In desperate need for a little Halloween spirit, a little sanity and some entertainment for the kids, we packed the minivan full of kids (and neighbours kids) and headed to Montclair, NJ.  First stop - much needed coffee and some fabulous french fries - with burgers and hot dogs for the kids - and beer battered fish for the mummies.  Now we might just add that Fish & Chips is a rare commodity in these parts, extremely difficult to find and often badly prepared - if you do find it.  We should know, as where we come from there is no shortage of great fish and chip shops (a bit like the New Jersey Nail Bar - one on every corner)... but Raymond's version has the British and Antipodean stamp of approval.

Raymond's is a bit of an institution and is known for it's scrumptious brunches.   I am a huge fan of the Breakfast Burrito.  Open all day, there is just a constant stream of hungry locals and people from further afield. 

Coffee, first order of the day and luckily the kids were kept quiet with colouring in and watching the array of wait staff in Halloween costumes which then inspired some placemat paper hat making...The specials caught our eye - Spicy Mexican Hot Chocolate with homemade marshmallows.  Awesome!!  And lucky for you, we got the recipe - yay!

Raymond's Mexican Hot Chocolate
(Serves about 6-8 troops)

1 Qrt milk
1 Qrt water
1 cup sugar
2 cinnamon sticks
3 star anise
2 whole ancho chillies
2 whole cardomom pods
2 Tbsp honey
1 cup dark chocolate
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 to 1 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix milk, water, sugar and honey into pot large enough to hold all of the ingredients. Add cinnamon, anise, chilies and cardomom pods and bring to a boil over a medium heat.  Let simmer for 10 minutes.  

Mix in cocoa, cayenne pepper and chocolate and whisk until chocolate dissolves.  Cover and let steep for 30 minutes for flavour to develop.  Strain and reheat.   
PS To cancel out the fat content of the fish and chips, one of us did order an unbelievably good vege burger that came with a delicious Greek salad.  You'll always leave Raymond's wishing that there was one in your town - we did, but we'll definitely be back soon!
Meet Steve Crane, the owner of Crane's Deli and Cheese Shoppe, in Maplewood.  Which, by the way, is a very cool town and our favourite secret coffee spot!

Coffee is a new thing for me...I still love a good cup of tea but now, good or bad I've joined the millions of Americans and their need for a morning coffee hit...  Since my move from the coffee capital of Australia, Melbourne in 07, I've been on a quest to find the greatest coffee.  Yes, they serve it large (sometimes in small buckets)here but is it any good?  I usually order small in fear of an overdose of caffeine, resulting in the shakes.

A trip to Crane's decided on without any hesitation, we order large, to ensure that the coffee moment lasts as long as possible, after all we've driven 15 minutes for this taste sensation.

Ok yes, fabulous coffee needs a snack...The best bacon and egg sandwich, according to my 10 year old... Unbelievable oversized, walnut and maple cookies and voluptuous Homemade Bourbon Bread Pudding was on today's last minute Baby Shower Coffee Morning menu (our pregnant friend at 40 weeks and still remarkably in one piece!)...

Pop in and say hi to Steve:  175 Maplewood Ave Maplewood, NJ 

Check out what Steve kindly gave us;

Crane's Homemade Bourbon Bread Pudding (A secret little recipe)

[WARNING this will feed an army, you may need to adjust quantities depending on the number of your troops...]


1 large aluminum pan full of bread cubes (soft rolls and hero rolls)

Mix in bowl:

2 dozen eggs
2 quarts of milk and half&half
1/2 quart of sugar
Shake of dried cloves
Shake of dried coriander
2 Shakes of Cinnamon
Good squeeze of Vanilla

Add bread to liquid, soak thoroughly BAKE at 345F

Bourbon Glaze

On the STOVE
1 stick of melted butter (1/4)
Bourbon (no measurements, depends on the day and the troops)

2 cups of confectionary sugar
Whisk together, off the stove...
Pour onto pudding... 

Our newest guest blogger Lizzie, is a New Zealander with Canadian parentage who has lived all around the globe - from Europe to Asia, with stints Down Under.  A writer, Lizzie currently resides in France with her darling French husband and 2 children.  Presently rewriting her latest novel, Lizzie has taken time out (procrastinating?) to give us the lowdown on the real French cooking.

I've always told myself I'm a terrible cook and so living in Paris now for over 11 years has been a source of torture for me with my culinary hangups.  Growing up as 1 of 7 kids, I inherited mum's set of simple recipes that got her through raising the pack of us (and we really were a pack, as in, wolf-like, feral creatures). Mum cooked bootcamp style, not fancy, not tricky: meatloaf, spaghetti Bolognaise, chicken à l'orange (juice), chicken with asparagus, roast chicken, tuna & mushroom on rice, stirfry, always salads. We had a Chatelaine's Encyclopaedia of Recipes - it was about 1,001 pages thick and I secretly hung out with it hoping I'd somehow learn true cooking from reading its advice on roasting lamb legs and mastering choux pastry. The only section I got comfortable with was the dessert pages - I baked siblings' birthday cakes from the age of 10. 

Even though I don't think I can cook, I do love throwing dinner parties and love travel and living in other countries. Now that I'm a wife to a Frenchman with 2 half-French filles I realise that I really ought to have become a proper good cook by now, but I'm still not. I do enjoy shocking my in-laws with crazy, exotic ingredients such as tofu and ginger. I do enjoy some baking and my own random set of dishes that I'm comfortable with. I don't think I'm adventurous enough (I recently was a complete wus about being offered stewed rabbit and put my paw down that I would not eat it!) but maybe contributing to this blog will help me become La Cordon Bleue! And if not, my humble observations may at least dispel some nutso myths that everyone in France eats foie gras and pain au chocolat for breakfast. Believe me, what people in France really eat is very different from the perception.


As Summit locals, often in need of unique gifts to send home to Australia, Catchware has become our 'one- stop- shop...' A smile, a chat, a gift, wrapped with love and then straight to the post office... 
This is what I call convenient shopping!

This Mung Bean recipe comes from our Mates at Catchware, in Summit NJ

Their story.  In 1998 a vibrant woven tote commonly carried throughout mexico and latin america set the stage for what would later become Catchware. By way of nyc street fairs and flea markets a brand was slowly built. baskets. containers. bags. mexican. african. american. and... decorative utility was and is the driving force behind the catchware brand. Catchware opened its door in summit nj in november 2004... 

When it comes to comfort food i believe in two very distinct categories, the sinfully delicious and the sacred. when seasons change or I'm feeling run down, or having overdone it on the sinful stuff, I crave the sacred.
Perfect for right now is mung beans & brown basmati rice. It is easy to prepare, nourishing, incredibly satisfying, and gentle and healing on the digestive system and really delicious. This dish is also, gluten free, lactose free & vegetarian.
You can easily tweak this recipe to taste: you can leave out the tomato, use less (or no) chilies, substitute a sweeter pepper and if you don't have coriander, no worries. cilantro may be substituted with parsley, and a buttery olive oil instead of ghee, tho' I highly recommend the ghee!
Brown basmati rice is my favorite with this preparation, tho you can use plain brown rice, or white basmati. 

Mung Beans
1 cup of whole dry mung beans
3 cups of water
1/4 of ghee or oil, or a combination of butter and sesame oil
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 - 2 teaspoons of turmeric
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1/2 tablespoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped
3 - 4 jalapenos or hot chilies, finely chopped
1 medium-large tomato, finely diced
1 - 2 teaspoons of sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup of finely chopped fresh cilantro

Soak the mung beans in the water overnight

Heat the ghee or oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, and stir and fry for a minute or two. Next, add the ground spices, stir for about 15 seconds, and then add the onion, ginger and hot chillies to the pan. Fry until the onion wilts and begins to brown. 

Add the mung beans and their soaking liquid to the pot. Bring to a boil, immediately reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered until the beans are just tender - about 20 - 35 minutes. Add more water if necessary just to keep the bean covered. 

Now add the chopped tomato to the beans, along with the salt and pepper. Simmer for another 15 - 20 minutes, or until the beans are tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed. Stir in the parsley near the end of the cooking time.

I've been cooking brown rice for years, only recently have I fallen on the surest, quickest cooking method. The result is a slightly chewy rice. For softer rice add 1/4c. more water per cup of rice.

1. Wash rice until water runs clear and nothing floats to the top.

2.Put brown rice and water together in a pot with a lid.  Use the ratio of 1.5 cups water to 1 cup rice.  3c rice with 4.5c water for a single batch. makes a nice batch.
3. Set the heat to maximum, and bring the rice/water to a boil uncovered.  Then put the lid on the pot, and reduce the heat to low/simmer.  If your lid has a steam valve, keep it closed.  Let the rice simmer for 20 minutes.
4.Turn off the heat, and let the rice sit in the covered pot for another 10 minutes.  It’s OK if you let the rice sit longer than 10 minutes (20 or 30 minutes is fine too), but don’t let it go any less. 

I like to make extra, it keeps for a few days. 
The best way to re-heat, place in fine strainer over boiling water, steam till heated through.