Thursday, September 30, 2010

Berry, Berry, Quite Contrary

I love fresh berries. There is nothing like picking your own berries, from your own property, and baking a pie straight away with them. Oh, heaven!

We had soo many blackberries. Buckets and buckets full. Here are some of the yummies that I made with them.

 I decided to get fancy with the pie crust... It oooozed. Oops.
But still delicious!! I use cinnamon and nutmeg in this pie, and it's super tasty but not overpowering. My recipe calls for blackberry liqueur, but all we had was Elderberry. Quite random, but it works!
Pie = Heaven. Amen.

 Next on the agenda for my blackberries?
I'd never made ice cream before, but I just went for it.
 Cooking the berries down with some sugar.
Straining out the seeds...Check out all that steam!
I tempered the eggs with the half & half....which worried me because I let them go a bit too high, and they started to scramble...however, it all smoothed out eventually! Phew. 
I added it to the cream, and then I swirled in the blackberry juice.
 Swirling was the prettiest and most fun part of the process! :)
 After sending the mixture through the ice cream machine, I chopped up some high-quality bittersweet chocolate for half of it....
And plunked in fresh blackberries in the other half.
All set and frozen! Mmm...
So excited that my first batch of ice cream turned out well! David absolutely loved it, and couldn't believe it was homemade! Score.

Next up... for some coworker's birthdays:
 Puree the blackberries. I've become quite used to the puree/strain procedure by now...
 What a blue batter!! I was surprised at how blue it was considering how dark and purple the juice was.
 Blue cupcakes... Let's dress these up with some Swiss Meringue Buttercream! My favorite.
 Oh dear. I had this beautiful SMBC, but after adding in blackberry juice, it was a curdled mess. It wouldn't come together, but after a few hours of refrigeration, and 10 minutes whipping on high speed...
 It finally came together! Lovely color AND delicious :)
Top 'em off with some fresh berries...
 Honestly, my favorite bites were the ones with a fresh berry bit in it! Such a delightful contrast of textures (speaking of which, the actual cake was a little too dense in my opinion, but the frosting made up for it with its silky smooth sweet qualities)

Ah, blackberries. I will miss you. Luckily, we have some frozen. Hopefully enough to make a blackberry pie when I miss it most :)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Australia Zoo! Woo hoo!

One of my favorite parts of vacationing on the Sunshine Coast was visiting Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter's zoo. While it didn't have many of the jungle and savannah-type animals I am used to see at zoos (i.e. zebra, giraffe, lion, monkey...) it had many many crocodiles (naturally) and of course many marsupials.
While I had held a koala at the Cairns Tropical Zoo upon my first arrival in Australia in 2008, I hadn't ever been so close to so many at once! The koalas are not caged up at Australia Zoo, and they are at nearly face level, and within arms reach. Granted, you aren't supposed to touch any expect the one on display, but the others are just hanging out right there! Luckily for me, they were actually awake as well -- pretty cool, considering they sleep 20 hours a day.
"Oy vey!"
"Yeah, what are you lookin' at?"
This little guy below is an escape artist! He was hanging out in the fenced off trees, but climbed down and out past the fence, onto the walkway right at my feet!! A trainer quickly swooped over to pick him up and put him on a branch, haha, but I was very excited!
There were two buddies who went from hugging to play fighting and back to hugging again.
A sleepy koala and a lively koala who ended up practically bending over backwards to reach eucalyptus leaves.
A mother who was snuggling her tiiiiny baby koala against her chest! Look at that little face!!
My other favorite part was the kangaroos. They live in a lovely world called "Roo Heaven" where there are no trainers hanging about, no fences or walls to view them from. It's like going to a park, but with hundreds of vegged out kangaroos!
Seriously, these guys were doped up. On food. No one wanted to eat the food we reached out to them, they were all just laying on the ground all full and sleepy, their eyes half closed. It was pretty funny.
But it was so nice, because I got to just literally lay down with them and pet them. They were so docile.
There was one beauuutiful kangaroo, that had a cream and brown spotted coat, so unique! It was gorgeous, sooo soft, and super sweet and friendly.
I just absolutely love love loved hanging out with them :)
"Hey, what's under there?"
There were some other neat animals. The Asian elephants... and I got to feed one of them! It tickled.
Komodo Dragon.
I love this sign on the fence. Very morbid!! Haha.

Another day, we went Whale Watching on Steve Irwin's "Whale One" boat. It was a nice day!
We got soaked when walking from the back to the front of the boat. Terrible timing with waves spraying onto us...Ack! You can see the water on my arms, and there's even more on my butt, haha.
Oh, it was also so windy, and I didn't plan my wardrobe very well, that my skirt flew up and I most definitely flashed a young couple and I was absolutely mortified!!!
We mostly just watched one whale the whole time. It breached the water quite a bit, and this is the best photo I was able to get.
It also went vertically face-down in the water and did tons and tons of these tail slaps for us, it was gorgeous! Unfortunately I don't have any photos of that because my camera died after 10 minutes of having it on :(
Australia really has some wonderful animals, and I am a big animal lover. I find them so intriguing and mysterious and wonderful, and I love seeing them in action! I'm glad that I was able to see all this wildlife on my vacation in the Sunshine Coast!