Goodcookbecky's Blog

Letting the juices of life (or food) drip from my chin!


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25th Anniversary Cruise Part 5

In case you missed it: Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4

June 8

We docked at the port in Livorno and took a tour bus through the Tuscany region to Firenze (Florence, Italy) which is an amazing city to visit.  We had a tour booked through Princess once again and walked our feet off in this city.  My phone told me we walked over 4 miles in Florence.  The time we had in Florence did not give the sites the appropriate time to properly take this city in.  We sped through the museums so quickly that I was taking shots of art as I was walking by at 3 miles per hour.  It really is too bad that we could not savor our time to really take it all in.  But the beauty of cruising is that you do get a taste of a lot of different places and maybe someday you can return and take things in at a more relaxed pace. Our tour guide Sophia was wonderful. We started with the Uffizi Museum and Gallery and saw works by artists like Botticelli. We were grateful for relatively shorts waits to get into the museums as once again it was hot and humid. From the Uffizi museum we got a great shot of the Ponte Vecchio bridge which captured the Old World charm of Florence. The statues at the Piazza della Signoria were impressive.  We loved the Piazza del Duomo, but no angle on our camera could capture the  full beauty of this church.  We loved the stunning design of the Baptistery and the beautiful bronze doors.  After a refreshing lunch in a restaurant, we continued to the Accademia museum to see Michelangelo’s sculpture of David.  I loved the detail of the veins on David’s hands and feet.  We were so grateful for the opportunity to see these amazing works of art in person.

Next: Rome

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25th Anniversary Cruise Part 4

In case you missed Part 1 Part 2 and Part 3

June 7

Italy! Hello, beautiful Italy!  I love languages and how they sound.  Growing up bi-lingual, I tend to have a knack for imitating the sounds of languages I am not fluent in.  Italian has a wonderful sound – I amused myself pronouncing words like Firenze, Portofino, Bella with my best Italian flair! I think poor David got tired of my interest in getting the sound right!  Italy is charming!  Our tour to Portofino was lovely and HOT and HUMID! We took a ferry from Santa Margarita to Portofino, which was, and still is, the playground of the rich and famous and is therefore overpriced.  Vendors were selling various goods, and I got suckered into buying a hat for 20 euros.  I am sure he picked them up for a song compared to what I paid.  But I needed a hat!  As the days passed by that overpriced hat became more and more valuable to me.  It gave me the much needed shade and unfortunate hat head bangs. David found a hat he liked in Portofino that was 15 euros.  These hats became our friends.

Portofino means Port of the dolphins (but it is too crowded with showy yachts to be a welcoming place to dolphins – as a matter of fact we did not see any dolphins or whales the entire trip.)

In Portofino, we enjoyed pizza and an ice cream treat called Paciugo which was vanilla gelato with strawberry sauce and fresh berries with whipped cream.  Our tour guide had recommended it and called it a “mess”.  The pizza came with four toppings – each of them on a quarter, separated and by the way I found out the hard way that the olives had pits – I nearly broke a tooth discovering that!  We enjoyed a short climb to see a beautiful view of the harbor.  The yachts were in a battle for one-up-man-ship like not seen before.  Portofino was much smaller than I thought it would be, but the beautiful painted buildings were charming and photogenic.

Pictured below: David and I in Santa Margarita, Paciugo, Pizza, narrow alleys, charming colorful buildings, cute row boats, lovely flowers, pricey yachts, and overpriced hats!

Next: Firenze (Florence)

 


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25th Ann. Cruise Part 3

In case you missed part 1 and part 2

I am writing this at 2 am because jet lag is not a kind friend… so excuse errors, I will do my best to catch them.

June 6

After another relaxing day at sea, we were in Marseille, France.  To be honest, I did not have very high expectations of this city.  And much to my surprise this city was enchanting and completely captured my heart.  The highlight of the trip was a 10 minute photo stop at Longchamp Palace and Fountains, which is now used as a museum;  the buildings and fountains are amazing! From there we stopped at Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, where we had quite a few stairs to climb to get there. Our reward: breathtaking views of the city and port below! The tour we took was arranged through Princess Cruises and our guide Olivier was informative and helpful.  I scoured my brain to remember the few French phrases that I had learned in 9th Grade.  French people have a reputation for being aloof and uninterested in speaking English, but I found that if you smile and make an effort to speak to them that they are very accommodating.  The few phrases I knew came in handy when we ordered Nutella Crepes for lunch in the city center.  We had 20 minutes of free time and I had scoped out a little crepe shop from the bus as we passed through.  We returned to our ship and were still a little hungry so we indulged in the afternoon tea that was available on the Crown Princess.

Pictured below: day at sea, Longchamp Palace (3), Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, Marseille,  wild poppies, enjoying Nutella crepes, a drive past an Arc the Triumph, yachts, afternoon tea on board the Crown Princess.

Next Part 4: Portofino, Italy.


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25th Anniversary Cruise Part 2

In case you missed part one.

June 4

We enjoyed a day at sea and recovering from jet lag before docking in Gibraltar.  We enjoyed exploring our ship and started to become familiar with locations of dining rooms.

Gibraltar is on the tip of Spain and part of Great Britain.  From here you can see the continent of Africa on a clear day.  The biggest tourist attraction is the Rock of Gibraltar which you will recognize from the Prudential advertisements.  On the rock are Barbary Apes.  These monkeys have been known to confiscate bags from tourists in search of food and have a reputation to sometimes climbing and even biting people.  (I have issues with Lorikeets landing on me at the San Diego zoo, so the thought of a monkey bothering me was going to cause me to need some mental health treatments.) We decided to not make ourselves a target for these thieves and took only a hidden money belt with some money and a credit card. We took the tram to the top of the rock and must to our surprise (near disappointment): No Monkeys!  We enjoyed the view of the Rock and took some pictures.  We enjoyed a cup of coffee at the restaurant and asked the waitress for recommendations of a good fish and chips place in town.  She declared Roy’s on Main Street to be the best place in town to get an authentic tasting, where we would head next.  As we were about to leave to go down the hill we saw two monkeys.  I managed to capture a picture of them not being too nice to each other and I had a healthy respect for these critters.  Gibraltar is delightfully British with classic red phone booths and authentic fish and chips.  Our time in port was pretty short and soon we would depart for Marseille, France.

Pictured: day at sea, Rock of Gibraltar, Barbary Apes, red phone booth, grave yard, and fish and chips.

Next: Part 3

 


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25th Anniversary Cruise Part 1

My husband and I celebrated our 25th Anniversary last March and we just returned from a cruise in the Mediterranean to celebrate the occasion.  We started in Barcelona and visited Gibraltar, France, Italy, Montenegro and Greece.  Because some of my family are not on social media, I decided to post some of the highlights of the trip here.

We departed from LAX on May 31st and landed in Barcelona, Spain on June 1st.  We flew with KLM and had a connecting flight in Amsterdam.  Unfortunately, there was weather delays in Amsterdam and our second flight was delayed by several hours. So instead of arriving to our hotel at 1 pm, we arrived at 4 pm.  We had purchased Parc Guell tickets for 5 pm in advance.  Of course we had to go to the Park despite our jet lag.  We hired a cab and were instantly transformed to being inside a computer game — narrow one way streets with mopeds and cars parked on both sides of the street with barely enough room for the taxi to pass did not intimidate our driver… he sped through the narrow lanes and David and I exchanged amused glances.  I felt like I was an active participant in our favorite original xbox game called Midtown Madness 2.  We enjoyed Parc Guell despite our jet lag (or at least have pictures to prove that we were there).  After an hour looking around we returned to our hotel where we collapsed into a heap on a comfortable bed to take a nap.

Pictured below: KLM flight and Parc Guell, Barcelona, Spain.

Tapas is something I researched before arriving.  We are not big fans of shellfish and snails and had studied up on some of the names of foods so we would know what we were ordering and what we wanted to avoid.  As Americans, who like to eat dinner around 5 to 6 the thought of eating after 9 pm was an adjustment.

The staff at the hotel were helpful to directing us to a good tapas restaurant a short block from the hotel after a refreshing 2 hour nap and shower.

Pictured below: Bar Velodroma where we enjoyed our tapas.  The waitress Natalia was wonderful at guiding us with our selections.  It was a lot of food, I have to admit, but we are so glad that we had this culinary experience.  We had small red peppers the were stuffed with cream cheese, local cured ham and cold cuts with toasted bread that was spread with garlic and tomato, potatoes brava (fried potatoes with two different sauces) Sandwiches with olives and Manchego cheese (locally sourced) Bomba (again fried potato with a center core of meat with sauces), croquettes and finished with Catalonian Crema for dessert.  It was a wonderful evening in Barcelona.  We fell into bed at 11:30 pm – completely stuffed and weary from travel.

Day 2:

June 2nd was the day we were to board our cruise ship.  We did not know what time the shuttle would take us to the port in advance, and we had purchased timed tickets to see the La Sagrada Familia church, but our scheduled shuttle did not allow that before embarkation.  If we ever are in Barcelona again, we will be sure to visit it then.  We did however get up early enough to grab a cab and go to the popular La Rambla shopping and tourist area.  We had heard that this area was a popular place for pick- pockets, so we took a bare minimum with us. But we really did not need to worry, as we were there early enough, that the crowds were low.  Some of the stores were still closed, but the market (Boqueria) was open and we spent a little time walking around and eating a second breakfast (this is normal in Barcelona  – the hotel had a wonderful breakfast buffet that we had taken advantage of, but we did buy ham and cheese to munch on as a mid morning snack before returning to the hotel for our cruise transfer.)

Pictured: La Rambla, Boqueria Market, Ham and cheese

Transfer to the cruise ship was at 10:30 am so we took a cab back to the hotel from La Rambla to get our bus to the port.  Embarkation was easy with little waiting.  The Crown Princess was an impressive ship that holds over 3100 passengers and 1400 crew members.

Pictured: Crown Princess (by Princess Cruises) Our cabin (A322) was a balcony room on the Aloha Deck with a comfortable bed.  We enjoyed the departure on deck with other passengers and live music. Departed port 10 pm. The end of a happy day.

Next Port: 25th Ann. Cruise Part 2: Gibraltar (part of the United Kingdom)


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Homemade Churros

IMG_8617Inspired by a photo of my daughter at Disneyland eating a nice big churro, I wanted to make them at home.  It could not be that hard right?

I spent much of this week looking through old cooking magazines that I had in a box, looking for inspiration of new recipes to try, when I came across churros in the Feb/March 2016 edition of Cook’s Country. It did not look difficult to make.  They did not turn out an inch thick though, more like half and inch thick and some of them bubbled and looked like cacti by the time they were finished cooking, but they were delicious.  My hubby, who is not normally a fan of churros, really liked these, so I guess they are a winner.

The first time I made this, I forgot to add the sugar to the water – and as I was filling the piping bag with dough, I realized this… I threw out the dough and started over.  Churros are pretty easy to make. A few tips, don’t overfill the piping bags – I had a hard time piping it with a tip on, so I just removed the tip so they did not have the fancy ridges, but they were still quite delicious – and I would make them again.  The recipe said to refrigerate them before cooking, but I found that the ones that had come back to room temperature had fried up puffier and had a better texture, so I would skip that.  Also don’t use a candy thermometer that does not have high temperatures… I overheated the oil and my thermometer broke! So, don’t do that!

So-Cal Churros

adapted from Cook’s Country Magazine (Feb/Mar 2016)

Makes 18 Churros (depending on thickness and length)

Ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 quarts vegetable oil
  • Coating:
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and spray liberally with a cooking spray.

In a medium pot, over medium-high heat, bring water, butter, salt, butter, and vanilla to a boil.  Turn off the burner and pull the pot off heat.  Add the 2 cups of flour and use a rubber spatula to combine the flour until there are no more white streaks of flour.  Transfer the dough to a stand mixer and beat on low for one to two minutes.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until it is combined before adding the second egg.  Increase speed to medium and beat for one minute.

Fill the piping bag with half of the batter and pipe 6 long logs on the  parchment lined pan, cutting the ends with kitchen scissors. Cook’s Country magazine had a step to refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes to an hour, but I think they fry up better when the dough is at room temperature.

Preheat 2 inches of oil in a heavy skillet to 375 to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fry 3 to 6 at a time in the oil. You may need to use tongs to separate them as they fry so they don’t get stuck together.  Fry them about two to three minutes on each side before removing them to a paper towel lined plate to drain some of the fat off. Repeat with remaining churros.

In a glass pie dish or large shallow bowl, combine the half cup of sugar and 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon.  Once the fried churros are cool enough to handle toss them in the cinnamon sugar and enjoy!

Printable Recipe

 


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Mohnflesserl – Austrian Poppy Twist

IMG_7884

Mohnflesserl

Growing up in Austria, I loved the fresh baked breads.  My absolute favorite was Mohnflesserl – a savory roll that had been braided and was topped with poppy seeds.  Recently I wanted to make my own at home.  I found a recipe in German and translated it into English.  Before I post the recipe, I have to share a funny story.  My mother would pronounce it Mohnfresserl – and growing up that is what I called it.  Upon my return to Austria in 2011, I landed at the airport in Linz, Austria and promptly ordered myself one, since my ride had not arrived yet.  I did not understand why the lady behind the counter was smirking.  Later I learned, I had been saying it wrong all my life – fressen means to eat like an animal would, flesserl is a braid; I laughed at myself (and my mother).  No wonder my web searches to find a recipe for Mohnfresserl gave me no results…

I realize my last blog post was in October of 2017 – life has been keeping me busy with homeschooling and a new passion for quilting. I still love to cook, so this year I hope to post a few more recipes than I did last year.

Mohnflesserl – Austrian Poppy Twist

Serves 8

translated from German by Becky Pallmann

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1 packet yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon malted barley flour
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • additional:
  • egg white
  • poppy seeds, salt, other bread topping

Instructions

Place warm water, yeast and malted barley flour (available at Amazon – get diastic type- it adds sweetness and flavor to your bread- if you cannot find it, use sugar in its place).  Add flour, and salt to the yeast and knead until it becomes one ball of dough and pieces have pulled off the sides of the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and allow to rise for 30 minutes.

Divide into 8 sections and roll each piece out into a snake. Form into a braided twist (https://christinawaitforit.wordpress.com/2016/06/17/mohnflesserl-flechten-rezept-und-anleitung/ has a great series of pictures that illustrate how to do this.)

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

Add a little water to the remaining egg white and beat. Brush your twists with egg wash and sprinkle them with poppy seed, kosher salt or other bread topping seeds you may have on hand.

Place a pan of hot water in the bottom of your oven for steam or spray the twists with a mist of water during the baking process.

Bake at 425°F for 20 to 25 minutes.

I love these with a nice slab of butter while they are still warm.

translated from:  http://www.backenmitchristina.at/mohnflesserl/

Printable Recipe: http://goodcookbecky-printablerecipes.blogspot.com/2018/02/mohnflesserl-austrian-poppy-twist.html