Saturday, February 9, 2013

Buttermilk Blueberry Bake

Image borrowed from Alexandra's Kitchen

We all know blueberries are good for us and get bombarded with the message – they are high in antioxidants. This is very true and a good reason to eat lots of them but the benefits of blueberries go way beyond antioxidants. Click here for a few examples.

This blueberry treat contains many of these juicy, purple health bombs. Don’t be shy – load it up.

Its quick, its easy and its delicious. Good for breakfast, if you like something sweet to kick start your day, or a great treat for any other part of your day.


Buttermilk-Blueberry Bake

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

2 tsp. lemon zest or more — zest from 1 large lemon

7/8 cup* + 1 tablespoon sugar**

1 egg, room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour (set aside 1/4 cup of this to toss with the blueberries)

2 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. kosher salt

2 cups fresh blueberries

½ cup buttermilk***
·      7/8 cup = 3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons

·      ** This 1 tablespoon is for sprinkling on top

·      *** To make homemade buttermilk, place 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice in a liquid measuring cup. Fill cup with milk until it reaches the 1-cup line. Let stand for five minutes. Use only 1/2 cup of the prepared mixture for the recipe.

1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Cream butter with lemon zest and 7/8 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.
2. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined. Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour, then whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt.
3. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.
4. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or something similar) with butter or coat with non-stick spray. Spread batter into pan. Sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35 minutes. Check with a toothpick for doneness. If necessary, return pan to oven for a couple of more minutes. (Note: Baking for as long as 10 minutes more might be necessary.) Let cool at least 15 minutes before serving.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Tasmania – East Coast Exploring

I've always been curious to explore this little dot on the southern most tip of Australia - also referred to as the Apple Isle (but often left off world maps...oops). What to expect of this place that is the nearest to the South Pole only after Patagonia? Even though our availability only allowed for a 4-day adventure, curiosity and wonder was definitely laid to rest. At least for now. 

Remote, quaint, wholesome are the words I would use to describe this quirky, heart shaped piece of land. 

We flew into Hobart, rented a car (a must!) and spent our first two nights there. Hobart is funky. You will find the second oldest pub in Australia (The Brunswick Hotel) and rustic bakeries (Daci & Daci Bakers or The Pigeon Hole) mingled in with fine dining options (Garangistes, Peppermint Bay). Views are abundant with a beautiful harbour and ocean surrounds. Overall, a very welcoming city with a small town feel. The locals are friendly, rich with personality and happy to see travellers venture across the Bass Straight to this history-rich part of Australia. 

As Mark Twain, the American novelist, wrote in 1895 as he was travelling through the colony on a lecture tour:
‘It is an attractive town. It sits on low hills that slope to the harbour – a harbour that looks like a river, and is as smooth as one. Its still surface is pictured with dainty reflections of boats and grassy banks and luxuriant foliage… How beautiful is the whole region, for form, and grouping, and opulence and freshness of foliage, and variety of colour, and grace and shapeliness of the hills, the capes, the promontories; and then, the splendour of the sunlight, the dim rich distances, the charm of the water-glimpses!’

Hobart also has the Salamanca Markets (only on a Saturday morning). For all you market lovers, these markets will make your heart skip a beat - wood works, antiques and crafts that make for the perfect souvenir, as well as home made honey and jams. The market food on display will make your mouth water: sourdough bread, home made ice cream, freshly picked berries, organic produce on the grill, wood fired pizza and and and. The setting of these markets is worth a mention as the long Tasmanian ‘piazza’ sits close to Hobart’s Harbour and in between beautiful antique, yet renovated, sand-stone houses.

A 4-Day Itinerary – East Coast Exploring

Day 1: We explored Bruny Island. It’s a beautiful island located 30min drive south of Hobart. Jump on the car ferry from Kettering and 10min later you’ll find yourself driving down the island's only road that takes you all the way from the northern tip to the most southern point. A beautiful day on this island won’t leave you restless and you definitely won’t go hungry. The island prides itself for its local produce and goodies. Have strawberry ice cream at the Bruny Island Berry Farm, taste some delicious cheese at the Cheese Company, and if you're into oysters, stop at 'Get Shucked' oyster farm for some slimy goodness. This island is also home to Australia’s southern most vineyard and to finish off the sequence of delicacies, don’t miss the chocolate factory for some home-made fudge. The island offers wildlife as well – If you lucky, you’ll spot penguins at dusk, see dolphins and seals; if you are REALLY lucky, you might even spot some whales. Overall, a cute island that is well worth a day trip (if weather works to your favour). 
For something fancy, stay in Hobart at the Henry Jones Art Hotel in Hobart. For something more low-key, stay at the Tassie Backpackers, which is part of The Brunswick Hotel. The second oldest pub in Australia is definitely worth a visit – they managed to maintain the antique charm, yet make it modern and classy. 

Day 2: Salamanca Markets on the Saturday morning (see further down for a full recount of the markets), followed by a 2-hour drive north to Freycinet National Park. 
For all nature lovers and walkers, Freycinet National Park offers quite a few different walking tracks (If you’re an energetic walker, you can cut all of the suggested 'track times' in half to get an accurate guess of how long it will take you). Note that is does also attract the most amount of tourists in Tasmania so chances are you won’t be alone. The Wineglass Bay lookout is a must (20min), which continues down to Wineglass Bay (another 15min). Have a picnic on the beach and take in the pretty blue water and crescent-shaped shoreline. We then continued the long way back, via Hazards Beach, back to the car park. It’s a beautiful and easy walk, and you may even see some adorable wallabies along the way. Well recommended and remember that the indicated ‘5 hours’ means something closer to 2.5 hours.
Stay overnight at Freycinet Lodge (located within the National Park) or find accommodation (probably cheaper) in the petite Coles Bay (5 min drive from Freycinet National Park entrance) 

Day 3: If you’re up for a hike, climb Mnt. Amos in the morning, before or after a breakfast overlooking the beautiful bay waters. If you have a day to spend in this area with sunshine and warmer temperatures, you’ll find an abundance of lovely beaches (try Honeymoon Bay) or more walks (within the NP) that will keep you active and happy. If you feel like exploring further out, there are a few different vineyards within the area – Milton Vineyards, Freycinet National Park Vineyards and a few more towards Bicheno. Note there is one thing NOT to be missed in the wider area, which is Kate’s Berry Farm. Located just before the entrance of Swansea (when driving north from Hobart), it is a beautiful farm perched up on a hill. Kate makes her own berry ice cream and delicious pies, as well as jams (have them with her home-made scones) and chocolates. The view coupled with some sweetness – a must.

Day 4: After your fix of nature, wine and berry ice cream, drive back down to Hobart where you can spend the rest of your day doing the things you may not have had the chance to before, or take an earlier flight back to your home sweet home.

A few more ideas in and around Hobart:
- MOMA: If you’re into Modern Art, then take a trip to MOMA – Museum of New and Modern Art. You'll find the markets here every Saturday.
- Port Arthur: A history-rich town that surrounds you with stories of convicts and the founding of Tasmania as we know it.
- The Tasman Peninsula: Worth a day trip to take in stunning scenery. You’ll find the highest coastal cliffs in the southern hemisphere, some rising 300m above the Tasman Sea! Organised boat trips are also available in this area, which allow you to spot dolphins and seals.

As I said, remote, quaint and wholesome. One day my walking shoes or cycling wheels will take me back to Tasmania…perhaps the West Coast for a different adventure. If you’re in the area and looking to remove yourself from you daily city life or routine (at least for a few days), Tasmania is never a bad idea.

To finish, I found this quote, which I quite liked, from a French explorer, Nicolas Baudin, who in January 1802 ‘discovered’ (with his two small ships) the nature and people of Van Diemen’s Land:

‘It is most extraordinary,’ wrote Baudin as he observed the shores that line what we now call the River Derwent, ‘to see that these dense forests, ancient daughters of nature and time, where the noise of the axe is never heard and where the vegetation is richer every day from its own products, can extend unimpeded everywhere; and when at the other end of the world one happens to see forests exclusively composed of trees unknown in Europe, of plants strange in form and various in their productions, one’s interest becomes more keen and more pronounced.’

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