Thursday, December 31, 2009

Olde Stoney at Olde Straddie

Olde Stoney
Originally uploaded by haydnfj
It's New Year's Eve at Point Lookout, Stradbroke Island, Queensland. Haydn and I will be heading to the Point Lookout Bowls club shortly for a pub meal and some 'classic rock' tunes from a cover band. And...we'll likely be in bed by 11, I'd say.

We've been moving at the leisurely island pace, getting into a nice routine of wake up > raisin bran > morning chat shows > run on the beach (tara) > morning swim > lunch > Black Books DVDs > afternoon swim > shower > snacks > dinner > early to bed.

Haydn has been the dinner chef and meals have included spicy, blackened chicken wings on the grill and a mushroom and asparagus risotto.

As we are the only two here, there is not the usual Bruce Johnston curated 5pm happy hour, nor of course am I on the NZ Sav Blanc this year with baby due in May. So instead, I have turned to a classic, Kirks Old Stoney Ginger Beer.

I love this brand of soft drinks. The graphic design is quaint and there is plenty of olde timey flavours - cream soda, ginger beer, ginger ale, passion fruit. It's an Australian original (now owned by Coca Cola, but what can ya do?) and the Ginger Beer is such a nice happy medium between ginger ale and root beer. Refreshing, mild and not too soda poppy.

We start our road trip back to Sydney tomorrow and I'm a bit melancholy about it. Just when you start to really get into the groove of island life, it's time to head back to the real world.

Happy 2010.

- chunkytoast

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas day in the hot sun

Merry Christmas, actually Happy Boxing Day as it's the evening of the 26th. It was a hot and humid Christmas in Queensland, but really there is something to be said for a post-Christmas lunch swim. I did a bit of Sing Star with my niece Ainsley, and then we took a cool down in the pool.

Meanwhile, in the front yard, Haydn and Ryan were playing a bit of cricket. Haydn donned his madras shorts that I gave him that morning. And, there he is in action.

Tomorrow...we head to Straddie for a bit of rancho relaxo!

- chunkytoast

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Need sprinkles stat!

need sprinkles stat!
Originally uploaded by haydnfj
Baking cookies can take it out of you. At least it can when you have an oven heated up to 350 F/ 176 C on a balmy Sunday night. This is not a hardship that Martha Stewart has to face at her Connecticut estate, I imagine.

The cookies are yummy if not overly 'food styled'. I think they'll taste just as good bc of the key ingredients of butter and sugar.

It's a first time recipe I am trying from over at Better Homes and Gardens.

All that's left now is some gift wrapping, a couple days of work, and some packing and we are in the car and heading north...

Merry Christmas!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tacos on a stormy night

Tacos on a stormy night
Originally uploaded by haydnfj
It's Monday, about 6pm. Time to think about dinner. Haydn IMs me and asks the question married couples have been asking each other for thousands of years, 'What do you feel like for dinner?'

Both of us stumped. It's just easier to sit at your desk sometimes and eat pre-packaged cheese and crackers. But I needed to call it a day. So I headed to my trusty IGA across the road and wandered the aisles a bit, going in the wrong direction of grocery shopping traffic til it struck me. Chicken soft tacos -- but keep it simple. No rice, no beans, just lots of lettuce and tomatoes and sour cream.

So that's what we did. As I pulled the car out of the parking garage, drops of rain started to splatter down. Brilliant cracks of lightning flashed in the distance. Driving into the cross-city tunnel, I could see a lightning bolt off to my left over the harbour and it reflected in a tall, glass building on my right.

I made it home safe and sound, and H and I resumed the business at hand. He was on the chicken cooking duty, and I was on prep work.

Monday comes to a close...


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mushroom & spinach pasta

Mushroom & spinach pasta
Originally uploaded by haydnfj
I cooked this up on a solo night at home a couple of weeks back. Was in the mood for a creamy pasta, but of course not overly creamy. This would be a test for me.

I went to the wonderful recipe site and did a search on spinach AND pasta.

I came up with this:

Highly recommended. Not overly complicated.

- chunkytoast

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Wisconsin and beyond

Back in Sydney for about 36 hours now and with a big sleep last night, we're feeling a bit more like our normal selves.

Haydn and I covered a lot of territory in our 2 week sojourn: Chicago for some Lollapalooza and South Loop deluxe living with Ann; Wisconsin for many things including canoeing, golfing, Memorial Terrace-ing and lots of dining out; Tara in NYC for some heartwarming reunions with friends from grad school, Nonesuch, and Lincoln Center.

But a definite highlight was also the main reason we came back at this specific time: the nuptials of Laura and Andy, a couple that has always been great friends to us. Laura and I go back to 4th grade and in coupleville, L & A have known Haydn about as long as I have. We've had good times in Sydney and Chicago.

Their wedding was a blast and had all the ingredients for perfect celebration: honest sentiment, a couple of tears of emotion, a family singalong, funny speeches, plenty of wine and beverages and some major action on the dancefloor.

The following day Haydn declared it a Category 10 hangover. All for a good cause!

As for the all important culinary delights, true to chunkytoast's mission, here'a rundown:
+ Iced coffee - hallelujah! I love flat whites, but sometimes a girl in summer just needs a good old iced coffee with lots of milk.
+ The taco plate at a hole in the wall Mexican place in Chicago. Massive and so love the 'orange' rice on these meals.
+ Bunyan Burger at the Memorial Terrace. So much melted chese always remains on the wrapper!
+ Brat at Miller Park with Secret Stadium Sauce, Mustard, relish, sauerkrat.
+ Mom's Baked Spaghetti. What a meal to come home to -- oven baked goodness.
+ Jiang Chang take away. Broccoli and chicken and lots of garlic sauce.
+ Boca Chica in lower east side NYC. A beautiful plate of Latin American food with a beautiful group of friends.
+ Murray's Bagels -- everything with scallion cream cheese.
+ Jolly Bob's -- the avocat. Pecan crusted catfish with a delectable avocado sauce drizzled on it. And oh the crab cakes were yummy too.
+ Culver's in Beloit -- a burger on the way to O'Hare has become something of a tradition.

But, much to my own surprise, my favorite meal was at the Hawk's Landing Golf Club. My dad is working there this summer and wanted to take us to check out the joint. I love a golf club meal (North Bondi Golf Club is a weekly event for me) but mostly for the dependability. The special at Hawk's Landing was indeed special and I went for it -- blackened catfish on a bed of linguine in a cream sauce. It could be heavy-handed but this was done with a light touch. The sauce included grilled shrimp and it wasn't too cream-laden but instead was a nice contrast to the blackened seasoning.

Here tis:

Many more photos are here:

Happy trails...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Adventures in breakfasting

12 pancakes!
Originally uploaded by haydnfj
We headed all the way to Newtown this morning for breakfast and retro furniture shopping. I love this chalkboard: 12 pancakes! No matter how mini they are, I dont know how one person could handle a DOZEN pancakes. I am glad, however, to see Organic Maple Syrup being touted as the stuff in the supermarket here is decidedly non-natural.

This wasn't our final destination though...

We opted for Corelli's in the old High School for the Performing Arts (this of course, makes me think 'FAME' which I just watched an episode of). Our table was tiny and I had to sit on what is basically a glorified footstool, but great food and efficient if not overly warm service made up for it.

Haydn and I both ordered the Tortilla Breakfast. I thought it would be served like a buritto but as you can see it was something slightly different: bacon, spinach, tomato, cheese and mushroom on a crisp tortilla topped with a fried egg. The only think missing was jalapenos.

It was a nice way to re-think the Mexican breakfast. So glad to see this kind of option increasingly more prevalent on Sydney breakfast menus.

- chunkytoast

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Sunday midday pie

Mmm pie
Originally uploaded by haydnfj
Where there used to a bike shop and then a surf shop, there is now a pie shop on Glenayr Avenue. It's called Funky Pies and the 'funky' must be in be in part because the pies use imitation meat. In other words, it's traditional food with slightly non-traditional ingredients. We both had the signature 'Funky Pie' with mushrooms, mash and vege-sausage. There was a nice sprinkling of some kind of very brown seasame seeds on top that were quite disntictive too. The mushy peas were nice and thick and the brown gravy was rich and hearty. I didn't really need the faux sausage in it - mushrooms and mash would have been enough.

To note -- you get mushy peas AND mash on the side, but that would have put me over the edge for noon. You get pie + peas + mash + gravy for $8. That's good eatin'!

I think I'll go back for the soya chicken, cheese and broccoli pie too.

- chunkytoast

Monday, May 11, 2009

Autumn Chicken Dish

Originally uploaded by haydnfj
I recently trawled through NPR's feature on meals under US$10. NPR nerds (like myself) posted recipes that are easy on the budget, which is very important in these trying economic times.

There were lots of hearty, bean and rice Latin dishes. There was a very bizarre tuna + brown rice + gravy recipe that a couple posted saying they still eat it 30 years after they made it one night when they were young, poor and a'courting.

But the Autumn Chicken Dish seemed like a nice combination of flavour, substance and simplicity. I endeavored to do this one myself. The first challenge arose with the very crucial ingredient of herbs de provence -- pretty much the flavor component of the dish. H insisted it must be a spice that Americans give a French sounding name, but I think it's just one that you either find at the cornershop or end up searching all over town for. We opted for Italian Herbs instead.

It is definitely a dish for autumn. It cooks for good long while, filling the house with a nice aroma on a dark Saturday night. And with the sweet potatoes and garlic cloves, you sort of just feel like sitting on the couch afterward and not venturing too far. That's just what we did.

Here's the recipe in full:
Autumn Chicken Dish

4 chicken legs, w/ bone, skin
2 yams, peeled, cut 1/4" slices
1 eggplant, cut in 1/4" slices
4 tbs extra virgin olive oil
8 garlic cloves (or to taste), peeled, cut in 1/2
2 tbs herbes de provence
salt & pepper to taste

(All baking temps & times are approx. depending on your oven.)
Pre-heat oven to 425 deg F. Place oven rack in middle position.

Lightly coat roasting pan with olive oil. In pan, mix yams, eggplant, garlic, 1-2 tbs of herbs de provence, & 2-3 pinches of salt & pepper with 1-2 tbs of olive oil. All the yam & eggplant slices should be coated. Next, as best you can lie slices down flat.

Lightly season both sides of each leg w/ salt, pepper, & herbs de provence. Place each seasoned leg, skin side down, on top of the veggies in the roasting pan.

Bake for 20 mins, then turn over each leg & veggies over. Bake for 15 more mins or until juices run clear. Then increase oven temp to 500 deg & bake for 5-10 mins or until chicken skin is golden brown. Keep an eye on your chicken so it won't burn.
When done, place chicken & veggies on separate plate to rest for 5-10 mins, then serve.

I'm not sure the picture does the dish justice, but it really was good home cookin'.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

Greyhound looking for a good home

At the Surry Hills Festival today, you had your petting zoo ($5 entry, no kidding), your choice of 'stop animal cruelty' booths, shetland pony rides, dudes with goats on leashes, and the friendly, docile retired greyhounds looking for a good home. I stopped and petted these guys for a while...if only I had a big yard with a fence.


Saturday, April 04, 2009

Nostalgia alert: Holly Hobbie

Holly Hobbie
Originally uploaded by haydnfj
I was perusing the 'Misses shop' at Myer today and did a double take on this cute little top. As someone who had Holly Hobbie curtains, pajamas and a doll as a little girl, I was really excited to spot this. But then it struck me that Gen X nostalgia is very really and aimed at people like me. I didn't buy it basically because of that...and because I might be too old for calico and ruffles (at the same time at least).

That said, I kind of want to go back and buy it.

- tc

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Hello, Sven

Oh my, I've become a car owner! Or more accurately, a lease-to-owner of a 2008 Volvo C30 called Sven. Below is the pictorial evidence and I can confidently say after a day of cruising and negotiating the streets of Sydney, I'm liking it! Surprised by how much I'm taking to it in fact (having a GPS helps). Never thought the first car I purchased would have a steering wheel on the right side, but I guess I shouldn't be shocked after being in Aus for 3+ years...

As I drove home today, I was pleasantly reminded that one of life's simplest pleasures is definitely driving with windows down and good tunes. Especially with these two tunes in particular:

Half Full Glass of Wine by Tame Impala
Coca Cola by Little Red

Meet Sven (named for his Swedish lineage):

-- tc

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Katoomba and environs

Haydn and I headed to the Blue Mountains a couple of weeks back to celebrate the end of a hectic January, oh, and my 32nd bday. It's a 2 hour drive but took me 3 1/2 years to get there! Better late than never, and even better to stay at Echoes Boutique Hotel.

We were in super relaxo mode on Saturday but hiked way down down on Sunday, started out at the Three Sisters and going down the Grand Staircase. Or was it just called The Really, Big Steep Staircase? No matter, since I lived in the Grand Canyon and learned it was the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps that initially carved out the trails to get to the bottom, I find it intriguing and admirable that the trails are there for us weekend explorers.

And thankfully, there is a cable car to get us back to the top. It took us by Katoomba Falls, which sadly is a falls without the water. It's very dry up that way and we only saw creeks that probably were gushing rapids a few years ago.

Beautiful area of the world with lots of funny old antique/junk shops. I bought a book at a place called Mr Pickwicks.

Here are our photos:

- chunkytoast

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A message from the Bondi Beach Burrito Company

Originally uploaded by haydnfj
Caption: Please don't throw paper towel into toilet...
Amazing we even have to ask.

True words surely written by the person who cleans up at the end of the night.

H and I had a great meal from BBBC tonight. I went with the green chili roasted pork quesadilla and H the burrito version of the same thing. On his burrito wrapper it said 'oink.' And it was delicious, especially went well with an episode of Mad Men.