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Holiday Sangria

November 26, 2011 | Cocktails | Permalink

Holiday Sangria

I was in charge of pre-feast cocktails for the Thanksgiving potluck.

Since pomegranates and mandarins are in season right now, I thought a white sangria would highlight the crimson pomegranate juice and seeds.

Typically, sangria recipes include sugar, but I chose not to add sugar because Croatian wine is usually sweet.

The sangria was a hit.  Light, crisp, with a little hit of whiskey.  Warmed us right up!

Holiday Sangria
serves 6 thirsty friends

1-61 oz. glass jar with lid (I bought mine at IKEA)
2 L. of white wine (I chose Pinot Gris this time)
1 pomegranate
1 lemon
1 1/2 Tbsp. Whiskey
4 mandarins, sliced

1. Juice the lemon and add to the jar.

2. Seed* the pomegranate, reserving both the seeds and juice.  Add both the seeds and juice to the jar.

3.  Add wine, whiskey and mandarins to the jar.  Stir to combine all ingredients.  Store in the refrigerator overnight.  Serve cold.

* I learned how to seed a pomegranate from Nigella Lawson.  First, take the whole pomegranate and roll it on the counter (this loosens the seeds a bit).  Then, slice the pomegranate in half.  Next, over a big bowl, whack the pomegranate half with a wooden spoon.  The seeds should come out pretty easily.  Finally, squeeze the pomegranate to get the last bits of juice and seeds.


November 22, 2011 | Party! | Permalink

I follow many food blogs. Blogs are my nightly reading. I used to work at Cooks of Crocus Hill in St. Paul, MN. Cooks is a locally owned kitchen retail store, and they have cooking classes and host cookbook authors’. One pastry chef and author I helped assist in kitchen was Zoe Francois, co-author of Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day and new book, Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day. I love the idea of mixing a dough and keeping it in a bucket in the fridge to make fresh bread, daily.

Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day came out last month and to help the book launch, they (Zoe and co-author Jeff Hertzberg) hosted an online pizza party this past Tuesday. They asked readers to host a #PizzaPartyin5, pick their favorite pizza recipe, and post-it.

Since weeknights are busy, I had my party last Sunday. My coworkers’ were giddy after being invited over to my apartment. I prepped all weekend: shopped at the Dolac, roasted garlic and peppers, caramelized onions, made the dough, and of course, roasted a fresh pumpkin for cream cheese frosted pumpkin cupcakes.

The party was a success: a great way to spend the night before the start of the work week.  My favorite pizza of the evening: roasted garlic, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers, tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, and sprinkles of rosemary. Some of my coworkers’ couldn’t make it last week, so I’ll definitely have a #PizzaPartyin5 again.

Pumpkin Cupcakes

“People who love to eat are always the best people”

Julia Child


Zoe Bakes

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day

Artisan Pizza and Flatbread in Five Minutes a Day Pizza Dough Recipe

Pumpkin Cupcake Recipe

48 Hours in Paris

November 20, 2011 | Chocolate Shops, Chocolatier, Travel | Permalink

Yes, the title is true.   I’d been planning this weekend for over 6 months.  Last spring, I filled out the appropriate paperwork for my personal day and was laughed at because I was planning so far in advance…They don’t know me too well.

Having just finished reading the book The Paris Wife and seeing the movie Midnight in Paris, I was ready to get of Zagreb and explore the Parisian streets.

Street Market

Paris hosts an annual Salon du Chocolat at the end of October.  I approached the event as I do a farmers’ market.  First, I survey the area and see what’s being offered.  Then, I taste and buy.  In this case, it was 4 hours worth of tasting and buying.

My first stop was Scoop Me a Cookie.  The Chocolat au Lait & Fleur de Sel was too much eye candy.  A fresh batch was just removed from the oven and the craving for chocolate speckled circle was too much.

Then, I hit the tables chock full of Guimauves.  Guimauves are long, cylindrical, Parisian marshmallow.  There were many flavors, some coated with chocolate.  I found them a bit too sweet, but they seemed quite popular with the crowd.

Next, I sampled the sauces.  One spread in particular touched the palate: Délice’Oliv.  I preferred the orange flavored paste over the café and praliné flavors.  The paste would pair well with a hard, salty cheese.  Their chocolates filled with the paste paired quite well with Prosecco at a recent wine & chocolate tasting.

To end the afternoon, I tasted the bonbons and chocolate bars.  My favorite best bonbon was a sésame noir from Bouillet: dark chocolate ganache topped with sesame seeds.  I’m addicted to chocolate bars, and I bought their Amandes Caramélisées (70% Chocolat Noir topped with caramelized almonds).  The bar didn’t make it 2 days in my purse.  Also, I’ve been munching on the sweeter, white chocolate lingon & blueberry bar from MALARCHOCOLATERIE.  The biggest surprise was the Pains d’Epices from Nicolas.  The Nicolas table was full of saran wrapped, round loves of bread.  I preferred the pains d’epices nature over d’orange, although that was good as well.

The last 24 hours in Paris, I spent roaming the 2nd and 9th arrondissements.  I filled my stomach with many sesame and brie baguettes, eclairs and pieces of chocolate.

The weekend ended with the David Lebovitz book signing at Sugarplum Cake Shop in the Latin Quarter.  Sugarplum Cake Shop felt like home.  Small, cozy, and squished with chatting customers.  Of course I got tongue tied as I got my book signed by David.  I’ve been reading his blog for over 6 years, and as I read his blog weekly, I feel as if I’m there, with him.  Not a bad way to spend 48 hours.

David Lebovitz at Sugarplum Cake Shop

Better Toffee Bars

October 16, 2011 | Chocolate Recipes, Food Memories | Permalink

Toffee Bars

I’ve been homesick lately.  Don’t get me wrong, residing in another country is a romantic and privileged way to live and work.  But, there are times you want to be in your own comfort zone, with your friends and your own stuff.

I blame this yearning for home on the change of season.  Fall has set in Zagreb.  There’s a chill in the air.  The scarves are out of the closet.  The leaves are changing colors.  The sun is shining.  The fire smells intoxicate me when I’m meandering around town.  Yesterday was a toffee bar making kind of day: a cure for the homesick.

Over the past year or so, I’ve been scanning my mom’s recipes.  Food is one of my strongest memories, and I don’t want to lose, or worse, forget these memories of my mum.  She used to make these all the time.  They were such a treat, one of the goodies I looked for when going home.  A crunchy cookie, with a layer of chocolate and nuts.  The baked batches were gone in no time.

My mom's recipe card

Toffee Bars
Source: My mom’s recipe card (adaptation)

8 oz. unsalted butter, softened
8 oz. dark brown sugar, packed
1 egg yolk
1 tsp. vanilla
6 oz. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt

4 oz. dark chocolate (or milk chocolate or a mixture), chopped in small pieces
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup nuts, roasted and chopped
2 tsp. sesame seeds, roasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a 13 x 9 pan.

Thoroughly mix butter, sugar, egg yolk and vanilla.  Blend in the flour and salt.

Press evenly into the pan.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly browned (crust will be soft).  Remove from the oven.

Sprinkle chocolate over the crust and let it melt.  Once melted, spread evenly over the crust.  Sprinkle with the salt, and finally the nuts.

Serves: 32 squares

PSST: This recipe is quite popular on the internet.  I find the recipe online to be a bit dry, so I decreased the amount of flour.  If you like it a bit chewier, add the egg white along with the egg yolk.

Chocolate Find: Chocolat in Trieste, Italy

October 10, 2011 | Chocolate Shops, Food Finds | Permalink

Chocolat in Trieste, Italy

After enjoying a lazy morning in Rovinj, we hopped in the car and drove two hours to Trieste, Italy.

It was a stunning day.  The sun was shining.  Fall was settling in on the Adriatic coast.

After meandering along the waterfront, we took to the Old Town.  And I found a gem.

Chocolat was bustling.  The table outside was packed.  Lines for chocolate goodies formed at both entrances.  I ordered 2 scoops of gelato: Tiramisu and Perla Nera.  The gelato, particularly the Perla Nera, gets two thumbs up.  It combined an intense cocoa flavor with a gentle creaminess.

A salted chocolate bar also left the store with me, but I haven’t cracked it open just yet.

Chocolat Via Cavana 15, Trieste

My Croatian Island Getaway

September 19, 2011 | Croatia | Permalink

Cliff View of Vrbnik

Late last spring, before hopping my flight to return to the Twin Cities for 7 weeks, I planned my island getaway.  I’d been hearing about life on the coast all year.  “You have to go,” my colleagues would say.  So, I obliged.

Nestled on top of a cliff, with part of the old town wall intact, rests the town of Vrbnik.  Vrbnik is located on the island of KRK, about 3 hours from Zagreb.

The cab dropped me off at 10 AM on a hot, August, Saturday morning.  The town was just waking up: people were enjoying their coffee, bikers were on route to their next destination, and sunbathers were claiming their spot at the swimming cove.  I planned my week around reading, walking around town, getting around the island, and enjoying the local life.  But once I unloaded my bags and roamed the old town, I stayed put.

I found my favorite cafe for my morning coffee and pre-dinner drink.  I found a beautiful cove for swimming and sea gazing, a cove that was deserted after the sun had set and the tanners left their spot.  I found a great little wine shop that filled my 2 liter water jug with local wine, for a mere 20 kuna (about $4).  After eight days of relaxation and just enjoying the moments, I now understand the love affair with the coast.

The Top 5 Reasons to visit Vrbnik, KRK

1. The Old Town

Street Views of Vrbnik

Look what you can see meandering around town.

2. The Adriatic Sea

The Adriatic Sea

The sea is warm enough to swim in, salty, clean, and crystal clear.

3. Šurlice

Vrbnik Foodie Delights

My second to last night in town, I had dinner at Restoran Gospoja.  The town specialty is Šurlice, a long, thick noodle.  I had the asparagus flavored Šurlice with a prawn sauce.  The pasta was light, and the sauce was creamy and flavorful.

4. Vrbička Žlatina

Vino and Rakija

The local, sweet, white wine is the perfect summer beverage.  I’m glad I was able to taste the wine when I did.  I hear my Konoba ran out of their supply at the end of August.

5. The Fresh Figs

Grape Vines and Fresh Figs

Two ladies, in their eighties, were my neighbors.  I think they were fascinated by me, this single woman, in a town by herself, for over a week.  About halfway through the week, I was in the kitchen making dinner.  All of a sudden, I heard a knock at the door.  It was one of the ladies, and she had a plateful of freshly picked figs for me.  If you’ve never tasted a fresh fig, you must!  They’re juicy, sweet, and go perfectly with a salty, hard cheese.

Vrbnik, KRK Resources

MARE Tours and Souvenirs

Vrbnik, KRK

A Photo Tour of My Venetian Vacation

July 10, 2011 | Travel | Permalink

View of the Grand Canal

Working at an international school has its perks, particularly vacation time.  We have three weeks off for the December holidays, then a week ski break in February, and spring break the week after Easter.  I chose to spend this past spring break in Venice, Italy.  Here are some highlights.

Best Dessert Award: Dolce della Cassa con Melone at Bar Pasticceria Rio Marin (Santa Croce 784)

We found this little gem on accident.  We’d been on a self-guided walking tour through the Santa Croce area, and the dessert window caught our eye.  The house dessert of the day was the Dolce della Cassa con Melone: thin layers of a genoise cake (4 layers in all), layered with pastry cream and slices of cantaloupe, and sprinkled with powdered sugar.  The pastry cream was airy.  The cake was moist and thin.  My fork easily cut thru the cake without making a complete mess.  On the way out, I bought an almond cookie, by far, the best almond cookie I had all week.  Just a heads up, it is cheaper if you buy to go or eat at one of the bar tables inside.  You’ll pay extra for a canal view.

Best Meal: Osteria da Rioba, Cannaregio

The Appetizer

The Cannaregio district was one of my favorite areas in Venice.  Quiet, hidden, and had a local feel (not sure if the last thought is really true).  Based on a review in Time Out Venice, we strolled into Osteria da Rioba at about a half hour prior to closing for the afternoon.  Luckily, we we’re able to sit outside and enjoy the most memorable meal of the trip.  For the appetizer, we order the eggplant pie, which was sliced eggplant filled with ricotta cheese, onions, and pine nuts, topped with a pesto and red sauce.  My main course was homemade ravioli filled with prawns and topped with a zucchini sauce.  Mmmm!!!

Ravioli with Prawns and a Zucchini Sauce

Best Parma: Ristorante Greppia, Vicolo Samaritana 3, Verona

A family run restaurant, sourcing local ingredients.  My parma plate was served with a bowl of pickled vegetables.  I also recommend the tiramisu…I had the last nibbles of my companion’s dessert after her recommendation.  Wow!  The ladyfingers were moist, but still held it’s shape, and there was perfect balance amongst the coffee, cream, and liquor.

My Parma Plate

Best Drink: Sgroppino


My travel companion had Sgroppino on her list of things to drink while in Venice.  Now that I’ve had one, I recommend you all put it on your list as well.  The server said the drink has “ lemon gelato, with a splash of vodka and a splash of prosecco.”  The lemon gelato is the main act, while the vodka and prosecco support the creamy after dinner drink.

Best Gelato: Ricotta, Fig and Caramel Gelato

Ricotta, Fig and Caramel Gelato

It was creamy, sweet but not overly sweet, and I could taste each flavor.


Best Market: Padua, Italy

We went to Padua on our way back to Zagreb.  Padua is about 30 minutes west of Venice.  My co-worker told me we had to visit.  It’s a gem of a city.


Saturday Morning Market

Beans and Rice

Ginger Fried Rice

May 29, 2011 | Savory Recipes | Permalink

Ginger Fried Rice

I love fried rice the way I love a vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream frosting.  I must have it!  This past summer, I experimented with fried rice recipes in my search to eat more whole grains and vegetables. The recipe I originally used was from Penzey’s Spices, a fragrant store conveniently located about five blocks from my apartment.  They send out a catalog every few months chock full of recipes from readers, and the summer issue included a vegetarian fried rice spiced with ginger, red pepper flakes and black pepper.  I was intrigued.

Taking the original recipe, I tweaked the ingredients by exchanging brown rice for white rice and adding some more vegetables, but felt I made more of a stir-fry rather than fried rice.  The final dish was too saucy and the vegetables didn’t have much taste.  So, I googled and found a great blog entry by Jaden of the Steamy Kitchen.  She tells readers the 4 key components of fried rice.  First, use cold rice because warm rice will create too much moisture.  Second, use high heat to quickly fry each ingredient.  Third, cook each ingredient separately to give each its own taste.  Lastly, don’t touch the rice while frying, otherwise you will create mush.  Applying these components made the difference!  The rice had a crispy layer, the vegetables were flavorful and distinct, and the ginger and red pepper added a spicy depth.  Perfect for a weeknight meal or for dinner with friends.

Ginger Fried Rice

Serves 4

4 cups cold brown rice
2 eggs
2 Tbsp. cooking oil
2 cups chopped broccoli
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
3 green onions, sliced at an angle
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 tsp. powdered ginger
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ cup chopped pineapples
1/3 cup cashew pieces

Whip the egg in a small bowl.  Add 2 tsp. oil to a small nonstick pan.  Heat over medium heat until the oil is hot.  Pour eggs into pan to make a thin layer, reduce heat to medium low and cook without stirring or flipping for about 3 minutes.  Slide out of pan and roll up.  Let cool a bit and then thinly slice.  Set aside.

Heat the wok pan over high heat with the 1 tsp. oil.   When hot, add the broccoli and fry 3 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Return pan to high heat and add 1 tsp. oil.  When hot, add mushrooms and fry 2 minutes.  Remove from pan and set aside.

Return pan to high heat and 2 tsp. oil.  When hot, add green onions and fry 1 minute.  Then, add rice, mix with the onions, spread the mixture out using the entire cooking surface and let fry, untouched for 3 minutes.  Add soy sauce, ginger, red pepper, pineapples, broccoli, mushrooms and eggs.  Mix with rice, spread the mixture out using the entire cooking surface and let fry, untouched for 3 minutes.

Sprinkle with cashews.  Enjoy hot.

Black and White Affogato

May 8, 2011 | Chocolate Recipes | Permalink

Venetian Affogato

I found you three years ago in Tubingen, Germany, on a hot August day.
I’d been walking around the quaint, college town for a few hours.  The words Eiskaffee caught my eye when looking for a cold, afternoon beverage.

The sign presented you so simply: ice cream + coffee + whipped cream = well, you can think of a few descriptive words.

You won me over.  I search for you on every vacation.  I make you at home.

You were in Venice last week, with a twist: a shot of coffee liquor.   Mmmm.  I drank you while enjoying the afternoon at Campo Santa Margherita.

I think others’ will add you to their recipe box as well.

Homemade Black and White Affogato

Black and White Affogato
1 serving

1-2 shots of espresso, chilled
1 scoop each of chocolate and vanilla ice cream
dollop of whipped cream
sprinkle of chocolate shavings or cocoa powder

Scoop ice cream into a medium to tall sized glass.  Add espresso.  Top with numerous dollops of whipped cream.  Sprinkle with chocolate shavings or cocoa powder.

PSST: Traditional affogato is just ice cream and hot espresso.  I prefer to chill my espresso, but try use the hot espresso if you’d like.  And, there’s nothing like a dollop of whipped cream on top!

Morning Oatmeal

May 1, 2011 | Savory Recipes | Permalink

Morning Oatmeal

Oatmeal: one of my favorite breakfast meals.  It’s a funny thing.  Growing up, my mother never made or let us make oatmeal.  When she was a teenager and taking care of the household, she always had to wash the oatmeal pot after her brothers’ would make it, eat it and leave the premises.  Now, I understand why she never let us eat oatmeal.

Nina’s Coffee Cafe, a local coffee house in St. Paul, MN, introduced me to this favorite dish.  After spending the early morning at the YWCA, I’d stop at Nina’s on my way to work.  Not ever expanding my oatmeal experience beyond Instant Quaker Oats, I began ordering the oatmeal at Nina’s.  And, I never tried anything else on the breakfast menu!

The oatmeal was made with stone ground oats and mixed with craisins, blueberries, and yogurt.  Tart and filling, this hearty breakfast kept me going all morning.  After playing with some concoctions, I think I found the mix that best mimics Nina’s oatmeal.


Morning Oatmeal

50 grams oats
200 ml milk (fat of your choosing)
1 Tbsp. ground flax seed
sprinkle of cinnamon

Combine oats, milk and flax seed in a saucepan.  Cook on medium heat, for about 5-7 minutes.  The oats should plump up and the mixture will resemble a thick, but creamy oatmeal.  When you’re about to turn the heat off, sprinkle with cinnamon and stir.  Serve in a bowl with a topping of your choice.

Topping Options

* strawberries, yogurt & maple syrup
* apples or bananas, yogurt & maple syrup
* craisins & yogurt