First Homey Meal at Home

Pin It Since we left all of our money in Spain, we have decided to live life as peasants for a while, meaning lots of soups, stews, hearty salads, home-made breads and water. Sorry friends, no more bougie wine and cheese parties for a while.

So on our first day home, we went shopping for lots of fruits and veggies, and cheap meats, and made a delicious stew.

We quickly browned a few short ribs, then garlic and onion, adding baby potatoes, carrots, fresh thyme, some dried oregano and rosemary, and achiote powder we had found that day at the Mexican market. And of course the basic salt and pepper. At the very end, some frozen peas went in as well.

On the side, I made a harvest grain mix from Trader Joe's, and our first meal home, felt like, well home.

Tonight, my husband is making some pork chops in a tomatillo sauce, and I plan to try this Bittman recipe, although we probably won't be eating it tonight. We have to take a little walk to Bed, Bath and Beyond to buy my husband some new dish-washing gloves. His poor sensitive hands can't handle soap and water. I sure hope we find the hot pink ones again.


Toledo: Even El Greco Got the Hell Out

Pin It Let's start with the worst of Spain, and get it out of way.

Oh, Toledo. So photogenic. So deceitful. A true trickster.

We drove over 400 miles from Santiago in one day, just to make it to Toledo before Madrid. Arriving close to midnight, the city on top of the hill, greeted us, glowing, looking magical. We were in awe. After some driving, we finally found an unfortunate little hostel, and booked a room for a night. Worst place we had stayed at, but the city was dead, and we had no map of it, not that this city is very map friendly. They just built and built with no reason, added a wall, apparently to stop invaders, and called it a day. What we couldn't figure out was who was trying to invade, and why?

The next morning, Toledo had lost it's glowing charm and looked misshapen, sad and touristy. Although in pictures, it looked nice. But we had an entire day to spend there, so we got another hotel, and went out to explore. We saw some El Greco's which were cool, and ended up at some free museum, which was supposed to house El Greco's last painting. We searched, didn't find it. So the husband approached two nuns and asked, "Donde esta El Greco?" One nun says rather quickly, "El Greco no esta aqui. El Greco es en Mexico," then quickly adds another 5 sentences which we had no idea about. But that brief exchange was so hilariously funny to us, as our hate for Toledo had reached it's max and hearing from a nun that El Greco has basically escaped to Mexico, was the highlight. With our limited Spanish what we did pick up was that the painting was on some traveling exhibition, with no return date scheduled. No surprise, if I was that El Greco, I'd stay away too.

That evening, we prepared to have dinner at a Parador. We heard about these government run hotels (typically in mansions or castles) that were supposed to have awesome restaurants, serving regional specialties. After driving by 5 or so, we decided it was time to try one. Now take a look at the photos below.

Gazpacho with apples, cucumbers and tomatoes.

Roasted bell pepper and tuna salad.

Partridge stew.

Lamb stew.

Triple chocolate.

Banana chocolate ice cream.

Now you might think, this food looks tasty. But it was yet another trick. It looked good, but, it was the worst meal of our trip, and it was pricey! The appetizers were decent, the desserts above average, but the stews sucked. Sucked hard.

So, lesson learned? Skip Toledo. Unless you like being disappointed. Because waking up to Toledo, is not much different than waking up to a bad one night stand, where you might take a look at that person next to you in disgust and think to yourself, last night this all looked so diffent, what happened? Toledo. That's what.


SPAIN: A quick overview

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So I'm back! And I'm really tired. This traveling and eating well thing is muy exhausting. Spain is awesome. You should really go one day, en serio.

We started off with 3 days in Barcelona. Drove to Huesca, spent the night, and headed out to San Sebastian for 2 days. We then made out way across the north coast, Cantabria and the Asturias, spending time around the Picos of Europe. Then there was Galicia and Santiago. Oh, Santiago. It was my favorite. So old, so delicious.

The last 5 days were spent in the middle, Toledo and Madrid. We knew Spain was not going to be awesome all around, and Toledo showed us just that. Madrid was pretty cool though, if you like that huge city thing. My feelings are still mixed.

There were some pretty memorable meals, lots of pretty churches, and a fascinating bullfight. So I should have lots of posts coming, once my photos are in order. But here's a quick taste, without giving away too much.


IKEA food is like IKEA furniture, cheap and cardboardy

Pin It It's sad that my last blog before Spain is about IKEA food, but I've been busy.

By the way, don't miss me too much over the next few weeks. I shall return on the 27th, with lots of pictures, stories and an extra 10 lbs. If you get too lonely, feel free to re-read previous posts, and think about the good times we've had.

So, back to IKEA. Our friend was eager to buy a bed, so on Tuesday, we drove him out to IKEA. Once there, we had to eat. Now, I've never been to the IKEA restaurant that serves the fancy meatballs, salmon and pastas you see in their catalogs. I've only eaten at the counter by the EXIT, that typically serves two things - hot dogs and frozen yogurt. But on Tuesday, there were additional items - cinnamon buns AND pizza. I wasn't feeling like a hot dog, and the pizza looked less than appetizing, but I had to do it. Something made me. Everyone (friend and husband) did a double take. Are you sure? Pizza? Really? Yes, really!

The pizza was not good. But I can't decide if it was worse than the hot dog. It had some herbs on it, but otherwise tasted cardboardy. And it gave me a tummy ache. Next time, I think I'll stick to buying some lingoberry jam, and calling it a day.


Fancy Dinner for my French Aunt

Pin It My aunt is visiting from France. And since we are taking off to Espana on Friday, I wanted to have her over before then.

So my labor day was spent laboring around the kitchen. But I'm mostly to blame. I decided to make two dishes I never have before. And that always makes me a little nervous. For the main course, I made two pork tenderloins stuffed with spinach and goat cheese, topped with grape tomatoes. Stuffing pork tenderloins is hard. And what's harder is knowing when it's done. The stuffing makes it difficult to use a handy thermometer.

After stuffing the meat and rolling it tight, I browned it before putting it in the oven. Then I made my tomato topping in the pan I browned the meat in, adding some additional olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I also made a potato and zucchini torte. The layering process is below. I did three layers of each, with cheese in between, and a top layer with potatoes only.

This thing was delicious. Pretty rich, too. I think I'd go lighter on the oil and cheese next time, but for my first try, I say it's a success. I wish I had a photo of a slice, but it's strange taking pictures at the dinner table.

I also made tzatziki, with a little too much garlic for some people.

And a simple chickpea salad with red onions, olives, a variety of herbs, and an olive oil and red wine vinegar dressing.
We finished off with a creme brule treat courtesy of Trader Joe's. Which I topped off with raspberries and figs. It was very nice looking, but by that time my camera was lost amongst the many many dirty dishes.

The Dumpling House

Pin It After our last failed attempt to eat at The Dumpling House, I wasn't sure when we'd actually make it there again. But I guess we didn't have to wait too long. On Sunday, with nothing better to do that drive and eat, we ended up there for an early dinner.

I liked the place right away. It was clean, empty, and had some random artwork of all kinds of animals on the walls.

And the food was delicious too. And very reasonable.

We had these wide glass noodles, with crab and veggies. They tasted fresh and healthy.

There was a seaweed salad that was tangy and delicious, and also a Chinese version of kim chi. Barely pickled, the cabbage was crisp and fresh. All the sides made us feel fresh and healthy, as if we were actually working out by eating this food.

Until the dumplings arrived. The workout ended there. The steamed ones (above) were filled with shrimp and chives. And the pan fried ones we got with pork (at top). Both were flavorful and delicious, but they definitely didn't taste like they were good for you. Although they were definitely good.


Couch Day 2009, survived

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On Saturday we celebrated the 5th annual Couch Day. It's a fairly important holiday that takes place the first weekend in September, in honor of our couches. You see, when we first bought our condo, we were poor, and after spending another $10k or so cleaning it up, that left us more poor. And for the first 4 months, we spent our time hanging out in the kitchen, at the breakfast nook. Because that was the only seating in the place. We drank beer, ate bread, made our friends help us paint. It was a good time. (Enjoy the photos below from over 4 years ago).

Then one day, we went to Wicks and purchased two couches. And the day the couches were delivered, we decided to have a party. That's how Couch Day started.

This year, Couch Day was a little different. Our veteran couch day friend is no longer living in CA. It was a bit sad not having her around, but after lots of brandy I got over it. We had a lot of couch day virgins around, who I think had a good time, but were definitely not prepared for what was in store. We ate lots of food (although I got too drunk and lazy to take photos), drank all kinds of booze, grilled sausages, sat on couches, watched PBS and many many hours of Mad Men. Couch Day started at around noon, and lasted until about 10:30 pm. A long, drunken, lazy day. It's a bit exhausting, you have to learn to pace yourself, but it's always fun.

Crab Cakes and Sides

Pin It I really like crab cakes, but have never made them. I always buy the frozen ones from Trader Joe's. They are tasty. It's just that when I have real crab around, I never want to turn it into a little cake. I just want to eat it, with some lemon squeezed on top. So, that means I usually get crab cakes when I go out, or buy them frozen.

On Friday, I seared up some frozen crab cakes, and made a delicious slaw and mashed potatoes. Everything went together really well, surprising both of us. For the slaw, I used good mustard, champagne vinegar, dill, oil, and lots of salt and pepper. I kept the mashed potatoes simple, butter, milk and again lots of salt and pepper. We had some white wine and ate our fancy crab cakes in front of the tv.


My In-N-Out Meal

Pin It As I mentioned earlier, the week has been busy, and busy means no time for shopping, cooking, doing dishes. But I have made time to watch plenty of No Reservations.

Last night, the moon was crazy/beautiful (like that awful movie with Kristen Dunst and her cholo crush) and I was in the mood for some In-N-Out. My perfect meal there constist of a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate shake, in front of the tv. Delicious.