Archive | November 2012

Things I’m Loving in australia…week 3

Hello again!  Is anyone else speechless that it’s nearly December? Brandon and I say to each other almost daily that it feels like July here, so this past weekend, we decided to kick off our holiday season by bringing American Thanksgiving to Australia. It definitely helped get me into the holiday spirit and besides, we really didn’t want to miss out on turkey, pie, and all the fun everyone was having back home! So together we shopped, chopped, baked, stayed up VERY late, and served up a “Friends-giving” for 14 of our friends. While turkey day was definitely the highlight of last week, here’s some other things I loved:

1) Mail from home…thank you Mom and Julia!

2) Cadbury Crunchie Chocolate bars…or really any Cadbury bar, seeing’s how the average size chocolate bar here is the size of a water bottle. King-sized chocolate bars for a regular-sized price?!

3) Running to views like this ( so Beverly hills 90210-ish, don’t you think?!)

4)  New friends

5) Homemade pizza nights with my sweetie

6) New furniture to hold the (way too many)clothes I brought.

7) Witnessing Brandon make pumpkin AND apple pie from scratch. So proud, so proud.
week3.13       week3.14

8) Palm trees and the beach.
week3.11  week3.8

9) Late night cooking with my favorite.
week3.21   week3.26

10) Friends-giving Success!
week3.25                 week3.22   week3.6    week3.15

What are you loving this week?


Things I’m loving in Australia…week 2

Where does the time go? I ask myself this on a daily basis, because I’m honestly in shock that I’ve been in Australia for over two weeks already, and even more shocked that Christmas is exactly 5 weeks away. Unreal! I must say that it absolutely does not feel like Christmas here, given that the temperature has been in the high 80’s-low 90’s every day. However, taking a quick trip to the mall earlier this week helped get me in the holiday spirit. Thanks to the copious amounts of decorations and holiday music, I left smiling. Oh, and of course,  leave it to Target’s Christmas collection to leave me $60 poorer, but still smiling.

Anyway, besides Target, highlights of this week included watching the solar eclipse, seeing (and feeding!) my first kangaroos and a koala, marking an anniversary with my love, finally feeling brave enough to drive by myself, and joining  a local gym. Here’s some more of what I’m loving this week:

1. Running on castle hill (look at that view!!)


2. First kangaroo and koala adventure


3. Fresh fruit bowls with muesli every morning
week 2fruit

4. The legit stairmaster outside our door (otherwise known as Jacob’s Ladder). I may have said this last week, but it deserves another shout-out. Best.workout.ever.(and it’s free!)image

5. My first attempt at healthy Australian baking…Muesli bars (yummy recipe coming soon!)week2bars

6. Surprise mail from one of my besties back home. Love you Julia!

7. Thoughtful gifts from Brandon, love these colors!

8. Skype dates with my favorites
9. The flowers around every corner
10. Celebrating a year of happiness with my one-and-only

What are you loving this week?

A simple side of sweet potato

Back home, sweet potatoes were quite the trend for the last year or two. It seemed most, if not all restaurants began to offer some sort of sweet potato side dish, french fry option, or meal choice on their menus. I can’t say I’ve seen sweet potato fries as a “chip” option here in Australia, but I can say they have plenty available at the grocery stores. Since I’m semi-sweet potato obsessed(thank God Brandon is to!), we’ve been buying a few each week to incorporate into our dinners. My favorite way to prepare them is definitely as baked sweet potato fries; it’s easy, simple, and always delicious. However, my Mom shared a recipe with me that sounded just as easy, so I gave it a try. It incorporates one onion, and one large sweet potato (or 2-3 smaller sweet potatoes) and a few other small ingredients. It takes only minutes to prep, then let the oven does the rest of the work. I think you’ll like this, I know we did!

A simple side of sweet potato
serves 2

1 very large sweet potato (or 2-3 smaller)
1 yellow onion
2 TBSP brown sugar
2 TBSP balsamic vinegar
2 TBSP canola oil (olive oil would work, too)
2 tsp soy sauce

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (204 degrees Celsius!) and cover a cookie sheet with tinfoil. Spray with cooking spray.
2. Chop sweet potatoes into cubes and chop onion up in similar sizes. Place in large mixing bowl.

3. Add oil, soy sauce, balsamic vinegar, and brown sugar to the potatoes and onion bowl. Mix well, then spread over cookie sheet.
4. Cook for 20-25 minutes, toss, and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until browned.
5. Enjoy along side your protein and vegetable of choice!  We had ours along with roasted broccoli and veggie burgers.

sweetpot last

I judge the success of a dish by how much is leftover…we scraped the cookie sheet. I guess that’s a good sign?

What’s your favorite way to eat sweet potatoes?

Things I’m loving in australia…week 1

I truly can’t believe I’m living in Australia…and with my favorite guy on earth?! No way. Sometimes when I say it out-loud, I honestly have to pinch myself. I had hoped in my lifetime maybe I  would travel here for vacation, sure, but to live? Not in a million years.  After months of packing and unpacking, leaving my job, my family and my friends,  I survived  72 hours of traveling with 3 changes of clothes, countless granola bars, and more downloaded “real housewives” and “say yes to the dress” episodes than I’d like to admit! Just one week later, I am feeling settled and enjoying my “new” life.   Here’s a glimpse at the things I’m loving…week 1!

1. Running on this:
2. Homemade iced coffee by Brandon
3. Wheetbix bites cereal
4. Australia’s “mutli-grain” cheerios
5. Morning runs in November, in sneakers that remind me of my twin
6. Motivational signs while running
7. Enchanting trees wherever you go
8. Australia’s “fro-yo”
me yogurt

9. Skype dates with Mom!
10. Living with this guy
me and b

What are you loving this week?

Crockpot Salsa-Chicken Lettuce Wraps

The weather in Australia is nothing short of amazing…but god it’s hot! We’re on opposite seasons here, so while normally I’d be dusting off my winter jackets and sleeping in flannel sheets back home, here we’re entering summer and I’m finding it difficult to even blow dry my hair!  Talk about a night and day difference.

With such hot temperatures, cold and easy-to-prepare meals have been sounding more and more intriguing. So it was perfect when I caught a random craving for lettuce wraps yesterday. To be honest, I haven’t been able to eat lettuce wraps since eating them a few years ago and getting VERY ill afterwards. Due to that not-so-fun fact, I made my own version that I thought would sit well in my stomach and Brandon’s stomach too!  I decided to try out our new crockpot(hooray for new appliance!s) to make a Mexican-themed lettuce wrap filler. This was super easy and smelled delicious simmering away all day. Give it a try, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!


1 package chicken tenderloins(you could also use chicken breasts)
1 jar salsa(we like medium in this household)
1 can beans-drained and rinsed (I used a 4 bean mixture)
1 cup frozen corn
Enough chicken broth or Vegetable Stock to cover the chicken (water would work too!)—I used 3/4 cup

Optional toppings ingredients
Mushrooms & onions
red peppers
Shredded cheese(we had cheddar)
Extra salsa!


1. Spray crockpot with cooking spray, then wash chicken and cut off any excess fat. Place in crockpot.


2. Cover chicken with broth or water. Cover with Salsa. Set crockpot on high and let it simmer for 3-4 hours, or until chicken is cooked (Mine only took 3.5 hours because the chicken tenderloins were thin. If you use thicker chicken, it will take longer!)


3. Remove chicken and shred with two forks. Place back in crockpot.


4.  Add the can of beans and corn, turn crockpot to low, and simmer for another hour or so, until corn and beans are cooked through.


5. Let cool, then place in fridge.


6. Wash your lettuce leaves, assemble your other toppings, and enjoy!


I sautéed some mushrooms and onions, red peppers, and shredded some cheese for additional toppings. Super simple,very satisfying, and really fun to eat!  We have a bunch of leftovers, too. I’m thinking this will go great in a quesadilla or on-top of salad, too.

What’s your favorite way to use-up leftover chicken?

Simple Shrimp Fra Diavolo

Greetings from Australia! I have officially been here for a week now, so I’m almost unpacked, almost rested, and almost getting used to driving on the wrong side of the road….almost :) One thing I know I’ll almost always miss until I move back to the USA is my Mom’s cooking…so I’ve decided that I’m going to make a diligent effort to cook one of her recipes (or a similar recipe) once a week. Tonight, I did just that! My boyfriend requested shrimp fra diavolo (one of my Mom’s specialties), and while I didn’t use her exact recipe, I’d say this came out pretty well for an imitation. I loosely followed Cooking Light’s ‘budget friendly’ recipe, and while this is a fairly simple recipe, it most certainly doesn’t lack in taste.  You can alter the spicy factor to your discretion, too!

Simple Shrimp Fra Diavolo

1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic, divided

1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and de-veined ( I used about 32 shrimp)

3/4 cup diced onion

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 3/4 cups canned crushed tomatoes

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 (14.5-ounce) can  no-salt added diced tomatoes, drained

¼ of a chopped chile pepper (Optional!!)


1.  First, thaw your shrimp. (We used pre-cooked, since that was all that was available. I simply placed the shrimp in a colander and rinsed them under cold water for 2-3 minutes, or until de-thawed). Once thawed, peel and de-vein them. Set aside.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic and shrimp; sauté or 3 minutes or until shrimp are done. Remove from pan; keep warm.

Cooked, then set aside

3. Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil and chopped onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes or until softened. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon garlic, pepper, basil, and oregano; cook 1 minute, stirring constantly. Stir in tomato paste and lemon juice; cook 1 minute or until slightly darkened. Stir in crushed tomatoes, salt, and diced tomatoes, and chili pepper; cook 5 minutes or until thickened. Return shrimp to pan; cook for 2 minutes or until thoroughly heated.

Sauteed onion, tomato paste, and garlic

All thickened up!


4. Serve on-top or alongside of your carbohydrate and/or vegetables of choice, and enjoy!

The complete plate

While you can most certainly serve this over pasta, rice, or another carbohydrate, we opted to pair ours with two sides of roasted vegetables: cauliflower and zucchini. To prepare these, I cut them in bite size pieces, sprayed my lined-cookie sheet with cooking spray, and tossed them with some sea salt, pepper, garlic salt and 1 tsp olive oil. Then, they baked at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes on each side, while I prepared the shrimp. Hope you enjoy this as much as we did!

I’m super excited to say this was a success, and even more excited to say we have leftovers. Plus, making this made me feel like I was right back at home…gotta love that!

What’s your favorite shrimp dish?