Posts Categorized: Life in New York

Aug 12 2015

Silky & Delish Chicken Tortilla Soup

We’ve never eaten at Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant before, so the original recipe title of Chicken Tortilla Soup (inspired by Tommy Bahama’s) really meant nothing to me. What did scream at me was a soup with one tablespoon of cumin in it. Any recipe with a tablespoon of cumin deserves a chance on our dinner table! I whipped this up tonight and really is pretty much the easiest soup recipe of all time and the end result was a soup with multiple layers of flavour and the silkiest texture. I just had to share it!

The other highlight of this recipe? Everything is roughly chopped, as it is blended at the end. I love forgiving soups that are hand blended so there is no need for uniform diced vegetables!


Ingredients –

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped (about 2-1/2 cups)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced into quarters
1 green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
6 small (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into small pieces
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 quarts (8 cups) low sodium chicken broth
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Prep all of the ingredients and then follow the instructions over at Once Upon A Chef

We had baked some bone-in chicken breasts the other day, so I used their leftovers as a garnish and Bill also added a dollop of sour cream to his. Saying that, garnish is really just that – this soup would be fine just on its own.

Here is the final product –


I know it doesn’t look like much, but it is so silky and smooth and a great addition to any weeknight menu. It was so simple to put together and we also have plenty of leftovers for lunch tomorrow. The next batch I make, I might try it with a vegetable stock to see if we could use it for a Friday meal as this would be a great soup during Lent as well.

Aug 03 2015

Ranch Chicken – a new favourite!

Earlier this year, I set about to try and add some new meals to our meal planner. We do a lot of cooking, but during the week we tend to just rely on the same rotation of regular meals and I felt I was stuck in a bit of a rut.

Of course, the first place I went to was Pinterest and I quickly found some recipes that I wanted to try. With getting used to life with Francis, I needed something quick that would be ready for when Bill walked in the door as eat supper every evening by 6pm without fail. One of the first new dishes that I tried was Ranch Chicken. It is so easy, I almost feel guilty making it. The kitchen always smells fabulous and there is always leftovers. We have made this many times since, so I just had to share it.

I found the recipe on the blog, An Everyday Blessing and I didn’t change a thing!

Ingredients –

2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons homemade Ranch Seasoning mix (recipe below)
1/2 cup (1 stick) of unsalted butter, melted
6-8 red potatoes
12 oz frozen green beans (you can also use fresh)

I prepare enough potatoes, chicken and beans to fill my 9×13 Pyrex dish like this –

Ranch Chicken

I had earlier prepared a batch of Ranch Seasoning Mix that I keep in a jar for this dish. This recipe was prepared by the Heavenly Homemakers blog.

5 tablespoons dried minced onions
7 teaspoons parsley flakes
4 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder

It looks like this –

Ranch Chicken

Then, just sprinkle the 3 tablespoons of Ranch Seasoning over the entire dish –

Ranch Chicken

Pour the melted butter over the meal –

Ranch Chicken

Then cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour.

Then just like magic…

Ranch Chicken

I know it doesn’t look amazing but everything is perfectly seasoned and tastes fantastic. It is so simple and is one of those dishes that tastes like you have spent a lot longer preparing it. The leftovers reheat perfectly the next day. An absolute winner!

Ranch Chicken

Jun 08 2013

Leaps and Bounds… #blogjune

A few weekends ago, we spent the afternoon and night in Manhattan. First seeing the new Hangover movie (if there is a next one, we are going to wait until DVD) and then heading to the Highline Ballroom to see Paul Kelly.

It was general admission but seats were available on first come, first served for a dinner and show. So we got there early and we were fourth in line when Paul Kelly walked right past us! Also, you won’t believe it. The tickets were only $25! I felt guilty knowing what I would experience for that price!

We were both really impressed with the food at the Highline. We both had very low expectations so it was a pleasant surprise! At our table was a couple on holidays in New York from New Zealand. The rest of the place was probably 80% Australian. I did hear one American say he first heard Paul Kelly when he was on a Qantas flight and they were playing him on the inflight radio!

Dan Kelly was the support act and he was really good. I’ve always loved him since doing one of the best duets ever on Rockwiz with Martha Wainwright. I just play this over and over all the time.

After his set, then it was time for Paul. The show was in two parts. The first part he played his whole new album Spring and Fall which is performed as a song cycle. Then the second part was a greatest hits selection.

Paul Kelly and Dan Kelly

The whole show was really, really good. I loved it so much and it was so relaxing to sit back and hear a master at work! Bill did not know one song from either Paul or Dan and he enjoyed it so much as well. The only annoying part? The woman who kept yelling “SING I REMEMBER!!!!” If only she knew the song was called Leaps and Bounds. 😉

Paul Kelly and Dan Kelly

Jun 07 2013

A little bit of spring… #blogjune

Spring time here is gorgeous providing that it isn’t unseasonably warm! Breaking up the concrete, you can find blooming flowers everywhere. For those of you going through winter at the moment, I thought you would like a couple of springtime blooms to help brighten up the weather!

Springtime in Brooklyn –

Spring in Brooklyn

Springtime on the Upper West Side –

Spring on the Upper West Side

Fall will always be a favourite for me, but this spring has been absolutely beautiful after such a long winter. I’m not complaining about anything because I know what is right around the corner! Please send all commiseration messages to Bill.. he is the one that has to put up with my moaning and groaning about the heat 24/7 when it starts!

Jun 05 2013

2013 Lebanese Food Festival… #blogjune

Last weekend was a lot of fun, despite the heat!

As with every other #blogjune, it was time again for the Lebanese Food Festival. We never miss it and because we had a busy weekend planned, we decided to go on the Friday night. Friday night is just food only – the streets aren’t blocked off and there is no street fair atmosphere. But we still got to have a super tasty dinner and help raise funds for Our Lady of Lebanon Cathedral!

I basically get the same thing every year… but oh gosh. It is always so good! These photos are not the best as they were just from my phone.

Here was my dinner. The kefta was phenomenal.

Lebanese Food Festival - 2013

Bill got some fried kibbeh –

Lebanese Food Festival - 2013

I dream vine leaves –

Lebanese Food Festival - 2013

It was a lot quieter in the street compared to what we normally see on a Saturday and Sunday.

Lebanese Food Festival - 2013

Check out my other posts on this great festival so you can get a better idea of how fabulous it is. If you are in New York, no excuses. You have to go!

Lebanese Food Festival 2012
Lebanese Food Festival 2011
Lebanese Food Festival 2010

Jun 04 2013

Custard Scrolls… enough said! #blogjune

I go through various stages of missing things from Australia. One of the most random things recently was Bakers Delight Custard Scrolls. My friend Warbo, would always bring them over and I would always grab one if I was passing the bakery.

So I set about on a mission.. I needed them NOW. I found a recipe for them on a great blog, My Food Obsession. Susan’s work in creating the Custard Scroll masterpiece is amazing.

A difficult part of the recipe is the Custard Scroll icing. Which is the same as Boston Bun icing. That heavy, thick, sweet icing that somehow never makes you feel blah. After reading Susan’s post, I understood that she tried to recreate the icing but it just wasn’t the same. After doing some more searching, I found a list of common ingredients that Bakers Delight use to make their icing so Bill converted the measurements to what we thought would be a recipe that would work. I decided that it was time to give this recipe a whirl.

The mixing and matching on this recipe worked a treat. They taste pretty much exactly like the real thing. They were beautiful on the day of baking and we decided to freeze some and see how they would go. That worked as well.

Here are some photos.. the proof of their greatness is in the pictures. Can’t you just taste them?!

Making the custard –

Custard Scrolls

Cooling the custard by the window –

Custard Scrolls

I had a nap while Bill made the dough and baked them… this is how they came out of the oven –

Custard Scrolls

Reading to ice, ice baby! –

Custard Scrolls

The end result –

Custard Scrolls

Jun 03 2013

Nearing the end… #blogjune

This year, I am hitting a major milestone in my journey as a kind-of-American. I am nearing my five year anniversary of entering the country. Can you believe it has gone by SO quickly? It only feels like yesterday that the got the envelope with “You have won a Green Card!” in the mail. Because I am nearing five years, it means I qualify to start the process to become a citizen. We’re getting there!

On Friday, I mailed off my naturalization application, cheque/check, some more passport photos and a copy of my Green Card.

Citizenship application - SENT!

My life and future nationality really is in this FedEx envelope.

I have now re-entered the stressful abyss of US Citizenship and Immigration Services. In a process that will take about eight months from start to finish, this involves another biometics test, then the interview/US civics test/written test, then the ceremony. It is so serious and not something I am doing lightheartedly. Even though I will be a dual citizen of both Australia and the United States, I will be required to pledge the following –

“I hereby declare, on oath, that I absolutely and entirely renounce and abjure all allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen; that I will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will bear arms on behalf of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform noncombatant service in the armed forces of the United States when required by the law; that I will perform work of national importance under civilian direction when required by the law; and that I take this obligation freely without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; so help me God.”

It is emotional and exciting and everything else in between. I won’t lie.. there were tears when Bill was asking me some of the practice questions for the civics test and I had to say that I will give up loyalty to Australia. It is heartwrenching! But note, it does not say I have to give up my loyalty to Collingwood! 😉

I am looking forward to voting, being a real voice in local politics and also JURY DUTY! The only time I was ever called to serve was in Australia was when I was living in London. I just NEED to be a on a jury to say I have done it and to quell my fascination with being called to serve. I have to get it out of my system!

So, this is a big time for me. In other parts of the country this whole process usually takes three months. Here, it is longer because of the amount of immigrants. This is something I hope to take up with our own Senator Schumer and Senator Gellibrand. We pay the same fees as everyone else in the country and yet, are almost held to ransom by the USCIS. It is hard to explain, but the process is stressful. The uncertainty, the waiting, the hoping and again… the waiting. Much like the Green Card process, it is almost like your life is on hold. Becoming a citizen is something that should be encouraged and made as stress free as possible. If you are filing in New York, it is the exact opposite. Oh, and no, you have no choice where you become a citizen or where you file.

So, let the games begin! I have no doubt the fastest process of this will be them cashing my check. I bet that will happen by the end of the week! 😉

Now, for a confession. Every time I think of being a citizen and being American, this song comes into my head and stays for way too long!

Jan 30 2013

Sewing up a storm

For the past year or so, I have wanted a sewing machine so badly but it was overwhelming to think about. Cost, space, learning the basics… ugh. Then I did a whole lot of research and just wanted to pounce. Over Thanksgiving I started looking at prices and on Cyber Monday I saw a blog about a Brother machine that was on sale (it ends up it is always that price) but I put my Amazon Prime to work and ordered this Brother one.

Our Brother

Bill was just as excited – he is super patient and got perfect grades in sewing at school. I on the other hand, lack the patience, so we’d be a good team and he can keep me on track when I lose it.

Then, around the time that we bought the machine, there was a LivingSocial deal for a sewing class in Brooklyn. I bought the class straight away because I thought it would be the perfect way to learn the basic skills and get used to a machine. We booked for a January class so in the meantime, I ordered a set of Moda Squares and real deal French Lavender. We were then able to get started on our first project – lavender pillows as family gifts for Christmas. This was a great starter project and we got our routine pretty much set with it. Here is one of them –

Lavender Pillow

I will be making stacks more of these – I LOVE them!

Then, it was time for our sewing class. We went to Esaie Couture down near Prospect Park. Our project would be a tote bag.

Earlier in the week I picked up fabric for us at the City Quilter on 25th Street – if you are ever need good quality fabric, I wholeheartedly recommend them!

The first part of our 4 hour class was spent on sewing basics and methods for steering clear of mishaps on the machine. We did practice drills and learnt how to work through the machine. What was great is that I found that the way I was pushing the fabric through was why I was having so much trouble staying straight when we were doing the lavender bags.

Our machines –

Esaie Couture

Not quite ready to make clothes for these yet –

Esaie Couture

Then, it was time to get busy with our totes. What made this hard was I was already so tired when we got there – the usual Monday night feeling of needing to be in bed at 7.30!

But we soldiered through and this was the end result –

The End Result!

My bag was made for random sewing supplies, Bill is giving his to our crossword loving sister.

After a big haul at Jo-ann’s Fabrics and Crafts, Bill’s next project is a shirt and I am going to try a VERY basic quilt. We have also got a multitude of PBS sewing shows recording on our TiVo.. we can do this!

By the way a word on our machine… after using the very old ones at the sewing school, ours is awesome. We fully recommend it and the price on Amazon cannot be beat. It wasn’t a Cyber Monday deal after all!

Jan 29 2013

Yes… another Chris Issak post!

Let’s talk some Chris Isaak shall we?

Earlier in the year I was doing our regular donation payments when it came time to pay our PBS donation. When I went to their website, I found that one of their subscriber gifts for donation was 2 tickets and a Meet and Greet with Chris Isaak at his Beacon Theater show later in the year. It was a no brainer – we were SO there. The Beacon is my favorite venue in New York – we were basically guaranteed an awesome night. I’ve met him a few times. After his show (my first Chris Isaak concert) in 1996, I met him at Gaslight records in 1998 and after his show in Melbourne in 2006. So this would be my fourth Chris meeting!

Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy changed our plans. The show was rescheduled. My friend Honore was supposed to come down from Massachusetts for the show but with the Amtrak service being still sketchy, Bill stepped in and we decided to make it a date night.

We were told that for the meet and greet, our photo with Chris would be taken by the PBS photographer. So I was envisioning a gorgeous quality photo and was very happy to have someone professional take the photo. We had to line up outside and then in the theater itself, while Chris finished up the Live Nation Meet and Greet. We were told that basically we got to have a photo and that was it – so it wasn’t a usual Chris Isaak meet and greet protocol but it was fine nevertheless.

When we were lining up, Bill said he wasn’t interested in a photo, instead he would stand to the side and take a photo of me instead and hold my coat. Before I knew it, it was my turn to step up. I walked towards Chris when he turned around and said “WOW – that is such a BEAUTIFUL dress!” I was floored and went bright red and said “Thank you SO much!” while giggling. Then we had to turn around to get our photo taken. The ‘photographer’ was standing in one of the rows. We turned around and it was basically ‘Say Cheese!’ and that was it. I turned around to wish them well for the show when Chris asked where I was from. I said “Brooklyn!” to which he looked at me strangely until I added “… via Melbourne!” He was all excited and noted how they’d be doing a fair bit of work in Australia next year. Bill then wandered over and told Chris how great he looked (he really did look amazing for his age!) when Chris told Bill “All clean living man!!” and that was that. I said goodbye to Chris and Kenney and headed for the door.

We wandered across the road to Big Nick’s Burger and Pizza Joint. If you want a dive place, this is it. My white pizza was really nice, Bill’s burger was delish and it was great to be able to calm down after all of the excitement.



We were then able to wander back across Broadway to get in our fab fab fab (as in 5th row, center) seats. The Beacon is the best – seats are comfy, sound is awesome and the place is just gorgeous.

Best music venue in NYC

The whole show was really good – he loves the Beacon and you can tell he feels at home there! Bill is also converted – he had a great time… which was so good to know seeing as he hates concerts. Chris and the guys are so professional and really and truly, they never play a bad show That is why I see them nearly every year! Check out some of my photos –

Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak

Chris Isaak

When we got home I was so excited to see the photos Bill took of us from afar. Hmm this is what I got –

Awww Bill's rushed pic..


Seriously… what am I doing? :(

Seriously – two of the most blah photos ever. I was sad but hopeful for the other shots to come.

In the end I had to wait FOUR WHOLE DAYS for PBS to send me the ‘professional’ photo. Oh my gosh. When it arrived it was like it was taken on a 2006 Blackberry 2 megapixel camera. The photo is SO BAD I found myself laughing hysterically. For added ridiculous value, it has a huge date and time stamp across the bottom of the WRONG DATE. Here it is –

The PBS photo

So that was our date night with Chris and the guys. Just looking at the photos makes me laugh – we’ll see them again next year without hesitation and Bill has promised we’ll get the proper meet and greet where we can have a good chat with the guys (because seriously, they can do pre-concert chit chat well) and take a DECENT photo!

By the way, here was the setlist for the show. SO very, very good!

American Boy
Pretty Girls
Blue Hotel
We’ve Got Tomorrow
I Want Your Love
San Franciso Days
I’m Not Waiting
Somebody’s Crying
Wicked Game
Best I Ever Had
Notice the Ring
Baby Did A Bad, Bad Thing
Doin’ the Best I Can
Ring of Fire
Dixie Fried
Can’t Help Falling in Love
It’s Now or Never
Live It Up
Miss Pearl
Great Balls Of Fire


Super magic
Oh, Pretty Woman
Big Wide Wonderful
Worked It Out Wrong

Jan 28 2013

Our Christmas… and the pudding!

I know you are probably very much over Christmas but I have to do a wrap up! Advent and Christmas for 2012 was a mix of super busy and then in the end, very relaxing! Here is our Christmas photo –

2012 Christmas Photo

Bill was so busy at work for the end of year rush. He was working long hours and normally that would be stressful enough. Throw in Christmas and all the usual ‘busy stuff’ that goes along with that and December really did fly by.

During December for different nights during each week, I was with others at Queen of All Saints packing my friend Michele’s amazing gingerbread and other delicious cookies. Then Bill and I were selling these after each Mass on Saturday and Sunday. This meant our spare time was drastically cut to fit in everything else that you need to do in December. BUT somehow, this almost made things easier to deal with. We had to be organized from get go and it worked out well. Here we are selling the cookies –

Christmas at Queen of All Saints

Christmas at Queen of All Saints

Christmas at Queen of All Saints

Christmas at Queen of All Saints

My to-do list was ongoing and constantly growing but we got everything done and more. The only problem is, it felt like Advent didn’t even exist it went by so quickly and that is something I really have to work on for 2013.

Christmas at Queen of All Saints

We did our usual decorations… no changes there!

Our tree –

Our Christmas decorations

Mistletoe –

Our Christmas decorations

Advent Wreath –

Our Christmas decorations

Nativity –

Our Christmas decorations

We had our Stir-up Sunday the week before Thanksgiving. This was the first time I had ever attempted to make a Christmas Pudding and I worked off Delia Smith’s recipe with tips and hints from this page. A note about this page – I have to admit that the first time I landed on the page I thought it was some kind of joke that there was a site made by Paul Denyer from Melbourne (people from Australia would know who I am talking about) or I was thinking that there was a website made by him that was produced in prison, but it is the real deal and it is just a mere coincidence by name.

In the end our recipe was this –

4 oz (110 g) shredded suet
2 oz (50 g) self-raising flour, sifted
8 oz (225 g) soft dark brown sugar
1¼ teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
1¼ teaspoons of freshly ground cinnamon
1/3 of a teaspoon ground ginger
¼ of a teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
4 oz (110 g) white breadcrumbs
4 oz (110 g) sultanas
4 oz (110 g) raisins
10 oz (275 g) currants
4 oz (110 g) dried dates – cut into pieces, stones removed
2 large eggs
1 large lemon, zested
1 small apple, cored, peeled and grated
1 oz (25 g) almonds, skinned and chopped
1 oz (25 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped
5 fl oz (150 ml) stout
2 tablespoons rum

If you compare the two you will see there were only small differences.

We used our own home baked bread for the breadcrumbs and making our own ground cinnamon really made a HUGE difference. The fragrance was amazing.

I did a big stock up from so we had all fresh ingredients –

Christmas Pudding 2012

The mix –

Christmas Pudding 2012

We made it on a Saturday, then steamed it for 8 hours on Sunday.

This was Bill’s coathanger invention to lift it in and out of the steamer –

Christmas Pudding 2012

Steaming away –

Christmas Pudding 2012

We let it cool overnight on our bench (with the kitchen window open) and then re-did the covering and string and let it sit in the fridge for six weeks. It then took a journey to Albany where he kept it in the mini-bar fridge of our hotel room until it was ready for the 2.5 hours of steaming before our Christmas Eve dinner.

I made a batch of custard in the afternoon and reheated that when the pudding was ready. Here it is –

Christmas Pudding 2012

Of course, I had to get some holly to go on the top and we picked up some from Jo-ann’s arts and crafts. When it came time to present it to the table, we warmed some brandy and had to ladle it over the pudding and light it. Um… I somehow thought the PLASTIC holly would be fine… I blame a total Christmas brain. There we were getting “Ohhhhs” and “Ahhhhs” throughout the room and then… bang… the holly caught on fire (Der Jenelle.. I was pouring flames right over it… and yet I was still surprised) and the holly startsed melting over the pudding. ARGH! The ohhhhs and ahhhhs turned into screams and yelling. I was holding a ladle with a flame burning, Bill was trying to get the holly and we were all in a panic. It was a scene from a movie.. seriously!

Thankfully, we managed to throw the melted mess off the pudding and into a glass without anything else catching on fire (or burning down Emily and Brian’s newlywed nest!) and there was also no residue on the pudding. WIN!

You can see the flaming holly in the glass in this photo –

Christmas Pudding 2012

So, regardless of the flammable incident the result was… PERFECT. I was SO happy with it!

Christmas Pudding 2012

Note – I also purchased some genuine 1911 silver threepence from England on eBay and unfortunately they didn’t arrive in time. They’ll be going into the mix next year!

What made this all even more special was when I told mum that we planned to make a pudding she told me how it was something her mum would do every year and send them to people as gifts. So because of that, I am going to keep this tradition going!

The rest of Christmas was beautiful. Our time Upstate was so relaxing. Went got up to Albany on Saturday morning, had lots of R & R and did lots of cooking. I took Bill on a surprise date – ten pin bowling!

Christmas Eve was lovely (even with flaming holly) and newlyweds Emily and Brian hosted it. Here we are –

Christmas Eve

Here is everyone else –


The desserts oh my gosh –

Christmas Eve

We also went to Mass at Holy Spirit –


Then on Christmas Day, we woke up to a white Christmas! Here is the view from our room at the Fairfield Inn –

White Christmas

We all got together for brunch. This is seriously SO MUCH fun. French toast, bagels, eggs, quiches… all sitting around and chatting and it was so easy!

Unfortunately, with no Boxing Day on the calendar we had to get back in the car and head back home as we had work the next day! If Bill ever becomes President, it will be the one thing he has to introduce to the USA! I need Boxing Day for my own sanity!

Also, for a look at some other trees.

Here is mum and dad’s –

Australian tree

The Johnson Family tree –

Johnson Family Tree

Emily and Brian’s –

Emily & Brian's Tree

(Can you see the little bit of Australia they put on their tree?)

I love Christmas… now to countdown until 2013! 🙂