Saturday, March 2, 2013

Going local... far, far away....

Just over two weeks ago, I arrived in the city of Brisbane in Queensland, Australia. WHAT?! It's been what feels like forever since I last posted an entry for this blog, and here I am telling you that, surprise, I'm living on another continent now? Well, yes.

I am currently studying abroad at the University of Queensland, St Lucia campus; I'm taking a Marine Geology & Palaeoceanography course, Environmental Management & Climate Change, Human Bodies Culture & Society, and Indigenous Australian Issues (Aboriginal Studies) courses. Last week was the very first week of classes, so there isn't too much to report; however, I love my schedule and my professors are absolutely wonderful. The accents help me to pay attention ;)

The reason I'm blogging about my study abroad experience HERE and not just on my Australia study abroad blog is because "going local" here is incredibly easy in some aspects. First of all, almost everything in the market is grown in Australia. Secondly, the food in the market that is not from Australia is WAY to expensive for my little college girl wallet to afford. Thirdly, I understand that Australia is almost the size of the U.S. so it's easy for me to be local by only using Australia products, but you must realize that the center of the continent is outback where almost nothing can grow, and many of the regions have climates that are too extreme to produce anything; in other words, I am not necessarily consuming from such a large area. For this reason, I am not basing my "local-ness" around a diameter so much as I am trying to keep the square-kilometers (metric, people!) to a minimum.

My first local ah-hah!!!

On the first Saturday I was here (I arrived two Wednesdays ago), I took a trip with my friends Lauren and Emily to South Banks. In South Banks, there are markets that line the pedestrian streets when you first disembark from the ferry (which we use to get up and down the river, and MAN does that thing fly). Local artists are primarily the stall-holders in this area. We walked up and down the streets and I purchased a pair of teal starfish earrings and refrained from emptying my wallet for all of the amazing art that surrounded me.

After quite a bit of shopping, our tummies began to grumble, so we went in search of a good restaurant for lunch. Finally, we stumbled across Grill'd, a burger restaurant with lamb, chicken, beef, and veggie burgers of various, creative sorts. What drew me to this restaurant was the big, red word "LOCAL" on it's signs hanging in the window.

It was a wonderful surprise when we made our orders that part of our purchase went to support local farmers in the area. Another wonderful surprise came when I took my first of the "Honest Hombre" chicken burger. (They even had gluten-free buns!! - OH! UPDATE! I have a gluten sensitivity! I've finally declared my food allergies to be gluten, soy, and dairy - and guess what? I don't have Crohn's disease!) Any way, the chicken burger had black bean chili, onions, fresh guacamole and a corn tostada between the two yummy buns.

I was full with the first half, and VERY satisfied with the second ;)

I planned to make another Saturday a "go local" saturday, but it rained elephants yesterday (as it has been EVERY DAY EXCEPT TWO DAYS SINCE I ARRIVED), so I opted for Wolly's to pick up my produce instead of the huge farmer's market that is apparently in West End.

I vow to go next Saturday rain or shine - unless it rains so heavily again that it breaks my cheap umbrella.


Oh yeah, and the beer's local too!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Cleaning the Cupboards

Still trying to use up leftovers, I got my bake on as an exam de-stresser.

The first exam week creation was a fruit pizza. After my marine science exam I wanted something to cheer me up, so I used my last tortilla and the JUMBO kiwi I found at Food Lion (serious proof of people messing with foods) along with other leftover berries, grapes, cream cheese and orange marmalade.

This would cheer anyone up!

Then today I spent all day doing physics, and it was rainy and gross and depressing outside, so I made one of my favorite cold winter soups: Avoglemono Soup. This bowl of greek goodness has a chicken broth base with eggs to thicken it and lemon for an intense flavor. The orzo and the chicken add a hearty touch to stick to your ribs. Garnished with cilantro, of course.

Then, while doing French, an intense peanut butter craving hit me and I needed some chocolate too (oh dear), so I made some funky puppy chow out of puffed wheat and crushed shredded wheat. Instead of melting chocolate, I made the black bean brownie batter to mix into the dessert! It was even Allen-approved (and he doesn't like sweets).... Oh, and I made a huge mess while mixing it.

Two exams to go - just French tomorrow morning and physics saturday (worst Saturday of my life, waaaah, boooo, hisssss).

Exploring Oats

I had a week of overnight oatmeal breakfasts for the last week of classes since mornings were rushed but I needed something tasty and something that tasted like it had been nicely prepared!

Three of the creations included chocolate brownie overnight oats, mandarin orange & peach with a hint of tangerine zest, and my favorite so far (besides traditional with cranberry juice and golden raisins) was the peach melba oats - the raspberries added the perfect tang and sweetness!

One morning I had some extra time and I happened to be out of almond milk the night before (which I use as my base for overnight oats), so I made blueberries and cream oats!! It was perfect when I added a touch of vanilla creamer. The trick was first brewing blueberry tea then cooking the oats in the tea with some truvia and adding the creamer and frozen berries last :) - Also pictured is my usual greek yogurt with pepitas -. 

While attempting to use up more of my food before move out week, I noticed I had an avocado that NEEDED to be consumed that day and lemons that also needed to go bye-bye. SO, I made pesto tortillas out of ground oats and pesto mix with olive oil and water as the "crust" to my creative pizza-type crepes. Then, while I cooked the tortillas in the pan, I threw some freshly sliced tomatoes in the oven for roasting with a little pesto on top. I whipped up a spread of goat cheese, avocado, and lemon juice, and the whole thing all together was to DIE for! Yum yum yum.

I ended up making three tortillas total, so I used the leftover one as a snack before dinner with more of the spread and greens, then shaped it like a taco.

I wanted to share my delicious tortilla creations with Allen, so our Thursday night dinner was mexican meatballs from a recipe I found on the paleo website (even homemade sauce) and cheese enchiladas de Allie made out of my oat tortillas (this time I mixed chili mix into the ground oats instead of pesto). Allen begged me to make the enchiladas again and raved about them the next day too! They were so stinking healthy, and I'm glad he loved them. They looked pretty too!

I'm sure this next week will be full of interesting meals as I attempt to clean the cupboards! 

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tacky Christmas parties and broken creamer caps

Dinner with Allen on December first meant a nice big meal (well. duh. we usually do that except this time we had something SUPER yummy). I ended up eating FIVE AND A HALF chicken drumsticks they were so stinkin' good! Man, can Allen cook drum sticks or what!

For some reason I wanted chicken again the next night really badly, except this time I was craving pesto (who does that?). SO, we made pesto chicken to go with the zucchinni parmesan fritters Allen baked for me (not pictured because I ate ALL of the fritters - three zucchinis worth - before Allen could take the picture of dinner). The mushrooms and caprese salad complimented the flavors nicely.

After we were full, we went to Walmart to find the tackiest sweaters on the racks. Unfortunately, although the sweaters were perfectly ugly, they were at least $17. Instead we headed over to the women's section and found these adorable "always believe" santa shirts that were super creepy, hideous, and would be excellent for the party.

 The next morning was a... well it was morning and it came too quickly and I needed coffee. But when I went to snag my coffee creamer from the fridge, I discovered that the cap was molded so terribly that it did not fit the bottle at all and the creamer would go bad as soon as I tried to re-seal it. SO, I got my hot glue gun all heated up and went to work!

This was the result, and although it looks as janky and redneck as could possibly be, it is fully functional and I have fresh coffee creamer for the week that won't spoil thanks to my ingenuity. 

Orange Marmalade and Ketchup? You bet!

Yeah, orange marmalade and ketchup is right! I was craving some baked plantains and had no idea what sauce to dip them in... creamy? No. Spicy? No. Sweet? Kinda. Tangy? YES. I sorted through my fridge and found ketchup which is always a safe dipping sauce. Then I saw orange marmalade on my fridge door and my curiosity won me over. I first tried dipping a piece of the plantain in each separately but it wasn't quite the satisfaction I wanted. THEN, when I accidentally combined the two in a scoop, heavenly angels sang to me. Orange marmalade and ketchup - the newest, bestest plantain dip.

I was in a baking mood that day so I also decided to get some cupcake tins out and try this new chocolate cupcake recipe I found online. It only uses oats as the "flour" so that's why it caught my interest.

They actually turned out to taste like little chocolate lava cakes and I helped myself to one on the way to class... and when I returned... there were only two left :( My roommates love my baking a little too much.

I saved a cupcake for Lauren for a snack while I cooked dinner. I invited her over for a nice meal because she had a stressful week. Her mamma usually makes us salmon, broccoli, quinoa and sweet potatoes when we go home (her house = my second home), so I decided to make something similar but not too similar that it would make her homesick.

The result was Caribbean jerk marinated mahi mahi on a bed of orzo and snap peas cooked in veggie broth and herbs, and a little garnish of course! The orzo hit the spot and reminded me of MY mamma's cooking!

I'm now on an orzo kick and made a dish with it tonight - gettin funky with it!
I marinated salmon in the same jerk spices except added orange marmalade (trying to get rid of that stuff) and soy sauce to go on top of orzo that I stir-fried into chinese veggies with an egg and sesame seeds. Yeah... it was reeeal good.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Kitty Cakes

Vacation is a beautiful thing.  Last week I had the chance to go back to Michigan to visit my family for Thanksgiving and I also had some time to relax! I took a bath for the first time in God knows how long, and it was simply wonderful.

I also had the chance to see a few of my best friends from home. I visited Macey who goes to Kentucky Wesylan and we made s’mores bars and pumpkin bread! I was only there for a short time before I went home to some of Mamma’s cooking (which makes my food look like overcooked lunch meat) and baking with friends. Skyler and Zach came over after dinner and we reenacted a baking session we had two summers ago where we made a chocolate cake and carved it into a cat!

I love those two. It was a great night spent catching up and watching the Gamecocks stomp on Clemson!

The day before I left, when I thought my trip home couldn’t have gotten any better, my sister took me to The Pump House. It’s a frozen yogurt place like I’ve never seen before! They have 21 flavors to choose from and a BILLION toppings! Or pretty darn close to that! I had pumpkin, eggnog, and pretzel dough as my flavors and tons of toppings including HOT apple crisp!

When I got home to SC, I already had a package from my mom – two, actually! They were from and they were filled with some amazing healthy snacks that are all SO yummy!

I sampled the seaweed chips first, and they turned out to be “surprisingly satisfying” as stated on the bag.

 I dove into the Gluten free cookies next, followed by a sampling of the Kale chips and the dried dragonfruit also called pitaya! I think it’s my new favorite fruit!

Before I had returned to SC, Allen and I decided to take on a 30-day challenge to a bikini body (or in his case, swim trunks body)! I wrote up the plan in the airport during my four-hour layover in Cincinnati. Ew. It really doesn’t change much for me (Allen doesn’t like the diet changes very much because it involves portion control – sorry, love). In fact, it doesn’t change my diet at all except increase protein intake and encourage me to eat 4 or 5 meals a day instead of 3 or 4. This morning I got a little creative and made peachy cinnamon oatmeal. I boiled a spiced peach tea bag and cinnamon in water before adding the oats, and then I stirred in truvia and some maple agave, along with the diced peaches. It was scrumptious!

I followed breakfast with physical therapy and a doctor’s appointment for my knee – I got a new brace! No more ugly giant green knee-immobilizer! Hooray!

My second meal of the day was half of a cantaloupe with my new favorite dessert as the filling – cottage cheese with walnuts and drizzled with maple agave (it takes JUST like butter pecan ice cream, and I SWEAR I’m not crazy).

Lunch was a chicken burger over salad and couscous mixed with lentils and sugar-snap peas and Parmesan cheese! DEEEELISH! Tonight I’m having sesame salmon with mushrooms and zucchini J

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Successful Pickling

I ate the carrots today with my lunch, you know, the ones I lacto-fermented... and they turned out to be great! They didn't have any bitterness or weird after taste; they were simply delicious pickled carrots. Maybe I'll make a tray of lacto-fermented veggies as an appetizer for Thanksgiving! According to my new cook book, it's a very good idea to have raw or fermented veggies before eating a meal with only cooked foods. I can't wait to try the process with cucumbers!

Last night after the last home football game - WE WON - Allen made me my FAVORITE turkey sloppy joes. For my birthday back in March, I had requested these as a birthday dinner and he thought it strange, but he ended up falling in love with them and now we make them all of the time!

Since he was manning the dinner preparations, I decided to make him that pizza bread he's been talking about. He bought whole-wheat artisan-style pizza crust, mozzarella, and pepperoni, so I threw it all together and made it look pretty by "braiding" the crust.

I baked it in the oven at 400 for roughly 12 minutes and he loved it :) Next time, extra pepperoni.