My Birthday

Take me back 5 years ago and my birthday meant everything to me! It wasn’t just a day, oh no! It was at least a whole weekend if not pushing it out to a week. Well, when you had as many friends as I did you needed to organise a few more dinners to fit everyone one in to celebrate you turning another year older!

This year was different though. The two months leading up to my birthday were filled with sadness and loss. My mum got diagnosed with cancer and my husband got made redundant. This all happened a few weeks before Christmas and was a big blow to the emotions and wallet!

Over Christmas we had an amazing time and although didn’t go as lavish as we usually would have, still had wonderful food, plenty of drinks and were surrounded by people we love dearly! New year’s came and went and I hurt my neck.

So when I was asked by hubby what I would like to do for my birthday I truly had no need or want to do anything. I am a pretty homely body as it is but this year I just didn’t feel like celebrating!

Luckily for me I have wonderful friends and family who jeered me up.

Walking into my office I found my desk covered in balloons and posters of cakes pined up on my walls! I even had gifts!

It is the responsibility of the birthday girl/boy to provide the cake for morning tea. I understand why they do this it’s so no-one’s birthday is forgotten! Being as I am not a baker and hubby isn’t working I thought he may take the roll of making my cake. Alas, no…..he would not make my cake as he was busy working hard in our back yard. I did opt for a packet mix for the cake base itself but made the icing and decorated it to boot!

IMG_2423

Needless to say after the chocolate coating covered in marshmallows and raspberry flavoured M’n’M’s and the filling being white chocolate, my colleagues were flying high for a good couple of hours!

V decided we had to go for a drink after work so I had luckily planned it with hubby that he would drop me to work and then come back in and be my chauffer.

We were tossing up between the Reserve Wine Bar a newish establishment opened up in the Mall of Newcastle or Les Passe Temp, a French inspired bar/restaurant located at the end of Hunter Street.

Being as someone we used to work with was behind the opening of the Reserve Wine Bar I decided I should go and check it out!

Being as V and hubby were both driving we were taking it easy. V and I opted for the well-mannered Rose, to the nose you got great smells of strawberries and watermelon. On the palate the wine was delicate and slightly dry, with great berry notes and a hint of melon. Delicious to say the least! B went for a Founders Brewing All Day IPA which was really fruity smelling and tasting. He enjoyed it but was only allowed one as driving!

IMG_2373        IMG_2422

We ordered the specials to share as well which were the mushroom aranchini balls and lamb empanadas. Unfortunately, we were starving at this point and I completely forgot to take photos. HOWEVER, they were delicious and went down a treat.

I highly recommend a trip to Reserve Wine Bar. Don’t expect your bill to be small but do expect to be wowed by the interior, the serve and knowledge everyone had and the table serve to boot.

Hubby had gone ahead and booked us a table at Pauls Asian Affair. We well renowned restaurant in New Lambton that we had been to a few years ago. We got there and I ordered a Traminer-Riesling. Working in the wine industry I did begrudge paying $28 for a bottle of Rosemount wine when you can buy it for under $10 but this was the cheapest on the menu and the rest were even more absurd!

We opted for a prawn toast to start and a nice big bowl of delicious prawn crackers, not overly Thai inspired but still hit the spot! For the mains we opted for a fried rice, crispy fried chicken with a hot sweet and sour sauce and spicy sate pork.

IMG_2375 IMG_2379IMG_2380

We were so full that we didn’t manage to get through half of it but luckily for us we are able to take home both unfinished food and wine! So that was a plus point!

IMG_2381 IMG_2382 IMG_2383

I recommend Pauls Asian Affair for somewhere with great food and fast table service, but don’t go there to enjoy wine. You will just end up bankrupt!

Advertisements

4 Years Married

Last weekend hubby and I celebrated our 4th year wedding anniversary. We weren’t sure what we were going to do for it but that all changed when earlier this year we saw the adverts for the Michael Jackson – Cirque Du Soliel concert two days after our anniversary. It couldn’t have been better timing!

My bestie V and her Boyfriend also wanted to come to the show so we booked all together and decided to make it a massive weekend of catching up – lots of drinking and eating was scheduled on the agenda!

On Thursday night, V and L turned up at 9:30pm. We managed to consume 2 ½ bottles of wine and 11 beers before we retired at 11:30pm! Whoops!

Waking up a little dusty our adventure started with Macdonalds Breakfast. Once we were filled with grease we jumped into the luxury of my Mazda 6 and had hubby drive us down to Sydney Town.

breakfast

We arrived at our hotel The four Points – by Sheriton 2 hours before check in but the staff were wonderful and accommodating and just changed our booked in rooms that were still being cleaned for those that were ready for us to dump and run.

fpt1305ex.96089_ub

By 12:30pm we were sat in the Sunshine outside Cyren in Darling Harbour. Here we started out drinking with lush cold Corona’s and Lime. After two of those went down a little too easily we opted to grab something for lunch. Unfortunately we were that hungry that I forgot to take pictures. Hubby got the Steak sandwich, L had pizza and I got the Angus beef burger. Everything was perfect and everyone was silent which is always a sign of a good feed!

IMG_1355

 

IMG_1223

 

IMG_1295

We moved next door to the Watershed bar which is a trusty favourite of mine and Hubbys. Everyone, bar me, grabbed more Corona’s and I opted for a vodka and tonic.

The sun started moving and caused a great nightmare for us girls who were trying to make the most of topping up the tans whilst sitting outside. On the opposite side of Darling Harbour the sun still basked the establishments. We decided to make a move.

After nearly getting run over by a miniature train we ended up at Blackbirds. Happy hour and more importantly Cocktail happy hour started 10 minutes after we arrived and the waiter was very accommodation letting us peruse the “expensive” list until he was able to bring us over the happy hour cocktail and beer list!

IMG_1233

 

IMG_1241

 

IMG_1253

We consumed wonderful cocktails and Hubby opted for a few Vodka and Red bulls. The sun still streamed and we stayed there until after 5! We decided to head back to the hotel and get ready for going out that night.

We decided we wanted to check out the hotel’s rooftop bar and boy was it expensive! No pictures but V ended up getting a cocktail for $20 and it consisted mainly of ice……with this in mind we only stayed there for one drink.

We headed out onto Darling Harbour and at this point Brad and I decided we were super hungry and ended up and Casa Di Nico. I managed in my drunken state to take a picture of the actual restaurant but non of our food – Sorry! We ordered a bread platter for starters and this was nothing to rave about! Then hubby just wanted pepperoni pizza and I opted for Barramundi and a side of fries. This was all delicious and did not cost any more then if we were back home in Newcastle. Winning all around.

We decided to head back to the hotel and get a good nights sleep (as hubby was pretty drunk) so we were in bed by 12am!

The next morning we were up bright and early and met V and L at Baia for Breakfast. This time I remembered to take pictures!

I opted for the corn fritters and avocado salsa,

IMG_1289

L for the big breakfast

IMG_1287

and V and hubby for the eggs Benedict, one with smoked salmon one with bacon.

IMG_1288

 

IMG_1286

The service was so slow and the restaurant was empty – hubby managed to drink two large mug-o-lattes before the food came out. Everyone was pretty disappointed bar me. My corn fritters were yummy and there was so much of them I was super full for the rest of the day.

We decided to talk a walk over to Paddy’s markets to walk of some of breakfast and on the way back grabbed out first beer of the day! We then caught the ferry over to Luna Park and acted like big kids for a couple of hours.

IMG_1292

 

IMG_1307

 

IMG_1319

Back at the hotel we changed again and headed out for the circus. Lots of wine and beer was consumed and we had chicken bbq rolls served out of a pub for dinner. Sorry for no picture again!

IMG_1332

The next morning we went for breakfast again, this time just hubby and I and we ended up at Blue Fish ….. I ordered the vegetarian breakfast and hubby again the eggs Benedict, he can’t help himself, this is all he has when we go out for breakfast!

IMG_1345

 

IMG_1346

We left Sydney at midday and drove home to get the dog from her little holiday away at the vets.

That night we were all hungover and tired so I made a comfort eating lasagne. This and my homemade garlic bread went down a treat!

Thanks for reading and sorry for the lack of picture!

OutBack Jacks – Glendale NSW – Review

Screen_shot_2011-02-27_at_11.53.30_PM

Brad and I have beautiful friends. Some we see often and some we don’t but when we do get together it’s like we were never apart. A friend of ours, Jason (who used to work with Brad) applied and got accepted to work  FIFO (fly in fly out) and one his last night in Newcastle we were lucky enough to catch up with him, his wife Alyson and his son Joey, for dinner at Outback Jacks.

Brad and I went to this establishment for the first time 3 years ago when it was Lone Star. WOW, what a disappointment that was! Brad had been raving about this place for weeks (after finding it at Glendale) and was desperate to get there. My white wine was warm, our entrées looked like they had been thrown on the plate and our mains failed to even come out. After 1 hour of waiting we were told our “dockets” had been misplaced. Needless to say, we got a full refund back and ended up at McDonald’s!

13529377062681

Anyway, Lone Star changed hands and became Outback Jacks. Of course I was dubious when Brad suggested we go there for dinner one night….”it might be better” he said “we need to eat and we are right there” he proclaimed. When we got there then ambiance of the place was completely different, all the waitresses were wearing cowgirl hats and had huge smiles on their faces. We ordered and I’m happy to report the food was amazing! So this is why we went back!

We met A, J and J at the restaurant and they had already ordered their drinks, a beer, a cider and a coke. We had a quick look at the menu and progressed to order a house red and a beer also. I have to admit now that I was slightly surprised at paying $8.50 for a glass of house red (only known once I received the bill) but the wine was good, I’ll give it that! We all ordered.

croppedimage378282-Glendalde2

Jason ordered the Lump-a-Rump 500g rump steak with chips and salad. He ordered medium and I advised they cooked the steaks pretty on key so he went medium rare – this bloke has eaten blue with me before! He was super impressed with the way his steak was cut and how it came out. IMG_0911 Alyson ordered the chicken and ribs combo and unfortunately was the only dish on that was ordered that failed to come out with the rest of them, we thought it had not been cooked, but eventually it came out and A was very impressed and managed to finish it off! IMG_0916   Joey, as teenagers do, ordered the chicken schnitzel and gravy with chips and he was delighted with what was placed in front of him! IMG_0913   Brad opted for  what he had the time before, the Wagyu burger. WOW when it came out on a silver platter it was like dinning with a king! Hilarious but still delicious. I had a bite of Brads burger and normally trying to eat a steak burger doesn’t work for me with an over bite but it was that tender it just pulled apart! IMG_0915   And me, well I opted for the same I had last time, the Sparrows Rump at 300g. OMG it was huge! I ordered blue and pleased I did because I came out rare but I am happy with that. IMG_0912 IMG_0918

So again, a really successful trip to a franchised joint Outback Jacks! Go there people of Newcastle NSW you will not be disappointed!

 

Note: picture of outside and inside of outback jacks taken from google images.

Polenta – Enough Said

OMG I am slightly addicted to this beautiful ground cornmeal substance!

It was only a few weeks back when I was chatting with Kate, a girl I work with about polenta. She is gluten intolerant and I tend to cook a lot of dishes that are gluten free as my mother is also intolerant. I was telling her about the ready made stuff I used to use in the UK and how amazing it was. You see, I had attempted to make it from powder form and failed miserably. As I’m sure you’re cottoning onto, I don’t do measurements or timing so well and therefore this make it yourself polenta ended up in the bin.

I was super excited two weeks ago when i was just daydreaming down the pasta isle of Coles when I stopped to check a message on my phone and just glanced right and there, low and behold was this ready made polenta!

my pics 031 my pics 032

Super excited, I snapped a picture quickly and sent it to Kate, I placed the polenta back on it’s shelf and started walking away, only to find myself dashing back to this exciting find and throwing it into my trolley like a little guilty pleasure!

When I got home I popped all my groceries away and then sat and stared at this wonder, wondering what I would make to go with it! You see the ready made stuff, although super easy to use, only as a 3-4 day window from opening the packet and placing it in the fridge. I definitely didn’t want to waste this golden treasure so I started planning meals that I could do that would utilise it all.

The first dish I did I pan fried the polenta in thick steaks trying to achieve the rather difficult black line look. I served this with a T-bone steak, green beans and home made red onion relish. This recipe can be found here.

my pics 035

I had enough polenta left over to try a very simple polenta and rosemary fries recipe that I just made up. This time, however, I decided to spray the fries with olive oil and sprinkle salt and finely chopped fresh rosemary and then bake them rather then fry them. Although this took around 30 minutes to achieve, the result was mind blowing and I will post a recipe for this as soon as i make them again and remember to take a picture of it!

Last night, I had bought a new packet of this wonderful accompaniment and decided as it was Meatless Monday that I would use some frozen Salmon steaks and build on that. In the end I made a homemade salsa and served the dish with a swirl of Sweet Chilli Sauce. Not the cleanest of eating but OMG it just topped the dish off to a T! You can find that recipe here……

my pics 001

So my journey with polenta is really only starting. Maybe one day I will venture back to the “do it yourself” kind, but for now, I am happy in the knowledge that sat in my pantry (or fridge when I have opened the packet) is my ready made polenta just waiting to be eaten all up!

#Getinmybelly

Meatless Monday

Brad and I tend to eat a lot of meat. I think it has something to do with the fact that Brad thinks he is a pure carnivore and not a herbivore at all!

If Brad could get away without eating any vegetable I believe he would choose this option. Me, however, when I came to Australia it would have been very easy to slip into a “comfort food”, “non veggie” type of diet as it was the first time living out of home! I did, however, think back to what is good for you and made an elected decision to eat lots of veggies and fruit. I know Brad would agree that he is thankful that I plate up mounds of veggies on most evenings, sometimes even ones he has expressed a dislike too (Egg plant/Aubergine, Squash, asparagus) but he eats them. I don’t serve him sweet potato as he really dislikes that which is a shame because I love it and it’s a GREAT alternative to normal potato. I have on occasion mixed normal with sweet potato just as a compromise!

I find fruit harder to consume then vegetables, maybe its the time it takes to prepare? Or the fact that it is cold? With veggies, I guess you prepare them as you prepare any dinner where I don’t know anyone who has fruit salad all the time for dinner or lunches? Fruit generally, in my eyes, just takes more effort overall to consume.

meatlessmonday-11

So this leads me to Meatless Mondays. I think I saw this somewhere on the internet whilst I was looking for a funny wine meme or something along those lines. The two words “Meatless Monday” stuck and I decided over the weekend that I was going to uphold this. I did however have turkey mince at lunch time so have decided that it will just be our dinners on a Monday that will become meatless.

To ease Brad into this I decided on a Spicy Indian Dahl with pumpkin, which would have been great on it’s own, but I did spice up some fish and baked it before adding it into the Dahl. This dish is DELISH! I mean it! Although it took about an hour to cook it was well worth the wait! The texture and flavour that oozed out of those little lentils was amazing, the plain basa fish coasted in dried spices really works a treat and overall was a hit with hubby and I. There was even enough left over for lunches the next day (dahl and pumpkin only).

So watch this space for more meatless Monday recipes and experiences!

You can find the Dahl Recipe under Vegetables/Sides

my pics 009

Men and Meat

The first time I attempted a risotto I chose to keep it easy. As my husband kept saying, “isn’t this the dish that everyone is petrified by on those cooking shows you love?” He had a point, no-one has ever said they “love making a risotto” and no-one on my beloved cooking shows has ever come close to perfection! So it was a big challenge but I felt positive that I could pull it off.

I got everything set up and prepared and gradually added my stock to the rice. One word of advice on this……don’t think about cooking a risotto if you are hungry…..it takes a while!

When I finally got the rice perfect and all my stock had been absorbed, I ladled the risotto into my warmed bowls and served it to Brad. I watched as my husband picked his fork up and progressed to moving the risotto around his plate. After about two minutes I piped up and asked if everything was OK? to which Brad replied “where is the meat?”

Now this leads me into the real aspect of this post. What is it with men and meat? Why are vegetables to foreign to men? Why are vegetarian men deemed weaker then meat eating men?

funny-Homer-eating-meat

I did some research on the cavemen diet. The paleolithic diet (abbreviated paleo diet or paleodiet) is a modern nutritional plan based on the presumed ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various hominid species habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era—a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of agriculture and grain-based diets. In common usage, such terms as “paleolithic diet” also refer to the actual ancestral human diet
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paleolithic_diet

So what is with this great need for meat with every meal? Even breakfast! Go to McDonalds and your breakfast muffins are egg with bacon or egg with sausage! What about just egg?? Yes, I know you can request it, or even opt for the pancakes and maple syrup but still, when did every meal of the day have to contain meat?

I understand those of you who are going to talk to me about the protein in meat, but I get loads of protein from a hard boiled egg after a work out, I do not need to chow down on a steak!

On the flip side of the coin I am concious that I could not make that decision to become vegetarian, nor could I sustain on just fish. I do love a well cooked T-bone, a succulent plump chicken breast, even that naughty pork roast with all the trimming and the best pork, crackling! I wouldn’t say I crave meat, but I sure do enjoy it when it is popped on my plate, or more likely that I have cooked it up and served it!

If cavemen survived on meat and plants around them, why did it become so horrendous to eat vegetables? Plants that are so good for your health have been branded with a taboo of being disgusting? Why? Why are the good things for us so bad? And why do we have this addiction, this need and reliance on eating meat all the time?

My husband does eat my broccoli and blue cheese soup without mentioning at all the word meat, but then I wonder, “is that because it’s a liquid and therefore his brain isn’t registering that this delicious, satisfying dish contains not one ounce of meat?”

I guess we will never get an answer to this (unless there is some scientific research that I have failed to uncover whilst thinking about writing this post!) So enjoy you meat and three veg, your juicy steak and plump chicken breasts. But remember, vegetable are not the enemy, you just think they are!!

demotivating-posters-demotivational-posters-funny-posters-posters-cow-meat-salad

Cooking with Quinoa

Have you ever felt like a right prat when someone has had to correct you in your pronunciation or use of word?! Well I have on numerous occasions and on Monday it was no different. In fact it was the radio presenters fault for pronouncing this particular word wrong, I heard him say it, I knew it was wrong and yet something inside me proceeded to tell my colleagues, Victoria and Kate, that I too had a packet of Qwin-oh-ah at home that i was going to attempt to cook with.

Now of course all you clued up foodie/hip people out there know that the actual pronunciation of this Quinoa is Keen-Wah! WTF!? Qwin-oh-ah is a much better phonetic way of saying this grains name!!

my pics 011

I found out yesterday that this grain/seed has been the staple food for Peru and other such countries but because of the increasing popularity among “celebrity chefs” the demand on this super food has increased that much that the staple food that once was, is no longer. Now, this did make me feel a little bad about buying a packet of $3 pre-flavoured quinoa from the shops – well, that was until I ate it. OMG delicious! This is going to become a staple food for my husband an I, however, I will just be buying the unflavoured bags in the future as this one was WAY too salty!

It was too easy to cook, it felt amazing as you ate it and it didn’t leave us feeling one ounce bloaty! Friends of mine had apparently been eating this super food for some time  – which lead me to ask the question “which rock have I been hiding under not to know about this delicious, versatile, super food?” and more importantly “why is this a super food?”

Nutritional Value:
Quinoa was important to the diet of pre-Columbian Andean civilizations.[15] Today, people appreciate quinoa for its nutritional value. Quinoa has been called a superfood.[14] Protein content is very high for a cereal/pseudo-cereal (14% by mass), yet not as high as most beans and legumes. Quinoa’s protein content per 100 calories is higher than brown rice, potatoes, barley and millet, but is less than wild rice and oats.[27] Nutritional evaluations of quinoa indicate that it is a source of complete protein.[28][29][30] Furthermore, it is a good source of dietary fiber and phosphorus and is high in magnesium and iron. Quinoa is also a source of calcium, and thus is useful for vegans and those who are lactose intolerant.[31] Quinoa is gluten-free and considered easy to digest. Because of all these characteristics, quinoa is being considered a possible crop in NASA’s Controlled Ecological Life Support System for long-duration human occupied spaceflights.[32]Quinoa may be germinated in its raw form to boost its nutritional value. Germination activates its natural enzymes and multiplies its vitamin content.[33] In fact, quinoa has a notably short germination period: Only 2–4 hours resting in a glass of clean water is enough to make it sprout and release gases, as opposed to, e.g., 12 hours with wheat.[34] This process, besides its nutritional enhancements, softens the seeds, making them suitable to be added to salads and other cold foods.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quinoa
Another great positive for this “super food” is that it is actually delicious and Gluten Free! Now there is not much out there on the market that is good for you and delicious at the same time, ESPECIALLY being gluten free!!!

I started browsing the search engines for more information on this super seed, I wanted to know recipes, could I get it all year round? I was consumed with finding the right way to cook the small round seed. Then is dawned on me…….just put your own twist on this!! So that’s what I did. I marinated two large de boned chicken thighs in lemon juice, oil and fresh thyme for about 30-50 minutes (the chicken started turning white), i roasted my favourite veggies and cooked up this Quinoa for the first time ever. You can find the very straight forward yet amazingly awesome recipe under Chicken.

Thank you world for allowing us to par take in eating this beautiful and delicate seed that is not only going to enrich my life health wise, but has opened up more doors for my cooking adventures to follow!

my pics 016