Sunday, May 27, 2012

Byron Bay, NSW

Eastern-most point in Australia

We took an unexpected day trip to Byron Bay. I didn't think we would do anything this week, due to my boyfriend having two assignments due at the end of the week. So it was a great surprise to finally get out of the house and go somewhere different.The drive was really fun, but driving south is always really scenic with gorgeous views of the mountainside.

I really love this tunnel!!

 It would be hard to describe Byron Bay without mentioning home, because it really reminded me of East Atlanta. Byron Bay is known for alternative culture and laid-back lifestyles. There are wellness shops offering acupuncture, tarot readings, and herbs.

I bought peppermint oil for my hair mix. If you guys didn't know I am kind of a mixtress at home when it comes to my hair. I make hair masks and hair oils, which are really conditioning and leave my hair feeling extremely soft.

Finding a restaurant to eat was the hard part but there were many places to eat for quick bites, like fish tacos for $4.00 and sandwiches/kebabs. We ended up eating at Wahoo's, a Mexican style restaurant. I ordered just a chicken soft taco. I wish I could say I fell in love with the dish but I was not impressed. I have been craving authentic Mexican food for months, I know I'm a long way from there but at least something close to it like fresh salsa, warm tortilla chips, and Mexican cheeses.

We briefly visited the lighthouse there. I have always seen it during night drives, so it was great to actually see it up close. The view from there was incredible and the sun was starting to set, making it a romantic spot for lovers. I can't wait to come back and see what else this hip town offers.

amazing sunset :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Homemade Soft Pretzels

Wheatley fell ill. I could tell he wasn't his normal self when he didn't bolt to his dinner bowl when I filled it up. Hours later he still didn't touch his food! He kept shaking and just wanted to sleep. So I put a water bottle under him and just wrapped him up on my lap. It really broke my heart! As suddenly as his sickness came, it was gone. I was actually relived to see him being a psycho the next day (jumping off everything, running into walls to chase his ping pong ball, dumpster diving).

Sleep-time on my lap
 I have been craving soft pretzels this week. I don't know a place here that sells them. In the states you can just go to the mall and there's typically a pretzel shop inside, with yummy sauces and toppings. I did not know were to find one around here in Australia. So I did the next best thing, I made my own. My beau helped me tremendously, especially during rolling them out. I just couldn't roll them on the kitchen bench as good as he could, so I left that to him.

sprinkled rosemary on some

Homemade Soft Pretzels
(recipe adapted via Two Peas & Their Pod )
yield: 8 large pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons dry active yeast
3 oz unsalted butter (melted)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all purpose flour

3 quarts water
2/3 cups baking soda
1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon cold water
Coarse sea salt (topping) *optional

Cheddar Pretzel Dip

2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste


Combine water, sugar, yeast, and butter in a bowl. Stir until mixture is combined. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the salt and flour to the mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a dough. Flour bench top lightly with all-purpose flour. Transfer dough to the bench, begin to knead to combine. Continue kneading until dough is smooth and not tacky. Roll dough into a ball.

Coat a large bowl with canola oil and place dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap and place in a dark damp-free spot until the dough doubles in size, 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 218C/425F. Bring water to a boil in a large pot.

Remove dough from the bowl and place on tabletop. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long rope. To shape into pretzels, take right side and cross over to the left. Then take the left side and cross over the right side.

Slowly add baking soda to the boiling water. Boil the pretzels in the water solution, 2 at a time for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spatula. Place 4 pretzels on each baking sheet. Brush top with egg wash and season the pretzels with sea salt (optional topping).

Bake for 15-18 minutes or until golden brown. Mine were baked for 13 minutes, adjust time accordingly.

Remove from oven and let cool.

Cheddar Cheese Dip

Shred Cheddar cheese into a bowl, stand aside.
In a medium saucepan, melt butter and whisk in flour. Pour in the milk and whisk until mixture thickens. Stir in shredded cheese, stir until cheese is melted and smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste. (I added paprika for a bit of a kick or mild heat.) Serve with pretzels.

just poured it right on

What type of pretzels do you crave more, soft or hard?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Busy Bee

The past couple of days I have been working on cleaning this spare bedroom. My beau came up with the brilliant idea of moving the office into that room. It is much bigger in size and it already houses our clothes in the closet. It gets really great lighting during the day, even though the sun comes in from the opposite side of the house.

better view
We had to take a part a very large desk because it couldn't fit through the door frame. That was the hardest part!! There were drawers attached to the bottom, but they broke off during the move down the hall. Assembling it back together was even harder, but we are done moving things for now.

I would love to give this room the works in terms of decorating; a fresh coat of paint and beautiful curtains but it probably wouldn't be worth it right now. So I will give it a really nice wash down to get rid of the dirt and tape marks on the wall.

We are thinking about getting a tapestry to at least cover a bare wall. I found these really cool prints online. They are just big enough to cover the entire wall to my left.
image via: Urban Outfitters
image via: Urban Outfitters
Then the wall in front of our computers will be reserved for my beau's gaming posters. He said I could get girly ones, but I'm turning into enough of a casual gamer that I would not even mind covering the entire wall with them. Well either games or band posters.

The next plan is to move a television to the wardrobe. It will be used mostly for games. It would work great because he wouldn't have to go outside for hours to play something on his PlayStation 3. I might be pushing it here, but I like the thought of having a futon in here also for naps.

My workstation

So when we get everything placed and decorated, I will take some pictures.

Which tapestry do you guys like better? What are some other simple ideas for decorating?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Lemon Meringue Pie

My beau's mom received this huge bag of lemons from a friend, so she wanted to use them up. I went through tons of ideas on what to make, of course typing 'lemon' in the search bar of Pinterest. My heart was already set on Lemon Meringue Pie beforehand, because I shared one months ago with my beau. It's always awesome when my beau has his mindset that he doesn't like something, like lemon flavored desserts in particular, and it turns out he loves them! He's definitely evolving!

I used two separate recipes for different components of the dessert, which probably wasn't completely necessary. I did need a shortcrust recipe though, because the frozen shortcrust sheets in the freezer were about two years old! My favorite component is the meringue, it really is perfect! It's light and airy yet, still has that foamy mouth feel that meringue possesses. I felt so-so about the crust, everyone that tried it didn't find a fault with it. But I made much better shortcrust than the one I made, It could be possibly an error I made during hand mixing the dough. Because it did have a gritty feel for whatever reason. The lemon filling was quite tart, so I would use less lemons next time. I did get perched lips after a few bites, so yeah, sour face. But overall, everyone really enjoyed it!!

Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust (recipe via Exclusively Food)
70 g (1/2 cup) self-raising flour
130 g (3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon) plain flour
30 g (1 tablespoon plus 3 teaspoons) sugar
120 g cold butter, cubed
1 large egg

Lemon Filling ( recipe via Exclusively Food)
56 g (4 tablespoons & 3 teaspoons) Cornflour
170 g (3/4 cup) sugar
180 ml(2/3 cup plus 2 teaspoons) fresh lemon juice
230 ml (2/3 cup plus 1/4 cup) water
60 g butter (cubed)
3 large egg yolks

Meringue (recipe via Not so Humble Pie)
4 large egg white, room temperature
1 tablespoon of cornstarch
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

I did not have food processor so I had to mix it by hand, probably my downfall. So I mixed the flour and the sugar together. I cut the butter in little cubes so it would be easier to work through. Rub the butter through the flour with your hands/fingertips. Add the egg, stir to combine. Form a ball and place in the refrigerator for an hour.
[Work on the lemon filling in the meantime]

Preheat oven to 180C/356F.
Roll dough out on a floured surface to fit a 9'' pie plate. Gently lift the dough in the pie pan, and press down lightly. Trim the overhanging crust.
Place a sheet of baking paper on top of the pie and fill with pastry weights/uncooked rice.
Bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the pastry weights & baking paper, continue to bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Lemon Filling
Combine the cornflour, sugar, lemon juice, and water in a medium saucepan; stir until the mixture is smooth.
Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and stir constantly until it reaches a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and stir for 30 seconds until the color changes from cloudy to transparent with a thick yet smooth consistency.
Remove saucepan from heat and stir in the egg yolks and butter. Continue to stir to make sure all the ingredients are well combined and the butter has melted fully.
Pour filling into a container, refrigerate until cold.

Preheat oven to 177C/350F. Place oven rack near the bottom of the oven.
Combine cornflour and water in a saucepan. Place over medium high heat and stir constantly until it has formed a transparent thick gel. Set aside. 
In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat the egg whites and cream tartar to dissolve. Start beating on medium-low speed until foamy and start sprinkling the sugar in while beating at stages, so it has time to dissolve. Continue to beat until it forms stiff glossy peaks. Add the cornstarch gel and beat to combine. 

Spoon lemon filling into the cooled pastry shell, make sure its spread evenly. 
Spread the meringue over the pie, making a border around the edges first then filling it in. 
Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown. Allow pie to stand for at least 15 minutes before cutting.