Sunday, December 13, 2015

Another round-up

So I've gone AWOL again and come back again....Here's what I've been up to in the interim:

Went overseas for my organization's annual meeting - 10 jam-packed days in Vienna...

...mostly work, but friend M and I managed to sneak out to a cafe one afternoon and sample two famous Viennese specialities - Sacher torte and apple strudel.

We finished off the conference with a gala dinner in the spectacular Vienna Rathaus...

...and then the next day it was off to Amsterdam to another conference, this one the annual meeting of one of our partners. I had about 3 days there, and one free afternoon which featured a visit to the Van Gogh Museum, a World Cup rugby match in an Irish pub, and a wander through the streets and canals in between.

Then it was off again, for a flying visit to Boston en route to spend a week in western Mass. with my sister-in-law R and brand-new niece Miss D. I fuelled up for my drive with an Australian-style coffee from the cafe in my old neighborhood.

I was gone for nearly 3 weeks - by far my longest solo trip since Miss B arrived more than a decade ago. I got back to Canberra with spring well underway in late October, and snapped this to send back to R and lighten her sleep deprivation with a laugh.

Ten days after I got home, it was DP's turn for a road trip and my turn to keep the house running. Crumpets are a tradition now when DP goes away, and this was the best batch yet - not least because for the first time I made the dough the night before, cutting down on the yeast and stashing it in the fridge to rise slowly over night. In the morning there was no waiting, and the extra time for the dough to develop improved the flavor.

More signs of spring - some talented gardeners in our new neighborhood!

DP came back in late November, and I was off again - but this time just a 2-day hop down the road to Melbourne for our regional symposium. I managed to fit in a morning run around Carlton Gardens and captured some typically changeable Melbourne weather...

...and then it was back home to plunge into prep for Thanksgiving! We pushed our celebration back to Saturday this year to accommodate my trip, so I took Friday off to get my planning and prep organized.

And get my contributions to the desserts sorted: 3 apple pies, one small raspberry pie for Miss B, and this year's experimental pie - smitten kitchen's nutmeg-maple cream (a hit!).

As usual, I didn't manage to take any good pictures during the event itself - we had 35 people for dinner, including the 3 of us, and by all accounts a good time and a major feast was had by all, including yours truly. And I thoroughly enjoyed the post-celebration rituals as well - sleeping in, pie for breakfast, and lounging on the deck enjoying the flowers and swapping stories from the night before.

Aside from Thanksgiving, I've managed to do some regular cooking as well:

This pork larb that I mentioned about a year ago is back in heavy rotation. I don't know if you can read my scribbles, but that's basically the entire recipe - heat some oil and saute some garlic and chili, then tip in about 450g/1lb pork mince and cook. While that's cooking, mix together a sauce of soy, fish sauce, and brown sugar (I use 1 part fish sauce and brown sugar to 2 parts soy). When pork is just about cooked, chuck in a few big handfuls of spinach to wilt in the heat, then mix in the sauce. Serve over rice with a squeeze of lime juice and some chopped spring onion and herbs. (I get the rice going first and the rest of it comes together by the time the rice is cooked.)

Strawberry season is in full swing, and I've been alternating between making strawberry jam and roasted strawberry compote, shown here - basically tossing strawberries with sugar and a splash of balsamic in a baking dish, then putting into a 180C/350F oven for 45-60 minutes. I stir into yogurt, pour over pancakes, and occasionally eat straight out of the jar.

I also tried an experiment with making Russian tea cakes as a slice-and-bake cookie - delicious, but no structural integrity. They basically fell apart as soon as you picked them up. So I'll be sticking with the original shape for upcoming Christmas baking.

And finally, I'm experimenting with cold-brewed coffee - perfect for summer iced coffees and might save a bit of money too on my daily coffee shop habit!

Phew! That's all the news for now from here; hope all is well where you are too?
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