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

****

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.

Advertisements
Posted in Garden, Home, lifestyle, photography, travel | Tagged , , , , , | 154 Comments

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.

 ****

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.

 

 

 

Posted in food, recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 76 Comments

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.

 ****

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.

Posted in food, lifestyle, recipes, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 109 Comments

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

****

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.

 

Posted in food, lifestyle, photography, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 112 Comments

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.

****

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”.

 

Posted in food, Home, lifestyle, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , | 129 Comments

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.

****

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.

 

Posted in food, lifestyle, photography, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 106 Comments

Sausage, Kale And Black-eyed Pea Risotto

Creamy Risotto With Italian Sausage, Kale And Black-eyed Peas is so good that your friends and family will all want the recipe. That is what happened to me when I took it to a gathering of friends on New Year’s Day. Everyone took a small bite for good luck but were soon going back for more. During the course of the afternoon, I was repeatedly asked if I would share the recipe. Of course, I would be happy to and I have decided to share it with you as well. Enjoy!

Risotto With Italian Sausage, Kale And Black-eyed Peas

I don’t know of anyone that doesn’t like the silky, creamy texture of risotto. Perhaps the most famous is Risotto alla Milanese which is risotto with saffron and parmesan cheese. Simply prepared, it is usually served as a first course or side dish in an Italian restaurant. When risotto is cooked with a combination of meats and vegetables it is usually served as a hearty main course. That is how I would suggest you serve this sausage, baby kale and black-eyed pea risotto. A crisp green salad, crusty bread and a glass of wine would be a nice accompaniment.

Sausage, Baby Kale And Black-eye Pea Risotto

Serves 4, adjust the recipe according.

  • 1 – 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 5 links (1.25 lbs.) hot Italian sausage, casings removed and meat crumbled
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 c. low salt chicken stock, more may be needed
  • 2 c. water
  • 1 15 oz. pkg. frozen black-eye peas (about 2 1/2 c.)
  • 1/2 lb. fresh baby kale, stemmed or a 9 oz. box
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large sprig of fresh thyme or 1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/4 c. Arborio rice
  • 1/2 c. white wine
  • 2  Tbsp. butter
  • 1/2 c. more or less of Pecorino Romano or Parmesan grated cheese

Heat the oil in a large pot or deep sided skillet over medium high heat. Add the sausage and sauté, breaking up the meat up as it cooks, until browned. Add the onion, cook until translucent then add the garlic and cook about a minute. Add the stock and water, bring to a boil and then add the black-eye peas. Bring to a second boil, reduce the  heat and cover. Simmer 25 to 30 minutes or until peas are tender. Remove the bay leaves and thyme sprig. Add the baby kale and stir until wilted. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage mixture to a bowl. Keep the stock warm on the stove.

Heat the butter in a high sided sauté pan over medium heat. Add the rice and stir to coat then add the wine and stir until absorbed. Ladle the stock a little at a time and cook, stirring every minute or two, until the liquid has been absorbed. Keep stirring and adding broth until the rice is just tender and creamy.

Add the reserved sausage, black-eyed peas and baby kale mixture to the rice and stir until just heated through. Remove from the heat, add the cheese and stir well. If the risotto is too thick, stir in a little extra broth to give it the consistency you like. Taste and season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Spoon into bowls and finish with a drizzle of your finest olive oil, if you wish. Serve addition grated cheese at the table.

****

Sausage, kale and black-eyed pea risotto, rich with Italian flavors, is a thick, hearty and comforting dish that should please even the pickiest of eaters. I was very surprised that my husband who doesn’t really care for black-eyed peas very much, loved this dish. He said he would be happy if I made it often, it was too good to only eat on New Year’s day to bring us luck. My friends seemed to agree with him and I hope you will as well.

Posted in food, Home, lifestyle, recipes | Tagged , , , , , | 122 Comments

Hotel Nesslerhof, Grossarl, Austria

Hotel Nesslerhof in Grossarl, Austria is less than fifty miles south of Salzburg yet it is surprising that most tourist have never heard about either the hotel or this village in the southern part of Salzburgerland. The small Austrian village and hotel seem to be a well guarded secret except among Austrians and their neighbors from Switzerland and Germany who visit seeking outdoor adventures or just want to relax and enjoy Hotel Nesslerhof’s amenities and its highly rated wellness spa.

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

Grossarl is located at three thousand feet above sea level in one of Austria’s most beautiful mountain valleys near the Hohe Tauern National Park which is the country’s largest national park. Visitors travel to this alpine region to enjoy its unspoiled natural beauty…hiking and cycling during the spring, summer and fall and then skiing in the winter.

The Nesslerhof is a four star superior hotel owned and managed by the Neudegger family, Hermann and Tina, who are always present and very helpful. Hermann, owner and former chef, oversees a team who are behind the wonderful culinary creations that feature Austrian cuisine based on local products. Tina, his wife and partner, runs the front of the house operation as well as marketing. She is also the sommelier and introduced us to some fine Austria wines during our stay. We had a chance to chat with each of them and they are a genuinely friendly couple and made us feel comfortable and welcomed from the beginning to the end of our stay at the Nesslerhof.

The bright and modern alpine hotel has a contemporary style and is decorated with natural stone and wood from the region. The large open rooms are furnished with a blend of traditional and modern furniture all covered in fine fabrics. Large glass windows provide wonderful views of the great outdoors and let in lots of natural light throughout the hotel. The modern hotel has a stylish sense of sophistication without loosing any of its Austrian charm. There is also a touch of whimsy which can be found in the fun artwork in various areas of the dining rooms.

The hotel has 71 very comfortable rooms and suites. We reserved the Suite Weitblick, one of the new, spacious suites on the top floor with breathtaking views of the mountains through a large wall of floor to ceiling windows. The amazing room was done in light woods with contemporary lighting and furniture. It had a kingsize bed, fireplace, sitting area, an open bathroom with a rain shower, bathtub, double sinks, its own combination of infrared/sauna cabin and a separate toilet with its own sink. There was a wonderful loggia where you could relax and enjoy the splendid views of the snow capped mountains and the hotel’s beautiful gardens.

After a long day of outdoor activities or touring, it is nice to come back to the hotel’s  extensive wellness complex with indoor and outdoor pools, a spa with panoramic views of the outdoor gardens and surrounding mountains as well as a gym. My husband and I had a couples massage twice during our stay…probably the best we have ever had. The hotel also has a delightful terrace that can be reached by stairs from the spa area where you can go in your bathrobe to sit and enjoy a snack while admiring the surrounding view of the mountains.

Each evening, we would head down to the bar for an apéritif then on to the dining room for our evening meal. You could start with selections from the buffet, then order an excellent five course dinner from the menu. There was always an option to choose a seafood dish, a vegetarian dish as well as delicious Austrian specialties. Each and every item the kitchen served, was imaginative and featured products from the region.

****

Hohe Tauern National Park

Although my husband and I are not outdoor adventurers, we are enchanted with the beautiful mountain landscapes of Austria, the charming village of Grossarl and the Hotel Nesslerhof was a nice discovery. This area with its green mountains topped  with glistening white peaks is a destination that we hope to return to, it is nature at its finest. With very good mountain roads leading  into this alpine valley of lush  pastures, the Nesslerhof makes a good base for day trips. You might want to visit the beautiful lake town of  Zell am See and then drive the famous Grossglockner Road in the heart of the Hohe Tauern National Park, both very memorable outings.

Our stay at the Nesslerhof was one of the highlights of our European trip last year. The region is beautiful, the hotel and its staff were wonderful and the food was delicious, what more could one ask for.

 

Posted in lifestyle, photography, travel | Tagged , , , , , , | 168 Comments

Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo Bites

Serve these super easy Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo Bites at your next cocktail party, at the beginning of a small dinner party or at any festive celebration and they will be an instant hit. What could be better than a crispy phyllo cup filled with creamy cheese, cocktail sauce and a bite size shrimp sitting on top.

Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo Bites

Everyone loves a shrimp cocktail but unless you are sitting at a table, you might think twice about dipping a large shrimp into cocktail sauce while dressed in your best outfit at a party. Finger food is always nice as it can be eaten in one or two bites and these little shrimp cocktail phyllo bites make a great party appetizer.

Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo Bites

Serves 4, adjust the recipe accordingly

  • 1 box of (15) frozen phyllo cups*
  • 1/2 of an 8 oz. container of whipped cream cheese
  • 2 – 3 Tbsp. sour cream, crème fraîche or yogurt
  • 1/2 tsp. more or less, fresh lemon juice
  • a drop or two of Worcestershire sauce
  • a pinch of garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper
  • 1/4 c. cocktail sauce
  • 15 small fully cooked shrimp
  • 1 or 2 romaine leaves, finely chopped (optional)

*The phyllo cups are fully cooked but I like to bake them in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes for extra crispness.

In a small bowl, stir together 4 oz. of whipped cream cheese, the sour cream, lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Season with the garlic powder, onion power, salt and pepper and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary. Spoon the mixture into a ziplock bag and seal. Cut off a small tip of the bag and pipe into the phyllo cups (about 2/3 full). Drizzle the cheese mixture with cocktail sauce and top with a shrimp. Sprinkle a little finely chopped lettuce leaves on top, if desired.

Serve immediately or refrigerate for 30 minutes. You can make your cheese spread and seal in a ziplock bag the day before serving. Do not fill the phyllo cups until right before serving so that they keep their crunch.

****

Crunchy, creamy, and a little spicy from the cocktail sauce, these shrimp cocktail phyllo bites are delicious and the nice thing about them is that they take less than 15 minutes to put together. I brought them to a friend’s dinner party and the shrimp bites also  travel well. After filling the cups completely, I placed them back into the plastic holder they originally came in and then put them in a plastic storage container to take to the party. I do hope that you get a chance to serve the mini shrimp cocktail phyllo bites to your friends and family over the course of the next year as I believe they will be a hit with everyone who tries them.

******

Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo Bites And Champagne

As this year comes to a close, I’m always reminded that when people gather together at midnight on New Year’s Eve and sing Auld Lang Syne, they pledge that whatever may change in their lives, that old friends will not be forgotten. You, my friends, are what makes writing Back Road Journal such a pleasure and you will always have a place in my heart. May the coming year be a healthy and happy one and I look forward to your next visit.

 

 

Posted in food, Home, lifestyle, recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 166 Comments

Christmas Wishes

CHRISTMAS WISHES

I Wish You A Moment Of Peace

I wish you

a moment of peace, a moment of silence,

a moment of serenity.

I wish you 

a magical holiday season 

with family and friends.

I wish you

a joyous Merry Christmas

and a New Year full of happiness

and good health.

With Warm Wishes, Karen

 

 

Posted in Home, lifestyle, photography, travel, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 87 Comments