Awe for Auckland, New Zealand by da-AL

Too little time for da-AL to discover all of Mt. Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.

Mount Eden is the place to go for a fantastic full-circle view of Auckland, where my husband and I began and ended our visit to New Zealand.

The site is actually three cinder cones, two of them filled in by the last one. Auckland is a lovely city filled with great restaurants with menus from all over the world — and great independent bookstores!

Time Out Bookstore, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.
Auckland has some great independent bookstores, like this one!

Claire and Sam (our hostess and her golden retriever), along with her young neighbor (and the darling girl’s black dog), were all very welcoming. To stay at Claire’s lovely B&B, email her at duncan5@xtra.co.nz or call her at 0274512691

Khashayar, hostess Claire, and a charming young neighbor with da-AL.
Khashayar, hostess Claire, and a charming young neighbor with da-AL.

So much to do in too little time …

da-AL at non-active crater, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.
da-AL at non-active crater, Mount Eden, Auckland, New Zealand.

Next, we visited the rousing city of Rotorua

Have you visited a crater?

Easy! Yummy! Healthy! Brown Rice Corn Island with Seafood by K. Parsi

Healthy eating is fun with recipes that don’t require a lot of skill and time, yet can even wow guests. Famed chef Jacques Pépin inspired my husband to create this one…

Brown Rice and Corn Island with Seafood Stuffing
Healthy cooking can be simple.

Brown Rice and Corn Island with Seafood Stuffing

(serves about 8)

Read this recipe all the way through before you shop for ingredients and cook. It involves four cooking steps: a) rice, b) seafood, c) sauce, and d) plating.

Step A: Rice

1 medium diced onion

3 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 head (about 5 cloves) of diced garlic

3 cups brown rice

1 bunch (about 1 1/2 cup) chopped green onions

1 cup corn kernels

3 cups water

3 cups fish or chicken broth

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon saffron

1 cup shredded cheese (cheddar or Monterey Jack)

In a 5-quart pot, sauté onion in olive oil until lightly browned.

Add garlic and sauté for another couple of minutes.

Add brown rice and sauté until rice is covered with oil.

Add green onions to rice mixture, and sauté for another two minutes.

Add corn, water, broth, salt, pepper, and saffron.

Bring to a boil, occasionally stirring to avoid a crust forming on the bottom.

Reduce heat to simmer, add cheese, and cook for half an hour, or until rice softens.

Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Step B: Seafood Stuffing

1 medium julienned onion

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1/2 head (about 5 cloves) of diced garlic

2 pounds mixed seafood (e.g., shrimp, calamari, and scallops)

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon turmeric powder

1 cup white cooking wine

Using a medium saucepan, sauté onion in coconut oil, until lightly browned.

Add garlic and sauté for a couple of minutes.

Add seafood and sauté for 5 minutes. Add cooking wine, salt, pepper, and turmeric, and cook for five more minutes on medium heat.

Remove the seafood mixture with a slotted spoon and place in a large bowl. Seafood will be used during plating, in Step D. Set aside juice for use in the sauce, which you’ll make next, during Step C.

Step C: Mushroom Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup white flour

6 cups milk

6 cups sliced fresh mushrooms

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In the same saucepan, melt butter. Whisk in flour, stirring quickly to avoid lumps.

Whisk in milk.

Add mushrooms, salt, and pepper. Bring to boil.

Take off heat and set aside for plating.

Tip: If you get flour lumps, you can put the mixture in a blender before adding the mushrooms.

Step D: Plating

Parsley or chives for garnish

Butter the sides of a bowl.

Add a few spoonfuls of rice mixture to fill about 1/3 of the bowl.

Press rice down into the sides, creating a cavity in the middle of the bowl.

Fill to 3/4 full with seafood.

Cover with more rice, and gently pack it down.

Place a plate over the bowl, and flip them quickly, to get the rice onto the plate. Carefully unmold the rice by removing the bowl.

If your guests are not ready, you can place all the dishes in a 180-degree oven to keep them warm. Dishes may be kept there for up to half an hour. Any longer and the food will start to get too dry.

When ready to serve, gently spoon sauce around the ‘rice island.’

Garnish with parsley or chives.

Tip: If you have enough bowls, you can leave them over the rice plates until you’re ready to add the sauce around.

Enjoy!

Easy! Yummy! Healthy! Veggie Black-Eyed Pea Appetizer Recipe by Khashayar Parsi

How do you make staying healthy easy? Focusing on what’s good to eat (rather than what isn’t) helps me. So does collecting wholesome recipes that are simple and delicious.

My husband welcomes challenges, nutritious cooking included. Here’s a favorite dish he’s come with that family and guests love…

vegetarian cooking
Hungry for something wonderful?

Veggie Black-Eyed Peas Appetizer

Ingredients

1 medium onion

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 zucchini

1 head garlic

2 teaspoons turmeric

1 1/2 cups black-eyed peas

1 cup dried maitake mushrooms

1/2 cup walnuts

1/4 cup cheddar cheese

4 cups water

1/2 cup white rice

salt and pepper to taste

olives

crackers

Vegetarian Black-Eyed Peas Appetizer garnished with olives
Olives brighten up Vegetarian Black-Eyed Peas Appetizer

Instructions

  1. Coarsely chop onion.
  2. In a medium sized pot, sauté in coconut oil until golden.
  3. Coarsely dice zucchini.
  4. Add zucchini to onions and sauté another five minutes on medium heat.
  5. Mince garlic.
  6. Add garlic to the pot with turmeric and sauté two minutes.
  7. Add black-eyed peas, mushrooms, walnuts, rice, cheese, and water. Bring to boil.
  8. Lower heat to medium and simmer for half an hour.
  9. Once fully cooked, coarsely grind with an immersion blender (which is a little easier to control) or mixer. Tip: if mixture overcooks and becomes too dry to blend, add water 1/4 cup at a time until it can be emulsified without becoming watery.
  10. Let cool.
  11. Spoon into large bowl.
  12. Garnish with Olives.
  13. Serve with crackers.
Vegetarian Black-Eyed Peas Appetizer is tasty on wholewheat crackers.
Vegetarian Black-Eyed Peas Appetizer is tasty on wholewheat crackers.

Serves 8-10 people.

Ancient and Modern: Lovely León, Spain by da-AL

Photo of da-AL at León book fair.
Rain can’t dampen the beauty of León’s historic district — especially when it’s got a late night book fair!

I love Spain! It’s no accident that one of my soon-to-be self-published novels is called, “Flamenco & the Sitting Cat.”

A dream to sightsee on foot, León, Spain, was the next to last stop of a fun-filled vacation that my husband and I began with a weekend in beautiful Barcelona and then a stop in wonderful Huesca. We crossed the French border into pretty saint-jean-pied-de-port, enchanting Espelette, and phenomenal French Basque Country cities Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Bayonne, and Biarritz. Upon our return to Spain, we enjoyed delicious food and seaside dogs in San Sebastián, and then the breathtaking city of Bilbao.

León, founded in 29 B.C., has so much fascinating architecture that the two days we visited weren’t enough to see everything. León’s gothic Santa María de León Cathedral was constructed mostly during 1205 to 1301, its north tower and cloister during the 14-century, and its south tower in 1472. Ever see Mother Mary pregnant? (Tap on photos to see them bigger and their captions.)

It’s an important cathedral on The Way of Saint James (El Camino de Santiago) religious pilgrimage route.

Architect Antoni Gaudí welcomes company. He’s best known for Barcelona’s Sagrada Família Cathedral. In León, he designed Casa Botines from 1891 to 1892. In 1929, it became a bank but has since reverted to its original appearance. Downstairs featured a display of Francisco Goya’s political cartoons.

Photo of da-AL with employee and Susana, owner of 'a comer' restaurant.
Susana and her employee cook with love — ‘a comer’ restaurant is a must-eat-at!

Spain’s homestyle food (unlike typical restaurant fare most anywhere) is loaded with delicious veggies. I swooned when we happened into a tiny eatery that cooked like I was visiting someone’s gourmet granny — we ate there twice! Every single morning, ‘a comer’ take out restaurant owner Susana shops for the best of what’s in season, then cooks a new menu from scratch — thank you from the bottom of my stomach, querida Susana!

Photo of hosts Marco Tsitselis and Mariu Alvarez Garcia.
We’re so glad Marco and Mariu rented us a lovely room!

Our hosts, Marco and Mariu, made our stay at their home extra cozy and our visit to León extra memorable — many thanks to both of them!

It was time to hit the highway to Madrid!…

Breathtaking Bilbao, Spain by da-AL

The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain
The Guggenheim Bilbao, Spain, features many American artists, from Frank Geary’s architecture to Jeff Koon’s “Puppy” flower sculpture.

Sure Frank Gehry’s amazing architecture at the Guggenheim Museum helped put a failing Bilbao, Spain back on the map. Front, back, in, and out the Guggenheim Museum, Spain, turns perceptions upside down and inside out (tap or click each photo for more info)…

However, art and art-worthy architecture abound everywhere in Bilbao.

There's much notable architecture in Bilbao, Spain.
There’s much notable architecture in Bilbao, Spain.

Along the way to the museum, we stopped to see Azkuna Zentroa. Built in 1909, it now houses a building within a building balanced on unusual columns.

It’s part of the Spain half of Basque Country. That means that both Spanish and Euskara are spoken. Good food abounds, including pintxos, Northern Spain’s version of small delicious plates of tapas.

Bilbao, Spain is a beautiful city.
Bilbao, Spain is a beautiful city.

Our airbnb hostesses Iciar Ruiz (who owns her own design business) and her daughter, Alba, helped us decide what to see.

Iciar and her daughter made our visit extra nice.
Iciar and her daughter made our visit extra nice.

My love and I had just left the beaches of San Sebastián, toured the phenomenal French side of Basque Countrywonderful Huesca, pretty Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port, and enchanting Espelette. Our adventure started with beautiful Barcelona. There was more for us to see…

 

Guest Blog Post: Six Warm Piglets by Cecilia Mary Gunther

photo of piglets feeding

Warning: reality check, then Cuteness Overload! It’s not for nothing that the human star of the glorious pig movie, “Babe,” went vegetarian…

thekitchensgarden

If you were hanging out in the Kitchen’s Garden Lounge of Comments yesterday you would have read that a piglet was lost in that first cold night.  I found him dead on Poppy’s side of their quarters.  Being the Lady Pig Farmer is not always easy. All our focus these first few days is keeping the babies safe and well fed. This task feels mutually exclusive at times.

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Guest Blog Post: American Grocery List by Elan Mudrow

1930s or so black & white photo of young woman typing
From Elan’s ‘about’ page.

Tired of taking food too seriously? Let blogger Elan Mudrow help…