in my neck of the woods. So what would I be doing? Why thinking about some warming food! While we will be having some slow cooked lamb shanks for dinner tonight, one of my all-time yummy dinners on a cold night is pumpkin and pancetta risotto. It is definitely worth the time in the kitchen chopping and stirring.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

  • About 350-400g butternut pumpkin cut in 2cm cubes
  • 100g sliced pancetta cut into 2cm squares and fried
  • 1 cup arborio rice
  • ½ cup dry white wine
  • 500-600 mL chicken stock
  • Splash of olive oil
  • Parmesan to taste
  • A dollop of mascarpone or cream (optional)

Method

  1. Place olive oil and pumpkin cubes in a pot and cook until pumpkin is starting to soften and is starting to break down a little.
  2. While pumpkin is cooking, fry the pancetta (do this on a low setting so the fat will slowly warm and provide some great flavour).
  3. Get your stock ready and keep warm. You can warm it in a saucepan or my lazy way (boiling water and a stock cube in the measuring jug).
  4. Put the rice in with the pumpkin, stir and toast the rice for 2 minutes.
  5. Pour in the wine and stir until almost all the wine is absorbed by the rice.
  6. Add the stock, one ladle full at a time and stir continuously. As the stock is absorbed keep adding more stock and stir. Check the rice as you go and add the remaining stock if needed.
  7. About 2 minutes before the last of the stock is absorbed add grated parmesan. I just cut off a hunk from the block and grate in (with my rotary grater which I thought was a bit of a weird gift when hubby gave it to me, but use at least twice a week now!). Stir through the cheese. If you’d like a creamy texture add a dollop of mascarpone or cream and stir through. Then add the pancetta (minus the fat from the pan) and stir through.

Serves 2 as a main, or 4 as a starter.

What better way to start the day than with getting fresh fruit and veg from the growers market? Having gözleme at the market of course. Then we headed up to the Bluebird Markets at Leura. We also enjoyed a pot of tea and scones before going home.

 Well, here I am finally with a bit of time to write a post. In fact I perhaps should be finishing the last lot of progress notes from work today, or planning my first presentation for an Australian Breastfeeding Association meeting (which is part of my training to become a breastfeeding counsellor). Hopefully I might even get a post in plus those two tasks done tonight. In my last post I was in the middle or organising dinner for my mother-in-law’s birthday. Well, yummo it was all a hit. Here are some photos of my vacherins of chocolate mousse and raspberries.

 

The meringue baskets were awesome. Yes it may seem like this is a bit boastful. But I must explain that meringue, and actually anything involving eggs (so custards and sauces) are a bit hit and miss for me. So when these baskets were crunchy on the outside, yet still chewy plus nice and thick I was delighted. And showed that the slow cooking for 2 hours was worth it.

 

 

At the beginning of May we also celebrated a close friend’s 30th birthday. It was a special celebration as our friend had been overseas touring with a show so was back in town for just a few weeks before the next tour. The house and yard were decorated in a beautiful whimsical style and the party started in the afternoon so we could enjoy relaxing on some picnic blankets before celebrating through the night. Her cousins also catered the event as they are just starting out in business and wowee the food was so good. I think next event I will have to get them to cater for me (plus they provided some great vintage teacups and saucers and chalkboard with the menu). Of course, aside from enjoying the setting and food it was great to catch up with the party gal and our friends.