Sunday, September 30, 2012

Banana and Condensed Milk Bread

Idly surfing the Web the other day, I came across a recipe for Banana and Condensed Milk Bread at Recipe Rifle.   Instantly, I was hooked - banana bread made with condensed milk?  Crazy genius!  I love condensed milk, so this recipe immediately made it to the "must bake" pile.

And here it is inside, looking all hazy and mysterious as I played with the settings on my DSLR camera after doing another photography course:

Esther had warned about decorating the cake in a straight line down the middle because hers "heaved away to the left - like a hip tattoo on a pregnant woman".  With that in mind, I just dotted walnuts all over the top of my cake.

The verdict - this is a very sweet version of banana bread, but unless you hate sweet things, what's wrong with that?  It was easy and quick and tasty - so it ticks all the boxes for me.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Hunan Home's Restaurant, San Francisco

Back in June (which seems like a lifetime ago now), I went on a Golden West Tour of the US West Coast with Cosmos.  And I had a ball!

As I have previously mentioned, one of the cities that we visited was San Francisco.  San Francisco was one of my favourite cities on the trip - some might say that was because the June Gloom stayed away and we had gorgeous sunny warm weather the whole three days we were there, and admittedly, that helped, but San Francisco really is a fascinating place.  Its personality reminded me of Melbourne, my adopted Australian home, and I loved its quirkiness and distinct areas.  It was just prior to the gay and lesbian pride march when we visited, so there were vibrant rainbow flags throughout the City, adding to the Carnival atmosphere.  

For now, I am going to share with you some images and thoughts from the tour banquet at  Hunan Homes, a well known Chinese restaurant in San Francisco's Chinatown.  We travelled to Hunan Homes in style via  a famed San Francisco cable car (pictured at the top of this post) - similar to a Melbourne tram, but powered differently, and with the grunt to scale some exceptionally steep streets.  Here is my room mate, demonstrating how the locals ride the crowded cable cars:

On arrival at Hunan Homes, we were presented with the following banquet menu:

Now I love Asian food, and our tour director, Craig, had built up the Chinese banquet to be pretty special, so perhaps my expectations were too high - or perhaps Asian food is just different in the US to cater for US tastes.  However, overall, the food was just OK, and the Peking duck was - hmm, different.

First up were appetizers:

a pot sticker (which we call a dumpling), egg roll (which we call a spring roll) and a fried prawn.  I was curious as to what egg roll was, having seen the movie "With Six You Get Egg Roll", so I was a little surprised when I found out it is exactly what Aussies call a spring roll. The appetizers  were actually pretty good, and typical of what we would be served in Australia.

Next was the sizzling rice soup:

It was very chicken-stock like, with vegetables and rice lurking in the depths.  It was ok, but nothing to write home about.

The next dish, Peking duck, fell way below my expectations:

In Oz, Peking duck comprises sticks of shallot and crispy duck skin and tender duck meat with hoisin sauce inside a light crepe, which you normally roll yourself.  At Hunan Homes, the Peking duck was ready rolled, had no shallots, fairly dry meat, soggy skin and was already rolled in what seemed to be a tortilla (not a crepe):

As Peking duck is one of my favourite dishes, this was a bit of a let down.

Next came the mains, which were, for the most part, quite good, starting with assorted vegetables served in stock-like sauce:

combination chow mein:

steamed rice:

sizzling beef:

chicken in sizzling garlic sauce:

and the star dish, prawns with honey walnut:

The honeyed walnuts were devine - in fact, they were so good that a number of the non-seafood eaters at the table picked the walnuts out of the prawns!

As you can see, this was a lot of food, but there is always room for a fortune cookie:

and some fresh fruit to cleanse the palate and finish off the evening:

Verdict - overall, the food was tasty, and there was lots of it for the money, but it didn't knock my socks off.  Hunan Homes gets very good reviews in Urban Spoon et al, so it may be that the banquet served en masse to coach tour groups is not as good as the fare that is served a la carte in the remainder of the restaurant.  However, for now, Melbourne's Chinese food trumps my experience at Hunan Homes

Hunan Homes
622 Jackson Street
San Francisco, CA, USA
Ph: +1 415 982 2844


Friday, September 28, 2012

Drunk Blondies

One of my favourite bloggers is Adam Roberts of The Amateur Gourmet, primarily because he makes me laugh and has a unique food voice.  If he stuffs up, he isn't afraid to say so - and I love that.  I am also secretly envious of the cool places that he has lived (New York City and now L.A.), and love reading about his life there.  However, I have been rather remiss in reading his blog lately due to the behind-the-scenes craziness of my existence, so it had been ages since I visited until the other day, just by chance, I thought of his blog and took a look.

Kaboom!  Up front and centre was a post on some Drunk Blondies that Adam had made from The Back in the Day Bakery Cookbook.  And I just knew that I had to make them.  And make them I did, subbing walnuts for pecans and Glenfiddich for Bourbon.  The results of my labours are pictured at the top of this post.  Gorgeous, huh?  And super easy - no mixmaster required.  I couldn't really taste the whiskey, but that didn't matter a jot (even though the word "drunk" was what caught my eye in the first place).

I would love to buy this cookbook too, but I have to stop buying baking books - I think I have hundreds of them now, even though I try to limit myself to something a little different from the norm.

Thanks to Adam for posting this great recipe and for bringing this cookbook to my attention.  Now perhaps I should go and make some of Adam's bourbon caramel sauce .... 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

FFwD - Endives, apples and grapes

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Endives, Apples and Grapes- or in my case, Radicchio, Apples and Grapes, because endives are nowhere to be found in my neck of the woods, and some research showed that radicchio, also known as Italian chicory, would have a similar flavour to endives (also known as Belgian chicory). Eww, and on that count, I think they are right - I found the radicchio unbearably bitter.

The dish looks pretty in the pan:

and I liked the apples and grapes, but I could not abide those bitter leaves.  I have three serves left - I suspect I will be dressing this heavily to cover up the bitterness. The radicchio, at $2.50 for a head, was not cheap (sought out at David Jones Foodhall, as Coles could not oblige)  - I am glad that I only bought one.

To see what the other FFwD participants thought of this dish, visit the LYL section of the website.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Daring Bakers - Empanada Gallega

Patri of the blog, Asi Son Los Cosas, was our September 2012 Daring Bakers’ hostess and she decided to tempt us with one of her family’s favorite recipes for Empanadas! We were given two dough recipes to choose from and encouraged to fill our Empanadas as creatively as we wished!

Despite all the exclamation marks, this recipe was OK, but not exciting.   I filled my empanadas, made with wholewheat flour dough, with pie apple mixed with cinnamon and a little sugar:

The end result was probably a little healthier than I would have liked.  Maybe I would have liked this better if I had used a savoury filling.  However, as it was, I was uninspired by the end result.

To see what other Daring Bakers made, visit the slide show when it's the 27th on the East Coast of America.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

WWDH - Spinach and ricotta pasta bake

It's not that easy being green;
Having to spend each day the colour of the leaves.
(from Bein' Green by Joe Raposo)

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay recipe from Off the Shelf  is Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Bake, chosen by Margaret of Tea and Scones.

I only made a half recipe so that as a solo diner, I wasn't eating this for the rest of the year. (I got six serves out of half, so I am not sure how Donna got six serves out of double that - they must have been very generous serves!) However, I used up all the (baby) spinach that came in the bag, as it wasn't cheap, and it seems that this may have been a little enthusiastic, as I seem to have a very high ratio of spinach to everything else in my pasta bake.

No matter - this was absolutely delicious, and a nice change from what I would usually make.  It is creamy without being rich, and has all the goodness of spinach and dairy.

To see what Margaret,  Kayte and Chaya thought of this dish, visit their blogs.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

FFwD - Chicken Basquaise

This week's French Fridays with Dorie recipe is Chicken Basquaise.  This is a Mediterranean style (rather than French) chicken dish with capsicums (peppers) - lots of them!

The resulting dish has a rather hot flavour to it, so if spicy is not your thing, don't venture here.  I quite enjoyed it it, with the piperade (capsicum mix) forming a lovely sauce for the rice. 

Also be warned - if you are time poor, don't attempt this, because all the chopping and cooking and simmering and browning takes some time - you need probably a good two hours to make this dish.  I had to make this one night and eat it another night, as it was too late by the time it finished cooking for me to eat it that night.

Here's the chicken in the pot so you can identify that under all that stuff, there is definitely chicken there:

To see what the other FFwD members thought of this dish, visit the LYL section of the website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

WWDH - Thai Caramelised Pork Salad

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay recipe is Thai Caramelised Pork Salad, chosen by Kayte.

I loved the pork component with its sweet and spicy flavours, but the undressed salad did not impress me.

To see what the others thought of this salad, visit Kayte, Margaret and Chaya.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Google Fiber will change the face of Internet

By Prageeth SEO Expert :
Introducing Google Fiber: The Next Chapter of the Telecommunication and Internet.
Google Fiber starts with a connection speed 100 times faster than today's broadband. Using Google Fiber, we can download data instantly. Crystal clear high definition TV.

Google Fiber also provides endless possibilities through world wide web. It's not cable. And it's not just Internet. It's Google Fiber. Google fiber officially launched in Kansas City, USA.  At 1000 Mb per second, Google Fiber is 100 times faster than today's average Internet, allowing you to get what you want instantaneously. You no longer have to wait on things buffering; everything will be ready to go when you are. So whether you are video chatting, uploading videos with friends or family, watching videos, playing your favorite online games, searching for Removals Sydney , or looking for best Home Furnishings company , all you need to do is click and you're there. But you have to pay for these services and Google offers variety plans

Google is working on to make big additions to its Google Fiber TV channel lineup, adding all missing stations to the service.Just after adding several Disney channels, now the lineup has included major channels from Time Warner’s Turner Broadcast company such as Boomerang, Cartoon Network (Adult Swim), CNN, CNN en EspaƱol, CNN International, Jobs in Down,  HLN, TBS, TCM: Turner Classic Movies, TNT, and truTV,hTV, infinito etc.

Google announced three devices today as well, all of which will be necessary to run Google Fiber and Fiber TV in your home. They are…

TV Box – A set-top box needed for each television
Storage Box – Local storage and DVR, can record up to 8 shows at once, access as a wireless access point
Network Box – The modem/router with built-in firewall and WiFi

You can check the availability of Google fiber service in your area using below site.

BWJ - Whole Wheat Bread

For Baking with Julia this week, we were asked to put on our bread baking boots to make Whole Wheat Bread, with our hosts being Michelle of Vegie Num Nums and Teresa of The Family That Bakes Together.

I was initially a little unexcited about this recipe, as I am not what you would call "a bread person".  However, this bread pleasantly surprised me - it was soft and light and delicious, not heavy and chewy like some of the home bread recipes I have tried.  I made this bread to the recipe, except that I left out the malt extract.

I liked this bread toasted, I liked it sliced fresh off the loaf with peanut butter - I just liked it.  Which is saying a lot, as I really am not a bread person.

To see what the other BWJ bakers thought of this Whole Wheat Bread, visit the LYL section of the website.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Birthday Cupcakes

This week, it's my turn to to tick over another year, and to celebrate, I had a party (because it was a more momentous birthday than usual).

Ever over-ambitious, I decided to make my own cupcakes, and of course, I wanted fancy-ish.  Accordingly, I went on a mission to reproduce the Whimsical Cakehouse bow cupcakes by myself.  I used pre-prepared chocolate fondant for the bows - and by the end of it, I was pretty sick of making them, because they are quite fiddly.  The chocolate fondant was significantly stiffer than the white fondant, making it a bit of a pain to work with. 

The end result of my labours was an awful lot of these: 

Oh, and  I made a gluten free, dairy free version of the cakes using this recipe and plain white chocolate in place of ganache for Craig.  That version was a little scary as the cake was crumblier  and generally more fragile, and the white chocolate doesn't take to hot-knifing at all.  In the end, I got something that looked like the other cakes and decided to leave it at that. 

For my party, I went all crafty and covered a cardboard cupcake stand in keeping with the brown colour scheme of my invitations, and made some ball on stick decorations from fondant and gold lustre dust: 

It was a fun night, and the only reviews I have received of the cakes have been good - so I will believe them, despite the cakes being far from perfect.  

Hope you have been having a relaxing weekend.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

FFwD - Spiced-poached pears

This week's French Friday with Dorie recipe is Spiced-Poached Pears.  Apples and stone fruit were other options, but I am a sucker for a poached pear, and could not go past these for my fruit choice.

The syrup in which the pears are poached contains orange and lemon zest and juice, sugar, honey, water, star anise and cinnamon. Unfortunately, I found the poaching syrup to be rather tart, and did not enjoy it that much.  I have other sweeter recipes for poached fuit, and I will stick with those in the future.

To see what the other Dorie cooks thought of this recipe, visit the LYL section of the website on Friday, US time.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting for Jess

It was Jessie's birthday on Wednesday, so I made her Red Velvet Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting to celebrate.

The recipe I used for the cake was from pp 22-23 of  Sugar Sugar by Kimberley Reiner and Jenna Sanz-Agero.  You can find the recipe online here.   The cream cheese frosting was the same one that I used here, except that I did add the butter and vanilla this time, making for a smoother, creamier frosting - proof that all ingredients have a purpose!

Here is Jessie holding up the first slice of cake, demonstrating the colour and crumb of the cake: 

And the verdict?  Voted delicious by everyone, and definitely a keeper red velvet recipe.

Happy birthday Jess! 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wednesdays with Donna Hay - Baked Chicken, Lemon and Pea Risotto

Hey, hey, it's Wednesday, which means it's time for Donna Hay.

Before I get onto this week's recipe, I wanted to share with you my photos from my vacation on Norfolk Island last week.  You can find them here.  Norfolk Island is a truly beautiful place, and is a little different in that it is a quieter holiday destination than most - you can truly relax and unwind while enjoying its stunning natural beauty and learning about its brutal past, the Pitcairners settlement and current industry.  Norfolk Island is accessible by air from Brisbane or Sydney. I hope you enjoy the photos as much as I enjoyed taking them.

For WWDH this week, my pick was Baked Chicken, Lemon and Pea Risotto.  This dish took a while to make, as there is stove top prep to do before baking in the oven for 40 minutes, but the means justify the end - this risotto is absolutely delicious, and is a keeper for me. It results in a creamy risotto with a subtle blend of complimentary flavours.  I love the simplicity of baked risottos when compared with the traditional stove top method - I seem to have better luck with the baked variety.

To see what Kayte, Margaret and Chaya thought of this dish, visit their websites.  And you can join us in WWDH - next week's dish from Off the Shelf is Thai Caramelised Pork Salad (p120), chosen by Kayte.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Optimize Video Metadata to Improve Your SEO in Google

Video is one of the most important ways to improve SEO score. This is very important after Google released it Penguin algorithm update. So, making a video is not enough now. Even sharing videos to multiple sites ( isn’t as effective as it could be if you don’t employ one concentrated metadata strategy to improve your companies SEO.

So what is metadata? Metadata is all the things that describe what your video. Metadata includes in this are the title of the video, description, tags and category. Many people or businesses that have paid good money in order to create a video fill out this information with without thought or even leave this information blank without understanding the importance of it.

Search engines (including YouTube and other video sites) can’t hear what you are saying and therefore rely on your title, description and tags in order to figure out if your video is a good fit for the search terms someone is using. Therefore it is important to pepper your description with key search terms in order for you to rank higher on the Google searches. Your title not only needs to encourage people to click on the video but it also should use some of the key terms people are using when searching for your product.

FYI...How can you figure out what terms are popular in searches? First of all, you can check out the frequency of different searches in Google by registering for Google Adwords. In Adwords they have a tool that allows you to see how many monthly searches there are of different words you put in the search box. Once you have done that try out all the different search terms yourself in Google and see what comes up. Is it only huge corporations with established website and a large following? You better steer clear of those search terms since you will have a small chance of competing with them. Do you see small to medium sized businesses? These searches you can compete with, even if they are searched less often than other search terms. Filling out metadata correctly is a sure way to bring in organic traffic, improve your SEO and help your bottom line.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

No FFwD today

Sorry folks, I have not had time to get to this week's FFwD - things finally overtook me, and I have not won this race.  When I get to this recipe (and the buttered glazed carrots), I will post it.  Have a good weekend.

Monday, September 3, 2012

BWJ - Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake

 This week for Baking with Julia, the challenge recipe was Nectarine Upside-Down Chiffon Cake, hosted by Marlise of The Double Trouble Kitchen and Susan of The Little French Bakery.

This is the fourth recipe that I have been called on to make in the last month or so requiring nectarines - but it's winter in the Southern Hemisphere, so no nectarines here guys.  Once again, I used canned peaches in place of the nectarines.

The highlight of this cake was the streusel, which is placed in the middle of the cake and doesn't get a guernsey in the title of the cake:

Just look at that heavenly, crunchy, spicy ribbon!  The rest of the cake was good, but man, the streusel lifted it into the extraordinary.  I reckon that this cake would be terrific served warm with icecream.
Visit the Baking with Julia LYL section to see other gorgeous Nectarine (or some other fruit) Upside-Down  Cakes.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

WWDH - Bok Choy and Noodle Stir Fry

This week's Wednesday with Donna Hay recipe is Bok Choy and Noodle Stir Fry from p62 of Off the Shelf, chosen by Chaya.

This is a lovely light dish full of fresh Asian flavours such as garlic, ginger, chilli and soy.  Doesn't it look delicious:

Loved this dish!  To see what Chaya, Kayte and Margaret thought of this dish, visit their sites.