Monday, December 13, 2010

Bing Travel

I haven't actually used Bing travel, part of Microsoft's Bing search engine, but I've had it recommended to me lately by some of my friends. Bing Travel searches for airfare and hotel reservations online and predicts the best time to purchase. It looks like this feature is only available for the US and Canada, but it's worth a look when doing your travel planning.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Winter Park, Colorado

I was catching up on my reading this morning and saw that Budget Travel magazine recommends  Winter Park as one of their 'Great Ski Deals.'

A few years ago my uncle talked me into heading to Winter Park for a ski trip with him and my cousin, Seth. I had never been on skies before, but it seemed like a great way of breaking up the monotony of the Midwestern winter. The two of us took Amtrak's California Zephyr overnight to Denver and then on up to Fraser the following morning. 

I wouldn't say I acquired any great skill on the slopes, but it was still a nice getaway. I didn't break my neck or my bank account. There were plenty of places to eat in Winter Park within walking distance from our hotel. And we even managed to catch a lift to some hot sulfur springs that were nearby.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Easy Minestrone

Tis the season to be on the go: Christmas parties, shopping, work, school activities. Last weekend I turned our kitchen into a bakery, cranking out one loaf of rye bread after another. But while time may be short, and your nerves near the breaking point, you can still make healthy and quick meals. Minestrone is a piece of cake, so to speak, and it's good for you too.

1 leek (or onion)
2 carrots chopped
1 zucchini, thinly sliced
4 oz whole green beans halved
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 can (14oz) tomatoes
6 cup of vegetable broth
Fresh basil if you have it
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
salt and fresh ground pepper
1 can of cannellini or kidney beans
1/3 cup of small pasta or maccaroni
Fresh Parmesan cheese, finely grated
garnish with parsley

In a large saucepan add oil and the vegetables, heating them until they sizzle. Cover, lower the heat and cook for 15 minutes. Don't let them burn though.

Add vegetable stock or water, tomatoes, herbs, and seasoning. Bring to a boil, replace the lid and simmer gently for about 30 minutes.

Add the beans and the pasta and simmer for another 10 minutes. Check the seasoning. Sprinkle with Parmesan and parsley and serve.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Airfarewatchdog's top 10 tips to find low airfares

It'd be great if there was one way to get a great deal on airfare. Unfortunately that's just not the case. Like everything you have to take a little time and educate yourself. George Hobica had a some helpful tips on Airfarewatchdog.

Airfarewatchdog's top 10 tips to find low airfares - Airfarewatchdog: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Vegan Yum Yum

Vegan Yum Yum has a huge cache of creative and beautifully shot vegan recipes. Lauren Ulm, of Vegan Yum Yum, has published a Vegan Yum Yum cookbook, and has an iPhone app that ties in with the recipes on her blog. There's an impressive array of ingredients and recipes for all occasions, as well as useful information that can help you go vegan. Looking through her site, I'm not sure she's still posting new material, but there's still an impressive amount of content.


Thanks to Betty Crocker, most of us who grew up in the 1960's and 70's can remember having goulash at one time or another. It was a great comfort food. There a lot of ways to prepare it, but typically the ingredients are meat, onions, potatoes, carrots and paprika. Here is a vegetarian version of the classic Hungarian shepherd's soup. Serve it over rice, on it's own, or with a side of mashed potatoes.

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
1 medium parsnip, peeled and cubed
3/4 pound vegetarian chunks or burgers, cubed
1-2 tablespoons paprika
14-oz can of tomatoes and juice
3 tablespoons tomato puree
1 (2) teaspoons caraway seeds
2 1/2 cups of vegetable stock or water
2 medium potatoes, diced

sea salt and black pepper to taste
1 cup sour or soy cream (optional)
paprika or finely chopped parsley to garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, carrots, and parsnips. Heat until the vegetables begin to brown. Add the burger chunks, paprika, tomatoes, tomato puree, and caraway seeds. Heat for about 5-10 minutes. Add the water, or stock and the potatoes. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for about 30 minutes, until the potatoes are tender. Season with salt and pepper and adjust the seasonings. Stir in the sour or soy cream, heat through and server. Goulash

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Notes from a Small Island

Arriving in England in the early 1970's, American travel writer Bill Bryson worked as a journalist and editor for a number of British newspapers. In 1994 he made the decision to bring his family back to America. But before doing so he decided to take a trip around the island he'd called home for so long.

I've read many of Bill Bryson's books over the years: 'A Walk in the Woods, In a Sunburned Country. I've always enjoyed his ability to mix humor with the scholarly, and his ability to cast himself as the everyman, Iowan that he once was.

In this homage to Britain, a place where he married and raised his kids, Bryson sounds as much like a Briton as an Iowan. Bryson travels by rail and on foot through the tiny towns and great cities of late 20th century Great Britain. He  reflects on the places he's been, and what's changed in Britain and himself as the years have passed. At times he's laugh out loud funny, at other times, borderline offensive, but nearly 20 years on, it's still one of the great travelogues, and one of my favorites. When my boys were babies and I'd grown tired of reading, 'Good Night Moon,' for the millionth time I would lay on their floor and read chapters aloud from it, laughing at Bryon's depictions of the people he met as he walked around the island that was once at the heart of the British Empire. When I went to England in 2007 I brought it along with me and wrote notes in the margins about what I saw in the Cotswolds. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Savory Pot Pie

The days are growing shorter and colder, the leaves are falling, and Charlie Brown is on his way to another disappointing Trick or Treat bag full of rocks. It’s time for some comfort food to keep you feeling warm and well. 

When I was a kid, pot pies were store bought and frozen like a brick. We had them when no one felt like cooking anything. But pot pies are actually easy to make. And you can fill them with anything you have handy.

This one is a full of mushroom gravy and goes well with mashed potatoes. It's my meat and potatoes lunch. For your crust you can make a quick shortbread, or use a puff pastry sheet. It's really your call. I tend to use the puff pastry because it's quick and crispy.   

1 puff pastry sheet (thawed)
1/2 cup of frozen peas
1/2 cup of frozen corn
1/4 cup of chopped carrots
1 or 2 veggie burgers cubed 
3 cups mushroom gravy 

Mushroom Gravy

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 1/2 cups diced onions
4 cups sliced mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 cups water or vegetable stock
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 cup cold water

Heat the oil and butter in a skillet.
Sauté the onions until they become translucent.  
Add the mushrooms, thyme, bay leaf, and salt.
Cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are soft and aromatic.
Add the sherry, soy sauce, water or stock and bring to a simmer.
Stir the dissolved cornstarch into the gravy and cook, stirring until the gravy is clear and thickened.
Remove from heat.

Heat a sauce pan of water over medium heat and warm the corn/peas/carrots through. Set aside.
Add the gravy to a baking dish and stir in the vegetables and veggie burger cubes. 
Roll out the puff pastry sheet to suit the baking dish you are using. Cover the vegetables.

Bake at 400 - 425 degrees for 20 minutes or until the top is golden and serve.  


Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Over the years I've heard professional travelers like Johnny Jet sing the praises of Scottevest. Johnny has claimed to wear two of them when he travels, one right on top of the other.

You certainly can't fault ceo Scott Jordan for finding ways of getting the word out about his products. There was the recent brouhaha Scottevest got into with Delta over one of their ads, and the round the world challenge Scottevest sent travel writer, Rolf Potts, on. 

Scottevests feature up to 26 pockets, are lightweight, windproof and have removable hoods and sleeves. You can keep all your essential items handy: phone, passport, keys, camera, etc. They are even capable of storing an iPad, if you can believe it. They'd probably be great to go shoplifting in an as well. If you're into that sort of thing.

They're pretty pricey, but they might save you a carry-on, as well as time in the security line. If the recently rejected Delta ad is to be believed, they might well be: 'The Most Stylish Way to Beat the System.'

Monday, October 18, 2010

Mobile Boarding Passes and More from Delta's First iPhone App

As if your smartphone couldn't get any smarter, right? American, British Airways, and United all offer a mobile boarding pass feature within their iPhone apps. And now Delta is getting with the program. They aren't the only ones, of course, Lufthansa and SAS also offer mobile boarding passes. Soon it'll be something everyone offers.

Somehow I imagine this innovation is driven by cost savings, but still it's really cool. It'll be one less thing to worry about losing as you go through Security.

Mobile Boarding Passes and More from Delta's First iPhone App || Jaunted: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Two monkeys and a statue

Though travel can sometimes be a hassle, remember to have a good time.

Gripsholm Castle Mariefred Sweden

On the fourth day of our visit to Stockholm, we took a lake steamer across Lake Malaren with a group of day tripping Stockholmers. A small city by any estimation, Mariefred has a population of about 3,000 people. We spent a few hours walking the streets, climbing up the steep steps of the church, and visiting the castle.

Part royal residence, part prison, Gripsholm Castle was used by the Swedish Royal family for centuries. Now mostly a museum and a destination for tourists, it's a nice day out from Stockholm. Though lacking the bloody history of English and Continental castles, the museum does have a great collection of severe looking Swedish nobles.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Swedish Cookies

If Grandma Benson had used a cookbook she might have enjoyed the one our friend Terina gave me a few months ago. Originally published in 1955, Swedish Recipes Old & New from the American Daughters of Sweden, is a great collection traditional Swedish recipes. The recipes remind me of the ones our Lutheran Church used to publish in its cookbooks when I was a kid. Lots of butter, flour, potatoes....pork. Though I've lost the taste for pork, I haven't lost my love for cookies and sweets. Here are a couple of cookie recipes I put together for the boys today while we were watching the Bears.

( I didn't rest the dough over night as the recipes called for. I just let it sit for a few hours while I prepared some other things.)

Ginger Cookies

1/2 cup molasses
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
1 egg, or egg substitute, well beaten
2 1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1. Heat the molasses in a small saucepan to boiling. Boil for 1 minute. Add sugar and butter, stir until the butter is melted. Cool. Beat in egg.
2. Sift together flour, salt, soda, and spices. Add to first mixture and mix thoroughly.
3. Cover bowl tightly and chill overnight. Roll out a portion of the dough at a time on a lightly floured surface or floured pastry cloth. Roll out thin, a quarter inch or so. Cut into desired shapes.
4. Bake in at 350 degrees for 6 to 8 minutes.

Orange Ginger Cookies
(Apelsin Pepparkakor)

3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1 cup butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 egg or egg substitute
2 Tbsp. dark corn syrup
2 tsp. soda
1 Tbsp warm water
grated rind of 1 large orange
slivered almonds, if desired

1. Sift together flour, cinnamon, ginger and cloves.
2. Cream butter; add sugar and cream again. Beat in egg and syrup. Dissolve soda in warm water and add to creamed mixture. Add orange rind and sifted ingredients. Mix well.
3. Chill several hours or overnight.
4. Roll out very thin on floured work surface or slightly floured pastry cloth. Cut into desired shapes. Place a piece of almond on each cookie, if desired.
5. Arrange on ungreased cookie sheets. Bake at 400 degree 5 to 10 minutes.

Autumn Smoothie

When I was in college I spent two seasons working at a local orchard, trimming trees, bagging apples, making cider. It was a good job, and a hard one. What I remember more than anything are the awesome smells that came from our ever busy kitchens, spicey, autumn smells: nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, vanilla. Great stuff.

Here's a smoothie that captures some of those fall flavors. One of my coworkers brought in a whole crate of pears the other day and I was happy to take several off her hands.

1 ripe pear, peeled, cored and chopped.
1/2 cup apple juice
1/2 cup soy milk
1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 drops pure almond extract
pinch of ground cinnamon or nutmeg

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Amazing Race 17

It's a mad, mad, mad, mad world isn't it? Well, if you had any doubts, tune in Sunday nights to see Phil and the 'teams' once again compete for a million dollar prize in a race around the world. The Amazing Race is a guilty pleasure for us, part 'A Hard Day's Night,' part Dr. Phil. It shows the best and the worst of people competing under fairly difficult circumstances. We've tuned in for most of the 17 seasons. After so many 'Races', the producers do a good job of fine-tuning the dramedy of friends, family, and co-workers competing, complaining, and providing dubious amount of encouragement in locations around the world.


I recently added Gowalla to my iPhone. Gowalla, like Foursquare, is a location-based social networking device. Both of these apps allow you to check in at various locations and share your opinions of what you find there with your friends.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Travel Like a Pirate – Aruba Trip Giveaway | NileGuide

With the kids back in school and Jenni working second shift at one of our local colleges, I've had little time sit down and post anything lately. I did see that NileGuide had an offer to win a fee trip to Aruba. I've never won a free trip to anywhere, but if you're feeling lucky, the details are below.

Travel Like a Pirate – Aruba Trip Giveaway | NileGuide: "

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Royal Naval Dockyards - Commissioner's House

Jenni and I spent the better part of our third day in Bermuda exploring the Royal Naval Dockyards. Bermuda once played a key role in British defense, and the Dockyards was her 'Gibralter of the West.' The facility was decommissioned 1951, and the 6 acre site has since been transformed into a series of shopping centers, museums, and restaurants. The Commissioner's House, pictured here, had an excellent museum on Bermuda's history and its naval military past. 

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade

This is an awesome lemonade to have on a hot summer day. I make it every summer. We had a party over the weekend and it was very popular with the adults and the kids. You can never have enough strawberry lemonade.

1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup water
2 cups rinsed, stemmed, and chopped strawberries
1 cup of fresh lemon juice
24 ounces sparkling water

Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan, stirring until the sugar dissolves.

Transfer the sugar syrup to a blender, add strawberries and lemon juice. Puree until well blended.

In a pitcher combine the puree with the sparking water and server over ice with a sprig of mint.

Portabello Reubens

The kids are back in school, so I'm cranking out meals like a short order cook. I haven't been able to talk the boys, or Jenni for that matter, into eating sauerkraut, but I've come to appreciate it over the years. Grandma Benson would be so proud. But with our without the sauerkraut, this is a delicious sandwich. The recipe is courtesy of Moosewood Restaurant.

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon thyme
dash of salt

Combine the oil, garlic and salt in a small bowl. Remove the stems and slice the portabellos. Brush both sides with the oil. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or so, turning once, or saute in a large skillet.

Russian Dressing
1/4 cup diced tomato
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
1 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
dash of Tabasco sauce
1 teaspoon tomato paste

8 slices plain or toasted rye bread
4 sliced cooked portabellos
1 cup drained sauerkraut
1 1/2 grated or sliced Swiss Cheese

Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth and creamy. Spread Russian Dressing on 4 slices of bread and place plain side down on a baking sheet. Layer each slice with 1/4 of the portabello slices, 1/4 cup of the sauerkraut, and a generous 1/3 cup of the cheese.

Top each sandwich with a second slice of bread with dressing, and bake for about 4 minutes, until the cheese melts. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Red Rock Canyon - Las Vegas, Nevada

I've had the opportunity to spend my share of time out in 'Fabulous' Las Vegas, Nevada. If your time on 'the Strip' starts to wear on your nerves you can take a short drive out of town to the beautiful Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area for a hike in the hills above the city. I spent a long afternoon climbing amongst the rocks with my buddy, Danny and his fiance, Katie, following the many trails, feeding the wild donkeys and generally recharging my batteries.

St. Stephen's Basilica in Pest

The Cotswold Way - Broadway

"Ah, the timeless wonder of the English countryside." Isn't that what Rik, from the Young Ones used to say? I took this photo of a small section of the Cotswold Way high above Broadway one afternoon, just down from Broadway Tower. I walked several sections of 102 mile long trail, which connects numerous Cotswold villages. But I took a surprisingly small number of pictures of the trail itself. Not pictured in the photograph is an Irish wolfhound a middle aged gentleman was brushing just behind me. The dog was the size of a Shetland pony. I failed to ask him if there were any wolfmen in the immediate vicinity.

Moat at Warwick Castle

Jenni and I spent the better part of the day wandering the gardens and grounds of Warwick Castle. There was a medieval fair going on that day with a large crowd. Wandering down to the pump-house I had a chance to take this picture of the old moat that was part of the castle's defenses.

Budapest - Tram

Jenni and I were able to get around Budapest using the subway and the light rail pictured above. It's a shame most of the light rail services were pulled out of towns like ours in the 40's and 50's. They continue to be a practical option throughout Europe.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Orleans Hill Winery

I'm not a tremendous consumer of wine. But I like a good bottle of red as much as the next guy. Our local Friar Tuck has begun selling Orleans Hill wines and I've picked up a few like the Syrah pictured here. Orleans Hill makes wines that are organic, sulfite-free and vegan friendly. I like the Syrah. It's dry and full-bodied, but not too heavy. Perfect with a nice bowl of pasta with a cream sauce.

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

I couldn't resist the temptation to pick up The Girl Who Played With Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson, the second and third books in the Milleneum Trilogy. Like most people I found myself sucked into the surprisingly violent and corrupt world of modern Sweden. Journalist Mikael Blomkvist, hacker Lisbeth Salander and company do battle with corrupt government officials, the secret police, gangsters and spies. Like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo there's a high body count, tons of characters, and a lot of surprises along the way. Who knew the streets of Stockholm could be so mean?

Last summer Jenni and I took the boys to Stockholm for our family vacation. It was a great trip and the weather was fantastic. We walked down many of the streets depicted in the novels. Stockholm isn't a large city, but if you're unfamiliar with the neighborhoods, the long street names or the numerous islands, finding your way around can get pretty confusing. The same can be said when you're reading the novels. I kept taking out my Stockholm map to see where the characters actually were. 'So, Mikael's in the Tunnelbana station in Gamla Stan....'

The novels have now become such a sensation you can now take Milleneum tours around Stockholm to locations like Mikael Blomkvist's apartment at Bellmansgatan 1 or to the cafe's where the characters drank one of their numerous cups of coffee.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Gate Guru iPhone App

I'm always looking for tools that make travel easier, or at least a little less frustrating. I heard about Gate Guru from a friend of mine and downloaded it to my iPhone. Gate Guru allows you to locate food, shopping, ATM machines, news stands, WiFi, etc in most of the major US airports. There are a couple of non-US airports such as Heathrow and Vancouver as well. It's a great tool to have at your disposal. It's recently been incorporated into the Kayak iPhone app as well, making Kayak an even better one stop shop.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cheese Pizza

I make pizzas just about every week. They're easy and delicious. I cover them with asparagus, spinach, beets, sliced potatoes, chopped rosemary and basil from the garden. Whatever is handy. There's no wrong way to make a pizza, is there? Here is the basic recipe for cheese.

You can vegan it up by removing the cheese or adding a substitute like daiya mozzarella.

This recipe calls for dough, sauce and a half ball of part/skim mozzarella.

Brad's Basic Pizza Dough

1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tsp n active dry yeast
2 tbs extra-virgin olive oil
3 1/2 cups unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp of salt

1) To make the dough by hand, whisk the yeast and oil into warm water until it is foamy.
2) Add the flour and salt and mix until the dough comes together.
3) Work the dough on a floured surface until it becomes smooth and not lumpy.
4) Place the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, turning so the dough is completely coated with olive oil.
5) Cover and allow the dough to rise until it has doubled in size, about an hour. You can divide it again if you wish and let it rise further, or save half for later.
6) Stretch the dough out on a floured surface or roll it out.
7) Dust a pizza pan with cornmeal and place crust on the pan.
8) Top it with your desired topping and bake.

Quick Chunky Pizza Sauce
2 tbs olive oil

1/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic1 can of whole tomatoes (or diced) and juice
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp oregano
1 tbs fresh basil
couple cranks of pepper

Heat oil over medium heat. Fry onion until just translucent. Add garlic and cook for a couple minutes without browning. Add the tomatoes, herbs and salt. Cover and simmer for a half hour, stirring as necessary. I use a potato masher to gently press the tomatoes after about 15 minutes have gone by. Once the tomatoes have reduced and thickened you can remove from heat and allow them to cool. Spread on the crust to the coverage you need and top with cheese and other toppings. 

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vegan Is Easy iPhone App

I admit that I'm fond of an ice cold beer in the summer. And though I'm not as fond of beer in the winter, I've never let that stand in my way. Some vegans and vegetarians, however, might be unaware that animal and animal by products such as Isinglass are used during beer and wine production. Here is a handy iPhone app from Matthew Feinberg that can tell you which ones might be vegan or vegetarian friendly. It does a search through the Barnivore Vegan Alcohol Directory. Very handy. Barnivore welcomes contributions from the vegan community as well. So, if you've done some checking on one of your favorite drinks, you can provide them with what you found. Drink up and enjoy!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Black Bean Enchiladas

Enchiladas are one of my all time favorites. The preparation tends to be a little messy and time-consuming, but if you can hang in there this an easy and elegant dish. You can soak dried beans over night, but I tend to use the canned variety.


2 cups black beans
2 teaspoons salt
2 tablespoons freshly chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup tomato sauce
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon cumin

6 tortillas
2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
1/2 cup of onion

For the beans:
Drain the (canned or soaked) beans and place in a medium sauce pan. Cover with fresh water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add the spices. Simmer the beans for about an hour, adding more water if necessary. You want the beans to be soft and a little soupy, so make sure you don't burn them. Once the beans are cooked, drain off about half of the water and mash them with a potato masher.

Heat one or two tablespoons of oil in a frying pan at medium heat. Add the beans and fry, stirring whenever a crust forms. Taste every so often and adjust the seasonings. The beans should get nice and crusty but not dry. Add a little liquid if it looks like they're drying out. They should be nicely fried and aromatic after about 15 minutes. Set aside.

For the tortillas:
In another skillet heat a teaspoon of oil over medium heat. Add a pinch of salt, cumin and chili powder. Add the tomato sauce. Once it's warm and bubbly. Take the tortillas and heat them them through once on each side. Don't cook them too long or they'll fall apart. You just want them to be soft and pliable. Set them aside on paper towels. Add more cumin and/or sauce as necessary until all the tortillas are done.

For the enchiladas:
Spread a large spoonful of the black beans over each tortilla. Sprinkle with a thin layer of minced onion. Finally add the cheddar cheese. Roll up and place in an oiled baking dish.

When all the tortillas are filled pour the remaining beans, onion or cheeses over the top. I actually used some leftover Havarti in the picture above. Cover the dish with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, garnish with cilantro and serve.  

Monday, July 5, 2010

Marco Polo Didn't Go There

I picked up Rolf Potts' award winning collection of travel essays, Marco Polo Didn't Go There after reading an article by him in Afar magazine. Written over the course of the past decade for a variety of travel magazines, each carefully constructed story creates it's own little world and moment in time. Rolf's writing is humorous, wistful, thought provoking and informative. He comes across like a really smart and cool friend you hear from every so often who is off in places you wouldn't dream of going, and doing things you wouldn't do if someone paid you. Most of the stories take place in southeast Asia and the Middle East, which are very popular in vagabonding and backpacker circles. The 'characters' he meets reflect that mixture of past/present everywhereness we've become accustomed to in the Information Age where you might be a subsistence farmer with a cell phone or a rapper living in a rainforest. I liked his 'backpacker' perspective, as I'm not one, and enjoyed the artistic eye and literary sensibility he brought to his writing. Each story concludes with 'Endnotes' explaining what Rolf left in or took out and why: a sort of 'Behind the Music' for each story, which seemed oddly appropriate for the 21st century.  

Sunday, June 27, 2010


Peoria, Illinois, where I grew up, has a surprisingly large Lebanese population. Jenni and I used to love stopping at Haddad's restaurant on Main to get some home cooking courtesy of Mr. Haddad and family. Tabouli salad, hummus, pitas, falafels, really great stuff.

Falafels are a popular, protein rich, street food throughout Israel, Egypt and Lebanon. You can get mixes to make them, but it's easy to make your own from scratch.

The recipe below comes from Joan Nathan's book the Foods of Israel Today It was also posted on

1 cup dried chickpeas
1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon salt
1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
4 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon baking powder
4-6 tablespoons flour
Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
Chopped tomato for garnish
Diced onion for garnish
Diced green bell pepper for garnish
Tahina sauce
Pita bread

1) Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.
2) Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.
3) Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.
4) Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.
5) Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahini thinned with water.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Wideroe Dash8 cockpit view landing at Tromsø Airport

I was listening to This Week in Travel earlier today. On the show was commercial airline pilot, Joe d'Eon of Fly with Joe and host, Jen Leo of the LA Times were talking about videos people have shot from the cockpits of commercial flights, showing take-offs and landings. I went out to YouTube and found a fair number of them. Some are pretty jumpy, as you'd expect, and might not be great viewing for those a little nervous about air travel. But if you've every been curious about the view from the front, they are kinda cool. Given it was in the 90's and humid here today, I found this one particularly engaging. It shows a landing in Norway.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Under the Tuscan Sun

A friend of mine is working his way through Italy: eating, drinking and looking at art. While looking at his posts on Facebook it put me in mind to pick up Under the Tuscan Sun again. I remember reading it years ago and wondering, how on earth does one buy a home in Italy, and where is this Tuscany I keep hearing about? Since then there have been numerous books about expats buying and restoring houses, eating great food and living la dolche vita. Frances Mayes has written several other books about her experiences in Tuscan, Italy, most recently Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life, but Under the Tuscan Sun remains something of a classic. When I first read it, I had recently become a vegetarian and was still trying to figure out how we were going to feed ourselves, let alone enjoy it. But Mediterranean cooking lends itself to a vegetarian diet: simple herbs, pastas, sauces, olives, nuts, edible flowers, just cooked vegetables; it's a great place to get your feet under you.

Ms. Mayes has a lyrical way of describing Italian cooking and celebrating her ingredients. There are two sections in the book containing her favorite summer and winter recipes. And peppered throughout you see how food influences life and vice-versa. It's worth a read for the aspiring vegetarian or the arm chair traveler.

Here's a link to a recent podcast where Rick Steves speaks with Frances Mayes celebrating 20 years since she wrote Under the Tuscan Sun.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Quiche Florentine

It's a little cliche to post a quiche on a vegetarian website, but this one is light, fluffy and delicious. To make it uniquely French you should use Swiss or French Gruyere cheese. I tend to add a little Parmesan too. If you have the time, make your own crust. It's far better, and many store bought crusts contain lard.

10 ounces fresh spinach, stemmed and washed
1/2 cup minced onion
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
3 or 4 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper
pinch of nutmeg
1 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss cheese
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 cups of flour
large pinch sea salt
6 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons of ice water

Prepare the crust by sifting the flour and salt in a medium bowl. Rub in the butter using a fork or your fingertips. When the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs, bind it with water. Knead lightly on a floured surface until smooth. Wrap the crust in wax paper and chill for about 30 minutes before rolling out.

Blind bake the crust in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes.

While the crust is cooking, blanch the spinach in salted, boiling water. Drain, chop and set aside. Saute the onion in the butter or oil until crisp-tender. Beat the eggs in a medium bowl and the milk. Add the salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

In a large bowl, toss together the onion, spinach and the cheeses. Spread the mixture over the bottom of the crust. Pour the egg-milk mixture over the top. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pesto with Green Beans and New Potatoes

Before I became a vegetarian I liked pesto about as much as I liked Brussels sprouts when I was 10. But times change. Pesto is delicious. And you can make quite a few variations on the basic idea. I've used this recipe a lot over the years whenever I find we have too many green beans in the garden.

6 small new potatoes
3 cups dried penne or fusilli
3/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cup into 2 inch lengths
4 tablespoons of Pesto sauce (see below)
basil leaves to garnish

Pesto sauce
2 tablespoons pine nuts (or walnuts) toasted
2 cups of fresh basil leaves
2 cloves of garlic
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Seven Essential Breakfasts for the World Traveler - Slideshow - World Hum

Seven Essential Breakfasts for the World Traveler - Slideshow - World Hum

Jenni isn't a big fan of breakfast, but I can't seem to get started without it. As soon as I wake up in the morning, the first thought that goes through my mind is, "What's for breakfast?" And it's no exception when we're traveling. There was the pain au chocolat and cup of coffee I had in a smokey Heathrow cafe on our first trip to London. The Turkish coffee I could stand a spoon in when we were staying in Budapest. The smorgasbord style buffet we had each morning at our hotel in Stockholm last fall. I remember those meals as much for the food as for what happened after they took my plate away.

Here is a link from World Hum. A great travel story website. On it they show you a few typical breakfasts from around the world. Not all are vegan or vegetarian, but that doesn't mean you can't change them to your liking. And remember what your mom told you, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Free Trip Planner and Personalized Travel Guide -

Free Trip Planner and Personalized Travel Guide -

Jenni and I are heading back to London in August. I was looking through NileGuides for some attractions we hadn't seen before. I've always been a big fan of guidebooks by Arthur Frommer and Rick Steves, and of course Lonely Planet. I have many scribbled up, dog eared and highlighted copies of well used, well loved guidebooks in our spare bedroom. Nile Guides extends that concept a little bit for the 21st century. They've curated information from sources such as Frommer's, Travel + Leisure, as well as content from their 'location based writers,' and serves it up interactively.' Nile Guides lets you create your own guidebook based upon where you want to go and what you want to do. You can print it, share it with your friends and family, and send it to your phone. You can even book your trip through them. And, of course they have an iphone app too. Best of all, it's free.