Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Wordless Wednesday #79


Friday, November 25, 2011

Wow! We Really Have Done A Lot in Spain!

Living in Spain provides such a great jumping off point to other European countries.  When we found out we were moving to Madrid, we made a promise to ourselves to travel as much as possible.  I really didn't want to come back to the US for at all over our three year assignment because that would mean a missed trip somewhere in Europe.  I love the good ole US of A, but I'm going to live there for the rest of my life.  Once back in the States, it won't be as affordable to travel to Europe.  So with this in mind, we made the commitment to set aside money for travel.  It's a great opportunity for us and our kids.  There is a military adage that says "Resources follow priorities" and we've made it our priority to set foot in as many new countries as possible.  I did a blog entry about the World map we have hanging up in our kitchen called "Where in the World?" We log our travels and love to look at it when we hear of some interesting current event going on in the world or to dream of places we'd like to visit in this lifetime.

When we think about places we still want to visit before we move back to the States, there are many, and many of them are in Spain.  Sometimes I worry that we will wait to long, thinking we will always have time to visit places in Spain because we live here, kind of like how I have never been to the Statue of Liberty when I went to Jr High, High School and College about 60 miles north of New York City.  Since it won't be so easy to get back to Spain once we return to the US, I want to make sure that we're not short changing Spain in our European travels.  That's why we are planing to go to Córdoba and Sevilla over Thanksgiving.
We still haven't been there after two years in Spain, nor have we visited the North of Spain yet, though we definitely want to walk part of the "Camino" to Santiago de Compostela.  We were supposed to this Spring, but my knee injury got in the way of that.  Fearing I hadn't giving Spain it's due in our travel adventures, I decided to take stock and see just what we have done in Spain while here in Spain...and what I discovered was that we've done a lot...take a look...

We've been to the FB Barcelona fútbol stadium in Barcelona...
We've been to the top of Montserrat to see the Black Virgin just outside of Barcelona...
We met former US President Jimmy Carter at the Old Silk Exchange in Valencia...
We've watch kite surfers on the beaches of Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands...
We've sipped Sangria, seaside, in the sleepy town of Rota, outside the Naval Base in the South of Spain...
We've been to El Escorial, the Royal Palace built by Felipe II, which houses the remains of 24 "dead kings and queens" to quote my youngest son...
I've been to mass with my in-laws at the Valley of the Fallen, just north of Madrid.  It's an understandably controversial cathedral built into a mountain where dead from both side of the Spanish Civil War, as well as Franco are buried...
We walked along the top of the medieval wall in Ávila...
We've been to Osborne's Malpica Winery, Osborne is the 2nd oldest family-owned business in Spain, established in 1772, and made friends with their Marketing Director, Carolina...
We've visited an Olive finca (farm) and learned how some of the best oil in the world is made from Spanish olives...
I've seen famous Spanish ceramica being made in the famous pottery town of Puente del Arzobispo...
We've toured the incredible cathedral in Toledo, where popes and cardinals are buried and a mass is said in arabic once a week...
We've walked under the Roman Aqueduct, that has stood for over 2000 years, and toured the Castle where  Ferdinand and Isabella bid farewell to Christopher Columbus before he sailed to what became know as the "New World..."
Walked among the monkeys on the only British territory on the Iberian Peninsula...
We've hiked La Pedriza, the mountains just north of Madrid...

Attended a Misa Rociera, or Flamenco Mass, at the Spanish Church in our neighborhood...
Attended a Misa Rociera, or Flamenco Mass, at the Spanish Church in our neighborhood...
And Madrid...we've had so many good times in Madrid...people watching in the Plaza Mayor
Sampling terrific tapas at one of our favorite bars, The Magister, just off of Plaza Santa Ana...
Eaten lunch and dinner at Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world...
Watched Flamenco at Corral de Moreria...
Bought espadrilles from the world famous Casa Hernanz, just off the Plaza Mayor...
Standing at Kilometer Zero at Puerta del Sol, the point from which all distances in Spain are measured...
We posed in front of the Bear and Strawberry Tree, the symbol of Spain...
We've had churros y chocolate at the famous San Gines, and at our favorite, Churrero Maestro...
We toured the Royal Palace...
Visited the Cathedral...
Toured the Royal Gardens...
Visited the Prado and the Thyssen museums...
Marveled at Picasso's Guernica at the Reina Sofia...
Toured the home and studio of Spain's most famous impressionist, Joaquin Sorolla...
Celebrated Spain 2010 World Cup win with the rest of Madrid...
Spent the afternoon walking through Retiro Park...
Enjoyed the Turtles of the Atocha Train Station...
Watch Real Madrid defeat the Dutch Team ,Ajax, at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium...
Witnessed a riot of rowdy Dutch fans in the metro...
Listened to opera live while drinking wine from Spain's Rioja region at the Mercado de San Miguel...
Learned how to a Traditional Spanish Tortilla in my Spanish friend's home...
Which led to my writing a Spanish cookbook with my friend, Tiff...
All and all, I'd say that's not bad...still so much more to see...but not too shabby!  
More to follow...Hasta luego...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Looking for the Perfect Christmas Gift for $15???

Friends share good times, bad times...and sometimes, they share recipes!  Mari Luz is just such a friend.  She's also our massage therapist.  She only speaks Spanish and French, so she's also our Spanish teacher!  We feel so fortunate to have her as our friend!  Last year, she invited Tiff and I over for brunch and to teach us how to make a traditional Spanish tortilla. 
I blogged about it in my entry entitled, Cooking with Mari Luz.  Once we master that, we decided we should try to figure out how to make all the Spanish dishes we love, so when we get back to the States, we wouldn't have to do without our Spanish favorites. Our friends and family who had visited us in Spain said they wanted to know how to make them too and suggested we put our results in a cookbook.  So in January, we started spending days in the "Test Kitchen" and had finished files to the printer in Connecticut before we went on the "Last Hurrah" cruise in April.  It was quite an undertaking and we loved every minute of it.  We are so proud of our book and think it would make a great additional to your kitchen.  All the recipes are in US measurements, with substitutions for hard to get Spanish food items, and all the recipes are easy to make!  Unlike Tiff, I don't like to spend a ton of time in the kitchen, so we take shortcut where ever possible without sacrificing flavor.  We developed five original cocktails, including red and white sangria.  Frankly, it's worth the $15 price tag for the cocktails alone.  So you don't even have to cook to get your money's worth out of this book!  And it's a good read too, with 75 beautiful color pictures (at least one for every recipe), a "decoding" Spanish wine section, an Olive Oil piece, a little information about Spanish cooking culture, what to keep in your Spanish Pantry, as well as wine proverbs and sayings throughout the book.


The Drinking Girls' Guide to Spanish Food is organized for your party planning purposes.  We started with an appetizer section, five tapas that we call Tasty Little Starters!

"Hammered" Olives
Pan y Tomate
Cheese & Chorizo Plate
Patatas Aiöli
Fried Manchego
 After the Tasty Little Starters section, we have organized recipes into five fun menus, each with an original cocktail.  If you don't have time to make the special cocktail that goes with the menu, we also offer wine pairings that work well with each menu.

First up is our "Tapas Anytime Brunch" which includes Spanish-style brunch selection that can be served with our Valencian Sunrise or nice, crisp Chardonnay!  
Valencian Sunrise
Gazpacho A-Go-Go
Traditional Spanish Tortilla
Malpica Mixed Greens Salad with Sherry Vinaigrette

We call our next menu "Pollo Loco Asado," Spanish comfort food that's "crazy" good.  It is delicioso with our version of white Sangria, but pairs well with a good chilled Cava (Spanish Champagne) or a Tempranillo.
No Secret's Safe Sangria
Velvety Cream of Mushroom Soup
Pollo Asado (Roasted Chicken)
Ga-Ga for Garlic Potatoes
 Our next menu is called "Oh My Gambas."   Gambas or shrimp is the main course on this menu which includes a creamy asparagus soup, and sautéed green beans, as well as strawberry and mint infused white wine spritzer.  Pair this menu with a Sauvignon Blanc or Sparkling Rosado if you don't have time to make this yummy cocktail... 
Strawberry Blush
Bet Your "Asparagus" Soup 
Gambas Al Ajillo
Sautéed Green Beans with Pine Nuts
We call our fourth party menu "Not Your Abuela's Paella"  which includes our version of Red Sangria, garlic and almond soup, and sautéed mini-sweet jalapeños.  This menu pairs well with a Sauvignon Blanc.  If serving the paella with tapas selcetion and not the Ajo Blanco, serve with a Cabernet Sauvignon.  
Stumblin' Home Sangria
Ajo Blanco
Tossed Paella Mixta
Pimientos de Padrón
 We call our final menu "Got Scallops? Si, Claro!" Of course, we do!  Scallops, aspargus wrapped in Spanish ham, and succulent sautéed mushroom.  Serve with our Lemony Cava Cooler or Cava alone.  This dish is really impressive and great for when you are having company.
Lemony Cava Cooler
Gone in 60 Seconds Sautéed Mushrooms
Sea Scallops with Cava Cream Sauce
Roasted Jamón-Wrapped Asparagus
 No party is complete without a nice dessert.  Here are some tasty Spanish-inspired desserts that will have you spending more time with your guests and less time in the kitchen.  Keeping with our theme, we called this section "Drunken Desserts."
Tempranillo Poached Apples & Peaches with Vanilla Ice Cream

Sherry-Spiked Sponge Cake with Ice Cream and Berries

Cafe con Leche Shooters with Assorted Chocolate & Fruits
Arroz con Leche (Traditional Rice Pudding)
We hope we've tempted you into buying our cookbook, The Drinking Girls' Guide to Spanish Food.  We guarantee that you won't be disappointed.  We developed, tested, photographed and ate every single one of these recipes and we loved every single minute of it!  Miss you, Tiff!  Wish you were here...in Spain!  Order your book at the top right of this blog...we accept paypal and all major forms of credit.  Buy one for yourself and your family and friends!  They also make great teacher and office gifts!  It's a delicious Book Club selection too.  Are you part of a gourmet or cooking club?  Again...perfect selection as well!  Buen provecho!


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