Sunday, January 22, 2012

Cooking from Scratch; Blueberry Cobbler!

                               I had such great success with brownies from scratch, I was excited to try something new. Picking the next recipe was easy since cobblers have always been one of my favorite treats. The tartness of the berries combined with the warmth of the crust is a little piece of delicious heaven.
 I was hoping to make a Blackberry Cobbler. Unfortunately for me blackberries don't seem to be in season this time of year, and the local market didn't carry any. They did however, have a ton of Blueberries. I learned that in Australia, Blueberry season starts in December and goes on through until April. So even though I couldn't find my berry of choice, the blue variety were in abundance and looked delicious.

You can find the original recipe from  here.

Yummy Blueberry Cobbler

  • 3 cups fresh blueberries
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 1/8 cups white sugar
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3/4 cup whole milk

  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 pinch ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup boiling water


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease an 11x7 inch baking dish.
  2. Spread the blueberries out to cover the entire bottom of the baking dish. Squeeze the juice from the lemon over them. In a medium bowl, stir together the butter and 1 1/8 cups sugar until smooth. Stir in flour and baking powder alternately with the milk until smooth. Batter will be thin. Spoon over the berries, and spread evenly.
  3. In a small bowl, stir together 1 1/2 cups of sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Sprinkle over the top of the batter. Dust with a pinch of cinnamon, then pour the boiling water over the entire dish.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes in the preheated oven, or until golden brown.

Based on reviews this recipe received, I made a few minor changes. Most replies stated that the cobbler was too sweet. So based on their comments, I reduced the sugar for 1 1/2 cups to 3/4 cup. For good measure I also added 1 Teaspoon of vanilla extract. 

And the verdict? I'm glad I made the changes I did.The berries were delicious, and the lemon gives it a little bit of zest.  The cobbler portion had great flavor (and not too sweet!) but was a little more cake like than I would have preferred. I like the kind that has a crisp and slightly crunchy topping. I will definitely be making this again, but might make additional alterations at the end for texture.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Soaping for Amateurs.

                        Now that I have more free time, I will be pursuing something I have wanted to do for a while now...... soap making! I've done research online, watched videos, read forums, and now feel ready to go for it. Since reading isn't the same as doing, I decided to take it slow and ordered a Melt and Pour starter kit, with a few extras.

I'll be getting a 2 pound slab of soap, 6 different scents (Sweet Pea, Best Friends, Oatmeal Milk and Honey, Lavender, Blue Sugar and Pink Sugar) and 3 Soap dyes (Red, Purple and Blue). Just for fun, I got a bit of Diamond Dust Mica Pigment to experiment with.
If it goes well, my next step will be to try Cold Process, if I get half as addicted as I think I might, we're going to be up to our eyeballs in soap!
When it arrives I'll take some photos, can't wait to give it a try.

Thank you Mrs. Goat!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Life in Australia. In Photos! 01/12/12

                           Here's a photo of our building.  Our apartment is in the center floor on the right hand side. You can see the balcony on the front, but there is a second one on the other side.  It's a brand new construction and we are the first tenants in our unit.

Amputated Leg Crossing!
I walk to the shops almost every morning (before it gets super hot since it's Summer time here). Australia doesn't have huge super markets like they do in the US. The closest they have is a store named Coles, but they don't have a great selection. So I go to the farmers market for fruits and vegetables, and a butcher for meat. 

Food (along with everything else) is incredibly expensive. Only buying what you can carry home is a great way to save money. Not only do you factor in price, but also the weight of an item. I haven't bought a 12 pack of soda since we've arrived. Who wants to lug that thing for 3 or 4 blocks? Anyway, I have to make a lot of little trips, but the exercise is great and it gets me out and about. 

For longer trips there is the train. Tyler takes it every day to work and back. It's super close and thankfully our apartment has double paned windows so you can't hear it unless they are open are open. It's hard to see from the photos, but it's a double decker train. I've ridden on the top floor once, it was pretty neat.  

Skate Park
Other side of the Skate Park
There is a really nice park on the next block. It has a cute entry way. On the floor has mosaic looking artwork in the shape of doves and flowers. Inside are enormous trees, a children's playground, and even a Tony Hawk looking skate park. It's tricked out with all kinds of graffiti. (For some reason, thinking of an Aussie tagger makes me giggle inside.) It seems to be the "cool" place for all the kids to hang out and it's usually pretty crowded in the afternoons.
There is also a croquet field behind my apartment building, that must be where all their grandparents go during the day, as I've never seen it empty during daylight hours. 

Couple of players in a heated game of croquet.

Brownies....from Scratch!

                                Since I have significantly more time on my hands than I've had in the past 10 years, I decided to do all those things I've always wanted to do. One of which, was to learn how to make more things from scratch. Shamelessly, the more "complicated" items have always came out of a box. When you work full time, trying to keep up with laundry and the housework, a boxed mix is a tasty time saver.... or so I thought.

I was in Coles (the local grocer), cruising the aisles to see the difference between their products, and the more familiar American ones. I came across their brownie mixes, and at $5 (that's Australian dollars!) and up a box, I decided it was time to learn how to do it myself.

I totally bombed my first attempt. You can view the recipe from  here

Absolutely Best Brownies

  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup self-rising flour
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour an 8x8 or 9x9 inch baking pan.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter and sugar. Add eggs, and mix well. Combine the flour, cocoa and salt; stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the vanilla and stir in walnuts if desired. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until edges are firm. Cool before cutting into squares.

It's completely my own fault, but I wasn't paying close enough attention and used the only pan I had on hand. This recipe was intended for an 8x8 or 9x9 pan, and the one I had was 9x13. So of course the brownies were spread too thin, and they burned. They look and tasted like tough chocolaty pancakes.

Luckily Round Two went much better. I searched around until I found a recipe intended for the correct pan size, and I came up with this one. Horrible name, great recipe.

Dump Bars


  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 9x13 inch pan.
  2. In a large bowl, stir together sugar, eggs, oil, and vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour, cocoa, and salt; mix into the egg mixture until just moistened. Spread the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips over the top.
  3. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in preheated oven, or until brownies start to pull away from the sides of the pan. Allow to cool before cutting into squares.

The only things I did differently was to sprinkle them with a bit of powdered sugar, and put the chocolate chips in the mix instead of just on top. These were great. Thick, fudgey and very moist. 
It took a couple tries, but success!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Welcome To Australia!

 Aussie Coke has names on the labels. I found mine!
                                I usually write about wax and scented products, but just about everything we own (except what we could fly with) is being shipped and is floating on a barge somewhere in the Pacific. So I'll be shifting away from that for a while, at least until our stuff arrives. But for the most part (even though I miss my candles and tarts!) It works out just fine, because as they say, "Inspiration is all around us", and being in a different country (and continent!) everyday is an adventure.

We visited Tyler's folks for Christmas, and flew out 3 days later from San Francisco to Sydney. It felt like we would never take off. We were on the tarmac for at least an hour and a half. For whatever reason (they didn't say) we sat at the gate for 45 minutes, and when we finally push off, a young woman across the aisle from us has a panic attack. Apparently it was her first flight (a 14 hour one at that!) and was having separation anxiety from her boyfriend. So the pilot comes out and speaks with her. To no avail it seemed, because we went back to the gate to let her off and ended up taking off another 45 minutes later.

Master bedroom. Look at the trees!
View from the back balcony.
One very long flight later, we arrived in Sydney with nothing except what we could fit in our luggage.  The apartment we leased is very nice. The appliances are Barbie sized, and you can fit about 4 towels in the washing machine, but the recessed lighting is great and the view from the windows is beautiful. It also has a enormous bathtub and a separate full sized shower.
We're close to the train which is great since we don't have our own cars here, and a large shopping mall is within walking distance. The first I've ever seen that had groceries and fresh food markets inside. We bought some items that couldn't fit in our luggage.  (Like some pots and pans, and an ironing board), then the next day we went to Ikea for some build it yourself furniture. Compared to most other furniture places, your money goes fairly far there, and as a side note....the Swedish Meatballs at their restaurant are really tasty!

Barbie's washer and dryer
 Aussie electrical sockets look depressed
So, all in all our first week here turned out really well. A year ago I never would have dreamed we would end up in Australia. It's funny how life turns out, and a good reminder to keep Faith because anything in this world is possible.
Tree outside my apartment. It's hard to see, but there is a black bird with a white rear in the center.