Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Interview & Rich Chocolate Mud Cupcakes

I was recently contacted by, a part of part of the for an interview on my experiences as an Expat. If you would like to see the link, click here. Below is the interview

My name is Susan Minihane. I grew up in New York state, lived in Manhattan and Silicon Valley California and now I live in Sydney, Australia.

1. Why did you move abroad?
My husband and I moved abroad for some adventure and to live outside the box. When we first were married we almost took a year off to travel the world. Instead we did the practical thing - bought a house and had children. Ten years later, when my husband was considering switching jobs, we decided he'd look for work overseas. Initially our goal was to move to mainland Europe. However, a great job came up in Sydney, Australia and we moved there (here). Many expats get transferred to countries by their jobs. We chose to move abroad consciously and willingly.

2. How do you make a living?
My background is in Human Resources and Recruiting. I have been a headhunter and corporate Recruiter. My favorite job was working for Google in both their California headquarters and Sydney office. They are all that and a bag of chips! It's really a worker's utopia there and a wonderful environment to work in. One of Google's motto's is 'instead of asking why, ask why not?' I love this creed and it helps guide me in my decision making. In 2013, I started a small baking business, Suzy Q's Cupcakes, because I love baking and couldn't find a decent cupcake locally. It was one of my many "crazy" ideas that I actually followed through on. I doubt I would've started this business in the US. However, living overseas I've gained confidence. Anytime I am struggling or feeling shy about something, I think to myself that I moved overseas not knowing anyone or anything and I've survived and thrived - I can do it.

3. How often do you communicate with home and how?

I usually speak with my parents every week via the phone or Skype. My sister is on Facebook and we speak on the phone as well.

4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Australia?
My favourite thing about being an expat in Australia is living on the coast. You can use the ocean 9 months a year here. We're water people and enjoy going swimming, snorkelling, boogie boarding, surfing, and boating. The beaches here are gorgeous and the water is very blue and clean. It is surprising that the water is so nice and that I can snorkel right off the beach and see amazing fish and yet a 20-minute ferry ride away from downtown Sydney, a major city. There is great shopping, food, culture, etc. there. It is the best of both worlds. 

I also think it is a great place for my daughters to live. They can have a childhood similar to the one I had growing up. It is quite safe, there are no guns, education is more well rounded, sports are part of life, etc. Australia has less people and less problems. Australians also work hard but they work to live. They enjoy their time off and seem generally happy, pleasant people. 

5. What's the worst thing about being an expat in Australia?
The worst thing about being an expat is that you never feel like you completely fit it. That saying, 'stranger in a strange land' is quite true. There are social nuances, traditions, holidays, language, food and much more that will always be foreign to you. You don't realise until you move away from everything you know what is ingrained in you from your home country.

6. What do you miss most?

Originally it was food and shopping but now after 5 years of living abroad, it's family and friends, hands down. They are irreplaceable and it is a long, expensive flight back to the US to visit.

7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I am quite social and have children so it was easier to meet people through my daughters' schools. I also started playing competitive tennis again and joined a book club. As an expat, you really have to be assertive, friendly, and put yourself out there. I have found it interesting in my area of northern Sydney. People are big travellers, they go all over the world on holidays. However, when they are home, they are quite provincial. Most have family nearby and friends from when they were in preschool. They are busy with their families, life and old friends. Some are wary of expats as many move back home. I had to make a concerted effort to meet and find Australian friends. We also were fortunate to move to a suburb where there were other expats. I would encourage anyone who moves overseas, to try and find local friends but also other expats from their home country. It is very comforting to have those friends, especially it you are feeling lonely. We have a group of American expats that we celebrate holidays w ith which is great as Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and it's not celebrated down under.

8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?

What is most strange to me in Australia is their language. While it is English, it is full of slang. My most read blog is on this topic. After 5 years here, I still learn new slang sayings and different ways of saying things every week. I also find it bizarre how orderly people are - you walk on the left side at all times, you wait nicely in the queue for the ferry/bus, you don't jaywalk, you wait for the light. You don't honk your horn, only if it's very necessary, you use your manners. There seems to be a moral code and high level of social decency which is nice to see. 

I also find Australia's relationship with England and the monarchy quite strange. While the government is officially a constitutional monarchy, the Queen of England is a figure head. She lives on the other side of the world and rarely visits. Yet, she is on most of the money here, her birthday is celebrated, there are more Range Rovers than you have ever seen, and the royals are all over the tabloids. There are also some of British expats living here who think they own the country, like it's still colonial times. Yet from my perspective, I don't get it at all. England was awful to Australia. The country was founded on England trying to get rid of their convicts by sending them to the other side of the world to an unsettled, uncivilised country....not very nice. I am very surprised that Australia hasn't broken away from the Queen and become a republic.  

9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
Australians are lazy and drink beer all day. All men are like Crocodile Dundee or hot lifeguards. Kangaroos bounce around in the street. Australia is backward and people are in constant threat of getting killed by a shark, spider, snake, etc. None of these are true except perhaps a lot of hot lifeguards :).

10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
The cost of living is very high in Sydney. It is crazy! In the US, there is the Dollar Store while in Sydney there is the 2 Dollar Store - no kidding. That's about right - everything is 2x the price of the US. This has made a difference in my shopping habits. In the US, I loved to shop and was quite a consumer. In Australia, with prices so high, I now think twice before buying things and ask myself more, 'do I really need this?' With energy costs, I hang my clothes out in the sun to dry (like the rest of the country) and also will put a sweater on before putting the heat on.

11. What advice would you give other expats?
  • Go for it! It is great to live overseas and see a different part of the world.
  • The first year is hard; know that going in. In fact, anytime you move to another city, place (even in your home country) it is hard. Go gentle on yourself and know that it'll take some time to make friends, figure out where to shop, find a doctor, etc. There are lots of big things and little things to learn and it will be more challenging in a different country. Keep your chin up and persevere. See what I've learnt as an expat.
  • Living abroad is a great time to start a clean slate. You can be whomever you want to be. No one knows your past life. (That sounds like a convict comment but just encouraging people that it is alright to try new things personally and professionally)
  • When in Rome be a Roman - enjoy your new country and immerse yourself in its' culture, customs, food, etc.

12. When and why did you start your blog?Suzy Q
I started a blog a few years ago when I was talking with an Australian friend. I would ask questions and make comments about Australia. She encouraged me to try writing a blog. I had always thought of writing a cooking blog as that is one of my hobbies, but there are already thousands of cooking blogs so I thought I could combine an expat and cooking blog together. It is a lot of work but I enjoy it and it's the closest thing I'll have to a travel diary.

Well hopefully that answers some questions about me in case you are wondering. Now onto the best part - food! I mentioned above how I started Suzy Q's Cupcakes 2 years ago after not being able to find good cupcakes locally. I love my little business and I am passionate about it despite earning peanuts! Besides occasionally writing this obscure blog, it keeps me creatively challenged and very happy. My family is most happy with my newish line of work because they get to be taste testers and get to eat all the leftovers. Recently, my husband celebrated his birthday. Unlike a woman he said he didn't "need" anything for his birthday but wanted a rack of lamb and chocolate cupcakes. Easy peasy. Save all those gifts for Mother's Day!
Like their name says, these cupcakes are rich....very rich. They have espresso and 200g of chocolate. They are dense and moist but also have some crumble to them. The lolly girls, my daughters, ate them of course but told me later that they were too strong for them. So baker beware! These Rich Chocolate Cupcakes may be best served to chocoholics, adults, and those who like to eat strong delicious desserts. And if you want more rich chocolate cupcake recipes, look at my blog that has Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes.
Rich Chocolate Mud Cupcakes

Makes 16
Prep 30 mins
Cook 25 mins
Bakers Notes: With any cooking, the quality of your ingredients have a huge affect on the outcome and taste. In this recipe, using high quality *unsalted* butter, high quality chocolate, and strong coffee will greatly improve the taste of this cupcake.
(original recipe from, this cook made several changes):
3/4 cup (around 200g) *unsalted* butter 
1 cup (215g) sugar
1 cup (around 200g) chocolate, chopped (I used dark, milk chocolate is fine too)
1/4 cup (30g) cocoa powder
1/3 cup (80ml) espresso or strong coffee
1 cup flour (150g) Plain Flour
1.5 tsp Baking Powder
1/4 tsp Salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten (room temperature is best)
adapted recipe from Hershey's Cocoa
1/2 cup (110g) *unsalted* butter, melted
2/3 cup (65g) cocoa powder
3 cups (375g) powdered/icing sugar
1/4 cup (62ml) whole milk

1. Preheat oven to 325F or 160C fan forced. 
2. Combine butter, sugar, chocolate, cocoa powder, coffee in a saucepan. Heat slowly (you don't want to burn butter nor chocolate = bad cupcakes). Stay at stove and stir constantly until fully melted. REMOVE from burner.

shiny and smooth, no lumps and not too hot
3. Add flour, baking powder, and salt and whisk to combine. 

shiny and smooth and now thicker
5. In a separate bowl, lightly hand whisk/mix 3 eggs. Make sure the chocolate mixture is not too hot as you will end up with egg drop cupcakes and will have to start all over. Add eggs and hand beat quickly.

make sure the chocolate batter is not too hot; fold eggs in quickly
6. Pour or spoon mixture into baking cups and cook for 25 mins. Use toothpick or grill kebab metal stick to make sure cupcakes are baked through. To start the cooling process, you can turn them 1/2 way (see below).

Cupcakes will cool faster on their side
7. While cupcakes are cooling, make the Fudge Frosting. Melt butter in a saucepan or microwave and pour into mixing bowl. Add cocoa and beat through

make sure any lumps of cocoa are gone; should be smooth
8. Add powdered/icing sugar and milk slowly in 3 lots and beat after each addition. When finished, beat on high for 4 minutes. You must beat the frosting for a long time to add air and "fluffen" it up.

frosting is fluffy, light and has increased in size due to 4 mins of mixing
9. Icing the cupcakes: make sure cupcakes are completely cool before frosting them. If they are at all warm, the frosting, which is high in butter, will melt. You can use a spoon to spread frosting OR cut the side of a plastic sandwich bag on the diagonal and frosting cupcakes that way. Or alternatively, you can buy decorated baking cups, sprinkles and tips from a crafts store, grocery store, even Big W and create fancy cupcakes like the bottom photo. 
Another use for a plastic bag; better than a sandwich :)

much prettier than using a knife, heh?

"Fancy Nancy" cupcakes; easy for me to make as I have all the supplies.
They are now easier to find locally at craft store, grocery stores and BigW.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Wine, FebFast and Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes
"How do you like living in Australia?"
"Yes, I'm enjoying living here but I feel like I'm in college again as I've gained the freshman 15."

The 'freshmen 15' is of course a reference to the weight gain American students tend to gain after leaving home to start their first year of University or College. With easier access to alcohol and Mom not monitoring the fridge, it is easy for the weight to pile on. And why are they gaining weight down under? I attribute it to nibbles (appetizers), dinner parties, BBQs and alcohol. Nibbles seem to be everywhere. Nibbles are snacks, appetizers, crackers and dips especially. I have never seen so many dips and crackers in all my life - hummos, eggplant, pumpkin, pesto, crab, salmon, spinach, beetroot, etc. There are whole refrigerated aisles at the grocery stores full of different dips. My house is never short on a supply of dips, crackers and bottles of wine. I love the nibbles and what a cute name, a name I should consider for my next pet.
Some of my nibbles and wine stash 
One component of enjoying life down under is alcohol. Beer and wine are very popular. Whether you are meeting friends for dinner, a "sausage sizzle" (simple BBQ with an Australian staple, sausages), sporting event, etc. some form of alcohol is usually present. I suspect this is true in most countries however there seem to be more socializing events here and more drinking than I remember in the busy, work driven, competitive Silicon Valley, CA that I left behind. Australians and ex-pats seem to be working to live and eating, drinking and enjoying life. It is a lucky country for sure.

There is a lot to be said about alcohol in Australia; there is the good, the bad and the ugly. Alcohol is a part of the Australian culture and more laid back lifestyle here. There are lots of problems associated with drinking - drunk driving, underage drinking, alcoholism, binge drinking, and alcohol fueled violence. I have decided to leave the bad and ugly with the rest of the horrible news that shocks the world and focus on the good. So, my blog is about wine, my favourite form of alcohol.

Wine is abundant in Australia and there is a plethora of different wines available - Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillion, Reisling, Sparkling Whites and Sparkling Shiraz, etc.  Australia produces over 1 billion litres of wine a year and is the fourth largest exporter by volume behind the traditional wine-producing giants of Italy, France and Spain. Due to its small population (24 million people), 2/3 of its' wine is exported. The government puts  a tax on wine so sometimes Australian wines are cheaper overseas than they are in Australia. A good example of this is Yellow Tail which is so popular in the US yet more expensive, unpopular and obscure here.

Australia doesn't have any native grapes; varieties were introduced from Europe and South Africa in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Today, over 100 different grape varieties are planted and used by commercial winemakers. The country has been creative, inventing cask wine and also the screw top bottle due to a lack of cork. Screw top bottles are great! They're so much easier then having to take a cork out. No corkscrew needed and no worries about possibly getting cork pieces in your wine.
Wine in Australia comes from 4 different States (New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australia) and there is always debate over which region makes the best wine. I prefer Chardonnay from Victoria and Shiraz from South Australia. It is harder to find big, buttery, oaky Chardonnays like the ones I enjoyed in California and unfortunately, they're not popular here.  There is even a saying - "ABC" which means anything-but-chardonnay. Sauvingnon Blanc and Champers is most popular for white wines while Shiraz is most popular for red wines. A nice perk about going out to dinner in Australia is that many restaurants are licensed and allow you to bring your own (BYO) bottle of wine. A corkage fee is usually charged but it is minimal. 

So many words have slang terms down under. Here are just a few associated with drinking wine:
Bottle Shop - a store to buy alcohol
Pub - bar
Pissed - drunk
Champers - champagne (extremely popular drink)
Grog - alcohol
Drink Driving - driving while intoxicated (as opposed to 'drunk driving')
RBT - random breath testing (popular on my local roads on the weekends)
Shout - to offer to buy the next round of drinks
feeling Dusty - hungover

Some  people may have lost their freshmen 15 last month. February is popular for "Febfast" , a month when people give up drinking voluntarily. Some get sponsored and raise money that goes to specific youth groups and a family drug support groupWhy February? I think it is for the procrastinators who kept their holiday cheer alive in January and because February is the shortest month of the year. It is like Lent for non-Catholics drinkers.


I've heard people talking about not drinking in February but I didn't realise that it was a national event outside of my little suburb and that some fasters may raise money for a good cause. I find it impressive that Australia as a whole doesn't celebrate many US commercial holidays, however they dedicate  months to doing good things. For example, November is Movember where men grow facial hair to raise funds for prostrate cancer and mental health (see past blog on Movember with great pecan pie recipe) and February has FebFast.  I give people credit. My FebFast journey started earlier, it was more of a DecemFast. I realised over the Christmas holidays that I was drinking too much. My 1 glass of wine a night had turned into 2-3 glasses of wine every night. In France this might be normal, but for me 2 glasses of wine can put me over the edge. I decided at the end of December stop drinking, cold turkey.

I found the first week really hard. At dinnertime when I usually enjoyed my glasses of wine, I found myself smelling the opened wine bottle and sniffing my husband's wine glass like a bloodhound. I also felt a bit anxious and very grumpy thinking, 'no wine with dinner, what's the point?!' I started eating more sweets to fill that void in the beginning. Despite this extra eating, my stomach got flatter, I was sleeping better and I had more energy. By the third week, I noticed I was happier and my mood was more stable. I also noticed that my skin and eyes looked brighter. By the fourth week, I was feeling so great, I wondered why I drank at all. Well maybe that's not true. After 6 weeks, I decided I may have a drink here and there but not in the house and only when I go out socially. I will not drink more than two glasses of wine as I no longer want to feel "dusty" the next day. So, while some have a food diet, I have a drinking diet and so far it is working, fingers and lips crossed.

If you can't drink the wine, just put it in your cake - haha.  I am sharing a recipe for Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes. It is from a new cookbook called 'Baked Occasions' by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito. They are the owners of Baked bakeries in New York City. I like their recipes - rich, classic and yet at the same time, a spin on traditional American baking. This recipe intrigued me because who ever thought to put wine a cupcake?! I adapted this recipe by using less wine, less sugar, and adding some instant coffee powder which enhances baked chocolate cakes in my humble opinion. These cupcakes are delicious and fine to serve to minors. You would not know there is in wine in them unless someone told you; it's a subtle flavour.

Red Wine Chocolate Cupcakes
with Chocolate Glaze
adapted from Baked Occasions
by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito

PREP: 20 mins
BAKE: 20 mins
YIELD: 20-24 cupcakes

1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 ounces/55 gm dark chocolate, chopped
1 cup hearty red wine (I used Shiraz)
2 cups plain flour
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant coffee (optional)
8 oz/225 gm unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs, room temperature
1 egg yolk, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract/essence

Chocolate Glaze
4 ounces/115 gm dark chocolate chopped
1 tablespoon corn syrup/golden syrup
1/2 cup heavy cream OR whole milk

NOTE: I am a keen baker. The quality of your ingredients and their temperature are important. This recipe calls for both butter and eggs to be at room temperature which means planning to leave them out on the counter hours before baking. If you forget, butter can be sliced into big chunks and put in the microwave for 20-30 seconds (depends on strength of your specific microwave) to soften it. Eggs can be put in a small bowl of hot tap water (not boiling) and allowed to sit for 10 minutes to get closer to room temperature.

1- Preheat oven to 175 C/150 F. Line 2 - 12 cup cupcake pan with paper liners.

2-  Place the wine in a saucepan. Heat until just boiling, take off the burner and add cocoa powder and chocolate, stirring until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth.

2- In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

3- In an stand alone electric mixer or hand held electric mixer, beat the room temperature butter until smooth. Add both the white and brown sugars and and beat for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Then add vanilla extract/essence. Scrape bowl and beat batter again for 30 seconds so that it is well combined. (Don't beat too long as prolonged beating/mixing results in tough, "gummy" cupcakes).

4- Remove the bowl from the mixer and by HAND, alternate folding in the flour and wine/chocolate mixtures, starting with the flour and ending with the wine/chocolate. 

5- Fill the cupcake liners 3/4 full with batter. Note: cupcakes may taste a bit "winey." This taste will be more subtle once baked. Bake, rotating the pan halfway through (if you remember), for about 20 minutes. Test with a toothpick to make sure the cupcake is cooked through. After 5 minutes remove cupcakes from pan to prevent any further cooking and allow cupcakes to completely cool. 

1. Please chocolate in small saucepan. Drizzle the corn syrup or golden syrup on top. Add whole milk or heavy cream and heat SLOWLY, CONSTANTLY STIRRING until melted. You must heat it slowly so that chocolate doesn't burn.

1. Dip the top of each COOLED cupcake into the glaze and add decoration if desired. Let cupcake stand at least 30 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

The Top 10 Lessons I've Learned as an Expat & Easy Pad Thai

Happy New Year! I can't believe it's 2015 already. I know everyone says this but I really mean it - where did 2014 go?! And, why have I been such a blog slacker? My last blog was in September, 4 months ago. I didn't plan on not writing, it's just that like all of you, I have been busy. Busy with raising kids, maintaining a household, running errands, managing a small baking business, and all the other details that go into our daily lives. Probably another reason I haven't written is that this blog takes me a long time to write. There is a lot of research that goes into my blog that is sometimes daunting for my little writing hobby. Today's blog has no research behind it, just my experience of living abroad. I have seen several articles on the internet recently about what people have learned being an expat. It prompted me to write as my experience is different. A lot of these articles are from young backpackers who have travelled abroad and may not have necessarily lived abroad for an extended period of time. I am the latter having lived in Sydney, Australia now for 5 years. I've learned a lot and wanted to share this for anyone who cares and/or might be moving abroad.
Card given to me by my girlfriends before I moved abroad.

1. The first year is challenging
Moving overseas sounds very exciting and glamorous to many. Before leaving, many people will tell you how great it all sounds, how they wish they could pick up and move somewhere, how brave you are. There are others who look at you with a weird face and tell you that you're crazy. And like other milestones in life - getting married, having a child, the thrill of living overseas lessens when you settle into a new country and have to start all over again.  It takes a while to figure out the logistics of your new life  abroad and you mostly have to figure it out on your own. Note to anyone moving, don't move over the holiday season; it's rough. I was not happy the first year, as I felt like a lonely isolated foreigner. Like anything, it takes time, patience, effort, a positive attitude and a hopeful leap of faith.
2. If you move to a modern, first world country that speaks the same language, don't assume it will be the same.
While Australia is a modern first world country that speaks English, it is still different. I didn't realize moving here, that even with a lot of similarities, there were many differences too such as the lingo/slang, social norms, a more casual lifestyle, a different work outlook, different government, different school system, and many other aspects. Life down under is different.

3. Not everyone likes Americans
Some people love Americans and some people hate them. I've been told that Americans are so friendly, nice, energetic and fearless. On the other hand, we are brash, loud, ignorant, ethnocentric. Some despise American consumer culture as we "force" new trends, clothes, foods, holidays on them. Several times I have been asked if I'm Canadian. When I've said 'No, I'm American,' I am told, 'Oh, I thought so but didn't want to offend you as Canadians hate it when I ask them if they're American.' Gee, thanks...

4. When in Rome, be a Roman
You have to be willing to be flexible and adapt to your new country. No one cares if they do it differently in the US; you are not in the US anymore. Learn the local colloquial expressions, try new foods, don't complain how the prices/government/schools/holidays etc are different from your home country. Be where you are; adapt to your new home.
5. You become nostalgic.
That said, nostalgia comes at unexpected times - whether its a food you miss, a smell that reminds you of home, a person that looks like an old friend, holiday memories creep their way out of your memory. It is this nostalgic that can make you long for home.

6. Building friendships requires time and effort.
 Moving overseas, I had no friends and I found it a real effort to establish new friendships. It is easy to make acquaintances if you put yourself out there but finding a few good friends can be hard. Australia has a small population (24 million) with  8 capital cities. Most people live in and around the cities so the women I've met have family and friends they have known for 20+ years. Many are not looking for new friends. I actually made a friend strategy last year choosing a few women I really liked and focusing on building a friendship with them.  This was worth the unexpected effort.
7. You can reinvent yourself.
Since you have left everything behind and are starting over again, you can recreate yourself. No one knows your past history and you may try things you haven't tried before. You can also change your behaviors and hopefully improve upon your shortcomings.

8. As an ex-pat, you become more independent, self reliant, confident and resourceful.
Since you have said goodbye to everything you know and moved to another country, you now have to rely on one person - yourself. You will have to step out of your comfort zone to navigate a new place, solve problems, and do a lot on your own. With successes and failures, you will be stretched as a person and will learn that you are capable of more than you thought you were capable of.

9. Living abroad changes you.
Living in another country gives you a new perspective of your home country. When you are removed from all you know, you develop views on your country from a personal perspective (eg. friends, family, work) and from a macro perspective (eg. culture, government). Because of your new perspective, you will feel changed. I often feel like a stranger in a strange land both in Australia and the US. In Australia, I will never completely fit in because I am a foreigner. In the US, I find my friends and family haven't changed much but I have. The US looks very different to me now that I have been away for 5 years.

10. You may not want to return home.
After living abroad, you may not want to return to your home country. We recently got our permanent residency (aka green card). If you told me when we moved here that I would be staying, I would have laughed. Then again, life is a journey full of surprises. I have learned you need to take that leap of faith and enjoy the ride.

Thai food was foreign to me when I moved here but very popular in Australia. There are Thai restaurants all over Sydney and it's become one of my favorites with the fresh flavours, spices, curries, noodle dishes, lovely soups, etc. I have always been intimidated to make it as recipes call for spices and condiments that I don't usually have in my cupboard. However, I saw a recipe in one of my cookbooks and thought why not give it a try? I had no problem finding the noodles, fish sauce, chile sauce, soy sauce in the Asian section of the grocery store. I found this dish easy to make, full of flavor and versatile as you can chose your type of meat. It is also nice for those gluten-free easters who may be craving pasta as rice noodles are gluten free.

Easy Pad Thai
adapted from Everyday Food:Great Food Fast 
by Martha Stewart Living

Serves 4 as a main, 6+ as an appetizer
Prep Time 30 mins
Total Time 45 mins

12 ounces/350 grms rice-stick noodles
1/3 cup tomato based chile sauce
1/3 cup lime juice
5 tablespoons Soy Sauce
3 tablespoons Brown Sugar
2 tablespoons Fish Sauce
4 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
4 cloves garlic, minced OR 4 tsps of garlic from a jar
500gm or 1 pound of your choice of meat - shrimp/prawns, pork, chicken, tofu
3 cups of Bean Sprouts
8 Scallions/shallots, cut into 5cm/2inch pieces

Possible Garnishes - chopped roasted peanuts, lime wedge, lemon wedge, bean sprouts, red pepper flakes, chopped cilantro/corriander, 1 scrambled egg

1) Bring a large pot of water to boil. Remove from heat and add all the rice noodles. Soak for 4 minutes until softened. Immediately drain in your sink and rinse noodles under cold water until they are cool.

2)In a small bowl, whisk together chile sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and fish sauce.

3) In a large skillet, heat 2 Tablespoons of oil over high heat. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant. Add your meat and cook through until done. I used shrimp/prawns and cooked them quickly, until they were opaque. Transfer to a plate or bowl and set aside.

4) Using the same skillet, add the other 2 tablespoons of oil and coat the pan. Then add the noodles and chile sauce mixture and stir through for 1-2 minutes, so that sauce coats all the noodles.

5) Cut up the bean sprouts and then add them, the scallions and shrimp to the noodles. Over medium to high heat, stir for 2 more minutes.

6) Serve topped with garnishes if desired.

Special design for SuzyQ Under Down by GeCe