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Archive for the ‘American’ Category

Happy 4th of July everyone! While most of you will be having a BBQ with watermelon, corn on the cob, fried chicken and berry pies, we’re in the middle of winter (with even a bit of hail yesterday). So…although pumpkin pie is not traditional for Independence day, it’s very much in season now & I’ve made it to feel patriotic. Yes, it’s all from scratch (as in baked a fresh pumpkin & made pâte brisée) as canned pumpkin is a wholly American product! Trust me, I never appreciated canned pumpkin until I moved abroad.

P.S. It’s my first post from my iPhone too, hence the crappy photo…

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Honestly, I have no idea how many places in Hawaii serve up onion rings but every time I go home, I crave the ONION RING TOWER at the Yard House (chain restaurant found in nine states) on Lewers St. in Waikiki and I think that it’s the best I’ve ever had.  It comes with both regular Ranch and Chipotle Ranch dipping sauces and is piled high on this pole. The batter is very light, crisp and slightly sweet and I could probably eat the whole thing by myself but I have always shared it with someone.

If you order it, make sure you enjoy it with some of their over 100 draft beers!  Apparently they have the world’s largest selection of beers on tap!  The downside of the place is that it is very noisy and you can’t really book reservations. The weekends are very busy and the wait can be around an hour for a table.  Luckily, the restaurant is right where there are new shops to whittle the time away.

To finish, their Kona coffee ice cream sundae was as HUGE (as big as my face) and it was very, very tasty.  Hubby got the Lemon Souffle Cake and it was really disappointing so don’t waste your time on that (didn’t even taste like lemons).

Aloha!

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I haven’t even upgraded my iPod to an iTouch (I have an old iPod Mini) nor have I purchased a new laptop in many years. I have only just upgraded my mobile phone that includes a good camera, MP3 and internet capability but I can barely keep up with technology.

Twitter is, of course, the new micro-blogging site where you can tell the world every minute detail of your thoughts and doings at any given time.  I signed up for an account the other day but I’m still wondering how to incorporate it into my life.  So far, the only way that Twitter seems useful to me is if you use it on the go with your mobile phone but it’s definitely not made for stay-at-home mothers. Twitter’s usefulness in the food industry is a different story especially when restaurants update their menus and their whereabouts to all their following fans.  This is especially useful if a restaurant’s location changes nightly such as a taco truck in Los Angeles.

NPR (National Public Radio) in the U.S. did an article on Kogi, the Korean-Mexican mobile restaurant (aka Taco Truck) in L.A. In the article Tweeting Food Truck Draws L.A.’s Hungry Crowds, writer Ben Bergman talks about how Kogi’s success is owed largely from their fans following Twitter to track where Kogi will be parked on a particular night and what specials there are each evening.  Apparently, there are over 8,000 people following Kogi on Twitter and since joining Twitter over a week ago, I also became a Kogi follower even though I live nowhere NEAR L.A. and am not planning a trip there anytime soon.  I am following Kogi just in case I get to go to L.A. within the year and use my cool phone to track them down one evening.  I have to say that the combination of Mexican and Korean – two of my most favourite foods (apart from Japanese) makes me want to hop on the next plane to try their tacos.

Looks like old-fashioned food reviews in newspapers are not going to be the only influence on a food business anymore – seems like technology has caught up with networking sights such as Facebook and Twitter and to keep up with the trends and to attract future crowds, we have to keep our minds open and sharpened to the latest marketing tool.  But I have to admit, even though I’m not exactly old,  it is truly exhausting keeping up.

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We went to a once a month market that sold clothes and other knick-knacks this past weekend and at the back were the food sellers (majority selling baked goods) and this young man had a stall piled with very attractive-looking, rustic and authentic items such as croissants, pannetone and banana bread.  But much to our surprise, a whole loaf of banana bread was going for $25!  Mind you, it was a very sexy and large banana bread but I thought…”wow!”  At home, I whip up banana bread so fast that I couldn’t imagine any banana bread being worth that much money.  Now I wish that I had bought a slice of it to see how good it was…next month perhaps.

I always keep bananas in my freezer ready to defrost and make into banana bread.  It started out one year with a market stallholder selling me 10 kilos (22 pounds) of bananas for $2AUD at the end of the day!!  We put two in a snack Ziploc bag and froze them – over a year later, we’re still eating them!

My standby foolproof banana bread recipe is an adaptation from the American Sunset magazines classic cookbook first published in 1963 called “Breads”.  It takes me less than an hour and a half from the prep to the baking and it tastes divine toasted under the grill with lashings of butter.  My recent find has been ground nut meals at the Wayville Sunday market and have been topping my banana bread with ground walnut meal as well as in the batter. The extra oils and texture add an extra dimension and crunch.

This was the first time I put chocolate chips on...

This was the first time I put chocolate chips on...

Foolproof Banana Bread

2 cups flour OR 1 2/3 cup flour and 1/3 cup walnut meal

1 tsp. baking powder

1/2 tsp each baking soda & salt

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

3/4 cup mashed ripe bananas (about 2 bananas)

1/2 cup milk

1 egg

1/4 cup butter, melted

Chocolate chips are optional

In a bowl, stir together flour, nut meal (if using) baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar and nuts until thoroughly blended.  In a separate bowl, combine bananas, milk, egg and butter; stir into dry ingredients just until well blended.  Pour batter into a greased 4 1/2 x 8 1/2 inch (10 x 20 cm) loaf pan.  Sprinkle top of loaf generously with walnut meal and/or chocolate chips if desired.

Bake in a preheated 350°F (175°C) oven for 1 1/4 hrs or until bread begins to pull away from sides of pan and a knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  Makes one large loaf.

 

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I personally feel that SODA and its INEXPENSIVENESS in America, is one of the many causes of the huge obesity problem in the U.S.A.  Don’t get me wrong, Australia has a big problem too but the stats don’t lie, the U.S.A. is the fattest nation on earth and it is because junk food is so cheap and accessible. According to MSN Health & Fitness who got its source from Beverage Digest, Americans spent $68.1 Billion USD on carbonated soft drinks last year which averages it as 828 8-ounce servings per capita!!!  That is crazy.  What a load of empty calories that is!

Soda is one of those things that you can get extra super duper sized in America.  At 7-eleven stores in most parts of the U.S.A., you can get buy their “Double Gulp” soda in 64 ounces (1.89 litres or 1/2 gallon)!!  Also, if you are on the market for a brand new car in the states, check out how much larger their cup holders are…big enough to at least fit a “Big Gulp”.  In Australia, our cars are big, much like in the states but cup holders are still small and the biggest sized plastic soda drink it will fit are the 500ml (16 oz) bottles.  If you go to fast food restaurants here like at McDonald’s, a “small” drink is what I remember a small was in my childhood – I think they are now called “kiddie” size in the U.S.A.  I was surprised to have gone home recently and ordered a “medium” drink and they gave me this HUGE thing that was not medium in my head.

I am not against soda – in fact I do love a frozen coke as a treat but I rarely buy soda for the house.  Part of the reason is because it does nothing good for my body and the other is because it’s so bloody expensive.  When I first moved here, I was shocked at just how much little bottles of soda cost ($3) and was able to curb my American taste for sugary drinks.  Now, I go to the supermarket and marvel at the prices of 6-packs of Coke.  As you see in my picture, a 6-pack of Diet Coke, on Special, is $7.54!!  Now how much is that with the conversion rate you ask?  Well, up until last month, the Australian vs. U.S. Dollar were nearly 1 to 1 but the Aussie $ has slipped this week so as of Sept. 3 ($1US = 0.82AU), the 6-pack costs $6.22 at a GROCERY store.  I’ve seen 36 cans of name-brand soda on sale for $10 in the U.S.A. and it gets way cheaper than that if you go to the big wholesale stores or Wal-Mart and especially if you buy generic brands.

I think I’ve made enough comparisons and I’m done w/my ranting.  I just find the cultural differences so interesting and I think that American beverage companies should raise the price of soda to help with the nationwide obesity problem and perhaps, people might start losing weight!

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Recently, an American friend in Sydney told me that she had just made chocolate chip cookies.  That statement suddenly made me craving to make homemade warm chocolate chip cookies (which taste superior to anything bought in a store or cafe).

The problem with store-bought stuff is that the ingredient list is filled with crap that you can’t pronounce and the ingredients for really good cookies should all be natural to taste heavenly.  Unless you have time to melt beautiful 70% + couverture and then pipe them into chocolate chips, or to chop them into small pieces, a bag of Nestlé Toll House or Cadbury chips should do fine.  Toll-House is a household name in the U.S. but I find their chips a little bit on the sweet side but I think that their recipe for chocolate chip cookies is really one of the all-time best and foolproof.  I like adding chopped walnuts for extra indulgence.  Just make sure that you are prepared to eat about four DOZEN cookies (even more if you make them small)!

No, Nestle hasn’t paid me any cash to write and boast about them.  It’s just something I felt like sharing with people who didn’t grow up with this recipe like I did and want to do some baking this weekend (especially during the winter to warm up the house!)

For me, making homemade chocolate chip cookies is what I feel makes my childhood uniquely American…just like having homemade Jelly Cakes or Lamingtons may be to an Australian child.  What cookie / biscuit reminds you of your childhood?

Original Nestlé Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookies

RECIPE:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened OR 225 grams butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (walnuts or macadamia nuts are best!)

PREHEAT oven to 375° F.

COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels and nuts. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets.

BAKE for 9 to 11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely.

PAN COOKIE VARIATION: Grease 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan. Prepare dough as above. Spread into prepared pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Makes 4 dozen bars.

SLICE AND BAKE COOKIE VARIATION:
PREPARE
dough as above. Divide in half; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 1 hour or until firm. Shape each half into 15-inch log; wrap in waxed paper. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.* Preheat oven to 375° F. Cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices; place on ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

* May be stored in refrigerator for up to 1 week or in freezer for up to 8 weeks.

FOR HIGH ALTITUDE BAKING (5,200 feet): Increase flour to 2 1/2 cups. Add 2 teaspoons water with flour and reduce both granulated sugar and brown sugar to 2/3 cup each. Bake drop cookies for 8 to 10 minutes and pan cookie for 17 to 19 minutes.

Happy Baking!

Raw cookie dough
Raw cookie dough
Ready to be baked

Ready to be baked

Baking in the oven
Baking in the oven
The finished cookies cooling on a rack...yum!

The finished cookies cooling on a rack...yum!

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The Fabulous Array of Dishes for the Potluck!

The Fabulous Array of Dishes for the Potluck!

Jennifer's Baked Beans
Jennifer’s Baked Beans

Did you know that the term “POTLUCK” is rarely used outside of the U.S.?  Well, my husband tells me that it isn’t used in the U.K. and I’ve never heard it used here in Australia.  Any Canadians out there?  Do you use the term “potluck” to mean “bring a dish” to parties?  In the U.S., a potluck is synonymous with gatherings, particularly at church functions or celebrations.

Vocabulary aside, I decided to have a potluck dinner at my house for the 4th of July to celebrate it with fellow ex-pats as well as my Aussie neighbors.  It was a great night and although it is a national day of bbq in the U.S.A., there was not a hot dog, fried chicken or rib to be seen here…not because we’re food snobs but because it is the middle of winter and NO one wants to even stand outside, let alone think of barbequing in bad weather.  No worries, there were so many bottles of great wine and a fantastic array of food!

The Americans brought a dish that represented their state and/or region and the Aussies could bring whatever they thought would suit.  Americans: Patricia, originally from the south brought spicy dry-rub ribs, Cathy, originally from Illinois brought ambrosia salad (made with her mother’s recipe) with REAL whipped cream from a cow (none of that Cool Whip shit), Jennifer from Missouri brought homemade baked beans and I made kalua pork (Hawaiian-style pulled pork, recipe here), lomi lomi salmon (Hawaiian-style salsa), potato salad, clam dip and a large Red Velvet cake (the one that looks like a flag).  The Aussies: Anna brought fresh spinach salad with homemade ranch and blue cheese dressings, Mandy (a food fanatic) brought a tomato & goat cheese tarte tatin and homemade lavosh with baba ghanoush!

I nearly forgot to serve the melon and real grape flavored vodka Jello-o (Jelly) shots I made with Jell-o smuggled in from the states!  It was the first time for a few of them and although I did forget to oil the shooters to make it easier to pop out, it didn’t stop everyone from devouring them – regardless of age (FYI, I was the youngest)…just goes to show you that everyone is a kid inside 😉

Grape & Melon Jell-o Vodka Shots

Sparklers in My Living Room!!

Sparklers in My Living Room!!

The evening was not complete without a few American brews – Budweiser and MGD that my neighbor Catherine brought over!  Oh, and we lit sparklers in my LIVING ROOM (because it was too cold to go outside and I didn’t care)!!

I celebrate Australia Day and Anzac Day with as much gusto as the Aussies do because I truly believe in immersing myself in the culture of the country I live in (and travel to), but it just doesn’t feel right to many Americans (including myself) if you don’t celebrate Independence Day and Thanksgiving.  Thus, it was great sharing this day with ex-pats and Aussies alike.

I’d love to hear stories from other ex-pats who had a 4th of July party!

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