Caribbean Spiced Rum Chicken Thighs

Caribbean Spiced Rum Chicken Thighs, glazed with a barbecue sauce that is flavored with Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum and pineapple juice and then grilled, will have you dreaming of a trip to the islands. Honey and pineapple juice give the chicken sweetness, sriracha gives heat and the spiced rum, fresh ginger and five spice seasoning add lots of aromatic flavors to the barbecue sauce.  When cooked on the grill, the rum glaze caramelizes as it cooks, adding lots of lip smacking good flavor to the tender juicy chicken.

Caribbean Spiced Rum Grilled Chicken Thigh

I served the spiced rum chicken thighs, which were drizzled with a little extra sauce, alongside curried rice. The rice, seasoned with browned onions, curry powder, turmeric and fresh cilantro, complemented the flavorful chicken and added color to the plate.

Caribbean Spiced Rum Chicken Thighs

Serves two, adjust the recipe accordingly

Sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. butter or olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 tsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 c. catsup
  • 1/4 c. pineapple juice
  • 2 Tbsp. Captain Morgan Spiced Rum or spiced rum of your choice
  • 2 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. sriracha or to taste
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 2 tsp. five spice powder

Chicken

  • 4 chicken thighs
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • onion powder and garlic powder to taste, optional but recommended

Melt the butter in a small sauce pan and add the garlic and ginger. Cook for about 30 seconds and then add all the other sauce ingredients. Simmer for a few minutes until the  sauce comes together. If the sauce appears too thick, you can thin with a little water. Set aside to cool. If the sauce separates after cooling, whisk before using.

Season the chicken thighs generously with salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder. Spoon some of the cooled sauce over both sides of the chicken, cover and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes but longer is better. Take the chicken out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you are ready to grill. Reserve the remainder of the sauce. It can either be used to brush on the cooked chicken or poured into a bowl and passed around at the table.

Preheat your grill for 15 to 20 minutes until hot. (One zone on med. high and one medium.) Arrange the chicken skinned (presentation) side down on the high heat zone. Depending on how hot your grill is, cook for about 3 minutes with the lid down and then rotate the thighs 90 degrees to get crosshatch marks and cook for another 3 minutes. Turn the chicken thighs over and cook the same way for another 4 to 6 minutes until done and the juices run clear. If the sauce appears to be getting too dark, move to the cooler cooking zone. When the thighs are done, remove from the grill and let rest a couple of minutes so that the juices redistribute.

*The trick to good grill marks is to turn the meat as little as possible. When done remove from the grill.

Caribbean Spiced Rum Chicken Thigh

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I hope you will try and enjoy my island inspired Caribbean spiced rum chicken the next time you grill. If you are having friends over, you might want to cook other parts of the chicken as well as the thighs, just adjust the cooking time and double or triple the sauce. The barbecue sauce is easily adapted to your own tastes. I used Captain Morgan’s Spiced Rum because that is my husband’s favorite and we alway have it in our home. If you don’t have it, use any spiced rum or dark rum that you have on hand. The sauce is moderately spicy from the use of sriracha. While not nearly as spicy as the well known jerk marinade that is used in Jamaica, you can adjust the heat with whichever hot sauce that you like. Want it sweeter, add more honey. However you decide to make it, I believe you will enjoy Caribbean spiced rum chicken…it is lip smacking good.

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France’s Alsace Wine Region, Postcards To Remember

The French Wine Region of Alsace is a beautiful patchwork of forested rolling hills, valleys filled with quaint picturesque villages and hillside vineyards watched over by medieval castles. This charming wine growing region in the northeastern part of France lies in a valley along the Rhine River that separates France from Germany. While this small region might not be as well known as Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux, its vineyards are some of the oldest and highest quality found in France.

Riquewihr, France

Time and again, I’ve been asked about the photo that tops Back Road Journal. It was taken high on a hill at the edge of one of the vineyards in Alsace on a misty day in September. You can see the beautiful patchwork of colors the vineyards create in the fall in the photograph that I mention below.

Alsatian Vineyards Create A Patchwork Of Colors In The Fall

The colors of fall in the vineyards not only add to the scenic beauty of the area but it is also a wonderful time to visit Alsace. The grapes are ready to be harvested and after the harvest, the villages all celebrate with special wine festivals.

Click on any photo in this article to enlarge and see a slide show.

The Alsace Wine Road runs south from Strasbourg, with the Rhine river that borders Germany to its east and the Vosges mountains to its west, and continues down towards Colmar and just beyond. The wine route passes through beautiful villages, some with their medieval walls still surrounding them. Off in the distance, you often see ruins of a castle perched high on a hill top. Haut-Koenigsbourg Castle, one of France’s most widely visited castles has been completely restored and should not be missed when in the area.

Cobblestone streets are lined with colorful half-timbered shops and homes that are laden with flowers giving the villages a look which will remind you of the fairytale books you read as a child.

Enjoy local region cuisine in one of small local bistros or winstubs where you might want to try one of the region’s specialties such as tart d’oignion, tarte flambee, quenelles de foie or the ever popular choucroute garnie with sauerkraut, sausages, ham, bacon, and potatoes. It is usually a very large serving and is hard to finish unless you share it with someone. We have eaten several times at Winstub au Rouge d’Ottrot in Ottrot. It is a very popular place with the locals from the surrounding area. If you would prefer a multi course fine dining experience and we have had them, head to one of the 30 or so excellent Michelin starred restaurants in throughout the Alsace region. Some consider the cuisine of Alsace to be some of the best in Europe because it has been influenced by  not only the cooking of France but Germany as well. All I know is that it is delicious.

When you’re not tasting wine or having lunch, take time out to wander through the village’s winding little streets before heading to the next ancient village, some considered the most beautiful in France. Keep an eye to the rooftops where you may even spy a stock standing next to its large nest.

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You can see why the wine growing region of Alsace, France is a place my husband and I have returned to year after year. We love the delicious food, wonderful wines and memorable sights. The majority of the well known Alsatian wine road lies between beautiful cities of Strasbourg and Colmar, making them or any of the charming towns in the area a good base for not only exploring the region but also the nearby countries of Germany and Switzerland which Alsace borders. I hope you will get a chance to visit this wonderful part of France someday. Picturesque villages tucked into valleys sometimes with a castle perched high up on a hill…that is what travel dreams are made of.

Bon Voyage

 

 

 

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Grilled Lamb Kebabs With Mint Yogurt Sauce

Tender and juicy Grilled Lamb Kebabs With Mint Yogurt Sauce makes for a delicious casual summer meal. The lamb kebabs are marinated with fresh herbs, garlic, lemon and olive oil then grilled. The accompanying cool minty yogurt sauce is the perfect complement to the succulent lamb and slightly charred grilled vegetables.

Grilled Lamb Kebabs With Mint Yogurt Sauce

This quick and easy Mediterranean inspired dinner is perfect for a warm summer evening so invite a couple of friends over for a casual outdoor dinner party on your deck or patio. Serve your guests a chilled glass of crisp rosé or white wine along with some toasted pita chips and a platter of feta cheese, grape leaves, Baba Ganoush or hummus and some Marinated Olives or roasted peppers. Everything can all be purchased from your local market if you don’t want to prepare them yourself.

Mediterranean Appetizer Platter

Serve the lamb kebabs with a couscous stuffed tomato which can be prepared ahead of time and you have an effortless meal. Finish the dinner with some fresh sliced fruit or perhaps a simple Almond Cake With A Brown Butter Glaze.

Lamb Kebabs With Mint Yogurt Sauce

Serves 2, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 4 metal skewers (if using wood, soak in water for 30 minutes)
  • 3/4 – 1 lb. leg of lamb trimmed of fat and cut into 1 – 1 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 red onion, pieces cut the same size as the lamb
  • 1 red bell pepper, pieces cut the same size as the lamb
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • salt and pepper to taste

Prepare the marinade by combining the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, oregano, mint and thyme together in a small bowl. Place the lamb in a plastic zip bag and pour the marinade over it, massage the bag to make sure the lamb is well coated with the marinade. Close the bag, place on a plate and refrigerate for 3 to 4 hours or overnight. Remove the lamb and let it come to room temperature for about 30 minutes before you are ready to start cooking the meal. Drain the lamb and discard the marinade.

Preheat the grill to high. Thread the lamb, red onions, and red peppers on metal skewers, alternating the lamb and vegetables, don’t pack too tightly for proper cooking. Season the meat generously with salt and pepper. Note: I like to use two skewers for each kebab so that the meat and vegetables stay in place when turning.

Place the kebabs on the grill and cook, turning halfway, approximately 3 – 4 minutes a side  for medium rare or 5 minutes a side for medium. Exact timing will vary, depending on the thickness of the meat and the temperature of your grill but try not to overcook so that the lamb kebabs remain tender. Remove  the kebabs from the grill and let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

Serve the lamb kebabs with mint yogurt sauce passed at the table. (Recipe below)

Mint Yogurt Sauce

  • 1 c. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced finely
  • 1 tsp. lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. finely chopped fresh mint
  • salt and pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil and minced garlic (I do this to mellow the flavor of the garlic but it is not necessary) then let cool. Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for about 30 minutes for the flavors meld. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

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I do hope you will try the Grilled Lamb Kebabs with Mint Yogurt Sauce. The delicious marinade makes the lamb tender, juicy and very flavorful. Once marinated, the kebabs are quickly put together and grilled. I believe that the lamb kebabs are perfect for casual and easy summer entertaining with your friends. Your guests will leave your home talking about the enjoyable evening and the delicious meal that you shared with them.

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Beautiful Italy, Postcards And Memories

Beautiful Italy, postcards and memories so lovely they needed to be shared. A few short months after starting Back Road Journal, a road trip to Europe was planned by two foodies…myself and my husband. It was September, the weather was great and interesting destinations and delicious food was waiting to be discovered. Take a look back and enjoy.

After spending a few days in Provence, France, my husband and I drove across the nearby Italian border and along the Italian Riviera to the beautiful Mediterranean towns of Portofino and St. Margherita. If you are rich or famous, stay in Portofino. The small village with peach, yellow and terracotta buildings lining the harbor, the square and up high on the rock cliffs that surround the town is wonderful.

Click on any of the photos below to enlarge and see a slide show.

If you are the average tourist like myself and not wealthy, you can plan a day trip and perhaps enjoy a seafood lunch at one of the many cafes or restaurants on the main square called Piazza Martiri dell’Olivetta. After lunch, take time to explore the back alleyways of the village and then walk up the steep road to Castello Brown for a wonderful view of the fishing boats and the yachts anchored below.

The seaside town of Santa Margherita Ligure, a few miles to the east of Portofino, makes a good base for exploring the coast and is less crowded with tourists and far less expensive than its glamorous neighbor.

Heading inland from the coast, our next stop was the town of Reggio nell’ Emilia. Halfway between Florence and Milan, just south of Parma and north of Bologna, it makes a great base for exploring the Emilia-Romagna region. Again, not as expensive or crowded as its more well known neighbors.

Emilia-Romagna is a foodies paradise as this is the region known for Parmigiano-Reggiano, Prosciutto di Parma and Balsamico Tradizionale as well as food specialties such as local porcini mushrooms and erbazonne, a delicious fried spinach filled pastry.

Oh yes, it is also the home of the Ferrari automobile and Formula One racing car factory, in Modena, established by Enzo Ferrari. I guess you could say that this region of Italy is known for fast cars and slow food…something to please everyone.

A two hour drive north brought us to the picturesque resort town of Bardolino on the eastern shore of Lake Garda in northern Italy. It is a charming spot with small fishing boats neatly tied up in the harbor in front of the old town. If you are hungry, skip the tourist restaurants on the crowded main street. Instead, head down one of the side streets and you will discover small sidewalk cafes where you can enjoy a light and fruity glass of Bardolino wine and seafood specialties fresh from the lake.

If the weather is nice, you might want to take the ferry to some of the other charming towns around Lake Garda such as Desenzano, Sirmione or Gardone Riviera.

Leaving Bardolino, it is just a short hour and a half drive north to the historic yet cosmopolitan city of Bolzano. It is the capital of the province of Alto Adige also known as South Tyrol. The city is located in a large valley surrounded by mountains. It  is called “the gateway to the Dolomites” and is a very pleasant town to use as a base for exploring the region.

The center of town is dominated by the gothic cathedral with a beautiful roof and a two hundred foot tall bell tower and spire. It is across from Walther Square which is lined with restaurants and outdoor cafes that seem to be the gathering spot for locals as well as visitors.

The quaint little town of Bressanone/Brixen is twenty-five miles north of Bolzano. It is located in a beautiful valley surrounded by orchards as far as you can see and large vineyards growing up the slopes of the nearby mountains.

Just off the main piazza, we discovered the oldest restaurant in town, Finsterwirt – Oste Scuro, where we had a wonderful lunch. It has a charming antique, wood paneled dining room but since the weather was beautiful we decided on the cosy terrace on the inner courtyard. The service was excellent and the food was inventive and delicious.

Our final stop in the Alto Adige was in the heart of the spectacular Dolomites, the mountainous region  known for hiking and skiing. Our base was the town of Ortisei, located in the Val Gardena about twenty minutes from the Brenner Autostrada.

The Alto Adige has huge Germanic influence, (it was part of Austria before WWI) and that can be seen in its buildings, alpine chalets with cattle grazing in the meadows, in the spoken language and also in the local food.

One day during our stay at the Hotel Gardena, we accompanied the two sommeliers, Franz Lageder and Egon Perathoner, from the hotel’s Michelin starred restaurant to the well known wine producer, Tramin. The town of Termeno/Tramin, origin of the Gewürztraminer grape variety, is part of the Alto Adige Wine Road. Willi Sturz, the winemaker, lead us through various wine tastings then took our small group to their most prized vineyard in the high foothills. We had a lunch right in the vineyard of speck (smoked ham), parmesan cheese and bread to go along with more wines from the famous producer. It was definitely a memorable experience.

Italy was wonderful, from the seaside towns in the south to the amazing mountains in the north. It was a journey on the back roads that took us to places that I yearn to return to and hopefully someday we will. As I start this new year of blogging, I’m already looking forward to our next adventure this fall. Tickets are bought and we will be on a plane before we know it…I hope you will be following along.

Sitting On A Jet Plane, Ready For A New Adventure

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I hope that my postcards of wonderful moments, beautiful scenery and delicious food that I shared with you in this post will inspire you to explore not only the famous Italian cities of Rome, Florence and Venice as most tourists do but that you will also explore the lesser known cities, towns and quaint villages with their beautiful architecture and history. Beautiful Italy is where memories are made that will last you a lifetime.

 

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New England Post Cards / Favorite Photos

Postcards are a way of saving memories. Since I’ll soon be starting my seventh year writing Back Road Journal, I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite memories and photos through the next several posts called “Postcards”. The first being New England Post Cards / Favorite Photos about my wonderful years living in New England. For my longtime followers, see how many you can remember and for my new followers, take a look back at what you have missed. I hope you all will enjoy them.

I believe that my husband’s and my time spent in New England provided some of our most wonderful memories. Our apple farm in New Hampshire is where we called home and our small cottage on Long Lake, just 45 minutes north of Portland, Maine is where we spent our summers. Many a ride was taken on back roads as we discovered what makes New England such a special part of our country.

Bird’s Eye View of Camden Harbor

During one of our summers in Maine, we drove up to visit the Mid Coast region. This is where you will find Rockport, Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. It is one of the Maine’s most beautiful areas and was on our bucket list. This region is known for its quaint harbor villages, light houses, its rugged but beautiful coastline, its offshore islands, bald eagles and seals.

During that week’s visit, I got a literal bird’s-eye view of Camden harbor from the open air cockpit of a 1933 Waco biplane to celebrate my birthday. Wearing “Snoopy” leather helmets but without the benefit of goggles like our pilot, my husband and I took a thirty minute flight over the coast. It was the most adventuresome birthday gift I’ve ever received.

Click on any photo to enlarge and see a slide show.

Our small lakeside town of Naples, Maine is located in what is called the Lakes Region. It always put on a fun parade to celebrate the 4th of July which we loved attending. Later in the evening, watching the sunset from our dock on the lake was always a spectacular event, barely outdone by the fireworks at night.

Summer living at the lake provided quiet moments of relaxation as well as lots of water activities and, of course, lobsters and Maine blueberries. I guess you could say there was never a dull moment.

New Hampshire’s historic Seacoast region is definitely a great place to visit. Many happy hours were spent driving along its back roads and its eighteen miles of shoreline, discovering small towns and visiting the historic city of Portsmouth.

Several summers we visited the idyllic island of Nantucket off the coast of Massachusetts. It is one of those special summer destinations that you hate to leave.

One of the things that makes New England special are all the wonderful gardens you see everywhere. While gardening is challenging because of the short growing season, critters and brutal winters, the end result was most rewarding.

All those critters that I spoke of, they used to love visits to both our garden and orchard. You might say that cuteness is what made us decide to share our bountiful crops with so many of the “native New Englanders” although we didn’t have too much to say about it.

We grew the most wonderful tomatoes each summer in Maine and when we closed up the cottage in the fall and headed home to New Hampshire, our heritage apples were ready for picking. I think you could say we had the best of both worlds as far as bountiful New England crops.

What better way to end my story about time spent in New England than with one of the amazing sunsets that we enjoyed from the dock of our cottage in Maine.

Sunset From The Dock

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I hope that you enjoyed my New England Postcards as I believe that they show a little of what makes New England such a delightful place to visit or perhaps even live there. I know they represent some of my fondest memories…perhaps you will visit this beautiful region and make memories of your own.

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Corn Beef Hash With Fried Eggs

A crispy and delicious Corned Beef Hash topped with Fried Eggs is the perfect way to used some of your leftover corned beef from St. Patrick’s Day. While you may be thinking of using some of the meat for a Rubin sandwich, I’d recommend that you not pile it too high and save some for homemade hash. While this dish is perfect for a Sunday brunch, corned beef hash topped with runny eggs makes a great dinner, as well.

Corned Beef Hash Topped With Fried Eggs

Just chop up some of your leftover corned beef and cooked potatoes along with some onions and peppers, sauté them until crispy and finish off with fried eggs and you have a hearty and satisfying meal for anytime of the day.  

Corned Beef Hash With Fried Eggs

Serves one generously, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 1 Tbsp. butter or oil, plus more to cook the eggs
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 c. leftover cooked corned beef, diced
  • 1 c. leftover cooked potatoes, diced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 2 to 3 eggs
  • chopped parsley, optional

Heat the oil in a nonstick sauté pan then add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and sauté until lightly brown. Add the corned beef and potatoes (if you have a cooking press, place on top of the mixture) and cook until the meat and potatoes start to brown, tossing once or twice. Season with salt and pepper, toss. Plate and keep warm. Wipe the pan clean, add a little butter or oil and cook the eggs sunny side up or cover and cook until the whites have set. Slide the eggs onto the hash, sprinkle with some chopped parsley and serve.

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Corned beef hash is a warm and savory comfort meal and is perfect any time of day. Served with a side of toast, buttered English muffins or bread of your choice, it makes a terrific breakfast, lunch or if you wish, have breakfast for dinner. Using your left over corned beef and boiled potatoes, adding sautéed onions and red peppers for color, then topping with runny fried eggs, you can create a quick and easy meal that is delicious. Hash is also good prepared with leftover roast beef or pork if you don’t have corned beef. Of course you don’t have to wait until St. Patrick’s day or until you have leftovers again. Buy several thick slices of corned beef at your favorite deli, boil a potato or two and proceed with the recipe.

This is my husband’s favorite breakfast that he orders often when you go out to breakfast and he also loves cooking it. I have to thank him for sharing his recipe and of course for letting his breakfast get a little cold so that I could share a photo of his creation with you, my readers.

 

 

 

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Caldo Gallego, Spanish White Bean Soup

Caldo gallego is a Spanish white bean soup and if you are visiting Miami for the first time, it is a great place to enjoy a bowl of this hearty and flavorful soup. You will find Spanish and Cuban restaurants all over the city but if you want to experience true Latin culinary flavors, head over to SW 8th street. Better known by locals as “Calle Ocho” in the area of the city called Little Havana, it is known as the heart of Miami’s Cuban community.

Whether you decide to eat in a small cafeteria or the locally famous Versailles restaurant, try starting your meal with an order of caldo gallego. This traditional dish is originally from the Galician region of Spain and there are many versions, from a thin broth based soup to one with an almost stew like consistency. No matter which version you get, it should be a delicious soup rich with smoked pork, sausage, beans, potatoes and greens.

Only order a cup of this hearty soup then try a medianoche sandwich made with roast pork, ham, Swiss cheese, and pickles or perhaps lechon asado (Cuban roast pork) with black beans and rice or a dish of arroz con pollo (yellow rice with chicken). Make sure to save a little room for flan to end your meal along with a cortadito (a small Cuban coffee).

Caldo Gallego, A Spanish White Bean Soup That Is A Taste of Little Havana

If you would like to bring some of the tastes of Little Havana into your own kitchen, a bowl of caldo gallego would be a great place to start. While originating in Spain, the Cuban community in Florida has given it their own twist just as I have done with my easy recipe. While many versions start with soaking dried beans over night and making a rich stock from ham hocks the day before, I’m sharing a quicker and yet very flavorful version of this comforting Spanish white bean soup.

Caldo Gallego, A Spanish White Bean Soup

  • 2 slices of pancetta or thick bacon, diced
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 8 oz. Spanish chorizo (casings removed), andouille or kielbasa sausage, sliced in half lengthwise, then cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 c. chicken stock
  • 1 c. water
  • 2  15 oz. cans of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 medium potatoes (I use Yukon gold), peeled and diced
  • 1 large turnip, peeled and diced
  • 2 to 3 c. fresh turnip greens, kale or collards, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • a pinch of red pepper flakes
  • salt to taste

Add pancetta or bacon to a large pot and cook until starting to brown. Add the oil and sausage and cook until the edges start to brown. Add onion and cook until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Pour in the chicken stock and water and bring to a boil. Add the beans, potatoes, turnips, greens and seasonings, reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. The soup is ready to serve now but will improve in taste if kept at a very low simmer, partially covered, for another 30 minutes or longer. If you would like a thicker consistency, you can lightly mash some of the beans with the back of a spoon. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary. Ladle the soup into  bowls and serve with crusty bread.

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While you may not have the opportunity to visit Miami and Little Havana, you can certainly experience one of the area’s well known Latin dishes in your own kitchen. This budget friendly meal is quick and easy to prepare so my suggestion is to make an extra large pot of it and know that you will be rewarded with not one but several delicious meals to share with your family. On days when you have plenty of time, start with dried beans soaked overnight and prepare the soup with a leftover ham bone or a ham hock for additional flavor. Either way, caldo gallego is a delicious white bean soup that is good anytime of the year so I do hope you will try this flavorful, comforting meal soon.

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The Black Forest At Its Best

The Black Forest, known as a source of fairy tales, carved wooden cuckoo clocks, smoked hams and cakes of dark chocolate with fresh cream and sour cherries, has for centuries beckoned travelers who want to experience its beautiful scenery and enjoy its long standing traditions and warm hospitality. Nowadays, they also come to dine in Michelin starred restaurants, hike along trails through the dense woods then relax at one of its elegant spas…they want to enjoy the Black Forest at its best.

Click on any photo in the article to enlarge and see a slide show.

Locally known as the Schwarzwald, this storied region in the southwestern part of Germany, is a traveler’s delight. As you travel across mountains, through dense, dark forests and rolling green valleys dotted with farmhouses, you will spot historic castles and pass through medieval town squares filled with traditional half-timbered buildings with gabled roofs and geranium filled window boxes.

Take a walk in one of the quaint villages and you are sure to find a restaurant where you can enjoy a good meal of Black Forest specialties served with wine from the region’s vineyards and finish with a Schnapps made from plums, pears or cherries from area orchards. All of this along with clean mountain air and healing mineral waters, makes for a memorable holiday in one of the most picturesque areas in Germany.

For the past two years, when my husband and I planned our fall trips to the Black Forest, we knew that we wanted to stay at the small and elegant Hotel Bareiss in Baiersbronn-Mitteltal. I’ve written before about its outstanding hospitality, wonderful facilities and the delicious cuisine served at the three star Michelin Restaurant Bareiss and I totally agree with others who say it is one of the best hotels in Germany and one of Europe’s finest luxury wellness hotels.

What makes the Hotel Bareiss so special…I would say everything. There is the lovely setting in the heart of the Black Forest, the tastefully decorated rooms, the relaxing spa and pool areas, the wonderful cuisine, organized activities to keep you busy all day and the finest German hospitality shown by the staff that tries to make everything you wish for possible. They all go hand in hand to create a truly enjoyable holiday experience.

When I made our reservations for our latest stay, I was told there was lovely room available in the same category I wanted that had “a better view” than the room we had stayed in on our previous visit. When I mentioned  that we had really liked the Weissenbachtal room, with its nice living and bedroom area, a walk-in closet and balcony with a pretty view that we had stayed in before, I was told “yes, but of course”. Stepping back into the same room on this visit felt a little like returning home and as for the view…I’ll let you decide.

The hotel has five beautifully designed guest dining rooms and we were seated in the lovely Biedermeier Room during our visit this year. You can also make reservations for dinner in one of the three à la carte restaurants, including the award winning Restaurant Bareiss but you need to book well in advance for it.

After a wonderful nights sleep, each morning we would head down to the breakfast buffet where there is always a large selection of breads, hams, sausages, cheese and both cold and warm specialties to choose from. Just ask and fresh eggs will be prepared to your liking and served along with coffee, tea, juice or even champagne, if you wish.

In the evening, each splendid meal starts with a large salad buffet and finishes with cheese and desserts. In between, you order your meal from a wonderfully varied la carte menu. On Saturday night, there is a special seven course gala menu and a rose is presented to each of the ladies.

After dinner, we would usually head to the hotel bar for a digestif and listen to the live entertainment. What we like about the lounge is that there is a separate smokers’ lounge so that you never have to sit in a smoke filled room while enjoying a cocktail.

The Bareiss makes the ideal base for day trips to popular destinations such as the charming university town of Freiburg to the south and the fashionable spa town of Baden-Baden to the north as well as Strasbourg and Colmar, which are not too far across the border in the Alsace region of France. After a day of exploring the region, we would return to the hotel in the afternoon for something sweet from the cake buffet before heading to the pools, sauna world and the quiet relaxation areas.

All good things must come to an end and after a wonderful five day stay, we needed to say “auf wiedersehen”. We packed, our suitcases were then loaded in our car for us and we were wished safe travels as we drove away from the Hotel Bareiss and headed to Munich for our flight back home. Will we return to the Bareiss if we are ever in the Black Forest again…absolutely.

Packed Up And Ready To Leave Hotel Bareiss

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Folklore and fairytales, chocolate cake and Michelin starred meals, winding scenic back roads through small villages and hiking trails through the woods, they are all things that bring visitors to the Black Forest. What I’ve never come across during our many visits to the region are witches, wolves and wicked stepmothers. I think you too would enjoy a visit.

 

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Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Each year when my grandmother would ask me what I wanted for my birthday, my answer was always the same, “stuffed cabbage rolls“. It is not exactly what a young girl might want for a special occasion but I absolutely adored those little bundles of goodness and continue to do so to this very day.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls With Garlic Chive Mashed Potatoes

I wish I could say that I sat on a kitchen stool and watched as my grandmother made them for me but unfortunately that never happened. One of my parents would drive to the nearby town and pick up my grandmother from her little apartment. She would arrive at our house carrying a big enameled roasting pan filled to the brim with stuffed cabbage rolls. While I didn’t watch her make them and I don’t have her handwritten recipe, she did tell me how she prepared them. Over the years, my version of her cabbage rolls has changed very little. Instead of sauerkraut juice which my grandmother used, but I can’t find in our markets, I use fresh jarred sauerkraut. I also add a can of petite diced tomatoes so that there is extra sauce to serve with the stuffed cabbage rolls.

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Serves 4 to 6, adjust recipe according.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

  • 1 large, loose head of cabbage, core removed
  • 2 Tbsp. oil plus 2 additional Tablespoons
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped and divided (about 1 c. each)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 14.5 oz. can petite diced tomatoes with juice
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 lb. lean ground veal or beef
  • 1/2 lb. lean ground pork
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 c. long grain white rice, uncooked
  • 1 egg, beaten (if meat mixture appears dry, a second egg can be added)
  • 1 container (16 oz.) refrigerated sauerkraut, drained and juice retained

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Discard any damaged leaves from the cabbage. Break off the large outer leaves and boil until transparent and pliable enough to roll, remove with tongs and drain on paper towels. Add the remaining cabbage head to the water and cook until outer leaves become soft. Remove loose leaves, drain, then repeat the process. When all the leaves are cool, trim the center vein of the leaves that are large enough to stuff, being careful not to tear the leaves. Retain small and torn leaves. While the leaves are cooling, prepare the sauce.

Sauté one half of the chopped onion  in oil until soft but not brown. Add the bay leaf, tomato paste, diced tomatoes and their juice, the water and the retained sauerkraut juice. Stir well and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened.

Heat the remaining oil in a sauté pan, add onion and sauté until soft. Add the rice and garlic, stir until nicely coated and cook for a minute or two, remove from heat and cool. Combine the cooled onion and rice mixture, meats and egg in a bowl, season generously with salt and pepper and mix gently until blended. Put a mound of meat mixture on the stem end of each large leaf. Fold in the sides, then roll and place seam side down on a tray. Continue to fold and roll, two smaller leaves can be joined to hold the filling. Chop the smallest or torn leaves and mix with the sauerkraut.

Spoon a little of the sauce in the bottom of the Dutch oven then spread the sauerkraut cabbage mixture on top, this will keep the rolls from sticking. Layer the rolls seam side down, spooning sauce over the cabbage rolls and cover with the lid. Place the Dutch oven on the stove top and bring to a simmer. Place in the oven and bake for 1 hour. Remove the lid, spoon any accumulated juices over the cabbage rolls and return to the oven uncovered. Bake another 30 minutes or so until brown, hot and bubbly.

The cabbage rolls can be prepared a day in advance and reheated. Just take them out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before you put them in the oven to reheat. You will have more than you can eat for one meal but the good news is that they are even better the next day. They also freeze well, just thaw before reheating.

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When I think of this delicious comfort meal, I can’t help but think of the love my sweet grandmother put into the stuffed cabbage rolls that she made me each year for my birthday…always  along with a wonderfully wrapped present. They are not a quick and easy thirty minute meal to have on the table on a weekday night but when you have the time, definitely make a big roasting pan full of stuffed cabbage rolls.  When served to your family, you will perhaps be making memories for them just as my grandmother did for me. “Thank you, Nanny”.

 

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Posthotel Achenkirch, Tirol, Austria

The luxury five star resort called Posthotel Achenkirch, near Lake Achensee in Tirol, Austria, is one of this beautiful region’s oldest and most well know spa hotels. It has become one of our favorite travel destinations as the hotel makes a great base for not only touring the surrounding picturesque Tyrolean mountain towns but is also convenient for day trips across the nearby border into Bavaria, Germany.

A few months ago, my husband and I returned to the Posthotel Achenkirch for several relaxing days as we had loved our all too short visit there the previous year. Even though the hotel is one of the larger resorts that we stay at, it never feels crowded…in fact it feels peaceful and romantic. The reason might be that this is an adults only hotel, where guests must be age 14 and over.

The service at the resort is never lacking and that starts as soon as you enter the free underground parking garage. Upon our arrival, we were greeted, our luggage unloaded and we were guided through an underground passageway to reception. There we were warmly greeted with a glass of champagne and offered something to eat from the afternoon buffet while our luggage was taken to our room.

The hotel offers an excellent buffet each day for breakfast, a lunchtime snack and a five course dinner in the evening. The food is delicious and most comes from the hotel’s own farm and other regional sources. All your meals are included in the price of your room.

At mealtimes, you have a reserved table in one of the several dining rooms or cozy parlors, all individually designed. In addition to these rooms, there is also a beautiful bistro and outdoor terrace where you can relax in your bathrobe and have a snack, enjoy a glass of wine or beer or perhaps have a pastry and a good cup of coffee.

After our lunch, we were shown to our room where our luggage had already been placed. We had a cozy country house suite, decorated in a natural tones and wood with contemporary accents. It had a king size bedroom and a separate living room with doors that led out to a large terrace with lovely views of the little St. Anna chapel and the surrounding mountains.

Since it was cold and drizzly on our day of arrival, we decided to go down to the wellness area in the hotel’s warm bathrobes and slippers to enjoy one of the warming saunas. You can also relax and read a book or perhaps take a nap in one of the quiet rooms. If you want to totally relax, head underground to the “sunken temple”  to sit in the dome of silence for some quiet meditation before heading off to the steam baths and saunas.

The wellness area is a guest’s dream come true with six indoor and outdoor heated pools, numerous steam rooms and saunas as well as a center for traditional Chinese medicine.

I can see why it has earned 4 lilies and 19 points in the renown Austrian Relax Guide. The Atrium Spa (which has a women’s only section) offers a variety of facial and body treatments and a multitude of massages. While there, I had a wonderful Posthotel Kraftritual, which is their signature wellbeing treatment. Afterwards, I was escorted to the spa’s lovely relaxation area, wrapped up warm and soft to enjoy moments of serenity. Delightful!

On a nice day, you might want to go outdoors to the yin yang pool where you can enjoy both its adjacent warm and cold waters or visit the large heated outdoor pool and whirlpool.

If you are athletic or just want to make sure that the delicious food you enjoy during your stay doesn’t go straight to your waistline, the hotel has a fitness center as well as sports and activity programs that you can join. They include Nordic walking, tai chi, qigong, pilates, yoga and meditation. There is also the option of a game of golf at the Posthotel’s 9 hole course or a game of tennis at one of the hotel’s courts.

I would also suggest a visit to the hotel’s stables to see their beautiful Lipizzaner stallions. You can take a riding course at the indoor arena on one of the Lipizzaner or take a carriage ride pulled by two of these magnificent horses.

If speed is more to your liking, you can try out one of the hotel’s Johammer electric motor cycles or perhaps test drive their Tesla sports car. A boat ride on Lake Achensee, the largest lake in the Tirol, is also a nice option. Last but certainly not least, there is an underground shopping area for those so inclined.

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We love the Tirol region and have probably visited it more than any other part of Austria. You might think that we are avid skiers or mountain hikers but that is not the case. We return to this area as each day there are countless opportunities to explore the beautiful countryside.

The Benches At The Entrance Say It All…Life Is A Journey

After a day’s outing to one of the nearby cities like Innsbruck or Kufstein in Austria or Rottach-Egern in Germany, it is always a pleasure to return to a wonderful hotel such as Posthotel Achenkirch where welcoming smiles are plentiful, good food is abundant and the amenities are absolutely wonderful.

During an evening welcome cocktail party, we were told by Karl Reiter Junior, who now runs the fourth generation family owned hotel, that this year is the 100th anniversary of the hotel. The original building from that time has been renovated with the addition of nine new bedrooms, a hands on kitchen for cooking classes and another bathrobe restaurant and terrace. Hopefully my husband and I will have the opportunity to once again visit the hotel and enjoy these new facilities.

 

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