Thursday, September 29, 2011

culture through new eyes

We have one of Jordan's friends, George, here visiting us. He arrived this morning at 5:30am and poor guy is having the most full day! After the 12 hour flight and the time change, you are so thrown off and dizzy and just TIRED. But he has been a great sport and went to prayer with us right away (after some cinnamon bun pancakes!) and then we got to take him to the CBD (central business district, aka downtown to us Americans) to show him around. Now he and Jordan are at a support raising seminar for students going on summer projects in December (how weird is it that SUMMER project is in December, right?). But the goal for anyone coming to Australia is that they would stay awake all day the first day they arrive to get their bodies accustomed to the time change as quickly as possible. It really does make such a difference if you can just persevere through that first miserable, sleepless day.

We were talking about some of the differences in culture and ways of doing things this morning, and I realized there are just so many things that I've grown completely comfortable with and now view as the norm. It was the weirdest day when I watched an American movie (after being here several months and driving on the left side of the road) and saw someone driving on the "wrong" side of the road. It used to be the "right" side…now who knows what my body thinks is right and wrong!

I have always heard that reverse culture shock can be worse than the regular kind you experience when visiting a new place. My theory on this recently has been that I won't experience it as much because I'm not in a country that loves America. You see, I've actually grown more patriotic this year, which may seem weird. All the other times I've gone to another country, I harbor some resentment to my home country because I see how very much all the people around me adore America and I see that we don't think two seconds about them. It kind of makes you just love them more and think your own country is so clueless. But in Australia, I've felt so disliked for being an American. I've never had people look down on me for being an American (yeah some countries will look down on America because of our government, but not you because you live there). Anyway, it's increased my patriotism and my desire to hold on to my American-ness (at times) because blatant verbal attacks on my country are just mean! And I actually thought that I hadn't really changed that much. (But let me clarify that this is not ALL Aussies. Some of them love America and Americans and most of our friends are super awesome and welcoming.) So in summary, my theory has been that I'll actually really appreciate the things I've been missing and just being in America. Hope you followed all that.

However, my theory kinda changed today talking to George because I realized just how assimilated I really am. I talk like an Aussie (not the accent but the word choice and sentence structure is often very Australian). I use public transport like an Aussie. I am quiet in public. I drive on the left side of the road without fear or apprehension. I watch footy and I "go" for a team instead of "root" for them. I shop at markets and fruit stands. I'm becoming a bread snob. I am seriously obsessed with these people's yogurt. Bottom line, I guess there will be a lot to get re-used to when we get back. And a lot to miss. Eek!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Sugar Cookie Bars

I have been really happy to have this recipe this year. It is a really easy, delicious dough that is quick and inexpensive to throw together with all staple ingredients. And, the full recipe feeds a LOT. The frosting is really light and buttery and a nice complement to the sugar cookies, and would be easy to tint different colors based on whatever event you are bringing them to. I think they would be just perfect with maroon icing and some orange sprinkles! I have also used the dough recipe for a few other desserts this year too, which I will share in a few days. If you make these, be prepared to have a lot of these little bars on your hands, since you make these in a large jelly roll pan. Or perhaps half the recipe and put it in a 9x13 pan so you won't have so many!

Sugar Cookie Bars 
Makes about 48 bars
For the cookie bars:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
4 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
Zest from 1 lemon
5 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
For the frosting:
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
4 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
5 tbsp. milk
Food coloring (optional, but pretty!)

     To make the cookies, preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 13"x18" rimmed baking sheet. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl on medium-high speed until light and smooth, about 2 minutes. Mix in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Blend in the vanilla and lemon zest. In a medium bowl (or a wire mesh colander fitted to the top of your bowl), combine the flour, salt and baking soda. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat on low speed just until incorporated. 
     Transfer the cookie dough to the prepared baking sheet and press into an even layer. Bake 10-15 minutes, until light golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. The edges should be just starting to lightly brown. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting.
     To make the frosting, beat the butter in a large bowl on medium-high speed until smooth. Blend in the vanilla, salt, and confectioners' sugar until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Mix in the milk. Tint as desired with food coloring. Spread over the cookie in the pan, cut into bars and serve. *Note: Since this frosting is mostly butter, it will melt quickly on the bars if they are not cooled completely. (I learned this the hard way the first time when I tried to rush it!)
Source: Annie's Eats, who got it from The Repressed Pastry Chef

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grilled Tuna* with White Bean and Charred Onion Salad

*Any fish could probably be substituted for the tuna. I have only made this with basa, which I think is the Aussie name for tilapia.

I fixed this for dinner this week and was really AMAZED by how delicious it was! I kept saying it because I really didn't expect it to be THAT good. It's a really simple recipe with a great citrus marinade and an easy bean and vegetable salad. I think serving it over a bed of baby arugula puts this meal over the top, since the peppery, wonderful taste of it is so flavorful itself. I can not endorse this meal enough, so hope you try it because it's super healthy and protein-packed.

Grilled Tuna with White Bean and Charred Onion Salad
Yield: 4 servings

For the Tuna or other fish:
1  tablespoon grated lemon rind
2  tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2  teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2  teaspoon olive oil
1/4  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 garlic clove, minced
4 (6-ounce) tuna steaks
Cooking spray or olive oil
For the Salad:
1 medium Vidalia or other sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons  red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon  olive oil
1/4 teaspoon  salt
1/4 teaspoon  freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon  Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 cup  chopped seeded peeled cucumber
1/4 cup  chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon capers
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups mixed salad greens (arugula is my personal favorite for this)

To prepare tuna, combine the first 6 ingredients in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add tuna to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once. 

Prepare grill or heat a pan with a little olive oil or cooking spray over medium-high heat.

To prepare salad, place onion slices on grill rack coated with cooking spray; grill 5 minutes on each side or until tender. Alternately, coarsely chop onion and cook in your preheated pan until a bit charred. Cool and/or chop.

Combine vinegar and next 5 ingredients (through garlic) in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add onion, cucumber, parsley, capers, and beans to vinegar mixture; toss to coat.

Remove tuna from bag; discard marinade. Place tuna on grill rack coated with cooking spray or in pan; grill 2 minutes on each side or until desired degree of doneness. If cooking in skillet, I look for the edges to become cooked and a bit crispy before flipping it, but it doesn't take long!

While the fish is cooking, arrange 1 1/2 cups salad greens on each of 4 plates. Top each serving with about 1/2 cup onion mixture and 1 tuna steak. Enjoy!

Source: Cooking Light. 
Calories: 383

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Muffins

These muffins were ones I first made for a retreat I went on about a year ago, and have been meaning to make them again! They are moist and peanut-buttery without being overwhelmingly sweet for breakfast.  I also like that they keep fresh for several days after without drying out at all. I will come back to this recipe again and again though because I nearly always have all the ingredients on hand and because most everyone in my life loves the peanut-butter and chocolate combo, including me!

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chips Muffins
What you need:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
6 tbsp. butter melted and cooled (the cooling is an important step in the process, I learned!)
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 lg. eggs
1 cup milk
3/4 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 F. Line a muffin pan with liners and spray with cooking spray if desired. In a large bowl, beat together melted and cooled butter, peanut butter, eggs, and milk until smooth. In a fine mesh strainer fitted over the bowl (or a separate bowl), mix together the flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar and sift into wet ingredients. Stir in chocolate chips.

Divide into the 12 muffin liners, filling each to the top. Bake for 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then remove and place on a wire rack to cool completely, or just eat them warm!

Source: Annie's Eats via Baking Bites

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A bit about today and the last installment of Mid-Year Recipes!

Today I am going to RMIT Brunswick, a small campus mainly for design majors, that's close to home and relaxed. Nicole and I are hosting an afternoon tea, in hopes to generate some more interest at this school. Although we are leading Christianity Explained with two girls who don't know Jesus yet, it's been pretty slow otherwise and we're eager for more students to be involved. Plus, it's mainly all-female campus so it's fun for Nicole and I to go together. It's been so nice having her here this year. Pray that more than a few girls come to our tea! 

I have been lagging on my attempts to post all the recipes I have stored away, ready to post. I really like cooking, and it's been my only real hobby besides going to the gym this year. I get into the kitchen to cook when I'm stressed and need to relax, when I'm bored, when I want to bless someone with yummy things, or when I'm feeling homesick I make things to remind me of home. It's been a great thing for me to do just enjoy life more. The past few weekends I've cooked either Saturday or Sunday all day. Just trying new things and talking with Jordan or listening to a radio station from home on ITunes - K95 has been getting the most time!

So here is the rest of the Mid-Year retreat menu/recipes. Hope you enjoy having them - if anyone from our team is reading this!

Wednesday Lunch
Jane's Salad with Teriyaki Chicken and Snow Peas
      Jane's Salad is what we call a beloved staple for our team: a cabbage, almond, chow mein noodle, 
      scallions, yummy Asian dressing salad. To this I added teriyaki marinated chicken and snow peas.
Watermelon and Strawberries
Tim Tams

Wednesday Dinner
Fish Tacos with Fruit Salsa
       I loosely made this based on several recipes I had. I used pineapple, red onion, red pepper, lime 
       juice and cilantro for the salsa. Added red cabbage. Made Avocado Crema by blending together
      avocado, a bit of sour cream, S&P and lime juice. Made a dry rub for the fish which was grilled 
      with garlic, olive oil, cilantro, cumin, and chili powder. These were great and were a favorite.
Nachos with Refried Beans, Guacamole, Salsa, and Cheese
Mexican Rice

Wednesday Dessert

image from tasty kitchen

Sopapillas and Honey
Vanilla Ice Cream

Thursday Breakfast
image from the pioneer woman
Cinnamon Baked French Toast
Juice, Milk, Coffee, Tea

Thursday Lunch
Baked Potatoes and Toppings: Cheese, Broccoli, Corn, Bacon Bits, Sour Cream, Scallions, Pineapple
Salad with Cucumbers, Carrots, Tomato, Feta, Scallions, Boiled Egg, Broccoli
Tim Tams

Thursday Dinner: Out to Eat!

Thursday Supper
Brownie Sundaes with Hot Fudge

Friday Breakfast
English Muffins, Crumpets, and Toast
Jam, Butter, Honey, Peanut Butter
Yogurt and Muesli
Boiled Eggs
Milk, Juice, Coffee, Tea

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Day of Rest!

...Well, sort of. :) I got the privilege of cooking dinner for some women who were on women's retreat this Saturday. They were a bunch of girls I know, but aren't any that I work with specifically (I only work with international students) so since space was limited at the house they were staying, I stayed back, but volunteered to make dinner (partly to be helpful, and partly because I LOVE the place they were staying). The place is called Matilda, and it's in Sunbury, about 45 minutes away from where we live. It's a sheep farm! Since I love a nice drive on a warm day, cooking, loving on sweet women, and the country - it seemed like a perfect and relaxing way to spend a Saturday!

I thought you guys might enjoy seeing a few pictures. I took so many - it was hard to choose the best ones! When you arrive at Matilda, you have to go about a kilometer drive down a dirt road to the house. Along the road there are dozens and dozens of sheep everywhere! It's spring here, so all the baby lambs have just been born and are so dang cute! Most of them ran as fast as they could away from me, but I decided to stop the car for a few minutes and a few got bold enough to get close! It took me 30 minutes to get down the driveway because I just kept stopping and loving life in the country. Ahhh, fresh air and beauty!

Precious Lambs!

obviously edited, but how cool are those clouds!?

every time I would drive, they would run, but when I stopped the car, they would all turn back and just stare at me!

aw. one fell trying to get away.

and it got back up again!
but notice the lamb trying to feed as the mom's trying to run in the back!

"bouncing lambs" as they're called by the farmer

they were SO not happy that I was there, and continued to BAAAAA at me.

i love these two cuties…i think they are friends

And then one whispers to the other….
(RRRUUUNNN! a scary woman in a car is going to get us!!)

italian dinner i cooked (with lots of help)!

seriously good cupcakes. will post recipes later!

and the lovely ladies, who made the day even more special!

THANKS for letting me come join your sheepy party, girls!