Monday, September 1, 2014

SJK Travels - Australia

I've just returned from down under and I had the most amazing trip! I made the loooooong haul (36 hour travel time), and my first stop was Townsville, a small town in North Eastern Australia. Billabong Sanctuary gave me the most giddy moments of the trip - I got to feed kangaroos!!! See my surprised-face above. AND I GOT TO HOLD A KOALA!

The little koala! Oooooh too much cuteness! I have to say - he clawed onto me for dear life and I had a few scratches to show for it, but it was worth it :)

And how about the scenery? The mountains near the beaches made for a totally different beach experience than I'm used to. I'm from Florida so I've seen some gorgeous coastline, but this - this was absolutely breathtaking. 

I picked up some Vegemite in Townsville and gave it a taste once I got home. It's really not half bad! I met a few Australians who gave me instructions on how to eat Vegemite:

How to eat Vegemite
1. Toast a slice of bread
2. Spread butter on the bread
3. Spread a THIN layer of Vegemite over the butter
4. Chow down

Seriously though, I kinda liked it! It's very savory and salty. I got a very strong soy sauce type flavor from it! My colleague who tried it with me said it tasted like strong, sharp cheese to him. I didn't get the cheesy notes, but it's definitely intense. Topped with some caramelized onions and a slice of tomato, Vegemite toast would be delish!

After Townsville I was off to Melbourne for a few days! Melbourne is actually the biggest city I've ever visited. I'm headed to New York City in October, and this was a nice primer! I BARELY scratched the surface of restaurants and attractions in Melbourne, but I crammed a good bit in during the few days I was there!

My favorite part of Melbourne was the little side streets lined with small shops and restaurants. These little streets were every foodie/shopper's paradise! With such a wide variety of specialty stores and local restaurants, it was difficult to tear myself away when it was time for work! Most stores and restaurants had open store fronts, which was something I didn't expect considering the weather! It was rainy and in the 50s and 40s while I was there, yet store fronts stayed wide open! I did like the open, artsy feel the open fronts gave everything though, even if I was a little cold while I shopped :)

I imagine this is true with many big cities, but Melbourne restaurants spanned a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. Naturally there are quite a few British restaurants, and there is definitely strong Asian influence in the cuisine, but I also saw a fair amount of Mediterranean restaurants! Getting a feel for Australian food was kind of a challenge, but maybe that's saying something - Melbourne definitely seemed like a melting pot. A few general things I noticed though, were lots of meat, lots of pumpkin, and lots of scones!

I ate dinner at Il Tempo, a small Italian restaurant on Degraves Street.  My dinner (pictured above) was Orecchiette Lamb Ragu with slow cooked lamb shoulder and peas *googly*eyes*. The lamb was tender and ultra savory and the peas brought a touch of sweet contrast. And personally I believe the most pasta, the better, so I was on board with the orecchiette ;) Italian comfort food at its finest.

The next morning I had a proper English breakfast at Hopetoun Tea Room! I love me some American breakfast with all the rich classics, do NOT get me wrong, but sometimes I get a hankering for fancy breakfast. I'm talking tea cups, scones with triple berry jam and double cream, and salmon with poached eggs, salmon roe, and crushed avocado over sourdough bread as pictured above. Unfortunately, I can't get breakfast like this in my home town. It's probably something that only exists in big cities. But between this breakfast and my favorite breakfast of all time in Vienna, my heart will long for fancy breakfasts for quite some time.

After breakfast it was off to Queen Victoria Market! With both indoor and outdoor shops, produce stands, and covered tables with clothing and other goods, it was kind of a combination of a farmer's market and flea market. And it was enormous! I found quite a few souvenirs ;) I picked up a St. Kilda footy scarf for myself (see below), locally roasted coffee beans for my parents, local wine for Paul, and breakfast for the next few days for myself. Again, it's probably a good thing that my shopping is strictly limited to what I can fit in my suitcase on the way home!

One of the highlights of my trip was an Australian Football League game at Etihad Stadium! As a huge American football fan (which Australians call "gridiron"), I HAD to see what Australian footy was all about. One of my Australian colleagues is a St. Kilda Saints fan, so I adopted St. Kilda as my footy team :) Scarf in tow, I attempted to understand the footy match, with admittedly little success. It's a rough, fast paced, high scoring, pad-less and helmet-less combination of American football, rugby, soccer, and basketball. They bounce the dang ball! It was so strange to watch, but FUN and intense.

The only drawback to my trip to Melbourne was the weather. My trip to Australia was 10 days long, so I of course checked the weather as I packed, but 10 day forecasts are only so reliable. Unfortunately it ended up being about 10 degrees colder in Melbourne than it was supposed to be, and I simply did not pack the proper clothing :( With the temperatures in the 40s and 50s and intermittent rain, I was shivering most of the trip! One of the best dinners I ate was a warm bowl of Chicken Teriyaki Ramen from Yuzu. The chicken was super tender, and the warm broth with ramen and veggies were exactly what I needed!

Unfortunately even with the above bowl of goodness I couldn't fend of my impending cold, and I spent the long journey home and the following week with a mean cold AND jet lag. Talk about the perfect storm! Eastward travel definitely causes worse jet lag than Westward travel, and the cold and the jet lag both made it hard to sleep, which made both things worse! Ugh.

If it wasn't for the cold, I really think I could have kicked the jet lag sooner! I've done surprisingly well with jet lag. I was completely adjusted to my destination time after the first night of sleep with all of my other long haul trips. I think the key is sleep deprivation (which isn't hard for me on planes). Keeping myself awake at all costs until my destination's proper night time worked for me in all cases besides the Eastward trip across the Pacific.

What are your travel essentials and tips?
Perhaps I'll do a post on some of the tips and tricks I've learned in my recent travels!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

SJK Travels - Asheville, Charlotte, & Savannah

I am SO thankful to have the opportunity to travel for my job, and my most recent work trip (plus taking the scenic route home) brought me to some lovely Southern cities! Our first stop was Asheville, North Carolina, followed by Charlotte, North Carolina to visit our good friends Dan and Laura, and we stopped in Savannah, Georgia for 24 hours on the way home. It was a whirlwind week full good eats like of peach-flavored alcoholic beverages, pimento cheese, and homemade biscuits (YUM).

This was my very first trip to Asheville! It was everything I hoped and heard it would be - an adorable Southern city with a youthful, earthy twist. And this makes for an amazing culinary experience! I ate many a classic Southern dish remixed in a healthy and/or extremely fresh farm-to-table way.

My first dinner was bison meatloaf with mashed potatoes and mushroom sage gravy + RJ Rockers Son of a Peach beer (and peanut butter pie for dessert!) from Pack's Tavern. This peach beer - oh my god. I'm pretty sure I gushed over this beer to the point of annoyance. The peach fragrance and taste was so strong (in a good way) BUT it wasn't overly sweet! Some fruity beers basically taste like fruit juice, but not this beer. The fruit flavor is very apparent without overtaking the beer with sweetness. Love it.

Asheville had some of the best breakfast spots I've had the pleasure of dining at. Two thumbs up for strawberry sunflower seed pancakes from Early Girl Eatery. Tupelo Honey Cafe's biscuits are tied for first (with Loveless Cafe in Nashville) on my list of best biscuits. And Green Sage Cafe made a meatless AND hearty breakfast consisting of a biscuit topped with crimini mushroom gravy, sauteed kale, sweet potato home fries, and scrambled eggs with parsley. I was QUITE pleased with the breakfasts Asheville had to offer!

Next stop was Charlotte, North Carolina to visit our dear friends Dan and Laura! We had mind-blowing kronuts at Fourth Ward Bread Co., which are a combination of croissants and donuts *googly*eyes*.

I fell in love with all of the TREES in the otherwise sleek and modern downtown! Every street felt like a park entrance. We ate a pretty epic brunch at The Asbury with modern, sophisticated twists on classic Southern dishes. Above is the guinea hen and waffles with collard greens and chorizo frittata with arugula, chevre, red pepper relish, and cilantro crema.

The final stop on our Southern tour was Savannah, Georgia! We loved walking around the City Market and did a hop-on-hop-off trolley tour to see the sights. 

My favorite Savannah culinary experience was the To-Go (whaaaaaat?! love it) Georgia Peach Sangria from Cafe at City Market! It's sweet and so refreshing. I made my own version when I got home! Paul and I spent a weekend sippin' on a batch of my Peach and Raspberry Sangria. Summery perfection.

A recurring menu item on this trip through the South was pimento cheese, and I wasn't mad about it. My favorite take on pimento cheese was the pimento cheese press from The District Cafe and Eatery. Roasted chicken, bacon, avocado, and house-made pimento cheese pressed in ciabatta - done and done. We cooled off a little right next door at Leopold's Ice Cream! I tell ya, beating the heat in Savannah was a challenge. I would definitely recommend visiting Savannah during a cool(er) time of the year, but overall, I loved it.

Stay tuned for more #SJKTravels adventures! I'm off to Australia in a few days EEEEEEEK!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Pineapple Cilantro Lime Marinade

Happy summertime, friends! Paul and I absolutely love firing up the grill in the summer. We both have a mild grilled-pineapple addiction, so oftentimes we throw together some shish kabobs with pineapple, bell peppers, onions, and either steak or chicken, make some rice, and boom! Dinner is done. I got to daydreaming about a marinade that would incorporate our love for pineapple and be perfect for grilling, and this pineapple cilantro lime marinade is what happened!

The smell of charcoal makes me so happy! Is that weird? Our new townhouse has a nice big back porch, so I'm excited to buy a patio set one of these days and throw a cookout! Kabobs are definitely crowd pleasers. You can get creative with different meat, fruit, and veggie combos with different marinades!

This marinade is so zesty and summery! The pineapple flavor is strong (in the best way) and the lime juice balances the sweetness nicely. I'm a sucker for cilantro, and I think it's the perfect herb in combination with the pineapple and lime. Last but not least, a little cumin and onion powder a bring some depth and a savory smokiness to the marinade. I hope you all enjoy it as much as I do!

Featured in La Petite Fashionista Magazine!

Pineapple Cilantro Lime Marinade
Marinade for 1 lb of meat
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Marinating Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1 lime (for zest and juice)
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/8 tsp black pepper

1. Rinse and chop cilantro.
2. Zest the lime.
3. Juice the lime and whisk all ingredients together.
4. Mix meat and marinade together.
5. Cover meat and marinade (or seal in a zip top bag) and place in the refrigerator for 1 hour.
6. Cook as you please! Grilling with pineapple, bell pepper, and onion is recommended.

1. Rinse and chop the cilantro.

2. Zest the lime.

3. Juice the lime and mix all of the ingredients together! So easy.

4. & 5. Mix the meat and the marinade together, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for an hour. Putting everything in a zip lock bag in the fridge works too! Here I chopped up chicken breasts in large chunks because I happen to be making shish kabobs, but you could marinate whole pieces of chicken as well! This marinade would be fantastic with steak, fish, or pork tenderloin! 

6. Cook the meat however you like! I love this marinade in shish-kabob form. I'm a sucker for grilled pineapple! I like to chop onion, bell pepper, and pineapple into large chunks and skewer them up with the chicken and grill! Here are the details of how I chop the accompaniments - I chop the top off of the bell pepper.

6. Continued:  Cut the fleshy part of the bell pepper away from the center. Cut as much of the white ribs off as possible (I hadn't trimmed the ribs yet in this picture).

6. Continued: Cut the outsides of the pepper into 1.5-2 inch pieces.

6. Continued: For the onion. Slice the scrunched up ends off of the onion.

6. Continued: Place the flat side of the onion down on the cutting board and cut the onion in half from the top.

6. Continued: Peel the onion apart and cut into 1.5-2 inch chunks. I like to peel the onion 2 layers at a time. I usually skewer two onion pieced together. I feel like they grill better and don't burn as quickly when they are packed together a little thicker.

6. Continued: Chop the pineapple in big chunks!

Slide the chicken, pepper, onion, and pineapple onto skewers repeating the pattern until all of the pieces are skewered! I way prefer metal skewers over wooden skewers - you don't have to deal with splintering wood! Grill the skewers up and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Peach & Raspberry Sangria

I drank some lovely peach sangria on my recent trip to Savannah, and I HAD to make some for myself when I got home! It's really the ideal summer beverage. Fruity, refreshing, and easy to drink, Peach & Raspberry Sangria is perfect for porch-sittin' or soaking up some sun at the pool or beach. And the fresh fruit at the bottom of your empty glass is a juicy added bonus! The sweet peaches and tart raspberries combine with a hint of citrus in triple sec to give this sangria a bright, summery flavor.

Peach & Raspberry Sangria
Makes 8 Servings
Total Time: 5 minutes

0.75 L white wine (I used Pinot Grigio)
11.2 oz peach nectar
6 oz club soda
3 oz triple sec
2 peaches
6 oz raspberries

1. Slice peaches.
2. Mix all ingredients. Pour over ice and enjoy!

I found peach nectar in the ethnic food section of my grocery store. The rest of the ingredients are very standard! I chose Pinot Grigio rather than a Riesling or Moscato because I didn't want the sangria to be overly sweet. The peach nectar and fresh fruit add a decent amount of sweetness! I think Pinot Grigio ended up striking just the right balance.

Just slice up the peaches and mix everything together! My Georgia peaches from the farmer's market were so soft and sweet and fragrant. Almost too ripe, which is right where you want them.

There's something about drinking sangria that makes me want to kick my feet up and relax. A little summertime day-drinking by the pool or at a cookout and I am one happy girl! And how easy is this recipe?! No blending or muddling or syrup-making. Just slice, mix, and enjoy!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

SJK Approved - Vegetable Lasagna

I am SO excited to share my first SJK Approved post with you all. I'll be featuring recipes, restaurants, kitchen gadgets, and other foodie goodies which I have personally tested and approved and LOVE! Stay tuned and follow along at #SJKApproved for more!

First up is Vegetable Lasagna by The Pioneer Woman. This is one of those recipes I've made over and over again because it's just so darn good. Pasta? Check. Cheese? Check. Hearty veggies cooked in a spicy tomato sauce + a little wine? Check. Done and done. It's not heavy like some lasagnas I've had, and you don't miss the meat at all! Meatless Monday never tasted so good.

My husband puts in requests for this recipe! And while I'm usually cooking for just the two of us, I don't mind making a big batch because this lasagna freezes VERY well. I use a few zucchini in place of the mushrooms because Paul isn't a mushroom fan :( I'm saddened by this, but the veggie lasagna tastes amazing either way.

Can I also gush about how much I love Ree Drummond for a minute? She's so fun to watch on the Food Network because she's so cheerful! I love the personal touches she puts on her recipes, sometimes planning them with specific family members in mind. She's such a great story teller and you can see all of the love she puts into her food on the show! She's lovely and her recipes have never failed me. Two thumbs up for Ree Drummond.

You all NEED this vegetable lasagna in your lives! See the recipe and Ree Drummond's flawless step-by-step pictures here:

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The All New Saucy Jocey's Kitchen!

Saucy Jocey's Kitchen got a makeover! I've always had a thing for polka dots (see here) and retro style, and I was so inspired by the gorgeous vintage kitchen themed bridal shower my lovely maids of honor threw me, I decided to give the blog a new look!

I followed LPF Media's tips for creating a branding guide, which was crucial in giving all of my retro-love a cohesive direction. It's amazing how much fun font-shopping can be! Does that make me a nerd? I gathered a bunch of inspiring images on Pinterest, picked out a few signature colors and fonts, and created a brand new logo! I hope to work the retro-kitchen style into my food photography as well. I apologize in advance to my husband for all of the mismatched colored glass serving ware and polka dot napkins which will soon fill our kitchen. :P

Along with the new look, you will notice some new types of posts! I'll be sharing all of my foodie travel adventures in SJK Travels posts. I just returned from Vienna (eeeek! so beautiful), Asheville, Charlotte, and Savannah, and I'm headed to AUSTRALIA soon, so stay tuned! #SJKTravels will hold all of my wanderlusting foodie pictures. :)

I'll also share my favorite tested-and-approved recipes from other bloggers (all with step-by-step pictures of course), kitchen gadgets, restaurants, grocery items, and more! Follow #SJKApproved to see my list of favorites!

A friend of mine recently asked me to write a how-to guide for cooking with fresh ingredients for one or two people on a budget. I know this challenge WELL. You want to eat fresh produce and meat at its peak freshness without any waste, but you don't want to grocery shop 4 times a week, and you don't want to eat the same leftovers for days on end! I've learned some tricks to making it all work, and I'll share those (hopefully along with some menus and grocery lists) soon!

As always, there will be plenty of delicious recipes with step-by-step pictures. I hope you all enjoy the new look and direction of the blog! Stay tuned for more!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Quinoa Tuna and White Bean Salad

If you're looking for a simple, healthy, and protein-packed lunch, this is it my friends! I'm obsessed with the Tuna and White Bean Salad recipe from Budget Bytes. It's ridiculously easy, light, and filling! I was in the mood to experiment with quinoa and I thought it would make a great addition to the recipe. Shredded carrots and broccoli slaw add some crunch for a nice texture variation, plus you work in some veggies! The lemon juice perfectly balances the richness of the beans and tuna. We all know fish + citrus is a winning combination. Throw is all together and you've got the perfect lunch!

Quinoa Tuna and White Bean Salad
Makes 3 cups
Total time: 30 minutes

5 oz solid white albacore tuna in water
15 oz Great Northern beans (but any white bean will do)
1/3 cup dry quinoa (plus 2/3 cup water for cooking)
1/4 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup broccoli slaw
2 green onions
1 lemon
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Thoroughly rinse and drain quinoa in a mesh strainer.
2. Bring quinoa and 2/3 cup water to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook until all water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.
3. Drain tuna.
4. Drain and rinse white beans.
5. Juice half of the lemon and discard seeds.
6. Slice the green onions.
7. When the quinoa is done cooking spread it on a plate and allow to cool in the refrigerator for a few minutes (This is a cold salad. If you cooked the quinoa ahead of time, skip this step!)
8. Mix tuna, beans, quinoa, carrots, broccoli slaw, green onions, lemon juice, and olive oil together. Add salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Step-by-step Photos 

1. Thoroughly rinse and drain the quinoa. I hope you all have a larger mesh strainer than I do :( It took a few rounds to rinse all the quinoa! I'm adding a large mesh strainer to my shopping list...

2. Bring quinoa and water to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook until all of the water is absorbed, about 10-15 minutes.

3. Drain the tuna. 4. Rinse and drain the white beans. Any white beans will do, but I used Great Northern beans!

5. Juice half of the lemon and discard seeds. Use the other half of the lemon for whatever you please :) This citrus juicer belonged to my Grandma Mary. It's very special to me. My mom gave it to me at my bridal shower and I proceeded to cry like a baby.

6. Slice the green onions. I think it's prettiest if you slice them on a diagonal!

7. Cooking the quinoa ahead of time is ideal, that way it has time to cool. But if you can't cook it ahead of time, just spread it out on a plate (so it cools faster) and put the plate in the refrigerator for 5-10 minutes. It cools pretty quickly. I suppose you could eat this as a warm salad if you want, but I like it cold and crisp.

8 a. Mix it all together! I found the shredded carrots and broccoli slaw in pre-prepared bags in the produce section. So. Easy.

8 b. Add salt and pepper to taste. Freshly cracked is the best, but any ol' salt and pepper will work of course. This salad can hold up to a good amount of salt because of the tuna. Just add a little and give it a taste test, and add more if you need to!

I hope you all enjoy this salad! The olive oil and lemon dressing makes it perfect for summertime - so bright and fresh. The tuna, white beans, and quinoa pack a protein punch, and you get a lovely crunch from the carrots and broccoli! 
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