Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Fact: I am now 28 (according to my WiiFit). Heck yes for losing 14 years off my age and being what I'm supposed to be!
Fact: Will said my mac & cheese is gourmet. Coming from my husband, this is a HUGE deal, as I believe him to be one of the best cooks ever. We had our Southern BBQ on Saturday and it was an absolute success. We introduced 20 people to the beauty of fried okra and oh man, did it taste like home. The corn souffle recipe (I didn't use cheese in mine) was an absolute hit - it was the first thing to be entirely eaten up. The recipe was easy to prepare and bake - I highly suggest it! I did my macaroni and cheese differently this time as I made more of a roux for the noodles and then used goat milk pecorino cheese, white cheddar cheese, white gouda, and a liberal amount of white pepper. I was absolutely delish and I was very happy.
Fact: I need a shot to go to Zambia and Uganda. Apparently there is a meningitis outbreak in both Zambia and Uganda and I have to get a big ol' shot before I leave. Most of you know that I have every other vaccine possible so this shot will mean that I have all the shots needed for traveling. Crazy huh?
Fact: I finally got to Jo'burg. Yes, I've lived here for almost 6 months and just made it to Jo'burg last weekend. Beth and I visited the Apartheid Museum. The museum was very information and similar to the kind of experience you would receive from visiting the Holocaust museum. You feel terrible afterwards knowing that people suffered and died unnecessarily in this world. I'm glad I went as I think its helpful to understand the history of the country I live in and would recommend it to future visitors. When I return, I think I'll get a tour guide to help me understand things even better. Jo'burg on the whole was not what I expected. It looks a lot like Pretoria - I'm not really sure what I was expecting. The downtown doesn't appear to be as modern as I thought that it was, but it is quite large.
Fact: I like The Sopranos. So I was one of those people who missed out on the Sopranos hype when it was on air, primarily because I haven't had HBO since I lived at home. It just never seemed to be the type of show I would be interested in. As I have fallen in love watching TV shows on DVD, I wonder what else I've missed (Six Feet Under, Curb Your Enthusiasm, 30 Rock, etc.)... suggestions?
Fact: Muddy can retrieve things off the bottom of the pool. Have I ever mentioned that Muddy is part submarine? He loves to spend hours retrieving his red ball off the bottom of the pool. Its great exercise for him and its really cute too. One day I will take a picture...
Fact: I'll be out of town for two weeks starting Sunday. I'll be in Zambia for a week and then Uganda for a week. Expect more posts while I'm away! I'm excited to return to Zambia as I haven't been back in 3.5 years. I know some of the staff is the same so I am really looking forward to the familiar faces. Will is joining me in Uganda and we are planning to raft the Nile. Wish me luck!
Wednesday, January 21, 2009
The proposed menu!
- BBQ meats (I'm sure traditional bbq on the bone plus pulled meat for a bun)
- Homemade BBQ sauce
- Fried okra
- Corn souffle (going to try this recipe and attempt to make creamed corn from scratch since its not sold here)
- Baked beans
- Gallons and gallons of sweet tea
Guests are bringing healthy appetizers and sides since the menu we're providing is pretty rich and unhealthy, but oh man, so yummy.
Next month is quite the travel month. I'll be in Zambia and Uganda, spending a week in each country. Will is going to join me in Uganda, which I'm happy about as I wasn't looking forward to turning 28 in a foreign country by myself. We're thinking of rafting the "Mighty Whitey Nile" and going to see chimps and gorillas. Excited? Heck yes.
Friday, January 16, 2009
Friday, January 9, 2009
On Sunday, we had our friends Adam and Beth over for dinner to see Christy and Steph before they left for the states. When thinking about what we'd make for dinner, I suggested shrimp and grits, one of my favorite meals from back home. Will agreed and I got online and searched for just the right recipe. I ended up printing off 8 different recipes and tried to figure out the common links between them. In the end, Will made his shrimp and grits how he felt like doing so I had to get him to write down ingredients so we can recreate his masterpiece down the road. In the end, it was seriously the best shrimp and grits I've ever had. Will made a terrific roux for the shrimp and the greats were perfectly creamy, cheesy, and garlicky. YUM.
Last night I decided to try making indian food at home. Woolworth's sells spice kits for all sorts of different indian food. All you get are the spices and the matching recipe - the rest is up to you. I picked up dal makhani, butter chicken, and lamb rojgan josh. Will and I have cheated at indian food before, using premade kits and frozen naan from Trader Joe's (although I must give Will props and say that with spices, he can make some fantastic indian tandoori meats). We've always been pleased with the results so we thought we'd try again, just this time, more from scratch. I prefer making something from scratch than eating premade goop that you heat up in a bag anyway.
Since we couldn't find naan in the store yesterday, I decided to make it using this recipe. I didn't grill it; instead, we baked it in the oven. My naan came out quite thick and too sweet (1/4 cup of a sugar is too much, IMHO). It doesn't taste bad at all; in fact, its almost like a yeast roll, just flat. Next time I will try this recipe and see if its better (although I will probably still bake it instead of fry it).
The dal makhani was fantastic! At first I was really worried when I added the tomatoes/onions to the lentils - it just looked funky. However, when I added a small amount of cream and simmered it - tada! It turned perfect. It definitely didn't lack in flavor, but its spice temperature was very mild so I kicked mine up a notch with sriracha. I'm not sure how I could make it hotter without adding red chili flakes. I'll have to think on it. Hmmm.
The butter chicken was absolute heaven. I thought it was just as good as you could get in a restaurant. Again, while spicy, it was not hot (does that make sense? I'm saying it was flavorful, but very mild heat). I felt the sriracha would change the flavor too much so I just ate it as was. I didn't do anything to the chicken before simmering it in the sauce - maybe next time I will marinate in yogurt and spices. I also didn't add the crushed cashews that were in the recipe - to be honest, I just forgot until now! ooops! But to be honest, I think it was just fine as it was and nuts would just add extra calories so its probably just as well that they were left out (save the cashews for a snack!).
I didn't cook the brown basmati rice long enough. Ooops. I was tickled to find brown basmati rice in the grocery store. How nice! I like it better than traditional brown rice. yay!
All in all, I would say it was a successful meal. Indian food is one of my favorite things, but its one of the more expensive types of cuisine here so to be able to make it at home saves some dollars and results in awesome leftovers. I think we're going to have that dal for at least another week - it made so much! You can bet that these kits will be in my shipment back home!
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
The steep way down to the bottom - view from the top! Stairs plus sand dune = beautiful beach time!
Monday, January 5, 2009
The sweet sweet grandmas
Here's the rundown (with lots of links for me to remember places to go next time!):
We stayed at a really inexpensive self-catering guest house in the central business district of Cape Town. $80/night for a two bedroom apartment? Awesome! Better yet that it was within walking distance of the Company Gardens and lots of great restaurants and shops.
On Monday we drove to Paarl/Franschhoek because the rather was cold and rainy. Based on recommendations, we went to Fairview, which may be my favorite winery just because they have yummy wine, fabulous cheese, and funny goats that climb on a tower! Afterwards we went to Graham Beck and I had a fantastic sparkling wine sampler. We drove into town, which is set against the mountains and full of great shops and restaurants. Based on yet another recommendation, we ate at French Connection, which was super yummy. We shopped around for awhile (my lone souvenir is a turquoise leather fly swatter!) and then headed to Lindhorst, which had fantastic wine. We headed back to Cape Town and walked around Long Street and decided to eat at Maharajah, an indian restaurant that lacked in atmosphere but made up in yummy food.
Tuesday we headed to the Cape of Good Hope, which was AMAZING! The drive down the coast line was beautiful and we passed through all sorts of fun towns. At the Cape, we decided to take the walk and went down a rickity boardwalk and stairs and an extremely steep sand dune to get to Diaz Beach. It was fantastic exercise and well worth the excellent views. I really loved the Cape of Good Hope and would love to spend more time there. Its the southernmost point of the African continent and is also where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet.
Afterwards, we ate lunch in Kalk Bay at Cafe Olympia, which was FANTASTIC. That evening we attempted Table Mountain, but found it had closed due to windy weather. We sat in traffic to get there for well over an hour! Yuck. We headed back to the V&A waterfront and ate at Balducci's, which was disappointing as we all wanted sushi and for whatever reason, you had to sit in a different part of the restaurant to order it. Bummer!
Wednesday was New Year's Eve. We headed to the V&A Waterfront and took a boat ride out to Robben Island, where we could see the prison and the ships wrecked along the shore. We also saw seals, dolphins, and one whale on the ride. It was very relaxing and fun! We ate lunch at the waterfront and people watched for awhile. That evening we headed to Long Street and spent New Year's Eve at an Irish Pub called the Dubliner. It was a very different new year's for me as I never even heard a count down from where I stood upstairs looking out at the street - just people cheering at midnight!
On New Year's Day we went to an alpine slide that was fun! We also drove around town, taking in Constantia, Hout Boy, and Camp's Bay. For dinner we went to my favorite restaurant in South Africa - 95 Keerom. YUM. We had fantastic fish carpaccio, I had the yummy canneloni again, Will and Christy had delicious gorgonzola gnocchi (YUM!), Steph had fab ravioli, and Will had an amazing trio of game meats (Springbok, Kudu, and Wildebeest). Dessert was amazing too! It was all so yummy and definitely ranked in one of my top 10 dining experiences of all time. The best part? It is SO INEXPENSIVE! We had top quality wine, appetizers, pastas, main courses, and dessert for $45 each.
Friday we visited Stellenbosch, another wine region in the Western Cape. We started off at Spier, which is a huge winery and conference center. They even had a cheetah reserve! Next we had a fabulous wine and treat pairing at Lanzerac, which was fantastic. The grounds of the winery and hotel were absolutely stunning. We quickly ate lunch and headed to Neil Ellis, another stunning winery. The finale was Waterford, where we had 11 wines to taste plus a chocolate pairing. There was an indian spiced dark chocolate, a dark chocolate made with rock salt, and a milk chocolate made to taste like roses. I like the first two chocolates but the last was terrible! It was like eating soap. Based on multiple recommendations, we tried out Bukhara Indian restaurant. We sat outside on their 2nd floor patio and had an amazing meal! The perfect end to a day of wine tasting.
Saturday we went shopping at Green Market Square, ate FANTASTIC burgers at Cafe Royale, and went up to Table Mountain, which was finally clear (although a bit cloudy when we got up there).
All in all, it was a fabulous trip filled with good times, yummy wine and food, and fantastic scenery. Pictures to come soon!