An Afternoon in Melbourne

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When a fellow Aussie Wineaux friend told me that Melbourne is a Food and Wine Lover’s Paradise, I knew it was a part of Australia we could not miss. {Especially when several other friends chimed in!}

We opted to take an inexpensive one and a half hour flight from Sydney to Melbourne rather an endure a 10-hour drive together. We know better! But that hour and a half flight turned into three hours when an emergency medical situation turned our flight back around.

But when we finally did arrived in Melbourne, it was an absolutely gorgeous day!

I found a great deal on a hotel just on the outskirts of the city in St. Kilda. The Cosmopolitan was right near the beach and across the road from Luna Park and the Palais Theater.

We were near the corner of Acland and Carlisle Streets which meant that we had a number of shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs and bake shops at our disposal. The  hardest part would be choosing!

Since we arrived later than we expected, we were quite hungry for lunch. Rob was really in the mood for pasta, but the Italian restaurants that were recommended to us were only open for dinner. He finally found some pasta on the menu when we walked by Abbey Road Cafe. The menu looked good to me, so we popped right in.

While the restaurant name might suggest The Beatles, this place was really about all music of eras past. The decor was nostalgic.

How did we choose a wine? We wanted something local that we couldn’t get back home. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a wine in the U.S. from the Mornington Peninsula!

All my Wineaux friends will laugh at how many glasses are supposed to be in this bottle:

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Rob was more than satisfied with the fresh ingredients in his pasta:

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Pasta Carbonara - creamy bacon and mushroom sauce

And you won’t believe what I ordered… I was in LOVE! Look at all of those tomatoes!

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Grilled Halloumi Breakfast Plate - with roasted olives, tomato medley, cucumber slices, a fried egg and fresh bread

Those tomatoes were fresh and juicy. The cucumbers were crisp and had the flavor of just being picked from the garden. The olives were succulent, the bread crusty and the fried egg had a crispy edge. How could I ask for more? Oh, wait, that’s right. It’s a vegetarian plate – so there was also grilled Halloumi cheese, too!

It’s almost like a friend knew I was coming and they put together a plate of my favorite foods!

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The egg is under the bread on the left. What looks like scrambled eggs or a pancake, perhaps, on the right is the halloumi. We saw it on a lot of menus, specifically in vegetarian dishes. It is a cheese with a high melting point, so it can stand up to grilling or frying. Halloumi originated in Cyprus, but it is common in Greece and other areas along the Mediterranean. Melbourne has a lot of Greek heritage and boasts the largest population of Greeks outside of Europe!

There was a tram stop right outside just a block from our hotel. A 15 to 20 minute ride took us to Federation Square.

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Federation Square

My Aussie expat friend Helen told me that I had to take Rob to Young & Jackson’s Pub, just off Federation Square. She said it’s every man’s right of passage to have a drink with Chloe.

Well, I certainly wasn’t going to deny Rob that opportunity. So off to Young & Jackson’s we went…

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Well, that’s actually my cider pictured above. I wasn’t going let Rob sit in a room alone with a naked woman! ;-)

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Chloé has graced Young & Jackson’s since 1909, where she will remain forever. She was painted by French artist Jules Joseph Lefebvre in 1875, when it was pretty racy for its time! You can find her in the upstairs bar.

Chloe, has been  at the y&J since 1909. painted by Jules Joseph Lefebvre in 1875, arrived i

We loved this old pub so much that we came back on another occasion to enjoy some some cider and stouts in the lower level. I did find this sign in the bathroom a little strange though:

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Is someone really “in the right head space” when they are doing LSD?

 Just across the street from Young and Jackson’s is the grand Flinders Street Station.

We wandered through a bit and then it was back to our hotel where we watched the sky change colors as the sun went down just before dinner.

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I knew I was going to like it here.

What would go on your platter of favorite foods?

You can read my other posts on our Australia trip here:

The One Thing I Didn’t Need to Bring to Australia
The Wattle and Bush Tucker
Scenes from Sydney
A Morning at Bond-Eye

The Blue Mountains
Sydney Eats
Sydney Dinners: His & Hers Picks

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

Sydney Dinners: His & Hers Picks

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We went over a few of the breakfasts and lunches we had in Sydney earlier this week. However, the two unique dinners I wanted to share with you deserved another post.

And so we continue…

Dinners

Carrie’s Pick:

Before we left for our trip to Australia, I did only a little research for great restaurants. I kept a list and descriptions with no real plan because everything depends on timing. What matters most is where you are when hunger strikes! But I thought I couldn’t let Rob miss one place that claimed the best burger in Sydney.

We took the train to Newtown, which is technically a suburb of Sydney. I stopped to ask a guy in a shop near the train station for directions. He hadn’t actually been to Mary’s, but he knew the general direction.

We turned down the street where it should be and found ourselves at a dead end within a block. Rob was annoyed. It had taken long enough to get there and we couldn’t find it. “Wait a minute,” I said and turned around. A couple of guys were standing outside and smoking by an unmarked entrance. I went back to go inside and take a peak. This was it!

It was dark inside, but very busy. We were directed upstairs for seating. It was dimly lit, mostly with candles. It was dark. Mysterious. I loved it. The cocktail list was written in chalk on the wall across from us. I had to lighten all my photos, but they still didn’t come out all that great.

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Mary’s was supposed to be known for cocktails, too, but they were just as expensive as at The Push, some even more so. I love the grungy look and feel of this place. The wines by the glass were listed on the wall right in front of me, written in what looks like AC/DC’s font.

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We opted for a bottle instead. The wine list was long and a little confusing. The were also pricier than other ones we had at restaurants in Sydney. We finally settled on one that was about $50/bottle.

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This was probably Rob’s favorite wine of the trip! Krinklewood Wild Red is a is a shiraz-based wine from a biodynamic vineyard in the Hunter Valley, the closest wine region to Sydney. When our server brought it to the table, he said that it was a killer wine and talked about his friend’s dad owning the vineyard. It was tasty. But we never did find it in any stores throughout our trip.

And the menu? Also right on the wall!

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Pretty simple! I’d like to note that we had exceptional service here. While we were waiting for our wine, a server came by and asked:

“Have you been looked after?”

Rob said:

“Why yes. Yes, we are.”

Huh? As the dude walked away, I asked him, “Why did you say ‘we are’?”

Now think back to what the server said and run it through your head again with an Aussie accent. Apparently, Rob thought that the dude said:

“Are you with Arthur?”

Because we saw only two servers working the upstairs, Rob deduced that the guy who was already waiting on us was named Arthur. That is why Rob replied:

“Why yes. Yes, we are.”

I almost doubled over with laughter. When I told him what dude really said, he did, too.

This isn’t the first time Rob has had a hard time with accents. Once, when dining at Fong’s, a Chinese restaurant here in the Twin Cities, Rob ordered a noodle dish. Our server, in her Chinese accent asked:

“You want extra spicy?”

Rob replied:

“Yes, Five Star Spicy.”

But he said “five star spicy” only because he thought he was repeating her. And he said it fast, too, almost if he had the accent as well. Here’s the thing, this restaurant didn’t use a star system on their menu.

After she left our table, I burst out laughing. Rob hadn’t realized what just transpired. When I told him, he said, “Ah! That makes more sense!” We still laugh about that one, especially when ordering spicy food in an Asian restaurant.

Back to Mary’s…

Ordering was a breeze once our server explained to us that a cheeseburger was your basic “McDonald’s burger with ketchup and mustard” and that the sauce on the Mary’s Burger was mayo based.

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The burgers arrive wrapped, in a basket with the fries. I was surprised that Rob went with the basic cheeseburger. I was all about the Mary’s sauce because I’m not a huge fan of ketchup.

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This most definitely was not the best burger I’ve ever had. And it’s kind of sad if people say that this is Sydney’s best! That being said, it still was very good, in my opinion.

The bun was soft and wonderful and the Mary’s sauce was just what I wanted. But the meat? Not so much. It was just a very thin patty – much like you’d think of a McDonald’s burger to have. No wonder they didn’t ask how we wanted them cooked. All of the other components seemed to be there; but the most important part – the burger – got lost amongst it all. But I still enjoyed it. I think it was best described here as a “really nice version of a McDonald’s burger.”

Rob, on the other hand, hated his burger. It’s not because he’s a burger snob. It’s because the whole thing was slathered in ketchup and mustard. It was all he could taste.

“I did think that it was strange that you ordered that one.”

“No really, that’s all I taste! You try it!”

I tasted it. The condiments did overpower the entire thing. I’ve actually never had a burger with that much ketchup and mustard before. I completely understood how this was a total burger disappointment for him – especially for $14/burger! He only had a couple of bites and stuck to his fries. He did have a bite of my burger and said that it was much better. But I think his mouth was tainted with that mustard for him to have a real opinion at that point.

Overall, if you are looking for an elevated fast food burger – get the Mary’s Burger. If you are looking for the best burger in Sydney – continue your hunt. What we loved most about Mary’s was the service and ambiance.

~

Rob’s Pick:

Generally speaking, I do most of the planning for our travels. I’ll ask Rob for his input here or there. But I typically know what amenities he prefers and what locations work for us within our budget. Sometimes he tells people I’m his travel agent or that I should have been one. But then I have to remind him that not everyone likes what we like. Planning for ourselves is much easier!

But just a few days before our departure for Australia, Rob sent me some links of some places he found. One was called Frankie’s Pizza.

I’ve decided that, for our vacations, I’ll let Rob plan our dinners out instead from now on. This ended up being our favorite dinner in Sydney!

We arrived on a Tuesday around 5pm. We walked down to the lower level to find a bar and a dining area covered in kitschy Italian decor. It was early, so there weren’t many people there. But wait, did you read that there was a bar? A bar! We found that, in Australia, it was so hard to find a restaurant that had a bar where you could pull up a seat, even if alcohol was served. We jumped at this opportunity.

We started with a bottle of vino, choosing an Italian varietal grown in Australia.

Our wine was served in plastic cups. Sound preposterous? It wasn’t. Here it just felt, well… right.

Frankie’s is known for it’s pizza by the slice – for just $5. If the pie is available, you can have a slice. Otherwise, you’ll have to take a number and wait for it to show up on the wall when it’s ready.

Rob and I opted for a whole pie.

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This sausage pizza was perfect in every way – the chewy crust, the perfectly spiced sausage, the tangy-but-not-too-tangy tomato sauce, the mushrooms, the olive oil… This pie was huge. But we finished it off, eventually.

As more and more people piled in, we realized that these Sydneysiders knew the secret, too. It started to get really busy. Before we left, it was completely packed – on a Tuesday night! But there was another secret that we had yet to learn.

The man sitting a few seats down the bar was the chef. And he was from Naples. As in… Italy.

Yeah. That’s why this pizza was so wonderful. I guess this joint wasn’t doing too well for a while. Bring in someone who knows how to do pizza, sell it for $5 a slice and you’ll have customers there all night long. Genius.

Then Rob spotted the taps.

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This was the first time we found local craft brews on tap in Sydney. {I’m sorry, I tried to do Australia’s favorite Victory Bitter, but I had to choke it down! I guess I wouldn’t drink our nation’s favorite either, though.}

Murray’s Fred IPA quickly became his favorite. I had a little bit of dessert instead…

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That probably looks disgusting. And it might even sound disgusting to you, too, once I describe it. Frankie’s has a juicer, specifically for apples. In went three Granny Smiths, out came this frothy delight. {With a touch of rum added, too!} I had been watching our Kiwi bartender make them. So I had to inquire, which resulted in ordering one to end the night. The tart and sweet flavors together were the perfect combo!

Rob really wanted to go back to Frankie’s the next night; but I wanted to try something new. Shoulda. Woulda. Coulda. Our next dinner was no where near as good.

When it comes to food, we have a much more to discover should we return to Sydney. But if there is one place we’d recommend as a must-do, it’s Frankie’s Pizza.

Have you ever had a frothy mixed drink made with apples?

What’s the most interesting frothy or frozen drink you’ve tried?

~

You can read my other posts on our Australia trip here:

The One Thing I Didn’t Need to Bring to Australia
The Wattle and Bush Tucker
Scenes from Sydney
A Morning at Bond-Eye

The Blue Mountains
Sydney Eats

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Wine, Whiskey and Sommeliers

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Okay, so I didn’t get my sh!t together to write the post I wanted about my second Terzo Vino Bar experience. I’ll have to save that for next week.

But I did read this article about Whiskey for Wine Lovers.

Are you back? Did you read how Spirit Sommelier Heather Greene recommends one should taste whiskey? If not, I’ll wait while you read.

Then, get a laugh how we tasted Whiskey in Ireland. Look for the pony…

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Speaking of sommeliers, the sommelier of the beer world is called a cicerone.

Also, have you seen the movie Somm? I watched it on my flight back from Australia. It’s a documentary of four men {good-looking men, I might add!} attempting to pass the Master Sommelier exam, which has a pass rate of about 10%. Imagine studying something with such passion for so long, knowing your chances of success are slim to none. I was blown away by the work involved and knowledge of these guys.

So what bottle do you have your eye on this this Wine Wednesday?

Cheers~

Sydney Eats

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I could probably separate all of our dining experiences in Sydney into separate posts. But quite frankly, I don’t want to get stuck in Sydney. Visiting the cosmopolitan New South Wales Capital was only a small part of our trip! So here, you go… The best {and the worst} of it.

Breakfasts

We didn’t always eat brekkie. But we did almost always stop and get a flat white. {BTW! I found a place in Minneapolis that can make a flat white! Rob and I will be making a trip to Royal Grounds soon…}

Flat White

We’d usually get them to go from any place coffee stand on the way to our first destination for the day. There was also a little chain shop called Pie Face on the corner by our hotel. One day we stopped and sat down for our coffees and breakfast.

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This is where Rob fell in love with Aussie Meat Pies! I got a mini chicken and mushroom one as takeaway for our train ride to the Blue Mountains one day, too.

What are they?” you ask?  Well, in terms of filling, think shepherd’s pie or, better yet, a chicken pot pie. But scratch the pie crust. Aussie meat pie crusts are much flakier! Think croissant or puff-pastry. They come in all sorts of flavors. Rob’s favorites were mince beef and chunky steak. The golden pastry-like outer shell can make them quite messy. But they are so delicious and very filling! You can find them in coffee shops, on menus and in grocery stores. You can have them for a snack or any meal. There are even gourmet versions!

~

Lunches

Our first lunch in Sydney was another sort of pie – pizza! Since we arrived so early on a Sunday morning, by the time we had walked through the Royal Botanical Gardens and Hyde Park, we were just looking for something that was open and not serving just breakfast or brunch. The menu and the ambiance really intrigued us as we walked by Macchiato Wood-Fire Pizza & Coffee Roastery.

If you check out their online menu, you will see that pizzas were right around $20 – $25. Generally speaking, everything in Australia was more expensive. While we were there, the exchange rate was nearly $1 US to $1 AUS. {It was more like 95 cents U.S. to $1 AUS, but it looks like at the time of this post it’s about 88 cents US to $1 AUS.} To make things simpler {and feel like we didn’t spend as much money as we thought upon return!}, we just assumed a 1:1 conversion.

But just for comparison, the style and size of pizzas they offered were similar to Pizzeria Lola here in the Twin Cities, which is a high quality place with plenty of accolades. Lola’s pizzas run about $10 – $15 each. Our expectations were high! The pizzas at Macchiato sounded gourmet and delicious. And we were hungry!

I couldn’t remember exactly which one Rob ordered, so I’m guessing at it based on the descriptions online:

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Spicy Sausage Sizzle  – chipolata, chorizo, fennel, chilli, balsamic reduction, mozzarella – $23

“Try these, Rob said. “These onions are really mild. I can barely taste them.”

“That’s fennel,” I said. He crinkled his nose and proceeded to pick them off. Silly, he must have read “fennel” and thought they were sausages with fennel seed. Overall, sadly, there was not much flavor here. We did liked the type and texture of the crust, but it didn’t have much flavor either.

And as for mine… To be honest, I’ve never ordered shrimp on a pizza before.

But I was in Sydney, I had to get prawns!

King Gamberi butterfly king prawns, rocket, cherry tomato, garlic, basil, lemon zest, mozzarella ............ 27

King Gamberi - butterfly king prawns, rocket, cherry tomato, garlic, basil, lemon zest, mozzarella – $27

So splurge I did. The first $27 pizza of my life. The prawns were huge! But they were so incredibly fishy tasting that they overpowered the entire pizza and I couldn’t taste much else. And I hadn’t even considered the difficulty in removing the shells to eat the pizza. Awkward.

I think we set our expectations too, high. The service was horrible. It took a long time to get waited on and we had difficulty communicating with the broken English of the foreign staff.  {We found this more than a few times in Sydney.} Of course, we didn’t care if they weren’t Aussies. It just made it difficult to communicate. So much so, that it took probably 20 minutes to get the bottle of wine that we ordered. And that was only after we flagged our server down. She thought we didn’t want our wine until we got our pizza! Huh?!

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This wine was pretty good and one we kept in mind for future reference for the rest of the trip. In the restaurant, it was $30/bottle. We found wine in restaurants throughout Australia to be really affordable for the quality than what we are used to back home! That was a win for us and one of the reasons it became our beverage of choice.

A little side note: There is no real tipping tradition in Australia. You can leave an extra dollar or two, but our Aussie friends told us we are never obligated. They said that they personally like to round up to the next $5, but only based on service. When traveling, we generally feel guilty for not tipping or only tipping a little, even in we are in a country where it’s not common. But whenever we got our restaurant bills in Australia, the shock of the total always made it a bit easier not to tip unless the service was exceptional.

To give you another idea of prices, check out this cocktail menu from a cool joint near the historic precinct known as The Rocks {which is a must visit for the history.} Although some of these sounded great, you might now understand why we chose wine over cocktails!

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Cocktail Menu at The Push.

I loved the decor at The Push  and the jazzy music that was playing, too. Although we were the only ones there for an early lunch, I could just imagine the night crowd. It felt like my kind of place. For lunch, something caught my eye on the menu – the Fish and Chips because:

  1. I was recommended to try fish and chips {grilled, not fried!} by Tiffany.
  2. The fish was barramundi, a fish I hadn’t yet had and also read I should try while there.

But somehow, I thought I read “herb-crusted” rather than “herb-battered” on the outside menu.

 BARRAMUNDI herb battered, house made tartare, mushy peas, hand cut chips  - $21

BARRAMUNDI - herb battered, house made tartare, mushy peas, hand cut chips – $21

But the flaky, fried fish really hit the spot that day! We hadn’t had breakfast that morning. Probably too much morning coffee combined with a pint of cider at the oldest bar in Sydney beforehand wasn’t the best thing on an empty stomach. I can skip the mushy peas next time, though. I’ve never been a fan.

Rob ordered a Sausage Roll, which doesn’t seem to be on their current menu, with a side of hand cut chips. Sausage rolls can also be found anywhere you find meat pies! And the flaky outer shell shown above can give you an idea of the type of crust you’ll find in a meat pie!

~

Dinners

We have two particular dinners on which I’d like to elaborate. So I’ve changed my mind. You’ll have to hear about those later this week!

Other posts on our Aussie trip:

The One Thing I Didn’t Need to Bring to Australia
The Wattle and Bush Tucker
Scenes from Sydney
A Morning at Bond-Eye

The Blue Mountains

 What item in this post would you most be interested to try?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

San Marzano Meat Sauce over Spaghetti or Zoodles

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Warning: Today’s post is purely selfish.

I have no photos to share of this recipe I’m about to share with you. And I’m the one who prefers a photo of a dish with a recipe.

It’s selfish because when I made it, having used a few different sources, I didn’t like toggling between all of the recipes!

Then, I didn’t want to forget what I did. I needed the recipe down in print. And needed it linked to my Recipe Arsenal.

And I’m sharing it with you…

Because it turned out Fabulously.

Remember when I was testing out jarred San Marzano pasta sauces?

And how I said I couldn’t give up my tried and true jarred marinara – Ragu. {Despite cringing at the sugar and sodium content!}

Well, I can now.

Thank you, Snack-Girl for the inspiration! I adapted your recipe to mix in with some ground beef with my uber-favorite San Marzano tomatoes to create a meat sauce to top spaghetti or Zoodles.

Heeeeerrrreee goes!

~

San Marzano Meat Sauce

Adapted from this Six-Minute Marinara Sauce recipe by Snack-Girl.
(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • extra virgin olive oil (1/2 to 1 Tbsp)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic (I always have them on hand in the freezer because of this tip from An Organic Wife)
  • 1 lb ground beef (or pork or turkey)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp red pepper flakes (I did 1 tsp because I like a little more kick!)
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes

Method:

  • Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan or skillet.
  • Add diced onion and garlic cook until soft. Watch carefully so they don’t burn.
  • Add ground beef and cook until almost completely browned.
  • Add salt, red pepper flakes and oregano and mix well.
  • Add San Marzano tomatoes and juices. I took the whole tomatoes out of the can and roughly chopped them before putting them in the pan and adding the juices. But this was very messy. You can try breaking them up after you add them to the pan, but that might get just as messy!
  • Simmer until heated through. Reduce heat to low until ready to use, stirring occasionally.
  • Serve over hot spaghetti or Zoodles {recipe below}.

Zoodles

(Serves 4)

There are many ways to make zoodles {aka zucchini noodles}, but this is the way I like to do it! I used this method to julienne the zucchini and then made a variation based on the Zoodles in this Skinnytaste recipe.

You will need approximately one medium zucchini (or 2 small) per person. It may seem like a lot, but remember the “noodles” will cook down. I based my recipe on serving four people to correspond with the recipe for San Marzano Meat Sauce above.

Ingredients:

  • extra virgin olive oil (1/2 to 1 Tbsp)
  • 4 medium zucchinis (or 8 small)
  • 1/2 small red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Julienne the zucchini by holding it in one hand and pushing a julienne peeler into the flesh, starting at the top moving down. You should end up with strings of zucchini. Continue the process until you start to hit the seeds or core of the zucchini. Don’t worry if they stick together a bit. They will break up as you move them around in the pan.
  • Heat a large sauce pan or skillet over medium heat.
  • When hot, add the oil, onions and garlic.
  • Saute until fragrant, about 1 to 2 minutes.
  • Increase heat to medium-high and add the zucchini strings. {aka Zoodles!}
  • Season with salt and pepper and cook for about 1 minute.
  • Stir everything together and saute for an additional 1 to 1 and 1/2 minutes, or until your desired firmness.
  • As the zucchini cooks down, it releases a lot of water. So sometimes it’s a good idea to drain the Zoodles before serving. This will keep your sauce from getting runny!
  • When serving, top with San Marzano Meat Sauce, sprinkle on some shredded or grated parmesan and enjoy!

~

 And usually at this time, I share:

planning

But I’m behind on my meal planning for this week. So it’s your turn to help!

After my farmers’ market stop, here is the veg I know have on hand:

  • tomatoes
  • brussels sprouts
  • onions
  • multi-colored carrots
  • potatoes
  • cabbage
  • red kale
  • spaghetti squash

And here are the protein bases I’m working with this week:

For lunches, I’m going for some Quick and Easy Bowls because I made a fantastic one this weekend. I can’t wait for lunch! Here is what went in it:

  1. Base - steamed/sauteed red kale
  2. Grain/Starchbrown rice
  3. Proteinbutter beans (but great northern beans or cannellinis would be nice, too.)
  4. Veggies – steamed/sauteed onion, multi-colored carrots, tomato
  5. Fatshredded mozzarella
  6. SauceRoasted Tomato Dressing, then seasoned with a little bit of Italian herbs, salt & pepper

What would you make with these ingredients?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

Falling in Love with Fall

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It’s been a beautiful fall. I love the view from our backyard.

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The past couple of years we’ve had a short to non-existent fall season here. It would go from summer to winter in about a week with no chance for the leaves to change color properly. It made the winters even more long and unbearable. But this year has been an exceptional year for color changing!

Shamrock told us that he and Sophie wanted to go for a walk and enjoy the foliage, too.

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We obliged. It is Sophie & Shamrock Saturday, after all!

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And today was the perfect, cool, football-weather morning to take the dogs for a walk.

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Only these photos don’t even do the true colors justice.

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Soon, all of these leave will have fallen…

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…And it will become colder than in the movie Frozen. I’m feeling grateful for every moment of fall because I’m not like Elsa. The cold really does bother me. But I still refuse to wear a winter coat until November.

Happy Fall!

Cheers~
Carrie

 

The Blue Mountains

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We had an extra day in Sydney to take a nice little day trip. I had planned a few guided tours throughout our stay in Australia, but our trip to the Blue Mountains was one I wanted to play be ear. Ultimately, we followed this gal’s advice and decided on a DIY trip. It’s only a two-hour train ride from Sydney Central Station to Katoomba. Then the hop-on, hop-off Explorer Bus provided easy transportation throughout the region. That may sound touristy, but it didn’t matter. Because, they do it right here.

The Blue Mountains were a barrier to the Australian interior for European settlers in Sydney. Although native Aborigines lived here for thousands of years prior, the mountains were not officially crossed by Europeans until 1813. You can only imagine what that meant for the incredible hikes and views we experienced here!

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By now, you probably have learned of my almost debilitating, irrational fear of heights. So during our hikes, I was doing a lot of focusing on putting my next foot in front of me. No worries, though! I did stop from time to time to take in all of the beauty and breathe in the fresh mountain air. In many areas, though, the routes were narrow with no railings to line the drop off cliffs. That is why you get a photo where there actually is a railing! I felt comfortable enough to take one here.

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See those cables? That is for a cable car that crosses one of the valleys. You aren’t going to get me to do that! Instead, we just hiked and spent the day at our own pace. It was wonderful and peaceful. But I will remember one thing. When an Aussie says that a trail is a “gentle stroll,” it’s not the same as my definition. A gentle stroll doesn’t get my heart rate up, nor vary greatly in elevation. They are a fit bunch over there! I even passed a few elderly people who took all the steps and made it up the winding hills. Impressive!

But it was also a very chilly day. It’s much cooler {duh!} in the mountains than in Sydney. Unfortunately, Rob refused to bring anything but shorts on our trip to Australia. I think he was happy that he brought along his Michigan pullover!

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So what makes the mountains appear blue? That blue haze is a reflection of the sunlight off of the millions of droplets of oil released by the eucalyptus trees.

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We could ride the bus all day , going around as many times and stopping at the 29 stops as much as we pleased. But we finally stopped for a late lunch in the town of Leura. It felt good to get out of the chilly air. Rob ordered a chai for a little warmth; but I skipped the coffee because I was just so thirsty. I had about 18 glasses of water instead.

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This cute little place was called the Red Door Cafe. I ordered a sandwich that I didn’t really like. Rob, having eaten his first {very filling!} Aussie Meat Pie that morning, decided to just have a little dessert – a Caramel Slice. I didn’t get a photo. I was too busy sucking down water. Besides, how was I to know that this was an Australian delight with which we’d fall in love?! But you can click here for a photo and here for a recipe.

Do I dare try to make it? That could be dangerous! In any case, why haven’t I seen these in the States? It seems like a simplistic dessert that’s very similar to some of the bars we make here in the Midwest. But with caramel? Yes, please!

Where have you been all my life, Caramel Slice? Funny thing, though, is that I read in an in-flight magazine from Sydney to Melbourne that “The Caramel Slice is soooo 2012.”

What food have you loved on vacation that you’ve tried to replicate back at home?

Other posts on our Australia trip:

The One Thing I Didn’t Need to Bring to Australia
The Wattle and Bush Tucker
Scenes from Sydney
A Morning at Bond-Eye

Cheers~
Carrie