Burfday 32

Let me tell you about my friend, 3 Day Birthday Weekend. She was pretty badass, and her surprise visit helped me jump into 32 with much awesomeness.

Here’s what happened: on Thursday night, we made chilli hotdogs and watched Goodfellas. We decided to go hard core with the chilli dogs and we replaced the buns with Turkish bread rolls. The result was CHILLI DOG MOUNTAIN, a gut busting pile of meat and bread and coleslaw that left us struggling to live after we cleared our plates and feeling ill afterward. I’m not sure why we felt compelled to have a whole pile each. This meal shall hence forth be known as “Chilli Dog Hubris”

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#heartattack

On Friday, we woke up to eggs and bacon, and made our way to my mothership – Ikea. I could go to Ikea every weekend, because Ikea is goddamn awesome. It’s a wonderland of Swedish modular design, $1 hotdogs, and words with Ü’s in them – much awesome. But really, I love walking around the show room and touching everything in the tiny apartments. Joel likes Ikea, too, but not on the slightly concerning level that I do. And he really hates crowds. But he came along because he loves me. Yes.

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calm down there, buddy.

Although, now that I live in a tiny apartment, I’m bummed out that Ikea’s definition of teeny tiny apartment living and reality’s definition of teeny tiny apartment living are drastically different. I would love to see a 500sqft Ikea apartment where the kitchen is in the lounge and the lounge is actually a small rectangle shaped room that’s a lounge/dining room/office/bedroom and where you can’t nail or drill into, or use command hooks on ANY the walls. Show me how you’d make this space the most efficient, Ikea. SHOW ME.

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Things we want but have no room for for $500, Alex.

After some fantasizing about a place big enough for a butcher block kitchen island and full size sofas and comfy arm chairs, we wandered to the market place to get what we came for – new dishes. No more stolen plates with scrape marks and no more stolen pint glasses. Come over for dinner, and you’ll be served on the finest stonewear that Sweden has to offer (totally). And your spoons and forks will be shiny and matching. We are officially adults.

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matchy matchy
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We also picked up some wooden salad bowls and turrets.
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adult living

I really wanted to get a shelving unit that would make better use out of the space we have for Joel’s camera gear, but we didn’t plan it very well and couldn’t agree on what would work best. So instead of buying something that might work, we just scrapped the plans altogether – like a real person would do. This was an Audrey first, as I am queen of “just buy it and hope for the best, or return it later.” I feel like I grew up a little.

We left Ikea with our big blue bags and spent the rest of the day napping and obsessively rearranging (ok maybe that was just me). That evening, we met up with some friends at the pub down the street for a few games of pool (I’m improving at a glacial pace, but it’s still fun), and then home for a late dinner and Casino (one of us has been on a crime flick kick. It’s Joel.) 

Saturday brought us MY BIRTHDAY! Joel woke me up with presents in bed, and we had coffee and sat around until it was time for brunch with Joel’s mum’s side of the family.

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presents!

We finally got to try the Italian place we’ve been curious about, Dulcis Domus. The food did not disappoint, and I was spoiled within an inch of my life because Joel’s family is ridiculously thoughtful when it comes to gifting.

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Truffled eggs, grilled halumi and avocado salad on a milk bun – yes plz. And Joel’s Belgian Waffle topped with Strawberry sorbet and served up with 2 fists full of bacon. /drool
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BURFDAY CHAMPERS
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Joel’s mum gave me a gorgeous beret, which was quickly absconded by my apparently beret loving boyfriend. And uh… yeah. I’ll allow it. #hot 

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Stuffed with lunch, I came home to play with my presents and make the ultimate birthday pie for us to eat that night – Honey Walnut Banana Cream Pie.

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And in true Audrey style, I didn’t re-read the basic recipe before I waited til Saturday to make the pie, and thus I forgot that it takes 4-6 hours to set, and is actually best when you let it set overnight. Shit. So I made the pie anyway, and later we had Birthday Ice Cream Pint while we watched Sherpa, a documentary about sherpas rebelling on Mt Everest

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eh, close enough.

Sunday I basically spent in planning mode – scouting and measuring and drawing up ideas for our office space:

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Followed by lots of reading and chill, an amazing salmon dinner by yours truely, and one glorious Banana Cream Pie photoshoot by Joel.

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Not even going to lie, new dishes make me want to eat at the table ALL THE TIME.
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An artist prepares
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Unghhh get inside me.
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Dat honey drizzle.
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The pie is good, but Joel’s photos make it look INCREDIBLE.
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and I wish I was eating it RIGHT NOW.

 

All in all, it was a great weekend, full of fat and naps and food and friends and a surprisingly large amount of Ray Liotta.

Last year, my birthday came about during a time when I was really unhappy with myself, my work, my health, and yeah, everything because I was really just in a shit place. I didn’t want anyone to know it was my birthday, I didn’t want presents, and I just wanted to hide. I had a busy day at work combined with a lunch outing that stressed me out because it meant talking to people when I just wanted to lie under my desk in fetal position, then Joel took me out to dinner after work, and not only could I not eat, but I threw up three times. It was awful. And I felt wretched about the entire fiasco, so I set myself up on a strict GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER plan that I of course, failed because giving yourself too many challenging goals too soon is exactly what you need when you have the emotional strength of wet paper. So for the next two month I stagnated, miserably obsessing over who I was and what I was doing and all the time I was wasting. I ended up going from a shit place to a real shit place.

Ah, 31 was a fuckin’ banner year.

I’m much happier to report that this year, I felt the exact opposite. I told everyone who’d listen that it was my birthday. I don’t know if it’s therapy, or the change in jobs, or what – but I feel more … optimistic. Like everything is going to be ok. And last night as we sat in Julian’s kitchen with friends and everyone eating the rest of the Banana Cream Pie on a night that I would have bailed on before, I thought to myself, “If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”

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32 feels good, you guys. And I’m excited.

Spam?

I’m not sure how it started–maybe on a Christmas eve when my mom didn’t have time to shop for stocking stuffers and just grabbed things at random from the kitchen–but now it’s a tradition that the Turner Christmas stocking includes: duct tape, packets of brown gravy, a can of Easy Cheese, and a can of Spam. It’s essentially everything you would need to survive if the world ended, as duct tape fixes everything, and these food items never seem to expire. The gravy packets always ended up back in the kitchen, along with the Easy Cheese, but we never touched the Spam.

Spam has always been a joke food in my family. There’s something about canned meat that seems unholy and weird–last ditch food in a post-nuclear wasteland. I’ve always loved Spam as a novelty, the branding that never changed, the creepiness of canned mystery meat, the unapologetic honesty of its advertising: cheap meat, meat like flavor.

spam_spread_ad_19751Also, we’re all Monty Python fans, so there’s that.

So when Joel opened his stocking this year and held out the ubiquitous meat like product, I figured we’d just pop it on the window sill and use it for decoration, as I have before. But then we had a better idea: why don’t we try cooking with it?

I couldn’t remember the last time I’d tried Spam, and neither could Joel. I was pretty sure it’d taste like all mystery meat — vaguely like chicken-beef and with the texture of ham. Like a canned hot dog. Or it would just poison us, as I imagine all canned meat will do. Meat just isn’t supposed to sit on the counter. But, I remembered my Quest To Try All The Trashy Foods, and I agreed to try it. For science.

We scanned through recipes, and most of them sounded pretty good. Except for the Spam Musubi–even if our friend Barry is a fan. One recipe even claimed that Spam, once diced and fried, tastes a lot like bacon. And that Spam and Pineapple pizza is a delicacy in Hawaii. It came down to a recipe for Spam Fried Rice, and Spam Pineapple Pizza, but the pizza won over because we had a frozen pizza crust that needed to be eaten. /priorities

So we set out to make Fried Spam and Pineapple Pizza. what happens next will startle you.

onion choppin'
onion choppin’
Spam slicin'
Spam slicin’
Spam and onion fryin'
Spam and onion fryin’
mmmm
mmmm
Pile it on a crust that's spread with tomato paste
Pile it on a crust that’s spread with tomato paste
Add the pineapple. I loathe pineapple, so watching this made me gag.
Add the pineapple. I loathe pineapple, so watching this made me gag.
Top with BBQ sauce
Top with BBQ sauce
And green pepper
And green pepper
GRATE DAT CHEESE.
GRATE DAT CHEESE. Pro-tip: cheese is always better if you grate it yourself.
Top with spinach so you think you're eating healthy
Top with spinach so you think you’re eating healthy
and add more BBQ sauce to remind yourself you're not eating healthy
and add more BBQ sauce to remind yourself you’re not eating healthy
add cheese
add cheese
AND MORE CHEESE
ADD MORE CHEESE
be careful when you're putting it into the oven. Or the crust might snap and you might loose 1/4 of your pizza...
be careful when you’re putting it into the oven. Or the crust might fold and you might loose 1/4 of your pizza.
Viola!
Viola!
Joel added some props for effect.
Joel added some props for effect.

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aw ysssss
aw ysssss

The result: surprisingly delicious. I’m especially floored, considering this is a food whose two main ingredients are canned meat and pineapple i.e. the top two on my List of Shit I Won’t Eat, and all I’ve been able to think about this morning is putting the remaining slice in the oven and mowing it down. Even with the pineapple. The Spam was soft, but it had a buttery, bacon-y taste that defied all my expectations. And the pineapple and BBQ sauce set it off perfectly. Our crust was a little soft, but it didn’t matter. I could also see this as a wrap or a pita style sandwich.

I am a Spam convert. I feel so dirty.

My trash palate has won again. +10 would eat again.

Fried Spam and Pineapple Pizza

1/2 can tomato paste
1 pizza crust
1 brown onion, diced
1 can Spam, diced
1 can diced pineapple (more or less, your discretion)
1/3 cup green pepper
2 large hand fulls of spinach leaves
2 cups mozzarella cheese (we used a mozz/cheddar blend)BBQ sauce
Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning (optional, but we use this on everything)
Olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 220*C/350*F
2. Spread a smidger of olive oil and as much tomato sauce as you need on the pizza crust
3. Dice onion and Spam
4. Brown onion over medium heat with olive oil, add Spam. Fry Spam with onion until the edges brown.
5. Add Spam and onions to pizza crust
6. Add Pineapple
7. Add BBQ sauce and a slight scattering of cheese
8. Add green pepper
9. Add seasoning
10. Add spinach
11. Add BBQ sauce
12. Add more seasoning
13. Add cheese
14. Bake in oven until cheese bubbles
15. ENJOY

Novice Kitchen: We have become… Banananimal

photoOver the weekend, I had an incredible craving for banana cream pudding. It’s possibly the best pudding ever in the world, especially when it’s homemade. What’s better than banana pudding tossed with ‘Nilla wafers and sliced banana, and topped with whipped cream? Hardly anything? That’s right.

This craving was troublesome, since pudding as I know it here is something completely different: it’s a cake.

a Christmas plum pudding. Note the not-pudding like texture. of the pudding. (source)

So, no aisles full of instant pudding boxes in the grocery store. Strike out. Resume desert-induced depression.

What in the name of Bill Cosby do I do?

But then, Cosby-devined intervention came through: “I could make some. Like home made banana pudding.” Granted, the closest I’ve ever come to home-made banana pudding is throwing 2 cups of milk into a bowl with Banana flavored Jell-o pudding, letting it chill, slicing bananas, dousing it with Reddi-Whip, and eating the entire bowl. I started looking up recipes for ‘from-scratch’ banana pudding, but they were super Southern and filled with scary terms like “corn starch” and “double boiling” and “separated egg whites.” To complicate matters further, I couldn’t find ‘Nilla wafers, or even plain vanilla cookies in our store. Double farts.

I decided not to let it get me down, though. The two cookbooks I have with me from the states didn’t have a recipe I could use, but the internet is dark and full of terrors a lovely treasure box of food noms. And lo and behold, I came across The Baker Chick’s recipe for Homemade Banana Pudding. It looked easy enough to follow, and I was pretty sure I could find all the ingredients, or their Australian equivalent. I wasn’t excited about the 10 minutes of constant whisking, but it sounded easier than double boiling (which I’ve only tried once and it ended terribly). I’ll admit, at first I read the recipe because I liked the look of her site, but, I was sold on how her banana pudding looked closest to mid-west Banana pudding I’m used to eating (did you know that Southern people eat it hot, right off the stove? ew.)

So, yesterday, on a cold, cloudy day, I got to makin’ puddin’.

All you need. I substituted short bread biscuits for my longingly absent 'Nilla wafers.
All you need. I substituted short bread biscuits for my longingly absent ‘Nilla wafers.
Cue me standing in the grocery aisle Googling "what other names does corn starch have?" "is icing sugar the same as powdered sugar?" living abroad, bitches.
Cue me standing in the grocery aisle Googling “what other names does corn starch have?” “is icing sugar the same as powdered sugar?” #livingabroad, bitches.
Um, I also haven't figured out the metric to imperial conversions. When an American recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of butter, and Australian butter is served in 50g units, how many grams do you need? Answer, 3 and a guess. Maybe. I hate math.
Um, I also haven’t figured out the metric to imperial conversions. When an American recipe calls for 3 tablespoons of butter, and Australian butter is served in 50g units, how many grams do you need? Answer, 3 and a guess. Maybe. I hate math.
So, mix all the solids and the milk and the vanilla and the egg yolks and the egg together and put over medium heat. Yum?
So, mix all the solids and the milk and the vanilla and the egg yolks and the egg together and put over medium heat. Yum?
And whisk. Forever.
And whisk. Forever.
You'll whisk better if you wear your most unflattering clothing and stare at the heating pudding with an expression of pained regret. Also, fun aprons make everything better. This one belonged to my great grandmother and could be equally at home on Madmen.
You’ll whisk better if you wear your most unflattering clothing and stare at the pudding with an expression of pained regret. Also, fun aprons make everything better. This one belonged to my great grandmother and could be equally at home on Madmen’s Megan Draper. Except Megan Draper couldn’t pull off this sexy ensemble.
"Hey! I love carpal tunnel!"
“Hey! I love carpal tunnel!”
14 minutes in, the pudding still wasn't thickening, so I let Joel have a turn. /strategy
14 minutes in, the pudding still wasn’t thickening, so I let Joel have a turn. /strategy
He must have had a magic touch, because it thickened immediately after he stopped whisking.
He must have had a magic touch, because it thickened immediately after he stopped whisking.
Add dat butter.
Once thick and bubbly, Paula Deen that shit.
Cool dat pudding. I left mine in the fridge for about 40 mins.
As soon as the butter melts, and the lumps are stirred out, cool it. I left mine in the fridge for about 40 mins.
Set up! Banana pudding is the best excuse to get rid of your old bananas.
Set up! Banana pudding is the best excuse to get rid of your old bananas.
I made a layer of short bread wafers, and then 2 sliced bananas.
I made a layer of short bread wafers, and then 2 sliced bananas.
next, a layer of pudding and more bananas
next, a layer of pudding and more bananas
And then a layer of crushed up shortbread cookies
And then a layer of crushed up shortbread cookies
Get inside of me.
Get inside of me.
Next, wait 5-6 painstaking hours for it to settle. I think the longer pudding sets in the fridge, the better it is.
Next, wait 5-6 painstaking hours for it to settle. I think the longer pudding sets in the fridge, the better it is.
I tried to make whipped cream, and I learned that thickened cream is not the same as whipping cream. This is after 8 minutes of whisking. I also learned that cream + sugar = delicious cream sugar soup. And my stomach hurt for about 2 hours because I have no self control.
I tried to make whipped cream, and I learned that thickened cream is not the same as whipping cream. This is after 8 minutes of whisking. I also learned that cream + sugar = delicious cream sugar soup. And my stomach hurt for about 2 hours because I have no self control. Spoon left for shame evidence.
5 hours later, we had pudding!
5 hours later, we had pudding! The lighting here makes this look like egg salad, but I assure you: this is not egg salad. It is the most perfect pudding I’ve ever made.
Pudding in tea cups, aw yiss.
Pudding in tea cups, aw yiss.
Joel's first American pudding experience. It was a grand success. This is the "stop taking my picture and let me eat this pudding" face.
A man with a mouth full of pudding: Joel’s first American pudding experience. This is the “stop taking my picture and let me eat this pudding” face.

This pudding was incredible, even without whipped topping. Homemade whipped cream would have been amazing, though. Ah, well. The search continues for whipping cream!

In the mean time, I have one of my most favorite comfort foods ever waiting for me in the fridge.

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Time to eat!

Homemade Banana Pudding adapted from The Baker Chick.

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup + 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 4 and 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 egg yolks, room temperature
  • 3 cups whole milk (don’t substitute for anything else, or it won’t be as rich)
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 4 large (ripe) bananas, sliced thinly
  • 1 batch of homemade vanilla wafers* (or 10 oz. of store bought ones.) (or shortbread wafers.)
  • 1 cup heavy cream (not thickened cream)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup powdered sugar

Instructions

    1. In a medium sauce pan over medium heat, combine the sugar, cornstarch, egg, egg yolk, whole milk, vanilla extract, and salt. Whisk together until combined, then continue whisking constantly for about 10 minutes, until the pudding thickens and starts to bubble.
    2. Add in the butter, remove from the heat, and whisk until completely melted. If there are any lumps, pour the pudding through a mesh sieve into a separate bowl. Allow pudding to sit in the fridge for 20-30 minutes, until cool to the touch.
To assemble
  1. First, place a layer of bananas in the bottom of a round 9 inch bowl (or something of similar size), then a layer of vanilla wafers (it doesn’t have to be perfect, because when you scoop up the pudding to serve, everything gets served together), then a layer of pudding.
  2. Repeat this banana, wafer, pudding layering until the last layer is pudding. Place in the fridge for 5-6 hours, covered in tin foil or plastic wrap. (I chilled mine overnight and in the morning it tasted perfect!)
  3. When the pudding is ready, Put your mixing bowl and beaters in the freezer for about 5/10 minutes or until very cold. Then, whip together the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract until peaks form, about 5 minutes at the most.
  4. Top the pudding with the whipped cream, then sprinkle some crushed wafers over the top of the pudding. Keeps well in the fridge for 3 days. Serves 8.

*fun fact – American style pudding is actually custard, which The New Food Lover’s Companion defines as a dessert made with a sweetened mixture of milk and eggs that can be either baked or stirred using gentle heat. I always thought custard was a gross kind of ice cream. And now I know better.

On the Subject of Meatloaf

Noooo, meatloaf. Not Meat Loaf.

The first meal I remember my mom teaching me how to cook is meatloaf. Somewhere in my storage boxes at home, I still have her recipe that she wrote out for me, on her stationary whose border had a mother rabbit in a dress, surrounded by [presumably] her baby rabbits in little clothing, saying “Motherhood is a hare raising experience.” I liked making meatloaf because it was my job to mash all the veggies and whatnot into the meat. It was gross. And awesome.

I remember eating meatloaf a lot as a kid, because my parents are mid-western and meatloaf is a mid-west staple. But I can’t remember the last time she made it. And as Joel and I were flipping through a cookbook my mom gave us, his eyes landed on a meatloaf recipe and he lit up. As I was about to find out, Joel is a meatloaf fiend. And since we had hamburger in the freezer, vegetables in the fridge, and up til then, no clue what to do for dinner, we decided on meatloaf.

Prepping it was gross and awesome like it when I was a kid–just mushing together a pile of cold hamburger and egg and cut vegetables, and topping it with tomato sauce. It looked like a pile of wet slop. But after two hours of baking, it was delicious.

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I didn’t take more photos, because I didn’t think this meal was going to be a success. But, shit. Meatloaf might become a regular thing now. I paired it with golden potatoes that I mashed with thickened cream and real butter. And it was so good.

What I didn’t realize until I put all the ingredients together is that 2 lbs of meatloaf can feed like, 20 people. Whoops. But now I understand why it’s a family staple. It’s easy to prepare, uses up your old veggies (or frozen veggies, even easier), is child friendly, doesn’t need constant tending, and will feed you for days. Like tonight, when we had fried meat loaf sandwiches.

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Meatloaf for days. Or as Joel put it, “Alright, second hand meat!”

Yeah… That quote is the only reason I wanted to post about this.

Enjoy!

Hattie’s Meatloaf
From Talk About Good
by Hattie Mae Perry

Ingredients:
2 pounds ground beef
2 eggs, well beaten
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
1/4 bell pepper, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pepper, more if desired
2 slices bacon (optional, I went without, because bacon is different here)
1 can tomato sauce
*I added carrot, celery, and corn, because vegetables are yum. I also added a healthy dose of Tony Chachere’s Cajun seasoning because yes. It goes on everything.

Mix meat, egg, onion, bell pepper, parsley, salt and pepper in a large bowl. When mixed, form into a 9 X 5 inch loaf pan.

Place the two slices of bacon over the meat loaf and cover with tomato sauce.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, or 170*C for 2 hours.
Approximately 8-10,000 servings.