Paris – Finally!

The title of this post has a double meaning. My husband and I took our “grand European anniversary trip” last fall, but it’s only now that I’ve had the time to sit down and give our trip the in-depth posts it’s due. See, nearly as soon as we returned from our trip, holiday planning took over our lives and our days and weekends were filled with children’s holiday events, shopping for gifts and decorating. As soon as Christmas was over, we found a great deal on a bigger home (sorely needed, as our two boys were sharing a room in our old house), and so we began the stressful process of both getting our existing home in shape to sell and making an offer on a new home. We went through a number of twists and turns in the home selling and home buying process, and at the end of March we finally moved into our new home. Since then, nearly every waking hour we’ve had that hasn’t been spent on work or shuffling our kids around to all their activities has been spent unpacking and organizing the house.

The other side of my “finally” headline is the fact that’s it’s taken me so damn long to get to a city I’ve wanted to visit my whole life. Ever since I was a little girl taking ballet classes, Paris has been one of my bucket list cities to visit. Taking French since middle school and being a French minor in college, you’d think I would have gotten there far before now. But no, though I’ve traveled to many places, Paris had never been one of them until our trip last fall.

We touched down at Charles de Gaulle airport around noon on a Sunday after an overnight flight from Dulles. After the 45-minute taxi ride, we arrived at the Hotel Louvre Sainte-Anne, a cute little boutique hotel in the 1er arrondissement within walking distance to the Louvre. Being in “Little Tokyo” meant that there was a plethora of delicious-looking sushi and ramen shops, most tucked into tiny spaces with large windows onto the street. The girl at the front desk recommended we try Toyotomi, a sushi restaurant around the corner. Our sushi rolls were delicious and filling, a great quick lunch before wandering the city.

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On the first Sunday of each month, the Louvre offers free admission, so we walked the few blocks to the museum, taking in the vibe of the city and smelling chestnuts roasting (street vendors sell these in the fall and winter). While the rest of the city was not overly crowded, free admission to the most famous museum in Paris drew quite a crowd. We roamed the Denon Wing to see the “must see’s”:  the Mona Lisa, the Winged Victory, the Venus de Milo. The further we got from those works, the thinner the crowds were, so we had a chance to explore a bit.

Besides the paintings, the Louvre houses some of the most beautiful sculptures in the world.

In the basement of the Louvre is an interesting Islamic Art exhibit that houses art and cultural objects from 1,300 years of history throughout the Middle East, Europe and Southeast Asia.

After the Louvre, we walked across the Seine to Notre Dame de Paris, arguably the most famous cathedral in the world. Construction of the gothic church began in 1163 and finished in 1345. It was one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses to counterbalance the weight of the roof and walls. Heavily trafficked by Catholic pilgrims and other tourists from around the world, Notre Dame is guarded by heavily-armed French military following the string of terrorist attacks in the city. Indeed, other areas of the city, from the Eiffel Tower to the streets of the 11me arrondissement, were patrolled by soldiers carrying automatic rifles. It’s a feeling that’s somehow comforting and disconcerting at the same time.

Right around the corner from Notre Dame is the best ice cream shop in Paris, le Berthillon. Offering rotating, seasonal varieties, as well as dessert crepes and pastries, this shop has been in the same location for over sixty years. If Rum Raisin is on the menu, you must give it a try!

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Walking back to our hotel, we stopped to grab a sandwich for dinner. In Paris, long, thin sandwiches on baguettes are common. They’re topped with vegetables and meats and often melted slices of cheese. When nowhere else is open for dinner, you can be sure a kebab shop will have sandwiches, kebabs, crepes and a variety of drinks. We stopped at Creperie Doner Kebab d’Opera.

A l’Heure du Vin was a tiny wine shop near our hotel that had a range of excellent wines and spirits from France and Italy. After a long day filled with traveling and exploring, our hotel room window was the perfect spot to chill our white wine in the November night.

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More to come! Tell me about your last trip to Paris, or your dreams for exploring the city.

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Incredible Europe Trip Recap

For the first two weeks in November, my husband and I traveled to Europe for a whirlwind trip celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. We visited France, Germany and Holland, and stopped over in Iceland on our way back to the States. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing in-depth recaps from each of the cities we visited. Here’s a small taste of our itinerary:

Paris, France

 

Reims, France

Colmar/Alsace, France

Ingolstadt, Germany

Rothenburg, Wurzburg and Frankfurt, Germany

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Reykjavik, Iceland

Look for my in-depth travelogue blog posts in the coming weeks, and enjoy following our trip!

A Grand Adventure

I haven’t been blogging as regularly as usual, but I do have an excuse! I’ve been working on arranging all the details of my husband’s and my next grand adventure: a 12-day trip across France, Germany and the Netherlands with a stopover in my favorite place, Iceland, on the way home. We’ll be visiting Paris, the Champagne region, Alsace, southern Germany and Amsterdam on our trip, and I’ll be blogging about all the food and drinks we discover as we travel.

Follow me on Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr for updates and photos from our trip. If you have suggestions for sights to see, please leave them in the comments below.

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Crockpot Comfort Food for Fall

One of my favorite crockpot dishes for fall offers an Indian twist on a fall favorite – sweet potatoes. Adding green or red lentils and cooking in coconut oil amp up the healthiness of this hearty dish.

Curries come from India, where chefs prepare flavorful blends of spices, herbs and chiles to cook with vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, chickpeas and lentils. Various proteins are made into curries as well, like chicken, lamb and goat. Commercial curry powders began to be produced in the 18th century, as British colonial government and military members desired a quick spice blend to cook the dishes they’d enjoyed in India. Curries are often wet, meaning the vegetables and meats are cooked in a thick sauce. Rice or naan bread is served to sop up the sauce.

Start by sauteeing your onion and ginger over medium heat.

Once that gets soft and flavorful, you can take it off the heat and add it to your crockpot. Next, add in your peeled, diced sweet potato, carrots and peas (if you like) and your spices.  Cover the mixture with vegetable broth and let it cook on high for two hours or on low for six hours.

Once the mixture has cooked down, I like to mash it with a potato masher until it gets to a smoother, stew-like consistency.  I have it with basmati rice, and I usually freeze some for later.  This dish is delicious and filling, a great work lunch for fall to pull out and heat up quickly.

Here are the ingredients you’ll need:

1 1/2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup dried green or red lentils
2 medium sweet potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
1 small bag frozen peas and carrots
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon mild curry powder
1 teaspoon ginger powder or 1 tsp. grated fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 1/2 cups vegetable broth

 

 

Sunday Meal Prep – Pumpkin Oats & Salads in Jars

Sundays in our house mean waking up early to go for a run, watching football, going grocery shopping and prepping breakfasts and lunches for the week. I’m trying to detox from meat and eat clean, so I decided to make a couple of different kinds of oats and some chopped salads in jars.

There’s hardly anything simpler than throwing some oats in a container, adding some kind of fruit, some nuts, honey and spices. These quick-prep breakfasts are delicious and nutritious, and make busy mornings getting three kids out of the house to school easier on me.

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I get tired of eating the same thing every day, so I made two different variations. For the first, I put 1/4 cup of organic, quick-cooking oats in a container. I added about three tablespoons of canned pumpkin, a tablespoon of local honey and a handful of pecans and pistachios. A sprinkle of cinnamon and pumpkin spice fills these breakfast bowls with fall flavors. For the other two bowls, I tossed in about 1/4 cup of frozen blueberries, a teaspoon of lemon zest, some pecans, local honey and about 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg.

For lunches, I made an Israeli chopped salad, with diced tomato, cucumber, red onion and green pepper.  I topped them with some feta cheese, oregano, olive oil and salt and pepper. What is today referred to as “Israeli” chopped salad originated in the Palestinian territory, and was adapted by the various kibbutz communities in Israel. The vegetable mix can vary based on what is fresh and in season, but typically includes tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and peppers along with herbs and lemon juice. For my other two salads, I tossed in some baby spinach, diced red onion, tomato, arugula, bleu cheese and diced strawberries.  Then I drizzled some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on top.

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I’ll probably add a banana as a snack and have a cup of yogurt with my salads at lunch. Prepping everything on Sunday afternoon means I have a week’s worth of fresh, delicious meals that were inexpensive to make and easy to prepare.

Do you prep your meals for the work week on Sundays? What are your go-to meals?

Quick 7-Layer Greek Dip

If you’re looking for a quick, healthy and delicious snack to try at home or take to a party, give this 7-Layer Greek Dip a try!

Start by spreading a large container of your favorite plain hummus evenly on the bottom of a glass baking dish. Dice red peppers, red onions and cucumbers and sprinkle them over the hummus.

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Top with diced olives and crumbled feta cheese, then drizzle extra virgin olive oil over the top. Sprinkle some oregano over, and add some salt and pepper if you like.

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Then dig in! Try it with my favorite snack, Stacy’s Pita Chips, or some fresh pita bread.

Favorite food bloggers, vloggers and podcasters

Besides writing a food blog, I’m also an avid follower of various other food blogs, YouTube channels and podcasts. If you’re into food history as much as I am, I’m sure you’ll adore these links:

The Grandmas Project – Many foodies credit their love of cooking to their families, especially their grandmothers. I still remember some of the simple recipes my Granny made, especially at Thanksgiving and other family gatherings, like her Pocketbook Rolls and quick fudge from this post. The Grandmas Project aims to preserve family food history by collecting videos recorded by grandchildren learning about food and recipes from their grandmothers. The recipes collected by the Project come from all over the world, and offer insight into the food and familial traditions of a number of different cultures.

A Taste of the Past podcast – Culinary historian Linda Pelaccio presents this weekly podcast on the Heritage Radio Network, a Brooklyn, New York based radio and online station offering numerous podcasts dealing with food and drink. From “Paletas and the History of Mexican Sweets” to the foods of Alsace and “Foodways and Cooking of Appalachia,” this well-researched show interviews the best food history writers and brings food history’s past into the culinary present.

A Taste of the Past

MAD YouTube channel – Sometimes referred to as “the TED of food,” MAD, Danish for “food,” offers culinary talks from some of the best and brightest chefs and culinarians around the world. Discussions range from reducing food waste in the restaurant industry and foraging for wild food to kitchen techniques and addressing poverty and hunger. Luminaries like Roy Choi, David Chang, Albert Adria, Michael Twitty and Dr. Vandana Shiva present engrossing and inspiring talks for foodies of all stripes.

Researching Food History – This culinary history blog offers bite-size tidbits of food history, covering topics like “A Colonial Kitchen in 1864,” “Mint Juleps for the Kentucky Derby,” “Jellies whipped or with whipped cream or ice cream” and “Robert Burns’ birthday and birthplace kitchen.” Culinary historian Pat Reber focuses on foodways and cooking apparatus, such as ovens and cooking vessels of various time periods. Besides her blog posts, she has a number of PowerPoint presentations on her website from talks she’s given, and a Historic Culinary Resources online database cataloging over 1,000 historic cookbooks and receipt books.

BBC Food Programme – BBC Radio 4’s food radio show and podcast offers an in-depth perspective on current food trends and issues in culinary history. The “Brexit and Food” special sends host Dan Saladino on the road throughout Britain to discover how Brexit will affect the UK’s food supply and trade relations with nations in the EU and worldwide. In a multi-part series called “The Ark of Taste,” the programme chronicles some of the most unique indigenous foods and food growing and preparation methods from around the planet.