Fussy Foods

So I was just thinking of some meals to cook for a get together and while brain storming, I was just pondering meals that I enjoy and realized that they are really time consuming.  When having a party at home, you really have to schedule your time and manage the logistics prior. For example, my veggie lasagna is great but it takes almost a hour to prepare.  I like pineapple but to cut it takes a minute.  Marinades need to hatch at least 8 hours prior.  Also the most important thing is making sure everything can fit in your fridge.  That has happened a few times to me and storing all the prepared food means there is no space for you today–to continue normalcy.

 

List of non fussy foods that you can serve at a party, not necessarily fancy but they will be eaten.

Its the shopping for ingredients that takes a minute.

7 layer dip-a lot of little steps but its a real dump and go (except for the chopped tomatoes)

Hummus–garlic and garbanzo beans, sun-tomatoes and garbanzo beans (use your little chopper or blender)

Cheese and salumi platters–again a lot of little tasks (like opening up of packages, some slicing)

Rotisserie chicken from supermarket–pull off all chicken and just offer slider buns, and condiments

Homemade Sangria–red wine (how many of those do you have in your closet), some orange juice and pieces of fruit. (sugar as well, plus your little touches)

Apple pie (fall favorite and simple)

Grilled (George Foreman or flat top) pineapple (when in season)

Hope this can be useful!

This was about a winter event but summer is coming soon and well any of these can work.  Minimal to no cooking or processing.

 

 

Party On!

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Italy Third Time Around

Lets start with the food.

So it just felt like we could not find food for real or maybe we just wanted to be cheap.

(Thinking back to the last time we visited Italy, we had a few 4 course meals and spent about 2 hours eating-I am waiting for those days to return.)

We did not want to have Indian, Chinese, etc since we had that at home. We wanted to follow the mantra “when in Rome” but we really needed a Italian grandma to cook for us to really taste some magic

We tried to have real Italian food and really enjoy it– that did not happen. We had pasta and pizza in a touristy restaurant only one night and well we were not happy.  Also with the late times we waited till the places opened and were the first people there.

The second time we had pizza, it was at a chain that had apparently been around for a while–Spontini- pretty good, if you ask me.  The pizza was thick and flavorful–my husband had the roasted vegetables (EGGPLANT, PEPPERS, MUSHROOMS), and I had the spicy sausage.  When the pizza came I felt it could feed an army.  We ordered a slice and a half which is pretty ridiculous.  Of course no worker in a restaurant is going to tell you that 1 slice is enough–its all about the Dollars/Euros .  So we had some extra and that was part of our dinner.  Lucky us!

We tried Filipino Food.  (my earlier blog YUM Taste of the Philippines)  That was interesting.  I must say its always great to see your country men in a far away land.  I always secretly want to know what their story is–how did they get there, what is their experience. It is mostly for the new waves of immigration-in my lifetime.

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In terms of surroundings, as for me I like to just see the place in its natural element, not too much direction and not too much tourist.  We visited Carrefour, like a Walmart, always fun.  We took the old fashion tram and the metro as well as the above ground train.  We had to get the full experience.  We missed on the electric tram–so sleek and quiet.

We visited a public park where my toddler meshed with the crowd of Italian children running after a man blowing bubbles.  We also stopped off at a winter carnival.  We even walked through a sleepy upscale neighborhood.  The look was very Washingtonian with its grey concrete buildings and large doors, and not necessarily fancy entrance ways.  You just knew that behind those walls was something amazing and you will never know because well, unless your life changes 180 degrees you can only imagine.

We go off at random stops and one just happened to be next to the US Consulate.  We went through neighborhoods and it was like they were still stuck in the 80’s with graffiti on the walls.  We only see that in selected areas here in NY but it seems that it is more plentiful in Milan.

We saw a beautiful palace that turned out to be a cemetery, that looked more like a sculpture garden.  People were just Sunday walking to me, but actually they were probably visiting family I am sure.

We went to the hinterlands.  We took an alternative way to get to the city–we wanted to experience the other areas–the road less traveled. It was on the older above ground lines and it was some downright weird stuff. There were tracks to nowhere and under the track where we waited the land by the tracks had wild grass, men using the bathroom, dark corners and some kind of access point for random people to enter.  In the distance was a Circus Soleil looking tent but when we got closer we realized it was not but a small circus, maybe gypsy, we will never know.  Some places looked really livable and others just not and they were kind of mixed in. I guess that is the beauty.   I must admit that for a small minute I felt scared when I saw some younger people (all men) but then I was like, they are brown people like me-can’t let media and all that stuff get to us. There were some women and I kind of felt better-not sure why.  Then I saw the non brown people and I was still scared-it was the scruffy scrappy part of town and some small part of me got a pores raised feeling anyway. I was with my husband so I kind of brushed it off as we had passed some of his countrymen on the way to the station. In addition it was gloomy outside so it just was not inviting along with the feelings.

Even past our hotel, it looked kind of undesirable but then again, behind the facade it could be great. The streets were not inviting though.  Some parts looked like parts of the “third world,” just for the prettiness factor and the uneasy feeling.  I mean in retrospect, Milan does not feel like a London or an Oslo or a Tokyo.  Some parts do but those parts that I was in, did not.  On the map, just beyond our area it started to be just land.   I wished we had a local who could take us ‘behind the scenes’.

The surprise for me was the Central Station.  It, again was lacking in lots of food choices but on a real note, outside there were what looked like brown people congregating-lets says Migrants maybe. They were just milling around and idling you can say. By myself I might have chosen a different path as there were many people and it could be kind of intimidating to any one.  There were some military patrols hanging out on the opposite side of the station. Did I feel better, somewhat, but with guns out I always feel like there can be some craziness about to happen and I will be in the middle of it. Within a 2 block radius the streets were dark and there were only certain areas with lots of lights and movements.  We opted to stay close to the light.

One highlight for me was the Armani Silos.  Look it up.  I liked looking at the evolution of clothes from about the 70s till now.  He may have even had the 60s.  I cannot remember at this time.  The way from the train station to the Silos was very not what you would expect.  It felt like a reclaimed inner city but it was not too far away from a popular area (Navigli District) so who knows.

Check out some pics of the trip.

 

 

 

 

Cooking challenges at Internship!

You know when you watch a game show, like survivor, amazing race or a super hero show, and there is an advantage, well this is the opposite, all the disadvantages on a silver tray.

Here is how things stacked up on this particular day

small kitchen/store, my usual but today there was stuff everywhere

not enough ingredients so had to make a supermarket run-revisit the heat outside

hot like fire inside :

1-it was 85/90 degrees outside and I forgot how to put on the AC inside-cant keep door open because there is live food everywhere – chocolate, things to decorate

2) baking bread pudding and cookies, and making sandwiches (electric pressure cooker for meat), shredding chicken for chicken salad, then chopping of ingredients and finally mixing

3) wearing a t-shirt and long pants–needed to be wearing a bathing suit and a body band to catch the beads of sweat

 

How did I find relief:  sat in front of the cold food display fridge, catching some cold, drinking iced water

I got all my tasks done.  It felt so good to overcome this little challenges!

All for the sake of food.

 

 

 

 

FAVORITE FOODS

Hot Chocolate-I  don’t drink a lot because well it usually has a lot of sugar.  (sad face)

Spaghetti- I am lazy to make it because I need variety all the time

Eggplant-Chinese style is my favorite but it is hard to always find the one that tastes yummy.  The other kind is eggplant Parmesan.

Ice Wine & Riesling- a cold swish of sweetness is all I usually need

Peanut Butter-in cookies, in brownies, in cereal,  w/apples, in otameal

String Beans and Brussels Sprouts–veggies done right go down well

Chicken Parm–it is like the bottom of the food chain but when done right is so heavenly (yeah I said it)

Oh and one last one–Pineapple upside down cake.  It has been a while.

What are your favorite foods?

Emirates Airlines, so I tried it

So it was my rallying call.  I was happy to mention it when I could.  It made me feel proud that I could take Emirates, the highly, at least in some circles, airline that was high quality, high everything.  I was not sure what I would find.  I mean, when we hear about it, it is about people flying in the lap of luxury and well I did not do a Youtube of economy Emirates so I would get what I got, when I got there.

The cabin had like a billion seats.  It was a 3, 4 ,3 configuration.  Same amount of seats of the 2, 5, 2 configuration that I actually liked when I did not have a kid but now that I have a kid and the kid pays, I prefer the, 3, 4, 3 configuration.  It means we get that window row and don’t have to do the awkward dance around some stranger when we have to stretch our legs or take a potty break.  Yeah it never becomes comfortable no matter how may times you fly.

So on our way into the airplane, I saw the elegant stairs to the upper level.  Its like working in a palace in the front office but being totally barred from entering the main house.  So as I told my husband, we would have to make a giant sacrifice to be able to take a plane ride and sit in first class.  I said that it will be without the kid.

So back to my intro to Emirates, and lets first start with the selection of movies.  There is so much that you cannot even choose.  We ate lots of food.  The bathrooms were not too scary and they had lower seats and wood paneling.  The seats were average, after all, there was like 700 seats to start with so this was not “lay out’ kind of digs.  They offered wine at lunch and I think you could get two without question.  One for now and one for later.  The food was also okay and though we were kind of full and my toddler tried to  go on a diet on this flight, I ate what I thought was a decent amount for me–I swiped all the bread and all the cracker and cheese packs, as well as the cereal bars and chocolate treats.

It really helped to take the food with us because it would be a while till we got to our hotel and to a solid food source.

The airline gave my kid a blanket and backpack, as well as a messenger bag and plastic envelop for activities that they put in it.  They even came by and did Polaroid shots of my kid and me. Perks like what I got on Tap Air Portugal–messenger bag with cards, a puzzle, socks and eye pads.  Yes the photos was a nice touch.

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Now for what I am calling “alternative thoughts/facts.”

Not on time-sitting there (we left late, though we reach in time in Italy)

Muffin drop-this was bizarre.  The hostess dropped the muffing open side up and proceeded to give the little girl (like the girl would not make a fuss and since the parent was a little bit away) the muffins, saying it did not fall face down, so its okay.  WHAATTTHE FFF.  I mean if the candy bar fell on the floor, I may shriek and wipe off the package, but the muffin hit the floor where people walk, from outside, from in the bathroom, from wherever.

Wine glass dirty gloves-so a woman went to give me a new wine glass using her gloves that she had been using to pick up dirty cups——I was crying on the inside.

Entertainment system like but not like China air or Korean air–at one time it was not even on, and no explanation.  There was literally code on my screen for like 1-2 hours, so I just went to sleep and then ready my magazine.

People are not caring-that is just the people flying on the plane.  They speak at high levels, play musical chairs, stand in the galley area and speak at not cool levels and also cough onto you.  Did they not know that we have a big flu problem here in the US this season!

Also, someone put bags in the toilet, yes the barf bags and that person left a bunch hanging around. I admit I am not the bathroom genie either like when I put too much toilet paper and well it fills up but does go down right away and part of me hopes to get as far away from it as possible so if it erupts I can be innocent. (never on a plane as it is a suck thing and uses like a teaspoon of water.)  I mean if there was someone around I would most likely complain. On a plane I know that the air hostesses check the stalls everyone once in a while so at some point the toilet would be useful.

Other than those things, it was a decent flight.  On a scale of one to ten, I would say a 6.5.  2 points for all the craziness that occurred under the radar.  If they want to be tops, they cannot be sloppy and uncaring and should do more than keep up appearances.

Portuguese eating, for the unseasoned

On my last journey to Portugal I took a minute to reflect on the food choices at hand.  Of course you can choose a host of other things but there were certain things available to me and that I could afford.  I also tried a new dish and well, I formed an opinion.

Acorda – wet bread with garlic, for me it is an acquired taste, tried it

Chicken and potatoes (I can only have it so many times without variation.)

Codfish potato and eggs – staple, and same as chicken and potatoes

Brunch -popular spots going the way of brunch in the US (yes it was wild to see these places, needing a reservation and lines out the door)

Bread central- during the day one of the snacks is a tosta mista – can be toasted bread with butter or ham or cheese or any combination.  This I knew already but on this trip is was daily as we day tripped around.

Lanche -mid evening snack prior to dinner. I must say that this time I just was not into it. I fantasized about being close to the water, maybe on a large wood balcony, in wooden Adirondack chairs, wearing flip flops-pastry samples and good coffee in hand. I had a toddler with me and well we know how that goes, also I had 4 other kids with us and they continually amped up my kid and had their little hands, 8 to be exact all over the toddler of a germ-a-phobe. Yeah, how can one enjoy my lanche?

On my next trip I have to branch out a little.

 

 

 

Yum–Taste of the Philippines, Milan, Italy

So we were in Milan Italy and noticed a population of Filipinos.  We were curious to see where they gathered and if there were any food places. Were were in luck.  There were a few and one had received an excellent rating so we decided to find our way there.  It would be an adventure.

Having traveled to the Philippines and an occasional eater of the food in the US, I was not even thinking when we came upon this restaurant, that it would be adapted to fit an Italian palate. Although I had heard that for Chinese food, in the early days as they sought to win over the American consumer, dishes were altered. I felt that first hand as well since vegetables are separated in China but in the US you have beef and broccoli, classic example. I am however not sure of the French and Italian restaurants in NY. The French seem to be French in every way and the same for Italian food. *checked some food blogs http://www.grubstreet.com/bestofnewyork/best-french-restaurants-nyc.html

The menu of Yum was interesting  with familiar dishes but with an apparent twist.  We had the Pork Jumbled Luzon, which had cucumbers, mango and grapefruit. It was a stewed meat with a refreshing salad. The rice of the dish was fun, and slightly reminiscent of risotto but with black sesame seeds topping the meat. We also had the baby back ribs over some root veggie or something else which had a slightly sweet taste and medium thick applesauce consistency, I think. I missed the explanation early on. It reminded me of a meal I had in a modern French restaurant. It was tasty though. The meat fell of the bone. Yum.

We were early to dinner, not fully grasping the true dinner time hours, but they took us anyway, as long as we were were out before the reservations started to come in. That was very nice of the owner.

The decor is modern with some older style touches. The table settings give a little feel of the Philippines, with the wood, and then the wooden chargers. There was some cool music in the background, which complemented the mood.

I must admit that I thought the food felt light, But this is just our eat our face syndrome in the US.  When I was in Beijing, I felt like I ate a lot, but I also had smaller bowls and plates, so actually less.

I wanted to bash the restaurant as it felt less Filipino and more Italian.  The owner let us know that he tried the opposite and it did not work, you have to adapt or fail.  I think if you are top in your industry or well known, you can do what you want, but until you gain that status you have to bend to the will of the people.

On my scale:  Food 7 Decor 7, Service 8.5

Ciao my food lovers!

What do you see when you close your eyes? 

I guess it is a product of watching lots of foreign films or films shot in foreign locations and some actual visits to certain places overseas.  Sometimes I can see a place as clear as day and I can imagine myself waking in the morning in the  bright sunlight, living in a concrete house with a gallery/porch/veranda.  I am usually just observing or tending to vegetables on my small patch of land and there are trellises everywhere.  There is never anyone else in view but I know people are around.
Did I also mention that it is always warm and  I usually end my vision with a look at the sea.
Happy Daydreaming!!!

Family Travel in Winter

What is the limit to a stay-cation? The definition says staying at home in ones country or staying at home and seeing what one’s environment has to offer.  I think staying in ones state counts.  That is what our family just did.  We (8) took a less than 3 hour trip up north to a not so remote place but when you look outside of the back window, all you can see is trees (well a forest ).  Sometimes you see deer and when you walk around you see foot prints that are not yours.  As long as they are not larger than yours, right.

 

Here are the notes on this stay-cation:

-long winding road, when the hec will we arrive

-we arrived before dark because no lights, few houses, hmmmmm (real fear)

-long driveway, already cars parked there, must be owners

-fresh powder on the ground, had to clear the walkway and add salt

-heating stove as soon as you walk in, hmmmm, must be some serious cold

-large windows to see all or nothing

-heat that comes and goes, never as hot as I would like it in my second floor room

-crazy bathroom apparatus, cold showers

-light switches everywhere, stuff I don’t even know I am turning on and off

-food everywhere, so much food we cancelled our eat out reservations (celebrate family with food when you want it)

-coffee, tea, sangria, red wine flowing

-scrabble battle between the generations

–uno for the virgins, but they give us a good run

-fibbage and drawful for the tech gamers in us, across the generations, hours of fun

-long range photographs, watch the idiots running in the snow, me included

-run over by the sled, wipe outs with sled, who’s turn to pull uphill, is the slide frozen

-mom and daughter on see-saw, got off before we brought it down (250lbs)

-frozen stream

-blankets on the bed, spooning to keep warm

-multiple layers, winter packing, way too much clothes

 

 

We all enjoyed our time together.  Now that we have reflected we look ahead to the next trip.

Food and Family!!!

 

Summers end in Portugal

Hmmm what can I say about this last trip–oh yes, so much.
Without getting into specific details, I spent time with 3 families, traveled 8 deep, dealt with a sick toddler and even got lost. GPS is only great if you can find service. (No hot spot, and public WiFi is shaky)

I must also say that I felt both more and less like a native. At times I was walking around like I knew the place. At other times I really needed gps. I had been around some places enough times to know the lay of the land. I even visited the library only to be led to another building so my toddler could use a kid toilet when what I needed was a bathroom with a changing table. Language Barrier!

A crazy experience was trying to find dinner out and realizing that the place selected, I had visited in Spain and it was a real live stand up, grab your cafe and tapas and then bounce place — with the extra loudness of a beer garden.

Along the water close to the intercity train station/Expo area my friend to a place with fun life size instruments like a bell tower, wind chimes or organ pipes, piano tiles, a xylophone albeit no sticks, and a stone that you could yell into.

While walking to San George Castle close to downtown, I took the road less traveled and then on the way back took another road, got lost and was actually starting to panic. Yes, for the first time in my adult /with kid life I felt a little panic as my phone was not set up for international calling (was but I would pay dearly), I guess as a super last resort. My toddler was sleepy, hungry and in hindsight, on her way to sickness. I could not believe that I could not get this. How could I not find a train station! I had my toddler and we needed food, water and rest. I mean we had food but water and rest was lacking. So what followed was three days of fever and tiredness. In the end I realized that I was exactly where I needed to be 1 hour before I started on my journey to find another route. At leat the castle had nice views of Lisbon. How is that for crazy experience number 2!

A feeling of calm hit me while on vacation as I was hanging out the laundry. Picture it–it is about 9 am in the morning, summer, in a breezy 4th floor walkup with large palatial windows, obstructed view so only a few neighbors can see you, quiet, and its just you, the laundry and the clothes line. Your only goal at the moment is to make sure you do not drop any laundry 4 stories down — especially the swim suit that you want to use again tomorrow at the beach. Other than that, it is a nice, calming, solitary activity. On random days we would see clothes on the ac one floor down, or on the line two and three stories down.

Wild crazy experience number 3, is going shopping at the very last minute. You know when you go with no list, and come out with more bags than you can hold. Yeah, so that was us, and list minute also meant, 30 minutes before the store was closing. So when we were ready to go, we realized that we needed a shopping cart (all locked by know) and the main entrance doors were closed so we were like pacman in the basement trying to find our way to the car. Then we just dropped the bags by the door, and went to retrieve the car, around the corner. My friend said that it was fine and no one would bother it. We pulled up, retrieved the bags and left. When we got home, we got the cavalry to come out (remember we rolled 8 deep, 6 on this particular day) and help take bags. I felt like I was in college with my partner in crime.

My friend let me know of the guys she calls -Parking Pirates. I laughed when I heard it and still do to this day. Simply they are the homeless, poor or vagrants who try to pick up pocket change by directing you to a parking spot, that usually, you already know exists. They may hound you and make you feel uncomfortable and therefore force you to give up the change. Yes. They are everywhere.

Hmm, I only needed my own place to stay and I would have melted into the landscape.

Lovely Lisbon!