Happy Appies…

The Hubs and I were in charge of wine and pre feast snacks for Thanksgiving, so part deux of my kitchen based marathon was on Wednesday. I had five items to produce for the menu I planned. All pretty easy to execute. I also had to pack each item for travel, and didn’t want to have to mess around with bringing containers home unless critically necessary, so disposable was way to go.

  
The Old Standby

Blue, chèvre, Brie, Manchego, cheddar served with baguette slices, candied lemon, grapes and blackberries, sliced apple and red pears. I always like my cheese tray to look full and casual, not laid out like a terraced garden. Another bonus on Thursday came in the form of an hour plus commute, that allowed the cheese to come up to perfect temp for eating.

  
The Fail Safe

A Caprese salad is always a safe choice for diner satisfaction, and transferring the ingredients to a skewer is a fun way to convert a salad into an appetizer that’s portable and kid friendly too. 

  
It’s also fun to include dressing and garnish in one by filling teeny tiny food grade syringes with balsamic syrup and evoo!

 
You can purchase on Amazon, just search for flavor injectors.

The Classic with a Twist

  

You can miniaturize (is that a real verb?) almost any set of ingredients and salad is no exception. Caeser salad is really good because there are limited ingredients. I simply shredded some Romaine, and put it in a zip top bag with a damp paper towel. On arrival you can just pour the dressing, transported in any old jar, into the bag, reseal and shake. “But it’s missing the cheese and the crouton” you say. That’s the other way to have fun here. You can make Parmesan crisps very easily!

  
Just toss a little flour with shredded Parmesan and place on a non stick pan, medium heat with a little pan spray on it. As the cheese melts you can move it into shape as desired.  Cook till brown and then flip, about 45 seconds. The crisps keep really well between two paper plates, wrapped in plastic wrap.

The Savory and Satisfying

  

For the first hot appetizer, I turned to corn, “we call it maize”, but it’s actually polenta!

   
 
Follow the directions on the box and add cheese or other ingredients as you see fit. I topped the polenta with savory mushrooms cooked with a little Italian sausage, garlic, butter and some sage, and then stirred in a tablespoon of mascarpone.Totally creamy and yummy. 

 
I garnished with some green onions, but chives would work also. The polenta and the mushrooms can just be put in reveal able containers and nuked in the microwave when needed. And lastly…

The Wild Card

Of which there are no pictures extant! How did that happen? 

Well, I’ll just have to tell you all about it!

My brothers favorite option from any Chinese restaurant is always Crab Rangoon. So I decided I could do a deconstructed rangoon. I mixed canned crabmeat with a little mayo and Tabasco and 8 oz of non fat cream cheese and baked along with the turkey. Wednesday nite, I heated about a cup of vegetable oil in a deep skillet and then cut refrigerated egg roll wrappers into triangles. Drop the triangles into the oil for about 20 seconds and flip…like magic, wontons! So instead of pockets of crab and cream cheese, you have wonton chips and dip.

So that’s how I used about eight different types of cheese from the cheese centric trip to Trader Joes last week!


I know you want to know…

  
What everything is, right?

I did a 2 part marathon of baking and hors d’oeuvres in anticipation of the holiday feast. Sunday was baking day and produced orange blossom madeleines (top right and left), gingerbread (not shown), candied Meyer lemons (top center) that are good with so many things like gingerbread, goat cheese, fish, chicken and more. I also made some fruit and nut filled chocolates (middle right), and tried out this recipe for persimmon bread that features persimmon pulp, nuts and dried fruits. 

Here’s how you “candy” the lemons.

   
 
Rinse lemons and cut the ends off..slice in 1/4 inch slices   

Place slices in heavy pot with simple syrup made from equal parts sugar and water boiled together. I used two cups of each. 

 
 Boil the slices in the syrup for 20 minutes and then move to a rack to dry
 Then I tackled the persimmon bread, I thought it would be something different with a seasonal ingredient.

   
    
 I just love the color of persimmons and the batter comes out to a light peach color also. There are dried fruits galore in this recipe and I replace the walnuts with pistachios.

Come back on Friday to see the rest of the feast!

The Big Picture…

IMG_1514What you learn from travel..

No one cares that the Pats are 8-0 and that TB12 is the cutest quarterback ever…

Sixty degrees to a Bostonian means shorts and t shirts. In Paris and Barcelona, the natives are in scarves..

Puffy jackets are big, literally and in the fashion fad sense..

If you don’t have a puffy coat/jacket, then wear black leather. Same dif…

There is no bad wine, or beer or food for that matter in Europe…

The roar of motor scooters in Paris and Barcelona is constant and serious personal harm is a split second away…

No one wears a beret in Paris, but everyone carries a baguette…

Cheese should not be eaten cold…

Champagne should not be drunk warm…

Shopping for fresh food every day is good for you.(  I wish I had a neighborhood to shop in that was not named Stop & Shop, Price Chopper or Market Basket…)

So is walking…everywhere. And it’s not a race…

Everyone in Europe still smokes, they just can’t smoke inside anymore, so cigarette smoke is ever present on the sidewalks…

Making an effort to speak the language and greet shopkeepers and wait staff will directly result in much better service…

Go down the side street to see what’s there..

According to tour guides, Americans are never late. They are anywhere from 15 minutes early to bang on time, but not late…

Pack less clothes and do more laundry…

Take time with meals even if you are not on vacation…

Take time with your traveling companions to enjoy every moment…have an extra glass of wine in a cafe…watch the world go by…

Be French when ” your city” is attacked…and be American in your right to stand up for democracy everywhere.

Je suis Paris…

See if you can guess where I am now…

  
Oh, look! A lighthouse fresnel…must be….a maritime museum! Q’uelle surprise!  

   
But what a museum! They had a cool courtyard cafe serving a great lunch including baccala (salt cod) in phyllo, and uber cool paper placemats that riffed on the ocean theme…

   
 And museum itself is award winning for design! Once upon a time, the ocean lapped up against the walls here and ships of all kinds were built in these long stone bays and floated out on a tide.  

    
 First we ate lunch, of course. Then we learned about the Spanish submarine fleet. Then we snooped around the smaller galleries with rowboats and dinghies and other small craft. 

  Then we found the biggest toy boat ever made….  
 The ship is a model of a galley warship, modeled on the same kind we see in Ben Hur (“row well number 47”) and the Hubs thinks it was named the Juan de Ausria, from the Battle of Lepanto-Espana vs. Ottoman Empire in 1571. A definitive win for the Coalition of Catholic States ( I can’t make this stuff up, peeps…)

 
Lastly, we looked at the stories from ships of Spain. Stories of commerce, immigration, wealth, exploration and innovation.

Then we cabbed it back to the hotel and sat on our suitcases to close them and indulged a final time in the life changing truffle pizza at Luzia with cold, crisp and minerally  rose wine.

Next morning, up and out by 6:30 am for a quick predawn cab ride to the Barcelona airport. Barely any security on the Dublin flight (what borders?) but a lot of walking to get to gate! 

Next up: Final thoughts on our trip of a lifetime…(then I’ll be done, promise..)

Up, up and away

1599

On Saturday, our second to last day in Barcelona, we were pretty much consumed with discovering cute shoes and life changing truffle pizza, so didn’t have time for a lot of other stuff. But on Sunday we hopped back on the hop on/hop off bus and took off for Montjuic park and the cable cars! High above the city, where they built many of the venues for the 1992 Olympics is the old Montjuic Parc. It’s a lovely setting of fountains, terraced gardens and both a funicular (not running) and cable cars (running!) that take you to the very top where there is a castle, and the not so top, where there is a lovely garden.

First we went to the tippy top, where the castle is located. This is the same castle used as a fortress during the Spanish Civil war in the 1930’s and then for Generalissimo Francisco Franco ( who’s still dead). A lot of peeps checked in here over the years, but no one really checked out if you get my drift.

1580 1581 1582

Then we took the cablecar 1/2 way back down to the garden section and had a refreshing break and took in some of the breathtaking view of the city and the port. I think there were 7 cruise ships in that day.

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Our next stop was the national maritime museum, so stay tuned!

Heaven…

  
Is a teeny, tiny store on a shopping alley, off La Rambla in Barcelona. It sells nothing but handmade ballet slippers in every conceivable color. They get a half dozen new types each week. Once you find what you want, then the shop person has to find the mate…

  

There was a buy two get one free sale going on! 

So the moral of the story is always know your shoe size in other countries!

Full and total snaps go to the Hubs for finding this store! I went on vacation with four pairs of shoes…I came home with seven. Rose gold, silver, aqua. I knew you would want to know!