Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe and Sausage,  while perfect for a weeknight meal it also makes a wonderful dish to serve when you have guests over for dinner. I love having impromptu dinners for our friends and when I do, I often serve an Italian meal. Why Italian you might ask? It is usually quick and easy to prepare so you don’t have to spend the whole day in the kitchen and tell me, who doesn’t like Italian food?

If I’m cooking a casual meal for friends, I usually serve the dinner right at my kitchen table. I’ll just add a leaf and bring over a couple of additional chairs from our other dining table. If so, I like to have as much of the meal prepared in advance so that the kitchen is clean and there is minimal work left to be done right before the food is served. Pasta with broccoli rabe and sausage is a perfect dish for these occasions as everything except the pasta can be cooked in advance. Once my guests have arrived, I’ll serve an appetizer then afterwards I’ll cook my pasta, finish the dish and  serve it family style at our table.

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe And Sausage

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe And Sausage

Orecchiette With Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

Recipe serves 4 to 6, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 1 lb. orecchiette pasta
  • 2 bunches broccoli rabe, woody stems discarded, and the broccoli cut into 2 in. pieces
  • 1/2 – 3/4 lb. hot Italian sausage cut into bite size pieces or remove the casings and tear the sausage into small pieces
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil plus and additional 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped fine
  • 4 – 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes, optional
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 c. chicken broth
  • 1 c. reserved pasta cooking water
  • 1/4 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese plus more to serve at the table

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil then cook the broccoli for 2 – 3 minutes until just tender. Remove and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and retain the green color. Drain well, then set aside in a bowl. I like to do this step to insure that the greens are not too bitter but you can eliminate if the broccoli is young and tender. The broccoli can be cooked, covered and refrigerated ahead of time until ready to complete the dish.

Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. of olive oil in a large pan. Brown the sausage until just cooked through. Add the 1/4 c. olive oil then add the onion, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and cook until the onions are soft. Add the chicken stock and let simmer for several minutes more.  The sausage sauce can be cooked ahead of time, covered and refrigerated until ready to complete the dish.

In the meantime bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, I like to save and use the pot of water the broccoli rabe was cooked in for added taste and nutrition. Add the pasta and cook according to package directions until just al dente. Drain the pasta, saving a cup of the water, then add the pasta to the sausage mixture along with the broccoli rabe. Cook for an additional 2 – 3 minutes for the pasta to finish cooking. Add the pecorino cheese, toss well and taste for any additional seasoning that might be needed. If the pasta appears dry, add some of the reserved pasta water and toss again. After plating, you may wish to add a drizzle of extra olive oil and an additional grating of cheese.

****

My husband and I recently had two couples over for one of our impromptu dinners and I served this popular Italian dish which everyone seemed to really enjoy. The “little pasta ears” trapped bits of goodness in each bite…the richness of the sausage and the bitter greens were a perfect combination of flavors.

For appetizers, I served a large antipasto that I had prepared earlier in the day. Marinated olives, three Italian cold cuts (salami, mortadella and hot capicola), sliced provolone, marinated baby mozzarella with sun-dried tomatoes, marinated mushrooms, roasted red and yellow peppers and marinated artichoke hearts. There was something for everyone, plenty of veggies for those wanting to eat light with the addition of meats and cheeses for the heartier appetites. Glasses of wine and a crusty loaf of Italian bread with my homemade dipping oil was the perfect accompaniment.

Once the appetizers were finished, I went to the stove and cooked the orecchiette. When done, I added it to the broccoli rabe and sausages that I’d prepared earlier in the day. The finished pasta was plated and on the table in less than fifteen minutes, with only one large pot and  pan left sitting on the stove…no muss, no fuss. Try sharing this pasta dish with your friends soon, if they are like our friends they will love the orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausages.

 

 

 

Posted in food, lifestyle, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 170 Comments

Pollo Con Wasakaka

Picture yourself living in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and having to order a meal. The first time I saw Pollo Con Wasakaka, a traditional and very popular Dominican dish, was on a menu in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I knew that “pollo” was chicken but what was a “wasakaka” and was it even something I would dare put into my mouth. I really shouldn’t have worried because it turned out that wasakaka is a savory parsley, lime and garlic sauce that is very similar to the Argentinean chimichurri sauce, and it’s often served with rotisserie chicken as well as being used as a dipping sauce for fried yuca and thick slices of fried sweet potato and it’s delicious!

Pollo Con Wasakaka, Grilled Chicken With An Herb Garlic Green Sauce

Pollo Con Wasakaka, Grilled Chicken With Green Sauce

I ended up ordering Pollo Con Wasakaka many times at small restaurant that was within walking distance of the Jaragua Hotel where my husband and I were living in Santo Domingo. The restaurant had an open air dining room that looked out at the busy traffic on Ave. Independencia, certainly not very atmospheric but it was very popular with the locals. That’s because the restaurant’s specialty was their delicious rotisserie chicken. The chicken had a hint of wood smoke, its skin was crispy and golden brown and the meat was juicy and tender. It was always served with wasakaka which gave the chicken a great flavor. You could order either dark or white meat and the chicken came with a choice of sides such as rice, beans, yuca, Russian potato salad, or tomato salad. It was a simple, inexpensive and yet delicious meal.

Thinking of our time spent in the Dominican Republic, I decided to make my own version of this traditional dish using chicken breasts which I grilled and served with a wasakaka sauce. If the weather is good where you live, head outside, fire up the grill and make pollo con wasakaka. If you don’t happen to have a grill, the chicken can also be cooked on a grill pan. If you really don’t feel like cooking, just buy a rotisserie chicken and make the sauce. It will take just minutes to put a tasty and typical Dominican meal on the table.

Pollo Con Wasakaka (Chicken With Green Sauce)

Serves two, adjust the recipe accordingly

Wasakaka Sauce

  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
  • 1/4 c. fresh parsley, stems removed
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried oregano, crumbled
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 c. water, optional (the sauce I had in the Dominican Republic was thinner than I make, Dominicans like to thin it with water)

Place all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until blended.

Grilled Chicken Breasts

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 tsp. each of garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, salt and pepper

Combine the oil, lime juice and the seasonings in a shallow dish and stir well. Add the chicken breasts to the marinade, turn to coat and then let marinate at room temperature for 30 minutes, turning once.

In the meantime, preheat your grill (set one zone on med. high and one on medium) for about 15 minutes until hot. Place the chicken breasts (presentation side down) on the high heat zone and cook for 3 to 5 minutes with the lid down, depending on how hot your grill is. Move to the medium zone for another 3 to 5 minutes until done and the juices run clear.  The trick to getting good grill marks is to turn the meat as little as possible. When the chicken breasts are done remove from the grill. Let stand covered for about 5 minutes before serving so that the juices redistribute.

Serve the grilled chicken breasts with a drizzle of the wasakaka on top and serve the remainder of the sauce at the table.

****

Pollo con wasakaka is easy to prepare and delicious. The flavors of the fresh citrus, herb and garlic sauce is a great match with chicken as well as other meats and seafood. I can certainly see why many countries around the world have their own version of this sauce. It might be called green sauce, salsa verde, sauce verte, grüne soße, chimichurri, or wasakaka but each country’s sauce is similar in that it is prepared with fresh herbs.

Now as to being worried about ordering food you are not familiar with when you are in a foreign country, most of the time I’ve done just fine. That is except for when a chef came out of his kitchen to ask me, “does madame really want to order veal brains” but that is another story.

Posted in food, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 190 Comments

Sesame Beef With Snow Peas

Sesame Beef With Snow Peas is my version of a popular Chinese dish but it is much better than what you can get from your neighborhood takeout. Flavorful strips of sirloin steak, tender-crisp snow peas and onions are cooked in a delicious garlic ginger sauce. This recipe is so tasty that I’ve even prepared it for dinner guests. If you are thinking of ordering Chinese takeout for an evening meal, why not try making this stir fry dish yourself. Think about it, do you really want a container of lukewarm beef that’s not very tender along with some limp veggies? Covered in a thick brown sauce, your takeout meal  will probably be  lacking in flavor unless it is topped with lots of little packets of soy sauce. Instead, why not shop for a few easy to find ingredients and prepare a tasty dinner that will make everyone at your table happy.

Stir Fried Beef With Snow Peas In A Garlic Ginger Sauce

Stir Fried Sesame Beef With Snow Peas In A Garlic Ginger Sauce

I’ve written this recipe in easy to follow steps as the recipe comes together very quickly. It is good to have all your ingredients prepped and ready before you start. If you don’t have a wok, please don’t worry as I cook my stir fry dishes in a large skillet. It has more surface area that comes in contact with the flame and I think it works great.

Sesame Beef With Snow Peas In A Garlic Ginger Sauce

Recipe serves four generously, adjust accordingly

  • 1 lb. of sirloin or steak of your choice, sliced 1/4 inch thick against the grain into bite size strips (you can buy pre sliced or slightly freeze the steak for easier cutting)
  • 6 Tbsp. peanut or canola oil
  • 2 onions, cut into quarters and then cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 Tbsp. freshly grated ginger
  • 4 Tbsp. minced garlic, about 4 or 5 cloves
  • 2 c. snow peas, cut in half on the diagonal
  • 2 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds

Marinade (For tenderizing)

  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1/2 tsp. white pepper
  • 2 tsp. sesame oil

Sauce

  • 1 tsp. corn starch
  • 4 Tbsp. water
  • 4 Tbsp. oyster sauce
  • 2 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. chili sauce with garlic 
  • 4 Tbsp. Shaoxing Chinese rice wine, sherry or white wine
  • 3 tsp. sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp. brown sugar

Marinate the beef by sprinkling with the corn starch and stir to coat. Add the pepper and sesame oil, stir and let marinate at least 30 minutes and up to an hour. (This Chinese technique helps to tenderize the meat).

In the meantime, prepare the sauce by dissolving 1 tsp. corn starch in the water then add the remaining sauce ingredients. Mix well and taste for flavor, if necessary adjust to your own taste and then set aside until ready to cook.

Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet until very hot. Cook, not stirring the beef, in batches so that the meat browns and doesn’t steam, about 30 seconds on each side. As each batch is finished, remove to a paper towel to drain.

Add the onions to the skillet and cook until translucent, then add the ginger, garlic and snow peas and cook until the peas are just starting to get tender. Remove to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out any remaining oil and add the sauce to the skillet. Cook until it thickens slightly. Add the meat back to the pan, stirring until just heated through. Then add the vegetables, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and stir until heated through. Remove the stir fry to a large platter and serve.

A Large Platter Of Sesame Beef With Snow Peas Ready To Serve Dinner Guests

A Large Platter Of Sesame Beef With Snow Peas Ready To Serve Dinner Guests

****

Sesame Beef With Snow Peas, Better Than Takeout

Sesame Beef With Snow Peas, Better Than Takeout

I’ve made sesame beef with snow peas for weeknight meals for my husband and I and we’ve thoroughly enjoyed it, so much so that I also prepared this Chinese dish when we had friends over for dinner. I served the sesame beef with chicken spring rolls, fried rice and refreshing watermelon cubes for dessert. Everyone enjoyed the meal and I think you would as well. I believe you will agree that it is better than your neighborhood Chinese takeout.

 

Posted in food, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 183 Comments

Laundry Rooms, A Luxury Or A Necessity

Laundry Rooms, once considered a luxury, are now a necessity as far as most of us are concerned. People looking for a new home today, whether they are a first time home buyer or empty nesters downsizing to a smaller home, usually have a laundry room on their “wish list”, I know I certainly did. We all have laundry to do and whether or not we have a dedicated room for it, we’ve come a long way concerning where and how our dirty laundry gets cleaned.

I have a dedicated laundry room in our new home but that hasn’t always been the case. The washing machine in my first house was located in a cramped storage closet outside in the carport and I dried the wash on a clothesline in the backyard. Over the years, our other homes had small stacked washer/dryer units tucked into a hallway closet near the bedroom. I now have “state of the art” appliances but my laundry room certainly isn’t one of the luxury rooms you might have seen on Pinterest or Houzz. While mine may not be perfect and I think a larger room would truly be a luxury, I’ve maximized every inch and find it works well.

I thought I would share some of the ideas I used to make my basic, standard laundry room a little special.

Basic Laundry Room With Optional Tall Upper Cabinets And Deep Sink

Basic Laundry Room With Optional Tall Upper Cabinets And Deep Sink

My laundry room is small, it’s more like a wide hallway than a room. You either enter it through the garage or directly from the entrance foyer so I wanted it to look nice if the door was left open. After all, who wants to constantly open and close a door  every time you are carrying a load of laundry in or out of the room.

The Laundry Room Is Directly Off The Entrance Foyer As Well As Through The Garage

The Laundry Room Is Directly Off The Entrance Foyer As Well As The Garage

The Laundry Room Can Be Entered Either Through The Garage Or The Front Foyer

The Laundry Room Can Be Entered Either Through The Garage Or The Entrance Foyer

Washing, drying and ironing clothes are often dreaded chores and I believe a pretty, well organized space can make the time you spend doing them a more pleasant experience. I thought some of the laundry memorabilia that I’d collected over the years would make a nice focal point when entering the laundry room. I also have a large collection of pretty baskets that I only use occasionally displayed on the top of the upper cabinets.  I repurposed a beautiful wool carpet into a runner for the tile floor and hung a large painting that came from our summer cottage in Maine on the long wall opposite the cabinets. They both add a pop of color to the room, making it one of the most colorful areas in our home. If you have to spend time washing and ironing, yes…I still iron, then why not have the room be as nice as possible. The warm and vibrant colors throughout the room put a smile on my face every time I’m in there.

Vibrant Colors And Laundry Memorabilia

A Vibrant Colored Runner And Laundry Memorabilia Add Interest To The Laundry Room

I decided on white for the appliances and the cabinetry in the laundry room. All the white gives a fresh, clean look and adds brightness to the windowless room. The optional tall upper cabinets that we had added above the base cabinets when our home was being built provide ample storage in the narrow room with its tall ceilings. The formica countertop is not large but still provides a good place to sort and fold clean laundry. I also use it as a temporary landing spot when my hands are full of grocery bags when I’m coming in through the garage.

The Washer And Dryer On Pedestals With Drawers To Hold Washing Essentials

Front Loading Washer And Dryer On Pedestals Drawers That Hold Laundry Essentials

I decided on a front loading electric washer and gas dryer. Both had Energy Star labels, which mean they are very efficient. They use about half the water and less energy than standard units. They both have wonderful features including steam to sanitize and stop allergens. They also have lots of options regarding temperatures and speeds depending on the soil levels of the fabrics being washed. They even play a nice melody at the end of their cycle instead of a harsh buzzer. I chose pedestals for the machines that have pull out drawers. They are very convenient for holding large bottles of detergents, stain removers, bleach and fabric softeners and are easily wiped out if anything spills or leaks in them.

A Deep Soaking Sink Has Lots Of Uses

A Deep Soaking Sink Has Lots Of Uses

While the washer is a huge step up from rubbing clothes on a washboard, there are still times that I wash some items by hand in the deep, oversized utility sink that is part of the base cabinets. It is perfect when I need to soak a stubborn stain over night before the item gets washed. It is also handy for clean up jobs and arranging flowers. I have an antique drying rack next to the sink which is terrific for air drying delicates. I love its simple design and often wonder why similar ones aren’t available today.

Antique Drying Rack Is Perfect For Air Drying Delicates

Antique Drying Rack Is Perfect For Air Drying Delicates

You may have noticed one other antique piece hanging on the wall. It is a framed old “laundry rules” I found in an antique store in New Hampshire. If you look closely, you will see remedies for some stains that most of us don’t encounter anymore. While I may not use sour milk, kerosene, ether, chloroform, or turpentine as it suggests to remove stains, I sometimes use cornstarch on oily stains and white vinegar as a fabric softener.

An Antique List Of Laundry Rules

An Antique List Of “Laundry Rules”

If you are dreaming of the perfect laundry room, it’s probably a large, multipurpose room close to your kitchen or bedrooms. Besides having a washer and dryer, it would have plenty of room to sort and fold your clothes, a sink for doing hand washing and perhaps even a fold down drying rack. It might also have a place where you could hang your jackets and hats, a hobby or craft area, a gift wrapping station, a home office, and might even include wine or beverage refrigerator.

While I don’t have a dream laundry room, I am pleased with the decisions I’ve made to create a functional and pleasant place to do my laundry. If you are planning to redo your own laundry space or just freshen it up a little, something as simple as a new coat of paint, a couple of framed prints or an arrangement of silk or real flowers might make doing the laundry less of a chore.

Tell me my friends, are your dirty clothes flung across the floor of your bedroom or tossed in the corner of your closet? Perhaps you are organized and keep them in a hamper that is divided into darks, lights, and delicates sitting in your laundry room waiting to be washed. I’d love to know what you think, is a laundry room a luxury or do you think one is a necessity. Do you have any suggestions on what makes doing laundry less of a chore and do you actually have a dream laundry?

Posted in Home, lifestyle, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 236 Comments

Spaghetti Carbonara

How many times have you stood staring into your refrigerator wondering what to make for dinner? If you have, you certainly aren’t alone and Spaghetti Carbonara might be the answer as it only takes a few simple ingredients. If you’ve got fresh eggs, bacon or pancetta, pecorino Romano or other hard Italian grating cheese and spaghetti then you can prepare this delicious, creamy pasta dish and have it sitting on your dinner table in under thirty minutes.

Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

In Italy, Rome in particular, this dish is traditionally made with guanciale, which is a pork cheek cured with salt and pepper, or pancetta which is similar to our bacon but is unsmoked. If you have guanciale or pancetta, by all means use it but bacon is what most of us will have in our refrigerator and works well in this recipe. You can also use another kind of pasta other than spaghetti and if you are not worried about authenticity, you might like adding ingredients such as onions or peas to the dish. There are also versions that add cream to the recipe but I don’t believe it is necessary as the eggs create a rich and creamy tasting sauce on their own.

Spaghetti Carbonara 

Recipe serves 2 generously, adjust accordingly.

  • 3 slices of thick cut bacon, cut into small pieces
  • 2 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks*   While the heat of the pasta will cook the eggs, if you feel more comfortable, you can use pasteurized eggs in this recipe
  • salt, garlic powder and onion powder, about 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. each and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/4 c. grated pecorino Romano cheese, more at the time of serving
  • 8 oz. spaghetti, more or less, depending on if this will be a first or main course

Place the chopped bacon in a large sauté pan and cook until browned and crisp, then set the pan aside.

While bacon is cooking, beat the eggs in a small bowl with a sprinkling of salt, garlic powder, onion powder, a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper and the cheese then set aside.

In the meantime, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of salted boiling water, according to package directions, until it is al dente. Reserve about a 1/2 cup of the cooking water then drain the pasta. Add the spaghetti to the sauté pan with the bacon and bacon fat then return to the heat. Toss well to coat everything then remove the pan from the heat.

Once the pan is off the heat and slightly cooled, add the egg mixture to the pasta and toss very quickly and continuously. The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs and create a smooth and creamy sauce. Just remember to toss well as you don’t want to end up with scrambled eggs.  If the pasta looks a little dry, add some of the reserved pasta water, a little at a time, to loosen the sauce. Taste for seasoning, you might need to add additional cheese or salt.

Place the spaghetti into individual warm serving bowls or plates. You can garnish the dish with a little chopped parsley for color and add an additional sprinkling of cheese and a grating of black pepper, if you wish. This is one dish that needs to be served immediately.

Note: This meal comes together very quickly, so make sure that your table is set and any sides that you might be serving with the pasta are ready and waiting to go to the table.

****

Now as easy as this recipe is to prepare, I have to say that I don’t make it…my husband makes this for us. This pasta dish was originally introduced to his family when to his mother and father had dinner at a friend’s home and my husband’s father feel in love with spaghetti carbonara.

On one of those evenings when I was staring into the refrigerator wondering what to cook, my husband quickly stepped up and said no problem, “I’m cooking dinner tonight and it is a surprise”. And as they say, the rest is history. Sometimes the simplest of ingredients, the ones that are not only inexpensive for most of us but that we usually have in our kitchens, can be turned into a delicious and satisfying meal. I hope you will give one of my husband’s specialties a try, I believe you will enjoy spaghetti carbonara as much as I do. Buon Appetito!

 

 

Posted in food, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 224 Comments

Eleven Countries, No Jet Lag…That’s Epcot

A travel adventure through Eleven Countries, no passport, customs and best of all, no jet lag involved…that’s Epcot. Instead of a long plane trip across the Atlantic, it was a two hour drive from our home in Vero Beach to the Walt Disney World Resort.

My husband and I joined friends for a short visit to the Orlando area and while there, spent one day visiting the Epcot theme park at Disney World. We stayed at the convenient Saratoga Springs Resort and Spa, part of the Disney Springs resort area.

Our day at Disney began with a short, complimentary bus ride from our hotel to the main entrance of Epcot. It was a beautiful, crisp morning with a deep blue sky overhead.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show of photos in this post.

Just beyond the main entrance is Spaceship Earth, Epcot’s famous icon in Future World. The silver geosphere is covered with triangular panels that some people say resembles a golf ball. After a short wait, we rode inside the giant sphere enjoying a brief animated story about communications from the stone age to our present computer age.

You could spend hours or an entire day in Future World but we decided to save it for another visit. Instead, we headed to the World Showcase to visit the pavilions of Canada, the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Morocco, Japan, Italy, Germany, China, Norway and Mexico that surround Crescent Lake.

Having traveled to every featured country except mainland China (although I have been to Hong Kong), I instantly recognized small scale reproductions of historic buildings I’d seen during my travels. You’ll find some kind of entertainment, ride or film about each country’s culture and places to enjoy some of its unique cuisine. Every pavilion is staffed by people from that country who work in the shops and kiosks. They dress in traditional fashions that represent their country and sell imported goods and souvenirs. You’ll also find designated spots where children can meet and have a photo taken with Disney characters at specific times of the day.

We started our visit in Canada. The large building, Hotel du Canada, was inspired by a historic hotel found in Ottawa. Inside, Le Cellar is considered to be one of the best restaurants in the park. The surrounding area has a wonderful garden and high boulders with a cascading waterfall represents the Canadian Rockies.

Epcot's Canada Pavilion

Part Of The Canadian Pavilion In Epcot

Next, we walked down the streets of the United Kingdom. The largest building replicates Hampton Court Palace and there is a thatched roof cottage which is modeled after Anne Hathaway’s cottage in Stratford-upon-Avon. The Rose and Crown Pub, with a red telephone booth outside, is popular if you want a pint of beer or some fish and chips.

We crossed over a footbridge and were in France with the Eiffel Tower peering above the rooftops. Round kiosks, a sidewalk café and artists works lined up along the water brought back memories of my trips to Paris.

Les Chefs de France, a pretty brassiere with a distinctly French decor, is good for lunch. Try to make advanced reservations for a window table in the sunroom. While the food might not be as authentic as what I’ve had during my travels to France and it’s geared more towards American tastes, I enjoyed the meal. The food was well prepared, our waiter from Lyon was excellent and the surroundings couldn’t have been lovelier.

Morocco feels so authentic, with its colorful casbah, Moroccan music and little passages that take you into courtyards surrounded by olive trees and towering date palms. When it was being developed, King Hassan II sent native craftsmen to help with the building of its pavilion. This is evident throughout the entire area, from the reproduction of a 12th century prayer tower in Marrakech to a mosaic fountain and a tiled gate in Fez.

We walked through a large red Torii gate and entered Japan. It’s very picturesque with a five story blue roofed pagoda, sculptured gardens, footbridges and koi ponds.  A replica of the ceremonial halls of Japan’s Imperial Palace house a large gift store. Traditional Japanese drummers perform outside several times a day.

We quickly passed through the United States pavilion which was inspired by 18th century colonial architecture. Gardens are planted in red, white and blue flowers and there are rose varieties named after U.S. presidents.

U.S. Pavilion In Epcot

U.S. Pavilion In Epcot

We entered Italy and found ourselves in Venice with gondolas tied up to striped poles along the lagoon. St. Mark’s Square has a replica of the original campanile and the 14th century pink and white Doge’s Palace. In another area of the plaza, there is a fountain that was inspired by Bernini’s Neptune fountain in Rome.

Germany represents different regions of the country. There is a fountain in the center of the platz with a statue of St. George slaying a dragon and there’s a popular biergarten where you can enjoy a beer and sausages. We spotted Snow White greeting a little girl at a wishing well and there is a working outdoor miniature model railroad that will please boys of all ages.

Enter through the large Gate of the Golden Sun, a replica of one in Beijing’s summer palace and you’re in China. There is a large recreation of the Temple of Heaven and many smaller recreations of buildings found in the Forbidden City. A lotus pool surrounded by typical Chinese gardens with footbridges add to the character of this pavilion.

The main feature in Norway is a replica of the original Stave Church in Gol, Norway. The original church, which dates back to 1212, is one of very few surviving ancient wooden churches left in the world today.

Mexico is either the last country in the World Showcase or the first, depending on which direction you started your visit. Its main feature is a replica of a pre-Colombian pyramid almost hidden by lush tropical landscaping. Whereas other countries have lots of outdoor buildings and gardens, most everything is inside the pyramid including an excellent restaurant.

Over the course of one day, I wandered through eleven countries in the Epcot without experiencing any jet lag…I was tired but enjoyed every moment. The Epcot Flower and Garden Festival is held each spring and I’m hoping to return to not only enjoy the flower displays but to see more of Epcot, it was far more than I imagined.

 

 

Posted in photography, travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 153 Comments

Lamb Shanks With Olives And Apricots

Braised Lamb Shanks With Olives And Apricots is one of the most flavorful and aromatic lamb dishes I’ve ever prepared thanks to the wonderful spice blend known as ras el hanout, which is Arabic for “top of the shop”. If you walked into the shop of a Moroccan or North African spice merchant and asked for a blend of his best spices, he would sell you ras el hanout. The blend has a pungent aroma and flavor from spices such as cardamom, cayenne, coriander, cumin, paprika, peppercorns and turmeric with a little sweetness from spices such as cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Each spice merchant’s version will be different from shop to shop and can be created with up to as many as one hundred spices, some perhaps being quite exotic.

In my recipe, lamb shanks are slowly braised with a mixture of vegetables, olives, apricots and spices until the meat is almost falling off the bone. Over the course of several hours, the succulent lamb becomes tender and a sweet, savory sauce is created from the olives, apricots, vegetables and spices in the pot.

Moroccan Braised Lamb Shank With Olives And Apricots

Moroccan Braised Lamb Shank With Olives And Apricots

Moroccan Braised Lamb Shanks With Olives And Apricots

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 lamb shanks (figure 1 shank a person unless they are very large)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 piece of ginger (about 2 inches), peeled and grated
  • 3 Tbsp. ras el hanout*, a traditional North African spice mix available from ethnic stores and some grocery stores
  • 2 tsp. harissa, sriracha or other hot pepper sauce
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 15 oz. can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 2 c. chicken stock
  • 8 or more dried apricots, sliced
  • a handful of pitted green olives
  • minced fresh mint or cilantro for garnish
  • cooked couscous

*If you would like to make your own blend you might want to try my friend Vicki from Flavors of the Sun, recipe for Ras El Hanout.

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the lamb shanks and brown on all sides then remove to a plate. Add the onions and carrots and cook about 5 minutes, stirring frequently,  until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, the ras el hanout, harissa, cumin, salt and pepper and cook, stirring frequently, for a minute. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock and stir. Add the shanks back in the pot. (The shanks should be submerged in the liquid halfway, if not add some water.) Cover the pot and simmer on the cooktop, turning the lamb about halfway through the cooking, for about 2 to 3 hours (depending on the size of the shanks) or until the meat is tender and sauce is thickened. At this point, you may want to skim off any accumulated fat that has risen to the top. Add the apricots and olives and cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes until the apricots are soft. To serve, place some couscous in a bowl, top with a shank, spoon some sauce on top and garnish with some chopped mint.

****

Moroccan Style Braised Lamb Shanks Are Perfect For A Dinner Party

Moroccan Style Braised Lamb Shanks Make A Dramatic Presentation At A Dinner Party

You may have had a similar dish in a Moroccan restaurant where it might have been prepared and served in a tagine, which is a glazed clay pot with a conical shaped lid. The word tagine not only refers to the cooking vessel but also to the food cooked in this pot. A tagine of lamb, chicken or even vegetables can be cooked with a combination of dried prunes, apricots, figs, raisins, olives, salted lemons, sweet potatoes, chickpeas or nuts and herbs such as mint and cilantro. Traditional spices that are used in the cooking are ground cinnamon, ginger, saffron, cumin, turmeric, paprika, pepper, as well as the famous spice blend ras el hanout. While cooking a recipe such as this in a tagine makes for a great presentation is certainly isn’t necessary, a large, heavy pot such as a Dutch oven works perfectly.

I do hope you will try the braised lamb shanks with olives and apricots, perhaps at your next dinner party. I believe a Moroccan style recipe like this is perfect to serve since the lamb shanks look dramatic, the dish is flavorful and yet the meal is very simple and can be prepared a day in advance which makes for easy entertaining.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 172 Comments

Pasta With Beans And Greens

A steamy bowl of  Pasta With Beans And Greens is a comforting, delicious and yet healthy meal. Prepared in under 30 minutes from the simplest of ingredients, this Italian dish is also budget friendly, making it perfect to serve your family during the week.

Meals like this are often referred to as Italian peasant food or cucina povera. Fugal home cooks, not wanting to waste anything edible, used whatever ingredients they might have had in their kitchens or came from their farms to prepare simple but tasty family meals. Many times it was a one pot meal called minestra, zuppa or minestrone, a hearty soup or stew that usually contained vegetables, beans, pasta or grains.

Ditalini Pasta With Beans And Greens, Or Minestra As Italians Would Call It

Ditalini Pasta With Beans And Greens, Or Minestra As Italians Would Call It

Thankfully I’m not poor and my pantry and fridge are fully stocked but I also hate to be wasteful. I recently saved a large romaine lettuce and tomato salad which was dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice from a dinner the previous evening. Now anyone who has tried to save a salad dressed with a vinaigrette knows that it can start to wilt almost immediately but all was not lost. I know that tomatoes, greens, olive oil and lemon add great flavors to soups and created this meal using the leftover salad much the way a fugal Italian cook might have done with ingredients she had on hand in her kitchen. Of course, you can use all fresh ingredients to make this delicious dish.

Ditalini Pasta With Beans And Greens

Serves two generously, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 c. cooked cannelloni beans or 2 15 oz. cans, drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 15 oz. can low sodium broth, either beef, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 c. water, more if needed
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c. ditalini or other small tube pasta
  • 4 c. tender greens, chopped (I used romaine)
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • extra virgin olive oil to drizzle before serving (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onion and sauté until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for about a minute.  Add half of beans, broth, water, oregano, basil, bay leaf, salt and pepper and cook until some of the beans start to break and thicken the liquid, about ten minutes. You can use the back of a spoon to break up some of the beans, if necessary.

Increase the heat to a boil and add the tomatoes, the other half of the beans and the pasta. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the pasta is “al dente”, about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. The ditalini quickly absorbs the sauce so you may need to add more liquid. Add the greens, lower the heat and cook about three to five minutes, which will wilt the greens but keep  some of the stems crunchy texture. Remove the bay leaf before serving, add the lemon juice and taste for additional seasoning. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with some grated cheese and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, if you wish.

****

I believe that you will enjoy this healthy meal of pasta with beans and greens. It can be modified to suit your taste and what you have available even if you are vegetarian or vegan. If you have the time to make homemade stock and beans…perfect, as you control each and every ingredient. If you’re a busy mother trying to get a healthy and filling meal on the table for your young family, you can use packaged broth and beans as I did to get dinner on my dinner table in a hurry.

I hate wasting food so my refrigerator always has containers with leftovers from a previous meal. My husband refers to me as the “goddess of garbage” because I can create a new and delicious meal out of leftovers that many people might have thrown in the garbage. I’d love to know, do you toss food that was left over at the end of a meal or do you get creative and us it for another meal.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 158 Comments

New Year, New Hope

Happy New Year… A New Year, New Hope. As 2015 comes to a close, let’s celebrate both the passing year and all that was good in it and welcome in 2016 with eager anticipation. No matter where you are in the world or how you celebrate the coming new year, I hope 2016 will bring renewed hope, peace and happiness in your life.

Toast To The New Year

Toast To The New Year

I appreciate every reader that stopped by during the past year and the comments that many of you have left on my posts. It is always nice to know that you enjoy following along on my travels, seeing our homes over the years and perhaps that you’ve wanted to try some of the recipes that I created.

Cheers to the new year, I hope it will be everything you want it to be. I look forward to sharing new adventures with you “along the back roads of life

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 178 Comments

Joy To The World

IMG_3090 Joy To The WorldMay the warmth and joy of Christmas be with you and yours during this wonderful season and throughout the year.

May each of you have a holiday filled with peace and happiness shared among the company of family and good friends.

Merry Christmas,

Joyeux Noël, Frohe Weihnachten,

Buon Natale, and Feliz Navidad

****

Our homes, families and friends are wonderful blessings and are very much appreciated during this special time of the year. I want to thank you for your friendship as I believe that it is the best gift we can share with others around the world.

With warmest wishes, Karen

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 177 Comments