Cook this: orange, cranberry & rosemary cake

There are some really great things about being part of the food and travel blogging community. You make new friends all over the world, get some great ideas to add to the bucket list, always have like-minded people to bounce ideas off, and best of all, always have great new recipes to try  : )

I saw this one on Rachel’s site, Emerging Adult Eats, last week, and immediately added oranges and cranberries to my shopping list. I love orange and cranberry – one of my favourite old recipes is orange, cranberry and oat cookies. I was also really intrigued by Rachel’s addition of rosemary, for a savoury touch… I intended to make this as more of a cake than a bread, and planned on omitting the rosemary, but once the matter was made and tasted before being poured into the tin, I decided to add a little dried rosemary that I had in the spice cupboard anyway – it just seemed the right thing to do.

Anyway, I made my only little adjustments, as I am want to do, and here’s how it went…

 

Ingredients:
– 2 ½ cups self-raising flour
– ½ cup caster sugar
– 3 eggs
– ½ cup olive oil
– ½ cup plain Greek yoghurt
– juice of 2 oranges
– zest of 2 oranges
– 1 tsp vanilla extract
– 1 cup dried cranberries
– pinch of salt
– 1 tsp dried rosemary
– ¼ cup mixed seeds (I used pepitas and sunflower seeds)

Method:
1. Preheat the oven to 170°C and grease a bread loaf tin.

2. Combine the flour and sugar in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

3. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, yoghurt, orange zest and juice, and the vanilla.

4. Whisk the wet ingredients into the flour until completely combined – you may have to scrape out the whisk a few times.

5. Finally, stir in the cranberries, salt and rosemary, pour the batter into the tin, and sprinkle the seeds over the top.

6. Bake for 40 – 50 minutes, until a skewer poked into the middle of the cake comes out clean.

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McCormick’s Grill Mates American BBQ Pitmaster Class & Dinner!

I’ve written before that this blog was started first and foremost for me. It was always designed to be my online journal, a place to record my food and travel adventures. So when my little blog is seen by others and my work deems me worthy of being invited to special events like this one, well it’s just a little bit exciting for me!

I received an email a few weeks ago with a generous invitation to attend a special American BBQ pitmaster class and dinner, in celebration of and collaboration with McCormick’s and their new Grill Mates American BBQ sauces, seasonings, dry rubs and marinades. I was absolutely thrilled to attend, because properly done American BBQ meat is something I love to eat and there’s plenty of it around right now as it’s been gaining massive popularity in Melbourne (particularly at places like The Gem, Le Bon Ton and Nieuw Amsterdam), but I actually don’t have a heap of knowledge on how to do it properly at home.

We arrived at Beer DeLuxe in Hawthorn on Monday night for an evening presented by the McCormick Grill Mates range, which are finally making their way to Aussie shores. We were greeted with big smiles, some pretty nice aprons, and a warning that we’d be getting our hands dirty throwing some food together and eating a LOT of meat! Chef Eric Luhning, his wonderful BBQ cohort Cassie, and their assistant Kat from BBQ School gave us the heads up that one of the several courses of the night involved 16kg of brisket. THAT’S a party!

And as if all that wasn’t amazing enough, I was over the moon to realise that one by one, some of the amazing women I’ve become friends with through blogging were turning up too – Terri at Little Wanderings (and her lovely partner who really knows his way around a salad table), Tian at Eat More, Mon at Mon’s Adventure (and her very irresponsible photographer who you shouldn’t allow in your tent while camping) and Karma at Good Food Good Karma. Let the good times roll!

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Once we all got settled, we were introduced to pitmaster Eric, who gave us an education on BBQ, using some of the 6 BBQs set up for the night – from what equipment to use, how to heat your coals, what to wrap your meat in and how to measure the done-ness of your meat, he covered it all. We thankfully also all got sent home with recipes and further instructions, we got to enjoy the show instead of worrying about writing notes!

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After round one of fun learning time, we made our way back inside to watch our entrees come together, using the Grill Mates range. Before I go on, let me give you a quick rundown of the range (which will now be available at Coles and some independent supermarkets):
Slow & Low BBQ Rubs
– Tennessee Smokehouse
– Smokin’ Texas

Burger Seasoning
– All Star
– Jalapeño & Cheddar

Dry Marinade
– Chipotle & Roasted Garlic

Sauces
– Sweet Pepper Steakhouse BBQ Sauce
– Brown Sugar Bourbon BBQ Sauce
– Vintage Smokehouse BBQ Sauce

For our entrees, we used that Jalapeño & Cheddar seasoning on some chicken along with a little coriander, which was thrown on the grill and cooked up for our quesadillas, and we got the All Star seasoning in with some beef mince and onion for our sliders. I followed the suggestions on the menu above, and put some of the Sweet Pepper Steakhouse BBQ Sauce on the slider, and tried the other two out with the quesadilla.

Let’s pause here for a second and talk product:
1. That Jalapeño & Cheddar seasoning is seriously delicious. Oh wow… strong enough to give the chicken an amazing flavour, subtle enough to allow the chicken to still taste like, well, chicken – perfect! I’m also thinking it’d be a perfect savoury popcorn seasoning…
2. Vintage Smokehouse BBQ Sauce – this will now be the BBQ sauce against which all other sauces shall be measured. For me, it was the perfect, smoky BBQ flavour which you could use with just about anything. I love.

Ok, let’s move on to more food for now. We got a crash course on brisket preparation, being encouraged to lovingly and thoroughly rub that slab of meat with reckless abandon. Mon certainly seemed to enjoy herself under some very passionate guidance from Chef Eric…

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While the meat that Chef Eric lovingly started cooking at 9am for our 8pm dinner was pulled off the heat and brought inside, a men versus women salad challenge was going down. 3 on 3, taking turns to choose two ingredients each. I hate to betray my fellow ladies, who certainly gave it a good crack, but the boys smashed it with their choices which included charred corn off the cob, lime, coriander, fresh chili, tomato and red onion. Top notch salad, boys!

But let’s get to the good stuff. The meat. The most tender pork imaginable, which had been marinaded with Chipotle & Roasted Garlic dry marinade was pulled and doused with BBQ sauce. A big, sexy lump of brisket, which had been paired off with the Smokin’ Texas BBQ Rub was sliced like butter. And the ribs, rubbed with the Tennessee Smokehouse, came out so tender that a knife wasn’t entirely necessary to separate them.

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Quick side note: I’ve also been reminded as I’m typing this that there was beer matching going on throughout the meal. Husband was the official beer taster, there was a pale ale, an IPA and a stout involved, and they were all very good I’m sorry I can’t tell you more – I’m not a beer girl, myself! He was also a happy man because he got the “money muscle,” that sexy bit of flesh below, all rendered and fatty and marvelous. Happy anniversary, love!

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Cassie and Kat kindly covered the table in deliciousness, and we just got stuck right into it…

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Not to state the obvious, but holy wow the food was INCREDIBLE!! Surprise dish of the night for everyone, I think, would have been the babyback ribs… I’m comfortable saying that they were the best, most magnificently cooked pieces of BBQ meat I’ve ever had the honour of eating.

As for the McCormick range that was used on the meat, A+. I’ll state the often unsaid obvious here, that when you’re invited to something like this, you’re usually a little skeptical about just how good the product is really going to be. Having tasted it myself,  I’ll quite happily join Burger Mary (AKA Jess Pryles) in endorsing this stuff, and I’m not even being paid to do it! The whole point of the range is to make American BBQ easier, less intimidating, more accessible and a little more entry level for us mere mortals who do not possess the mad BBQ skills of guys like Eric. Their aim is to take the really hard parts like making sure your proportions of seasonings are right and getting your apple wood chips to infuse smoke into your meat out of the process by ensuring that smoky flavour is already in the seasonings. And that’s something I’m all about – yes, it would be amazing to be a fully fledged pitmaster and do EVERYTHING from scratch, but the reality is that we don’t all have the time, knowledge or confidence for that. By having the right seasonings for the meat, you’ve already got a massive head start in making it all taste good, which means more people might be willing to give it a crack themselves!

After all of that, when a bleary eyed glance around the room showed the meat sweats and comas already kicking in, dessert was served – a cinnamon and chili BBQ brownie, which used some of the Grill Mates seasoning and was actually cooked using the BBQ! Amazing!

To cap of an amazing night, we were all spoiled with a gift box full of Grill Mates seasonings and sauces, and I was also lucky enough to walk away winning a shiny new Weber grill – cannot wait to get back from Japan so I can test this out!!! And thank you SO much McCormick’s – I honestly don’t win things very often/ever, so this was one hell of a prize for me, and such a great end to an amazing night!

S2, Ep1: one year on, a blog facelift, leaving my heart in New Orleans, and thanking you all :)

Don’t worry, you’re in the right place – it’s still me, I’ve just decided as a first birthday present to the blog, I’d honour the journey of the past 12 months a little better with a new and more fitting name, a facelift and a bit of a make over! A whole year… crazy!

I started this blog because I needed an outlet, and writing is what I’ve always turned to, as both a creative and emotional outlet. I’ve spent my whole life writing; even as a kid, I never went anywhere without a pencil and paper. When I started writing here 12 months ago, I was finally starting to find myself and what makes me happy instead of putting all of my energy into trying to conform to what I thought I was “supposed” to be. In short, I was feeling pretty ordinary. I had crazy dreams, but I, myself, felt an ordinary little thing. It’s a hard lesson to learn that you actually don’t need to give a damn about what other people think of your choices, nor do you need to justify what you’re doing to anyone else. The things I like doing are what this blog is all about – travelling and eating and cooking and reading and learning and exploring, hence the name change! It’ll also hopefully make things a little easier for people to find me in cyberspace amongst the plethora of other blogs out there.

I read something ages ago, and can’t remember where I read it, but someone had been interviewed and said that they thought of blogs as a sort of a high tech time capsule – once something’s on the internet, it’s there forever, like it or not. I like the idea that in 100 years, maybe someone else sees some of this, and knows what the world was like for me and my generation. How extraordinary our dreams were, what we worked for, what we ate and what we read. I don’t flatter myself that I’m interesting or important enough for that, but you never know…

So, even though I write this primarily for me (which is why I write and post pretty much every day; it is literally my outlet and keeps me sane!), THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to everyone who’s read what I’ve had to say over the past year. Thank you for taking time out of your day to look at my photos and read my stories and leave your comments and share it all with me – now, I’m writing for you guys, too!

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I’ve also given the site a little change in appearance and photos – I thought after a year it was time 🙂 This post explained a bit about why I chose that photo I took in Egypt as the photo you’d first see when you visited my blog. That’s changed now; the first image you’ll see now will be New Orleans. For the same reason that you saw Egypt for the first 12 months – that city changed me, again.

It’s hard to really explain why. It’s another world. It wasn’t America, it was something all it’s own. You couldn’t pigeon hole it or really pin it down. It didn’t really conform to anything or fit any one definite box. That’s how I felt as a person when I got to New Orleans. Which, ironically enough, made me feel like I finally did fit and belong. People there did their thing, their own thing, without any fear. They were free. As someone who’s spent the best part of her life held back by fear, I was hypnotised by the thought of it. I had a lot of time to sit and think, over a cup of tea and some Café du Monde beignets. I wanted to make some changes in this new year. I felt like 2014 was my warm up, my pre-game. I was preparing myself, mentally, for shit to get real. I had all these things I wanted to do, but was too scared to actually just try them. I might fail. People might judge me. It might be the wrong thing. Maybe I’ll regret it later. Maybe I’ll regret not doing it…

I saw a psychic in New Orleans. We’d never met, obviously, but she was disturbingly accurate on everything she told me. It wasn’t a case of “you’re doing to die at this time and win the lotto with these numbers;” rather, she put a voice to my inner thoughts. Things I’d been thinking for a long time and hadn’t shared with anyone, not my sister or best friend or husband. She confirmed everything I had been thinking about. It was almost like she was my way out of fear, the “it’s meant to happen for you, so just get on with it” that I needed. I bought myself a silver ring at a little silversmith on a tiny street to remind me of that.

I’m back home now and, having taken her advice seriously, things are changing. Or, rather, I’m changing things. I’m starting a new job next week. I’ve booked a trip to Japan for later in the year. I’m making time for real friendships and letting go of toxic ones. I’m trying to trust more and love more, despite the possible consequences. I’m looking after my body a little better. I’m making time to read and write and draw again and tinker on my piano. And the hardest part of all, cliche be damned, I am trying to follow my heart and disregard the preconceptions and judgments of others. So, instead of welcoming people to my “ordinary” life from now on, please join me as I eat, travel, read and blog!  To make life easier for both myself and everyone who’s reading along, I have kept the URL for the site the same – we’re still at http://ordinarygirlextraordinarydreamer.com/ so no need to re-direct anywhere new!

I might have only been there a few days, but New Orleans was so good for me. It changed my soul. I felt like a completely different person there, and I’ll never be able to fully understand why. Maybe it was being around musicians and cooks and writers and artists and bohemians – I’m a bit of all of those at heart. It gave me the one thing I desperately needed. I can’t tell you exactly what that was, but I got it there, and my soul feels so much happier now  : )  So, thanks for sticking with me this long, I hope you guys hang around for a bit longer, because even though I started this for me, it wouldn’t be the same without all of you! On that note, let the adventure continue!