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food: poulet en papillote

well hello there.  i know.  it’s been a while.
so let us catch up, shall we?

i’d love to account for my absence with fabulous holidays and tales of jet-setting, but i have been pretty homebound… so that’s not it.  and i’d love to say that i’ve been doing super secret recipe tasting for something fun and exciting like a cookbook, but thats not it either.

truth be told i have been on a super healthy life mission and its just plain keeping me busy.
i have classes and meal plans and exercise routines and all that fun stuff and so its taking my free time (otherwise known as blogging time) down to about nothing.  for more proof, see my giant stack of “books to read” that hasn’t been touched since xmas.

anyways.  i’m going to share one of my current favourite mega healthy recipes.

poulet en papillote sounds super fancy pants, but really, it’s just chicken steamed in paper.
this recipe took us minutes to put together, only 25 minutes to bake and was pretty cheap on the ingredients.
combine that with the super healthy factor and you have a winning recipe in my house.

so here’s how it looks as a meal for 2 people.

poulet en papillote

ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 bunch of asparagus (whole – trim ends)
  • 1 carrot (peeled and thin sliced)
  • 1 small jar of artichokes in oil, drained
  • 10-15 kalamata olives (no pits)
  • 10-15 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1/2 cup or so of feta (optional)
  • fresh herbs (we used tarragon & basil)

vinaigrette

  • 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice (we used myer)
  • 1 tbsp grainy mustard
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Preheat oven to 350 & cut 2 pieces of parchment paper to fit chicken & vegetable pack.
  2. in a small bowl whisk lemon juice, mustard & honey.  slowly drizzle in olive oil to form vinaigrette.
  3. divide asparagus over two papers
  4. season chicken breast with salt & pepper and place on top of asparagus.  drizzle with 1 tbsp of dressing each.
  5. add other vegetables and feta and drizzle with another tbsp of dressing.
  6. fold over paper and crimp edges in a half moon shape to seal completely.
  7. bake for 25 – 28 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

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before (above) and after (below)

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this recipe must be tasted to be believed.
the chicken ends up wonderfully moist and tender – no easy feat for a boneless skinless breast, and it creates a natural juice that is to die for.  if you’re enjoying the bead, i certainly suggest that you get a baguette and sop up the deliciousness inside the pouch.

added bonus – the easiest clean up ever.  no pans, no pots, only a cutting board and your dinner plates.  and we ate out of the paper pouch, so even the plate was a breeze to clean up.

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food: beef barley soup

if there is one thing i know, its that my life is made easier by my ownership of the slow cooker and food processor.

but to be honest, i really don’t use either to their maximum capacity.  i often find myself with a big pot simmering away on the stove or meat braising in the oven, when a slow cooker could definitely be doing that work for me.
and the same goes for my food processor.  sometimes i’m elbow deep in chopped vegetables working away for 40 minutes when it dawns on my that i could have just chucked these in the food processor and i could have been done in seconds.
so i’m working on it.

to me, the slow cooker is a magical device that slaves away when i’m at work.  i throw my raw goods in before i leave, and when i’m home i reap the benefits.  nothing could be easier.
but there’s no reason that i can’t be using it on weekends while i’m nesting on my couch watching movies.  and if i have to pop out to run an errand, its a-okay to leave it to do its thing.

so, on sunday i put it to use.  my biggest temptation is to constantly be lifting the lid & stirring & tasting.  but where the slow cooker is involved, thats bad news.  so i had to really restrain myself from fussing over it.

i used the food processor to chop: 1 onion, 3 giant carrots, some green cabbage and 4 stalks of celery into a pretty uniform dice.  then i threw that in the slow cooker with a frozen ziplock bag with some bone broth i’d made a few weeks ago and let that make friends for a couple hours while my stew beef was defrosting.

i tossed the beef in salt & pepper and browned it in ghee before adding it to the cooker.  topped it up with a bit of water, dried thyme and a teaspoon of beef better than boulion.  and because my husband loves barley, i added a half cup of pearl barley.  oh, and a can of tomato paste.

that hung out in the slow cooker and got delicious for about 5 hours.  we added a bit of chopped fresh thyme and flat leaf parsley and chowed down.

as a side dish, i whipped up some savory scones.  they kinda went down like this:

– 3 cups of flour- 1 tablespoon sugar
– 2 tablespoons of baking powder
– 1 teaspoon baking soda
– 1/2 teaspoon each of: dried thyme, garlic salt & dried jalapeno
– 1/2 teaspoon salt
– 1 stick of cold butter
– 1 cup plain greek yogurt
– 2 green onions finely diced
– 1 cup shredded cheese (i used cheddar & aged gouda)

preheat the oven to 400
mix dry ingredients in a large bowl
cut in butter with pastry blender
stir in cheese, onion & greek yogurt.  use a little water to thin if dough isn’t coming together – i probably had to add about 1/4 cup of water total
let chill 20 minutes. divide dough in half & roll out into a square.  cut into quarters and then cut each square diagonally to make a triangle.
brush with milk or melted butter (i used ghee) and bake for 15-20 minutes on parchment paper until golden brown.

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food: paleo beef stroganoff

okay… time for a recipe post, since its been a while.  what with all the traveling and such…
i’ve been trying to make a return to what i’m calling “practically paleo”. where for the most part, i’m eating paleo meals… my aim is 80%, but in current reality i’m probably sitting closer to 70%.  because i love carbs.

so i’ve been allowing for splurges in the form of sprouted brown rice and some white potato… and cheese.  definitely cheese.  because cheese is REALLY HARD to give up for me.

anyways.  the other day i whipped up a paleo stroganoff to satisfy my craving for some comfort food.
i had bought some precut strips of beef inside round –  “stir fry beef” as they called it in the store… but wasn’t really feeling the stir fry.  plus i didn’t have the right veggies.  so i decided to go with a stroganoff of sorts.

problem 1 – i only had 2 mushrooms.  so i filled out the mushroom quotient with a package of dried BC chanterelles that i’d had hanging out in my cupboard from the mushroom display at the PNE last year…

problem 2 – i didn’t want to do the dairy & flour thing to make it rich and creamy.  so i rocked a paleo version with coconut milk and a little cornstarch to thicken. (not super  paleo there, i know)

problem 3 -traditional stroganoff is really lacking veggies, so i threw in some dinosaur kale that i  chiffonaded.  because i just wasn’t in a side-dish kinda mood.

problem 4 – carb craving.  solution: sprouted brown rice.  ya, not my finest healthy moment, but damnit, it was tasty.

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so here’s my “recipe”…

practically paleo beef stroganoff

– 1lb (more or less) of sliced beef inside round
– 2 white mushrooms, thinly sliced
– 1 package of dried chanterelles
– 1/2 cup diced onion (optional – i didn’t put it in)
– 2 cloves of crushed garlic
– 2 cups of dinosaur kale, chiffonaded
– 1 tsp coconut oil (or more – for sauteing)
– 1 cup of coconut milk
– 1 tsp cornstarch (optional)
– 2 tsp dried thyme
– salt, pepper & siracha to taste
– splash of worcestershire sauce

  1. soak chanterelles in 2 cups of warm/tap hot water
  2. brown beef strips in coconut oil on both sides – remove from pan
  3. saute white mushrooms, onions & garlic, add kale
  4. remove chanterelles from liquid (save the liquid!) and chop into bite sized pieces.  add to saute pan
  5. add beef, coconut milk and half of mushroom liquid, spices & seasoning
  6. let simmer for a few minutes until the smell drives you wild.  add more mushroom liquid or let reduce further as you see fit.
  7. add cornstarch dissolved in a small amount of cold water to the pan to thicken if desired.  also could add a pat of butter to finish the sauce.

voila!  my finished plate.  (er… bowl)

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and then my leftovers for tomorrow’s lunch went without the rice and i basically ate it with a spoon.
that sauce was DELICIOUS.
loads of that delightful umami flavour that you’re gonna want in your meals to scratch that comfort food itch…

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food: chicken, broccoli & rice casserole

winter is undoubtedly comfort food season… and as i’ve said before, comfort food means something different to everyone, but generally its the foods of our youth.

when i was a kid, my mom used to make this cambell’s soup recipe chicken casserole.  it had a couple cans of cream of whatever was in the cupboard soup, white rice and was topped with a layer of broccoli and chicken breasts laid over the top with a layer of cheddar cheese covering it all.

i love this casserole.
its everything a casserole should be.  it’s easy to make, one dish and relatively balanced…
in fact, i’ve blogged it before – here

but in the last couple weeks, i’ve purged my cupboards of most everything with a long ingredient list… condensed/canned  soup being one of those things.
so when i looked at the giant bunch of broccoli in my fridge and thought of this casserole… i was left with a quandary.  how do you sub for the soup?

i know that those cans of condensed soup work in the slow cooker in ways that other ingredients don’t.  if you’ve ever made the mistake of putting milk in a slow cooker, you know what i mean.  it does not work.
anyways, my fear was that a casserole that spends an hour in the oven might suffer from a similar problem… but i decided to live on the edge and just do my best.

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chicken, broccoli & rice casserole

  • 3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts (skin optional)
  • 1 cup of raw rice (i used jasmine)
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 cups broccoli florets – washed & trimmed
  • spices to taste.  i used s&p, chipotle, garlic salt & thyme
  • 1 cup (or more) grated cheese (enough to cover)
  • paprika to top
  1. preheat oven to 350
  2. stir together stock, milk & sour cream.  add seasonings, stir in raw rice.
  3. pour liquid & rice mixture into your casserole dish
  4. arrange broccoli on top
  5. lay chicken breasts over broccoli
  6. cover entire pan with cheese and sprinkle paprika on top.
  7. cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. remove foil and bake for 10 more to brown cheese.  let stand for 5 minutes and serve.

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usually i enjoy this with cheddar, since cheddar and broccoli are bff.  but i didn’t have any, so i used a cheese called reypenaer that i brought back from amsterdam thats kinda like an aged gouda.  it was delightful.

some optional add ins i’ve seen before are diced red peppers or corn… and of course, i add spice, but that wasn’t in the original recipe… but honestly, its a casserole.
there are no rules other than to clean out your fridge.
you could get as fancy or not as you’d like.

food: vancouver christmas market

well… when i first drafted this post, it was december 17th.  and christmas was almost upon us.
now, it has come and gone.
excuses excuses, but december was a particularly trying month for me for various reasons and lots of things fell by the wayside.  this post/blog being one of them.
to be honest, i also didn’t travel anywhere nor did i cook barely at all.  i certainly ate, but not much in the way of preparation…

but, resolutions abound in the new year… so i’m going to finish this post and then post some more.

for the last couple years, vancouver has played host to its own german-style christmas market.
and if there’s one thing i really enjoy, its a cup of hot mulled wine while wandering around eating and shopping for knick knacks.
so this was pretty much right up my alley.

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first off, kudos to these guys and the city of vancouver for treating us like adults and letting us wander with alcohol.
you could buy your hot mulled wine and/or a beer and wander freely inside the market.  not penned in to a beer garden looking longingly past the plastic fencing forced to choose between the drink and the market itself.
this was a vast improvement over many other events vancouver is home to, simply for that reason alone.  alcohol should not mean segregation.

i also was a huge fan of the mug deposit system.
instead of drinking your beverage from a disposable plastic or styrofoam cup, you received a real ceramic mug for the deposit price of $2.  then, if you wanted to keep your mug, you could… or you could return it for your twoonie back after you were done refilling as needed.
another great idea.  i wish other events would take heed and do the same with beer gardens and get rid of all those wasted plastic cups.

basically what i’m saying, is that this market took some of europe’s best ideas from their markets and instituted them.  which really, if you’re going to refer to yourself as a german christmas market, you’d better represent.

so, to show support for this idea, we immediately went into the lineup to get a mulled wine.

anyways… on to the food.
there were many choices, in fact, the stands were weighed heavily towards food over goods… which was just fine with us.

first stop… schnitzel.

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sorry for the overexposed picture, it was dark and flash was the only way to go.
anyways… the schnitzel itself was pretty damn good.  we waited about 25 minutes for it and received a lovely golden crisp piece of pork with a light panko coating.  served with a pita bread, potato salad, lemon wedge & a pickle.

overall… solid.  we ate it and liked it, but really, i think vienna has ruined me for schnitzel.
when it comes from the deep fryer its just not the same as the frying pan full of butter… and the potato salad was out of a costco bucket and sprinkled with dried dill.  don’t get me wrong, i’ve eaten my share of costco potato salad, but i guess i hoped for something a little more homemade.

next up was the spätzle!

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i was really looking forward to this…
after another 25 minute line up, we finally had our cheesy pasta-y goodness in hand and barely stopped to breathe.

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the smell coming off this stand is so amazing, it should be illegal.  essentially this fella above just continuously tosses the noodles in excessive amounts of clarified butter, bacon and onions in a giant wok-style cast iron frying pan.  have you ever just fried pasta in clarified butter until its cooked?  ya.  you should do that.  because it was pretty much my heaven.

throw in some bacon and fried onions and you’ve got a winner.
but seriously… so much butter.  i watched that dude use pounds of butter in the time i was in line.
then he scooped out a portion, smothered it in cheese and topped it with fried onions.  yup.

because we’d been smart and shared all our meals so far, we figured it was high time for a bratwurst.

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so for our last food stop of the evening, we hit up the brat stand and after a 30 minute line (see a pattern there?  we need more food stands!) we were rewarded handsomely with a lovely sausage on a crunchy soft roll smothered in sauerkraut and golden caramelized onions.

here’s a testament to how good that thing was… i hate onions and kauerkraut and i ate it all without picking it off.  it just seemed like one of those “when in rome…” kinda things.

bellies full, we grabbed a beer and wandered around to see the crafts.  overall we didn’t see too much that interested us… the one place with tons of cool looking stuff was in a building and the lineup was ridiculous to get in, and frankly i just didn’t have it in me to wait in yet another line, so we moved on.

we picked up an ornament for the mother in law and my husband purchased some alpaca socks (which he LOVES) and then we called it a night.
overall, it was a lovely way to spend an evening and i hope next year they expand the market because after the long line just to enter and then the continuous lines inside, i think a lot of people get frustrated.

but i’m happy to see the city giving these kind of events licensing and space and hope this is a tradition for many years to come.

travel: the delights of waikiki

aloha!
once again, i must hang my head in shame and apologize for my absence. i was away for 9 days, but the rest of it has just been real life and a giant black hole of stress sucking my inspiration.  but this morning, i’ve committed myself to posting my hawaii roundup before i head off to seattle for the night.

november saw me return to waikiki for the 5th time.  but this trip wasn’t about sightseeing or anything important… it was about getting some sun and relaxing with my husband.  …and special guest appearances by my bro & his buddy and the puss & her family.  all around, it was a great time.

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we stayed at the aqua bamboo, which was new for me.  it was actually my first time not staying at a beachfront property right on waikiki beach.  for those familiar with the area, the bamboo is on kuhio, pretty much in line with the surfrider.  so it’s not far to the beach… lets say a 5 minute walk (2 blocks), but i will still stand by my preference of staying beachfront.
the hotel itself was good… cheap and cheerful as they say… nothing fancy, but absolutely fine for a week stay.  the hotel had an adorable little pool and the world’s tiniest hot tub, which was a factor in choosing the hotel, but at the end of it all we never actually made it in to either.

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i did enjoy that the bamboo had a very affordable massage place that was poolside.  my husband i both had a 50 minute massage for just under $80 including tax & tip.  a great bargain.  and boy did it ever feel good after that hike to diamond head.

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ah the diamond head hike… its turned into a must do for me.  you know… i must punish my body for so many mai tais.  somehow it makes me feel better. this trip, i literally woke my hangover up, did the 45 minute walk to diamond head, then did the hike and back and then ate a giant burger and then swam in the ocean,  then went for a massage.
overall, i’d say it was a hawaii win.  cured my hangover, thats for sure.

so, beverages will come in their own post, because in hawaii, there is no shortage of happy hour and tropical delights… but this one is all about the food.

hawaii’s food is a unique style of cuisine that defines melting pot.  it has strong influences from asia, polynesia, north america and when its mixed in with the traditional foods native to the area, you get things you can’t find anywhere else.  my husband’s favourite is loco moco.
basically loco moco is rice, a hamburger patty, 2 fried eggs done any style and smothered in gravy.  for breakfast. and its delicious.

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you know how they say; when in rome…?  well, when in hawaii, you’d best eat some loco moco.  and my husband did.  5 times.  lol.  he was on a mission to sample the local favourite at as many places as possible… and his verdict was that every place did it a little different, but at the end of the day, it was all delicious.  some places had a homemade gravy, sometimes adding mushrooms and/or onions… some places garnished with chopped green onions… some places put the gravy on top of the eggs, others eggs last.  some burger patties were clearly frozen from a box, others were hand formed and fresh.  but the base for all of them never changed… this delicious hawaiian style white rice.  i’m not too sure how they make their rice taste so good, but it sure does.  and for me, it’s one of my LOVES about hawaii, is that i can get this yummy sticky almost sushi style rice with my breakfasts.

so while my husband was eating his weight in loco moco, i was eating things like this:

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and i can’t forget the magic of this…

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ahhhh pancakes in hawaii.  another random thing to be in love with, but i never ever order pancakes at home. i just don’t care for them much. but in hawaii its a different animal.  topped with things like pineapple, coconut, macadamia nuts and other local treats… and then smothered in coconut syrup instead of maple?  oh man, put a fork in me, i am DONE.

and let us not forget the papaya that much accompany every breakfast no matter what your main of choice is:

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yup, thats the stuff.

another island favourite is “pupus” which as far as i can tell is just hawaiian for appetizer.  which makes for hilarious (warning: may only be hilarious after several mai tais) jokes about needing to “take a wicked appetizer”.  haha.
anyhoo…. we had a lot of pupus.  because happy hour is cheap!  and if you do it right, you don’t really need a proper dinner.
one of my favourite destinations for pupus in waikiki is hula grill in the outrigger waikiki on the beach.  its upstairs from duke’s and often overlooked in favour of dukes.  but here’s the thing.  the decor is just as awesome upstairs, the food is pretty much the same and the drinks are waaaaay cheaper during happy hour.  so the hula grill is where you’ll often find me at happy hour…. eating things like: kahlua pork potstickers and ceviche and crab & mac nut stuffed won tons…

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and my personal favourites: crispy pork belly bao

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and the honey chicken lollypops which were ridiculously sticky sweet goodness.

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and at the end of a several hour long happy hour… we weren’t much worse for the wear financially.

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then there’s downstairs.  duke’s.  what can you say? if you’ve gone to waikiki, you’ve gone to dukes.  you just… have to.  yes, its loud and crazy and filled to the brim with pasty tourists and there’s children… but it’s dead centre in waikiki beach and makes a wicked mai tai and has good food and live music and, well, it’s just fun.

i am particularly in love with their salad bar.  there’s not a lot of good salad in waikiki, and dukes scratches my itch for fresh crispy lettuce and tons of good toppings so that i can construct my picky girl salad of choice.
but the fish entrees should never be overlooked.  you get the list from the server of whats in season and fresh right now and you choose from one of 4 preparations that they offer and chow down.  the fish entrees are always well cooked, perfectly seasoned and just fucking delicious.

we had the following: mine is the opah with mac nut crust and butter caper sauce (i just drooled typing that)
SAUTÉED MAC NUT AND HERB CRUSTED – Lightly dusted in parmesan cheese & bread crumbs, topped with lemon and caper butter

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and my husband dinned on the ono done duke’s style…
BAKED “DUKE’S STYLE” – Baked in a garlic, lemon and sweet basil glaze

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both were giant portions of fish so fresh, it may have been swimming yesterday… and at a fair market price.  plus it includes salad bar. did i mention the salad bar?

my last category for hawaiian eats is pop ups, food carts & beach shacks.  yes, food is everywhere in waikiki.  on two occasions this last trip, my husband and i grabbed some fish tacos & pork tacos from the food hut right on waikiki beach beside the surfrider and deemed it one of the best deals around.  $19 got us 4 giant tacos and a house brewed iced tea with pineapple juice in it to share.  not too shabby.

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a few days into our trip, on the way back from the beach to the hotel, we were surprised by a pop up market of sorts… except it was all food stands.  it wasn’t selling groceries, like our markets here, but selling fresh baked delights and pad thai and poke and even empanadas and dim sum treats.  so we stocked up and went back to our balcony with some local beers and made our own happy hour.

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last, but certainly not least… once can not forget that hawaii knows its food trucks.  possibly the best one i’ve ever seen… the malasadas truck.  leonards is famous for its malasadas which are basically like a big round dounut rolled in sugar and sometimes stuffed with creme or fruit filling.  they’re DELICIOUS.  and leonards is the king.  buuuuut we didn’t quite make it to leonards proper, so we were thrilled to stumble across their food truck on the way to sandy beach one day.

so while we did this:

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we also go to eat this:

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a clear win win situation.

and off course, on our quest to enjoy this beach:

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we also got to enjoy this shrimp shack on the north shore.

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there’s a lot of shrimp options, and generally we go to giovanni’s, but this one lured us in with their option to have local shrimp, while a lot of stands have switched to the cheaper and inferior thailand shrimp.  the difference slapped you in the face.  these were almost like my beloved spot prawns.  sooooo worth the half hour wait.  (this place was BUSY – also a good sign)

and of course, i had to have my coconut… and this time i also may have had a corn on the cob at the roadside pit stop…

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mmmhmmm.  and thats how i do hawaii.
oh, but before i wrap up, i’d like to give a surprising honorable mention to buba gump’s shrimp.  yes, it is a chain theme restaurant and generally that goes against my better instincts, but my husband loves it and he actually sold me on it with this:

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thats a pound and a half of hot fresh cooked peel & eats with half caijun spice and half butter and garlic.  ya, we slayed those in a few minutes flat.  they were messy and buttery and so fucking delicious.

but then we followed it up with some shrimp tacos…

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and the calamari that they swore was the best ever and you know, it actually was like top 5 in my life and i’ve eaten a LOT of fried squid in my day.

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theirs had half squid, half rock shrimp and also deep fried red peppers and pepperoncini peppers.  well played bubba gumps, well played.

and so, i leave you with my last view of hawaii for this trip… diamondhead from my brothers suite on the 33rd floor of the sheraton.  yes, it was a grand time had in hawaii, and yes, i’ll be back as soon as i can.

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food & travel: eastern europe

well hello!  now that my jet-lag has subsided and things are back to normal… here it is… my long-awaited food of eastern europe blog post!
it seemed a natural choice that my wrap up of this trip would be all about the food… but what i didn’t realize was exactly how many pictures of food i took… and sorting through them was a bit of a task.
and trust, i did take pictures of every single thing i ate… but this is the greatest hits, so to speak.

we started our fine culinary journey in prague.
our very first night was spent at a traditional czech restaurant that featured the classics of their culture… this was part of the included meals with contiki and really a lot of fun and delicious!
we started with some appetizers:

 

stuffed tomato, asparagus in ham… lettuce.  a nice light start given the meat extravaganza that would follow soon…
and the soup. it was a really tasty potato soup. light and well seasoned. and while part of me was a tad disappointed it wasn’t goulash, i realized when the main came that it was for the best.

we feasted on duck, sausage, ham and roast pork. and two kinds of dumplings (bread & potato) and it perched on two kinds of cabbage (red & white).
ridiculous amounts of meat & carbs. not a green vegetable in sight. welcome to eastern europe.

we finished off with crepes & coffee.

and enjoyed the entertainment…

day two in prague brought us more delights…
and i finally got my goulash and dumplings.
and we also had table pretzels (do not be fooled, they are not free) and maybe my favourite thing of the afternoon – svařák – a czech hot mulled wine that worked wonders for fighting the chill in the air.

 

i really must unravel the secrets of svařák for this winter… i see recipes online and i think its worth experimenting with because it is a delight.  after this meal, i grabbed a cup to go from a vendor and wandered through the fog across charles bridge.  this is the stuff dreams are made of, kids.

but all good things must… change scenery?  sure!  off to vienna!
one of my favourite meals of the trip was our first night in vienna.  it wasn’t fancy or rich or anything crazy, it was just very well cooked and featured fine ingredients.

our starter was a delicate leek & potato soup and our main was a braised beef with mashed potatoes and carrots.
dessert was a decadent chocolate lava cake.
wins all around!

   

but my most favourite culinary moment on this trip was definitely the schnitzel.

i was so excited to eat schnitzel in vienna… and so when i asked my contiki tour director for her suggestion, she sent me without hesitation to figlmuller for what is considered to be the best in city.  (man, i LOVE having an expert to ask these things!)

and behold… the mother of all schnitzels.
with a side of the most unique potato salad i’ve ever had, topped with lamb’s lettuce.  amazing.

see… look how happy this made me…

the most amazing thing about this meal?
i actually somehow managed to eat the entire schnitzel.  i have no idea how, but i can only take it down to sheer willpower and the fact that my new tour friends were cheering me on.
and also because it was so delicious and the thought of wasting it made me unbearably sad.
the potato salad was sacrificed.  while delicious, something had to give.

after a brief wander around gorgeous vienna, my companions and i had one more vienna specialty to take down.
so again, on the advice of our awesome tour director, we headed to cafe leopold hawelka for an apple streusel and an espresso.

oh wow.  this was an amazing experience on its own.
i’m not the biggest apple lover, but this was a pretty special little treat.  wonderfully balanced, not sweet and not full of mushy fruit.  when you taste it, you know why they say the best in world comes from austria.

and of course, i couldn’t leave vienna without one last specialty product… the world famous sacher torte.
i’ll be honest.  at this point i wasn’t sure i’d ever be able to cram anything else into my body…
so i bought 2 sacher tortes and packed them lovingly for home.  gave one to my mom and my husband and i devoured the other.  it did not disappoint.  its hard to describe… so just think of the best chocolate cake you’ve ever eaten and then times that by 10.  and add a layer of apricot jam.  and you have the magic that is sacher torte.
plus it comes in a fancy wooden box.

last, but most certainly not least… our final stop was when the contiki bus rolled into the gorgeous city of budapest.
where i once again was on the trail of goulash.

our first night we spent on a dinner cruise down the danube and there’s just no words for how stunning this evening was.  the food was an excellent buffet of local eats and the scenery was indescribable.

my last full day in budapest was spent wandering the city after a tour of the parliament buildings… and naturally i was powerless to resist a mid-morning snack in the form of pastry stuffed with cottage cheese.
seriously, budapest knows the power of the cottage cheese.  it’s in a lot of food. and i approve.

after snacks, we moved on to check out the food markets… i could do a whole post on the wonders of the market, but since this is a pretty picture heavy post already, i’m going to give you my two favourites.
a streusel stuffed with cottage cheese and apricots warm from the oven… and kremes.

  

kremes are an emotional throwback for me.  i used to work in a slovakian bakery when i was about 19 years old and we served up all sorts of proper eastern europe treats that i’ve never seen since.  until this trip.
kremes used to be my favourite dessert we made and i sold them by the sheet pan for $2 a square for about 2 years of my life.  and i’ve never seen them since.  so this was pretty cool to see them in their natural habitat so to speak.

anyways, after a trip to the famous szechenyi baths for a few hours of sweet sweet relaxation, we had worked up a bit of an appetite.
what could possibly be left to try that you can’t find at home?  langos!

basically you’re looking at a giant piece of deep fried dough (think a savory beaver tail for the canadians) and its then topped with sour cream, TONS of raw chopped garlic and a mountain of cold cheese.

the result is nothing short of magic….
this was something i had never heard of until this trip. so thank you jen, our contiki tour manager extraordinaire!  because its not easy to show me a food i’ve never heard of before.  especially one thats so clearly up my alley. (hello deep-fried + bread + cheese)

all in all, the food of eastern europe wowed me.  it was at times, what i expected, and at other times it caught me off guard.
i’m so excited and grateful for all the authentic cuisine that i had access to and truly commend contiki on their great work with sourcing great restaurants and being at the ready to point us towards unique specialty items.
as far as culinary world travels go, this was unforgettable and just so unique.
when i first saw the schnitzel come out of the kitchen in vienna… or my first taste of the hungarian paprika in the goulash… and the delight of seeing kremes in the market…

i loved this trip.  and i’d return in a heartbeat if given the possibility.
now… to the gym to work off all those langos, lol!

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