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In My Kitchen… May 2017

Hello. After taking a couple of month’s break from blogging to travel, celebrate a birthday and contemplate life in general, TIFFIN is back. And what better way to say ‘hi’ than with a boasting edition of In My Kitchen? I’m thrilled to say that IMK is being hosted by my fellow Brisbane blogging friend Sherry from Sherry’s Pickings.

I’ve actually been on two holidays over the past few months and have plenty to show but let’s just confine ourselves to one holiday this time around, shall we? 

In my May kitchen…

a bottle of sriracha tabasco sauce

…there is Sriracha Tabasco. I have a slight obsession with hot sauce, to the point that it’s unlikely we could ever consume what we have in the cupboard. So, I have stopped buying. My obsession is mild but Louisiana’s obsession is not. You can’t go anywhere without seeing a huge selection of hot sauce bottles on the table, on the breakfast buffet, at the ice cream stand. Then there’s the hot sauce shops. Click through to see the variety on offer.

I finally cracked though when I had the chance to buy the most famous hot sauce of them all, making a version of the second most famous hot sauce of them all. I may have also grabbed a handful of hot sauce packets one morning. Just in case…

Here’s my new pot holder.

pot holder with tabasco sauce logo


In my kitchen…

preserving jars and equipment including ball mason spice jars

…are preserving supplies. That are unbelievably cheap in the US so I always check out the preserving section in Walmart to see what’s on offer. What was on offer were these cute dry herb jars. They are the normal small preserving jars with a plastic lid on top. I would have preferred to just buy the lids but the 4 jars were less than $5 so I succumbed to the impulse buy. I also bought a couple of boxes of pectin as I like to lug my groceries all the way from the US rather than the corner shop…


In my kitchen…

mexican hot chocolate and a wooden molinillo for mixing

…is Mexican chocolate and a Molinillo from Oaxaca City. Mexican hot chocolate is made by melting whole chocolate into milk. After the chocolate has melted, it is transferred to a jug and frothed using the molinillo. As you know, chocolate originated in Mexico where it was revered by the Aztecs over 4000 years ago. The word ‘chocolate’ is a corruption of the Nahuatl word chocolātl. It was of course those new world conquerors, the Spanish, who introduced chocolate to the rest of the world. It’s no coincidence that the basic hot chocolate of both modern Mexico and Spain tastes very similar and quite very different from hot chocolate I’ve tried elsewhere in the world. They may be a long way apart in distance but are forever linked in their culture and histories. The drink is dark, still slightly bitter and quite velvety. I look forward to giving my molinillo a whirl, now that the weather is cooler.


In my kitchen…

baking supplies including biscuit mix and sugar decorations

…are baking supplies. Well, ‘baking’ may be a bit of a stretch so let’s just say I found them in the baking section. The cake cases and sugary balls were fripperies that took my fancy. I cannot resist Red Lobster Cheddar Bay Biscuits so despite myself, I brought home a packet mix. I recall the last time I brought a box of these back, Maureen from The Orgasmic Chef and I had a discussion about Red Lobster and her son’s career there, from oyster shucker to regional manager. These will be great with a bowl of soup on a cool day. Did someone say chowder? Whilst I make my own cornbread, I couldn’t resist the cute packaging of Martha White. At 99c why bother resisting? I use it with my corn bread pans for a fun accompaniment to brunch. Visit this post to see a picture of the corn bread pans and read about my quest for them.


In my kitchen…

a pile of books with a food theme

…are new food themed books. Did I ever tell you about the time I went to ‘Half Price Books’ in Austin? Never has there been a more wonderfully named book shop. I bought a lot of books. A LOT. So much so that we needed to buy a new suitcase. I’m not complaining though. Here’s a selection. My favourite cookbook of all time is by Madhur Jafferey. The thing I love the most about it are her stories of growing up in India, so I know I will love her memoir. The Big Oyster by David Kurlansky was marvelous and I have wanted Cod for a very long time. I wished I had seen his other book, Salt. The Language of Baklava is about a good Lebanese girl growing up in NYC in the 1950’s and Mainstays of Maine is an unknown quantity, published in 1947. David Sedaris – well, say no more.

a korean cookbook and a book of letter from julia child

I recently finished My Life in France by Julia Child. I couldn’t put it down. You can imagine how thrilled I was to see a volume of correspondence between Julia and close friend Avis De Voto, charting their friendship over many years. These letters are often referred to in My life in France. I gasped out loud when I saw this book. Finally, K Food. It’s been well over two years since I bought a cookbook as once I start, I can’t stop – see above note about extra luggage – but the price was right and the recipes look very accessible. I keep telling people that Korean Food is going to be ‘the next big thing’ (I have been saying this for many years though) so I thought I better learn a little more about it.


In my kitchen…

groceries including salsa verde, file powder and cocktail sauce

…there are yet more groceries. Every time we travel to the states, I stock up on things that are ridiculously overpriced in Australia. This huge bottle of Salsa Verde was a few bucks in Walmart but would have set me back around $10 here. I usually buy La Costena brand but they were out so I’m giving Herdez a go instead. The File powder is ground sassafras, an essential ingredient in Gumbo. It is available in Australia but not readily and certainly not at 99c. The bottle of cocktail sauce is not what you’d call premium quality (but it is ‘Great Value’) but it was in a plastic bottle, which is always the best option when carting food across the world. I decided to buy a bottle after we tasted the cocktail sauces in New Orleans. It’s a mixture of tomato ketchup and horseradish. Yes, I could make it at home but we use high quality Rosella Tomato Sauce here, which is far too rich to create the thinner, sweeter cocktail sauce.

So that’s my eclectic haul. Or some of it. I’ve only shown you one thing from Mexico as most of my Mexican purchases went into my mouth!

I’ll be writing more about my bite sized adventures in Mexico in the coming months. I’d love you to subscribe here on the blog or follow my page on Facebook so you can read more about this wonderful and somewhat misunderstood country. After a challenging start to the year, I’m so glad to be back home and blogging.


Fiona xxx

33 comments… add one
  • Lyn Riddett May 2, 2017, 7:04 pm

    Welcome home!

    • Fiona Ryan May 4, 2017, 9:52 am

      Thanks – just settling back after a 2nd short holiday.

  • Rebecca Chapman May 2, 2017, 7:10 pm

    How amazing! What a great holiday. So jealous of your haul and can’t wait to see what you make.

    • Fiona Ryan May 4, 2017, 9:53 am

      Thanks Rebecca – I just wanted it photographed so I could put it away! Hoping to press the corn bread mix into service for a chowder, very soon.

  • Lori May 3, 2017, 3:07 am

    You have a lot of great treats in your kitchen! I also love grocery shopping when I travel and always bring goodies back home.

    • Fiona Ryan May 4, 2017, 9:54 am

      Usually it’s food that comes back (or books). I only bought two very small souvenirs in Mexico – who needs extra things to dust?!

  • mae May 3, 2017, 3:15 am

    Amazing how we don’t appreciate the common everyday groceries when we can get them any time! But they seem exotic bargains to you.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    • Fiona Ryan May 4, 2017, 9:56 am

      Exactly Mae – I laugh when people say ‘grab a tin of black beans’. Tins of black beans cost a fortune (but thankfully you can buy them dry and make your own). We do have nearly everything but some items remain elusive or expensive.

  • SeattleDee May 3, 2017, 8:31 am

    Edibles make the very best travel souvenirs! That said, I chuckle over items I take for granted that went into your suitcases. My husband aways carries a mini bottle or two of tabasco sauce when we dine out, “just in case…” Green Tabasco and Chipotle are his current favorites. Ignoring Vegemite, what Australian items might travel back this direction in my suitcase?

    • Fiona Ryan May 4, 2017, 10:04 am

      Oh yes, I love green Tabasco too. It’s my fave. As to Aussie groceries, it’s most likely a case of the same products but with different packaging or premium pricing. People tend to return from Australia with the most famous (and addictive) of all Aussie chocolate biscuits – the Tim Tam, by Arnotts. Also Aussie confectionery such as Violet Crumble (Google it), Freddos and even the humble Minitie. For something truly unique, you would bring back ‘bush food’ items which are made from plants indigenous only to Australia such as mountain pepper berry, muntries, bush tomatoes, lemon myrtles and quandongs. These are made into a variety of seasonings, syrups etc to add to your meal. I’m sure there are many things you find though that I think of as routine but you would be intrigued by.

      • SeattleDee May 4, 2017, 12:57 pm

        Fiona, “mountain pepper berry, muntries, bush tomatoes, lemon myrtles and quandongs” certainly sound intriguing, but I’ll start with something easier to source – TimTams via Amazon.

  • sherry from sherrys pickings May 3, 2017, 4:04 pm

    i love this post fiona. i too am a mad keen hot sauce fiend. i was ever so happy when i was able to buy chipotle tabasco last year (the year before?) at woolies. love those spice jars with the holey lids. so clever. i have been after a molinillo for ages. i saw them ages ago in a brissie shop but didn’t buy it so i may have to try online. can’t wait to read more about mexico. thanks for joining in! cheers.

    • Fiona Ryan May 4, 2017, 10:05 am

      Hi Sherry – good to be back. I keep looking and those spice jars and thinking ‘well I’ve got them now so what am I going to do with them?’

      I’ll be doing a Blue House post very soon ; )

    • Fiona Ryan May 4, 2017, 10:07 am

      ps: something in the mail for you today

  • Tandy | Lavender and Lime May 5, 2017, 5:22 pm

    Wow, you came back with quite a haul! I might not have been able to resist the presrving goodies either 🙂

    • Fiona Ryan May 5, 2017, 10:06 pm

      I try not to lug things back but the ridiculously cheap prices in the US make it hard to resist, even with our average exchange rate.

  • Maureen | OrgasmicChef May 5, 2017, 6:39 pm

    I’d give my right arm for a peek at the Maine cookbook. 🙂 I have a few from back home but not many.

    Now when you make those biscuits, melt some butter, crush a clove of garlic and add a splash of white wine in with it, then toss in some dried parsley and brush over the biscuits. Yummo.

    • Fiona Ryan May 5, 2017, 10:03 pm

      I don’t think it’s a cookbook – I think it’s a book about recipes and foods of Maine. Reminiscences. I’m starting it next week so I’ll let you know. I will most certainly be following your advice on the biscuits ; )

  • Celia May 6, 2017, 6:47 am

    I was so happy to see you had such a lovely trip! How gorgeous is that molinillo!! I would have bought it even if I didn’t drink chocolate! I’ve had a bit of a hot sauce obsession too of late, but really, why mix sriracha AND tabasco? 😉 There is a great online supplier of Mexican goods in Sydney at what I think are really cheap prices – http://www.fireworksfoods.com.au. They make me laugh – the tortillas come with a label that says “Made in Australia by Mexicans”. And you’ll be pleased to know that your corn photo caused me to go out, buy cobs, cook them and then smother them in grated cheese and hot sauce.. 🙂 I haven’t been online much lately (too much to do in real life) but it’s so nice to sit here with a cuppa on a Saturday morning and catch up on your world. Much love xxx

    • Fiona Ryan May 7, 2017, 11:44 am

      I tell you what, I say some amazing women making tortillas all through Mexico. They were so quick about it. I captured some on video and will be sharing in a later post. Things are all over the place, as you can imagine, but I hope to get to Sydney later in the year. I’ll chase you up. You can be the one on the corner with the white umbrella ; )

  • Francesca May 6, 2017, 8:47 am

    Welcome home Fiona and welcome back to bloglandia and IMK. You scored a heap of stuff while in the US, How did you get it all home?

    • Fiona Ryan May 6, 2017, 3:19 pm

      Glad to be back. We barely took anything with us on our trip – I had less than 10kg for 6 weeks. It meant that we could buy a suitcase and carry it all back as the luggage allowance from the US is 2 suitcases (up to 32kg!) each. We didn’t need anywhere near that but it made life easier.

  • Kim | a little lunch May 7, 2017, 2:16 am

    Fiona, so glad to see you made it home — with a stash of goodies in tow! Welcome back and happy “tasting.” Wish we could’ve connected when you were in the U.S… so near, yet so far away… Louisiana ain’t that far down the road. (Maybe next time?!) I agree with you that “hot chocolate” ought to be hot CHOCOLATE (melty, marvelous, and THICK — not the “chocolate milk” version oft served — might add a splash of Tabasco to mine next time!)

    “As Always Julia” is one of the best books I’ve ever read. I was in the throes of editing a friend’s cookbook when I first acquired it and appreciated every bit of sage advice from Avis De Voto — and Julia! Phenomenal women. As are YOU, xo.

    Sorry this comment is becoming so verbose, but I have to add a funny “side story” about Red Lobster’s Cheddar Bay Biscuits. (BTW, loved Maureen’s augmentation/additions in your comment section!) TMOFW (aka Russ) took me out to Red Lobster for my birthday in March (first time we’d ever eaten there, I know… GASP) and the waitress brought the obligatory batch of “signature biscuits” to our table prior to dinner. I can’t eat them (wheat/dairy, blah blah) and my hubby didn’t want any. (Ditto on GASP!) I asked if I could “take it home?” She thought I meant the WHOLE BASKET! (Cute chrome-plated French-fry style basket… who doesn’t need one of those IMK?!) I attempted to shove the whole shebang into the waxed paper “to go” bag she brought, then “fessed up” that I only wanted the biscuits. She seemed relieved. I laughed my head off! 🙂 (We left her a hefty tip for her sense of humor, and it was a memorable meal WITHOUT the biscuits!) xoxo

    • Fiona Ryan May 7, 2017, 11:51 am

      That is a funny, funny story. Some people will do anything for a tip! I will be telling it when I serve these biscuits. You should try to include it in a post.

      Don’t worry about verbose comments – I love any comments, long or short. I’m quite the storyteller in comments myself.

  • Liz (Good Things) May 7, 2017, 10:35 pm

    Welcome back, and farewell, too. Wow, wow, wow, you have some amazing stuff in your kitchen. Note to self, DO NOT bring back too much stuff from overseas. Love that Molinillo.

  • Kari @ bite-sized thoughts May 8, 2017, 12:10 am

    Welcome back! From your selection of travel purchases it looks like you had an amazing time away. Enjoy eating / using the items and remembering where you got them from!

  • shaheen May 9, 2017, 5:39 pm

    Welcome back! Your kitchen is brimming with so much good stuff, that i do not know where to begin. i love cookbooks and envious of the bookshop near you, i would spend loads of money in their too. I spotted the Korean cookbook here in the UK, but was hesitant in getting it as I thought I may get the one from Judy Joo. I love the molinillo, I have something similar but not as intricate. And hot sauces! I am speechless.

    • Fiona Ryan May 12, 2017, 4:40 pm

      Lol – the bookshop wasn’t near me at all. I live in Australia and the bookshop was in Austin, Texas. I saw the the Korean book was from the UK, which makes it all the more desirable to me as I only really cook out of Australia and British cookbooks.

  • Miss Food Fairy May 10, 2017, 7:49 pm

    Oh Fiona, you’re a girl after my own heart! I think I would have come back with just a suitcase of hot sauces! Sriracha Tobasco! Get out of town! WOW!! Hope you had a wonderful holiday and you’re fully recharged. Great catching up over #IMK xx

    • Fiona Ryan May 12, 2017, 4:39 pm

      Celia did ask, why would they bother with the Sriracha Tobasco? For people like us of course!

  • Gretchen May 11, 2017, 2:42 am

    It’s always fun to see what people take home after a trip to the States. You certainly did well! I’m with you on the preserving supplies. I myself may have a small addiction to them all. Ball jars recently came out with a new twist jar and I had to have them straight away! We have lots of hot sauces as well. I’ve made hubby narrow down his collection a little since it seems like the fridge is FULL of condiments. I was thrilled when I helped at a teacher’s luncheon last week and the 4 bottle of hot sauce didn’t even get opened, they came home with me.

    Love the mexican chocolate. I myself enjoy a good melted chocolate and hot milk too, another weakness I have. I don’t drink coffee though. And all those books look fantastic. I need to look into getting a few of them. Food themed books are always great.

    • Fiona Ryan May 12, 2017, 4:38 pm

      Hi Gretchen – I have started dipping into the books and am so glad I made space to bring them home. Books are horrendously costly in Australia due to copyright laws and/or postage. My hope os hot chocolate have been shelved at the cold weather has disappeared and it is still warm. I’ll have to wait!

  • johanna @ green gourmet giraffe May 17, 2017, 10:43 pm

    what a great way to reboot your blog with all your holiday purchases – I am not quite so bold when travelling because I worry about weight and breakages but I always wish I had bought more when I get home. that tabasco sauce is amusing – and you must be busy with reading, sipping hot chocolate and eating that cornbread 🙂 sounds like a good life to me

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