Monday, March 28, 2011

Texan Feast - Recipes and Photos - Part 2

Did you miss Part 1? Check it out here.

Ok, so now everyone's up to speed; a fabulous Texan dinner with the following menu:-

Crackers with Cream Cheese and Jalapeno Jelly

Texas Chili...

So let's continue shall we?

I was worried that the kids would find the Texas Chili too spicy, so I cooked a "pretend chili" for them using mince simmered in Napoletana sauce. I served it with Fettucine. With kids, you can never go wrong with what was basically spaghetti bolognese.

To go with our Chili, I knew we needed something breadlike. The last time I cooked southern food I attempted Biscuits, and they didn't turn out too good, so this time I thought I'd take a crack at Corn Bread.

Luckily Dillypoo sent me this little gem:

Prize-winning recipes!

I chose "Jalapeno Corn Bread" which won Best of Show/Breads at the 1980 State Fair of Texas! I'm sure you can't get any more authentic than that!

Here are the ingredients:

1 cup cornmeal
(For Australians, that is Polenta. It's a little coarser than what Americans call cornmeal, but it's all we can get.)

2/3 cup buttermilk
(Everything Southern I've cooked so far requires buttermilk!)

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp soda

1/3 cup melted shortening
(For Aussies - I used Copha which is vegetable shortening, and also happens to be an ingredient in that children's party favourite - Chocolate Crackles. That's a story for another time.)

4 oz green chilies, finely chopped
(I was a bit scared, so I just used one de-seeded chili.)

1 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese

1 cup cream-style corn

And now here's how you make the Corn Bread.

Mix all the ingredients, except for the cheese, in a bowl.

Pour half the batter in greased 9-inch pan. Spread cheese over batter.

Pour remaining batter on top of cheese.

Bake 30-40 minutes in 375 degree oven.
(190 celcius for the Aussies.)

Here it is straight out of the oven. You can see that I look pretty pleased with myself!

So here's our table with the Chili, Corn Bread and Green Salad.


Now I'm sure you're wondering, what about dessert? Dillypoo also sent my some Praline Pecans. I decided to keep it simple and serve vanilla icecream over which we could sprinkle some of the pecans that I chopped up. I also served some pecans in a little bowl for us to nibble on with our coffee.


I am so pleased and happy with how the meal turned out! Love and hugs to my sweet friend Dillypoo. And there was still MORE stuff in the box she sent me, but I will have to tell you about that another day!

Texan Feast - Recipes and Photos - Part 1

I was so excited to receive my box of goodies from Dillypoo (see here) that I decided to cook a "Texan Feast" straight away!

As an appetizer, I decided to follow Dillypoo's advice and serve the Jalapeno Jelly she sent me spooned over cream cheese with crackers.

Everyone thought it was just delicious! The Jalapeno Jelly was sweeter than we expected, and not as hot. It disappeared pretty quickly!

I put out some mild salsa and corn chips for the kids in case the Jalapeno Jelly was too hot for them.

For the main course of my Texan Feast, I decided to use the D.L Jardine's Texas Chili Works that Dillypoo sent me.

(Sorry about the picture, for some reason Blogger has decided that it needs to be sideways.)

I had it in my head that Chili needs to be cooked for a long time so that the meat is really tender and the flavour has time to develop, so I started nice and early.

First I browned the mince. I used 1 kg of beef mince.

Next, the recipe called for 2 cups of water and an "8 oz can of tomato sauce". Here in Australia we don't have canned tomato sauce. What we call tomato sauce is what we put on top of sausages or meat pies and is, I think, similar to American "tomato ketchup". Never fear, Google to the rescue, I am reliably informed that this can of tomato puree will do.

I used 1 cup, and simmered the mince, tomato and water for a while in a big pot.

Next I added the Chili Spices. They smelled delicious. I could definitely detect paprika, chilli and cumin and maybe some cayenne pepper.

The Chili was simmering away when my sister and her family arrived. Immediately my sister commented on the delicious smell!

Next I mixed the Masa with some water and added it to the Chili. I'm told that this thickens the chili and gives it that certain something for a unique and authentic taste!

Then I added the Hot Pepper. I added half the packet, let it simmer for a while, then tasted it to see how hot it was. It tasted about right to me, so I saved the rest of the pepper for another day.

Now I've realised that this post is becoming "bigger than Texas", so I've decided to stop here. You'll have to find out about the rest of the meal in my next post - coming soon!

In the meantime, if you'd like to write about the food that you love, or share a recipe, then why don't you head to my latest challenge here and link up!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Breaking News! Texan Feast Here!

Guess what? A package from Dillypoo arrived today!

She is such a naughty girl - she spent far too much on postage sending me a huge box full of stuff.

Everything inside was wrapped in red, white and blue wrapping paper...

Dillypoo and I sent each other presents as part of my Beautiful Bloggers Australian Adventure House swap. If you want to participate and possibly receive an Aussie prize package from me then you should check out the latest challenge here.

The latest challenge is to write about the food that is locally popular where you live.

Dillypoo knows that I love to try new recipes from different countries, so in my box of goodies there were plenty of recipes and ingredients to make some traditional Texan fare.

Tomorrow night my sister and her family are coming for dinner so I'm going to try out this menu:

Crackers with cream cheese and Jalapeno Jelly

Texas Chili and Cornbread

Icecream with Praline Pecans

What do you think? Photos and full disclosure of the contents of my box coming soon...

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Food Glorious Food!

Ok, so y'all know all about Vegemite, right? If not you should read this post in which I explain how best to eat it. But here in Australia we don't survive on Vegemite alone.

I mentioned in my post about how Australians speak that we are a very multicultural nation down here. This has influenced the food that we eat.

The first wave of non-Indigenous Australians were convicts and free settlers from the UK. They brought with them a love of traditional "meat and three veg" meals, featuring roast beef, lamb or chicken with potatoes, carrots, peas, beans and the like. They also introduced traditional baked goods like bread, cakes, slices, scones and biscuits.

During the Gold Rush Australia experienced a wave of Chinese immigration. Consequently, every Australian town has at least one Chinese Restaurant. For Australians my age or older, a "Chinese Banquet" at a restaurant is a vivid memory from childhood.

During the Twentieth Century further waves of immigrants from all over Europe and Asia have further expanded the Australian palate and restaurant scene. Asian and Mediterranean flavours and recipes have particularly made their way into our hearts.In Australia we pride ourselves on using fresh seasonal produce and we believe that our restaurants create innovative dishes that are full of flavour. 

When cooking at home, we follow the traditions of our parents. Many Australians learn to cook baklava or nasi goreng or pasta using traditional methods from mothers and grandmothers that grew up in Greece, Malaysia or Italy. Others cook lamb roasts and sponge cakes every Sunday just like their mothers and grandmothers before them.

Most busy Aussie mums that I know rely on quick child-friendly meals like stir-frys, casseroles, spaghetti bolognese, chicken or sausages. We tend to eat a lot of salads rather than hot vegies during the warmer months. We love to get together with family on the weekend for a "barbie". Generally the men congregate around the barbecue drinking beer and cooking the meat while the women prepare salads and desserts and talk, talk, talk!

Of course there are plenty of fast food outlets in Australia. Aussie kids are partial to a bit of Maccas (McDonalds) or KFC, but they seem to have more sophisticated tastes these days than I did when I was a kid! Lots of Aussie kids will make a beeline for the Sushi at the food court, or request Thai takeaway on a Friday night. Rather than the traditional battered fish and chips of my childhood, kids these days are just as likely to ask for some Salt and Pepper Squid!

Now it's your turn. Write a post for me about the food in your country or region. You can let me know about typical meals that you enjoy, restaurants near you, local delicacies or your favourite recipes. Link up using the linky below. I'm soooo looking forward to reading what you write!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

BBAAHS challenge update

Hey y'all!

This weekend I was supposed to post about the food that we eat in Australia. I was supposed to write some dazzling about typical meals that Australians eat, local delicacies, regional produce and restaurants.

Guess what! I've been busy and I haven't gotten around to it. And rather than rush through something sub-standard, I've decided to give us all a break and wait until next weekend. That gives me, and you guys, a whole week to craft something fabulous.

No pressure people! Just come back next weekend and link up your challenge post about local food customs.

Friday, March 18, 2011

My Ass is not so Fat Friday


Starting weight: 78 kg
Last week's weight: 74kg
Current weight: 73 kg
Weight loss this week: 1 kg

I'm on a roll. The losing is continuing at a steady rate of 1 kg per week. I'm feeling positive. I'm motivated.

I'm just going to take advantage of the momentum that I've created and run with it, because I'm well aware that there may be difficult times ahead.

So what have I been eating? - you may be wondering.

I'm sooooo much more aware of carbs than I used to be. I'm budgeting my points carefully, and I notice that protein and vegetables are featuring much more on the menu. I'm eating a lot less bread. I NEVER  add garlic or herb bread to my meal anymore. I don't eat toast at breakfast.

Also, I'm much more aware of portions when it comes to my protein. The portion of chicken, fish or meat that I eat with my evening meal is much smaller than it used to be.

How are you going with your weight loss?

Click on the button to visit Brandy at You Don't Know. Brandy is awesome and funny and she hosts "Fat Ass Friday" every single week. I credit her support with at least 5% of my weight loss!!!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Hey y'all! Next BBAAHS challenge!

Thanks so much to Dillypoo and Brandy for participating in my vlog challenge. Guess what? They both say y'all a lot, and in their honour I have decided to try and use it as much as possible. Easy when writing, but not so easy to use when speaking. I'll try it on my family first, and then when I get more confident with it I'll try it out in public!

I am going to send Brandy an Aussie prize package! Lucky her :) Click here to check out her vlog.

Dillypoo got some Vegemite in her prize package, but I forgot to send her instructions on how to best eat it. Whoops!

Here are some instructions for her and for Brandy when she receives hers.

1. Vegemite is a salty, savoury product. Don't expect sweet. Don't be surprised. Savoury. Salty.
2. I think Vegemite is best on hot, buttered toast. Spread it thinly on top and eat immediately. Perfect with a cuppa (cup of hot tea).
3. Aussie kids grow up on Vegemite sandwiches. They taste best when you use really fresh, soft white bread. Butter the bread then add a thin spread of Vegemite. Yum!
4. Vegemite is awesome on Vita Weat biscuits.

In this pic you can see that the Vegemite has been combined with cheese. Vegemite and cheese are a match made in heaven! You can do a Vegemite sandwich with cheese, or a toasted sandwich with cheese and Vegemite so that the cheese goes all melted and runny!

A favourite treat for my kids is a "cheesymite scroll".

So, all this leads me to my next Beautiful Bloggers Australian Adventure House Swap challenge.


This weekend come back and link up your post telling me something about the food that you eat in your country or region. What is it famous for? What do regular people eat? What sort of restaurants are popular? What produce is local to you?

Use your imagination and whip me up a food related post!

And me your address!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Mind Your Language

It's time for the vlogging challenge to begin!

Please post about the language(s) that is/are spoken in your country, and give me any information that you'd like about words and their meanings, various regional differences or accents and the like.

I'd particularly like you to include a vlog in your post so I can hear you speaking, but it doesn't have to be long, and you can write additional stuff too if you want to. I'm not a hard task-master, but I do really want a video of you to watch!

Here's me talking about how Australians speak.

Since making the video, I've thought of lots of things that I should have said but didn't. I guess I could have said "g'day mate" or "crikey" or "drongo" or "dag". I could have said "barbie" or "dunno" or "arse". Just so that you could have a laugh. Sorry about that. If there's a huge tidal wave of demand for it I'll make another video.

Also, I should have mentioned that English is not the first language for lots of Australians. Australia is a multicultural country and lots of people speak the language of their homeland (or their parents' homelands).

Also there are many Indigenous languages, and some Indigenous people speak Aboriginal English or Creole which is a distinct type of speech in which English is spoken in an Aboriginal way and with a mixture of Aboriginal and English language.

So go ahead and tell me something I don't know about your language.

Make sure you link up your post using the linky below!

And any promotion that you provide me via your blog or twitter or facebook etc will be much appreciated :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Delusions of Grandeur

It's that time of the week again. You know, when we talk about weight loss.

Starting Weight: 78 kg
Last Week's Weight: 75 kg
Current Weight: 74 kg
Loss This Week: 1 kg

I lost again! And, I have reached my first goal, to lose 5% of my weight. Yay me!

Now I'm working towards my next goal, the 10% weight loss which will see me at 70 kg. But really I'm thinking about my final goal, the one in which I'm about 58 kg and thin and totally AWESOME!
I don't want to get ahead of myself, but I think I can make it in time for my 40th birthday. Which is in just under 24 weeks.

So yeah, that's what I'm aiming for. And even if I'm not all the way there, I bet I'll be pretty darn close!

I hope I'm not setting myself up for a fall.

Thanks to Brandy at You Don't Know, I've got lots of support to keep me on track. So click on the button, visit Brandy and leave her some comment love. Or even link up with a post of your own about weight loss. That way you might be lucky enough to receive a special gift from Brandy like I did!

And I'd love to hear about your weight loss goals and how you're going at meeting them.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Yes, I Still Read!

Over the past couple of months I've been struggling to get into my groove. With blogging. With life.

Consequently, there has been a distinct lack of posts about books and reading.

I'm still working my way through an obscene amount of fiction. None of it new. None of it owned by me. Just books that I pick up at my local library because I've heard of the author or the cover grabs my attention, or the blurb intrigues me.

I'm currently reading Freedom by Jonathan Franzen. Heard of it? I had. I had a vague notion that it had generated quite a lot of buzz. So I thought I'd better check it out.

What to say? Please bear in mind that although I am a lifelong reader and have recently completed a Masters degree in librarianship, I have not studied English Literature since high school. So I don't really have the vocabulary to adequately review books like a professional. I just say what I think.

So...I'm half way through it's loooooong.

Don't get me wrong, I love a long book. I read Under the Dome by Stephen King during my summer holiday and I watched with dismay as my bookmark marched through the pages getting closer and closer to the end. I was sad when I finished it. The same can be said for many other thick books with lots of pages. But Freedom is long in that "Are we there yet?" kind of way.

I am enjoying it though. I guess I'm just feeling as though some vicious editing might move it along a bit for me.

A professional review of Freedom, written by Tim Walker, waxes lyrical about Franzen's ability "to give each of his characters such comprehensively realised psychologies". Perhaps that's what takes so long. Also, Walker says that "Its pages fly by like a pulp thriller – and it's only half as long as War and Peace.", so I'm feeling like a bit of a Neanderthall.

Anyway, I may or may not write a proper review of this book when I'm finished it. I just wanted to let you know that I'm still reading and still thinking critically about what I read, even if I'm not writing about it as much.

What are you reading? Have you read Freedom? Have you ever found books that receive critical acclaim less than inspiring?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The next house swap blogging challenge!

Get ready to vlog!

No excuses. I just put my iPhone in front of me and started talking. With no script. With a head cold so my voice sounds all nasal and horrible.

I even forgot what I was going to say and had to stop and then start again.

So just suck it up people. You are not too fat, skinny, pimply or wrinkly to show your face on camera.

Now watch my videos.


By the way, I've never made a video before so I know nothing about editing, so I didn't even attempt it.

Maybe by the weekend I might be a bit slicker with this vlog business.

FYI my videos were taking so long to upload via Blogger that I gave up and used YouTube. ( Mentioning this just in case, like me, you've never uploaded your own video into your blog before.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

We have a Winner!

A big shoutout to my friend Dillypoo who writes Dillypoo Chatter. She is the lucky winner of my Australian Prize Package!


I don't want to let the cat out of the bag by telling you what's in the package, but there will be Vegemite!

Click here to read Dillypoo's post about her town, Fort Worth, Texas.

Stay tuned for the next exciting instalment of my Beautiful Bloggers Australian Adventure House Swap.

And Dillypoo, please email me your postal address so I can send you your prize!

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Geography Lesson


This is post #1 in the Beautiful Bloggers Australian Adventure House Swap.

I'm planning an overseas trip for mid 2012 and am looking for a blogger that would like to swap houses with me. But you don't have to want to house swap to join in the fun!

Each week I'll post a topic, and each Saturday everyone will write about the topic and link up here at my blog. We'll all have so much fun and learn heaps and heaps about each other, and different countries, and lifestyles, and cultures. It will be super educational!

This week's topic is The Geography Lesson. Please, please, please rush back to your blog and whip up a post about the country that you live in and then rush right back and link up!

Just to sweeten the deal...

Everyone that links up will go in a draw to win a super dooper Australian care package!!!

Also, if you tweet about this competition or promote it in any way, leave me a comment letting me know and you'll get extra entries!!!

At this point I don't need to know if you're interested in house swapping or not. I just want to see lots and lots of people linking up and telling me all about their country.

My Country

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror -
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold -
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

Dorothea Mackellar

This iconic poem, beloved in Australia, is a great introduction to the geography of my country. Let's get a bit more specific about the part of Australia that I live in.

Here's a map of the country:

The state that I live in, New South Wales, has been highlighted in yellow.

Let's look more closely at NSW:

The greater Sydney metropolitan area has been highlighted in red, and just above it you can see the region that I live in: The Central Coast. We have the best of both worlds; we are close to Sydney but not in Sydney!

Here's more detail on the Central Coast:

As you can see, we are blessed with surf beaches, lakes and National Parks. The Central Coast is a popular tourist destination for Sydneysiders.

So what does it look like?

The suburb that I live in is bordered by Brisbane Water National Park.

I didn't take this photo, but a view like this is available at the end of my street.

Somersby Falls, shown above, are just a short drive from my place, and there are great bushwalks and picnic spots nearby.

Terrigal Beach is probably the most well-known beach on the Central Coast. Here are two photos that I took recently at Terrigal:

Gosford in the main "city centre" for the lower Central Coast. Here are a couple of photos I took at the Gosford waterfront:

So what do you think? I'm guessing that you're now dying to swap houses with me and come and experience the beautiful Central Coast of NSW Australia!

What are you waiting for? Add your post to the linky below. Get tweeting. Shamelessly promote me in order to get more entries in the competition!

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