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Last Call before the Frost

November 3, 2016

Last weekend was a glorious, four-day weekend.  The sun was out and the skies were crystal clear.  Perfect time for a roadtrip!  We decided to head up to the Timmelsjoch pass between the borders of Austria and Italy.  This pass is the connection between the Ötztal valley in the Austrian state of Tyrol to the Passeier Valley in the Italian province of South Tyrol

Since the nearby Brenner Pass is the most-heavily used pass for travellers to get to Italy, Timmelsjoch is often called 'the Secret Passage'.  Used frequently by smugglers back in the days of the Stone Age, people, including other shepards and travellers, used this pass to bring food and resources into the Ötztal Valley.  You can even hike along some of the same paths they used, if you are so daring!

The Timmelsjoch Pass Museum was created to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the high Alpine road. There are several architectural structures that are set up to give you more history of the Timmelsjoch Pass. You really get a feel for what it must have been like to live and travel through this area.  We first came upon the 'Smuggler'.  Inside was a display of a few things likely to have been smuggled - tobacco and animal furs.


Back outside, the land is quite barren.  The first frost has not arrived yet.  It's gotten colder now.  And the overall feeling is quite immense... the barren landscape, the expansive space that surrounds us so high up...


A lonely house, high up on the mountain tops...


Warm greetings...

The view back towards the Austrian side... Winter is coming!

Ahh, at the top!  We are now at the 'Walkway' structure...

 Many stone piles dot the landscape...

Lily had to add her own, of course!

View looking down into the valley...

On the way to Italy!

The (literal) doorway to Italy...


Ciao, Italia!

A first time look at a mountain paraglider taking off!


Mountain goats!


The Italian Alps are on fire!

Back down in the valley, we are entering South Tyrol now... Old castles...

Beautiful landscapes...

 Cable cars...

Gorgeous farm lands...  endless miles of fruits and vegetables still on the vines!

 Old Architecture...

South Tyrol is one of the wealthiest areas of Italy and the European Union.   Rich with history, this area needs more than just a quick drive through.  I'd like to check out more of Bolzano and Merano next time!

 But, before then, two little passengers needed some fun, too!  
Thank goodness, we found this little playground! 

Last stop on our road trip: Rechensee.  This is an artificial lake that includes two sunken villages - Graun and Rechen.  The structure rising above the water is Graun's 14th Century church tower.  Only divers are able to access the 163 remaining buildings under water.  Totally cool!

Ahh, back in Austria!  
Hope you had a fun weekend with Halloween and All Saints Day!  


Easy Peasy Pulled Pork

October 25, 2016

Credit: Link

As a modern gal with roots in both Georgia and New York, you could say, I've been spoiled with great food surrounding me at all times.  Southern and soulful foods around every corner in Atlanta... New York City's food scene was a foodie's delight - delivered at any hour, if one is hungry enough! But, having moved from the East Coast to an medieval village in Austria, my spoiled belly has become more creative in its self-preservation... Don't get me wrong, there is a ton of good, no, GREAT food here, too.  It just doesn't remind me of 'home'.  These days, I've embraced my cravings more as challenges.  I've also learned that everything can be made from scratch - and, often, it tastes even better! 

Now, I am no BBQ pit master, by any means... but, darn it, if that's going to stop me from making some pulled pork and baked beans when the craving hits!

Since I don't have a smoker or twelve hours to wait for a brine to work, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do... she's gotta improvise!  I researched a few recipes - a few long ones and a few short ones - and came up with this relatively quick and easy way to get pulled pork all the way over here in Austria.

This recipe was a cinch to make... and tasted great!  It's the closest thing to real Southern pulled pork that I've had in a long time!  I didn't serve it traditionally on a bun or with mac and cheese... I put the pulled pork on a floured tortilla and dressed it with fresh avocado and red onion... and a splash of lime juice - it was a great symphony of tastes.  Try it!  It's delicious!

Update: And, for my European friends who want to try the whole Southern experience from scratch, here are a few starting points:

Homemade BBQ Sauce

Mac & Cheese from Epicurious

Baked Beans from Pioneer Woman (I would skip the bell pepper.)

Cole Slaw from Martha Stewart

Even Quicker Pulled Pork Soft Tacos from Martha Stewart

Easy Peasy, Pulled Pork 
* adapted from here and here

Dry Rub
1 Tbsp sea salt
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp chili powder
(1 Tbsp per 2-3 lb pork shoulder)

few dashes of cayenne pepper

a bottle of your favorite BBQ sauce

Optional Fixin's
baked beans
chopped red onions
flour tortillas

1.  Combine all of the seasonings.  Rub onto the pork.  Get into every crack and crevice!

2.  Cover and refrigerate for an hour minimum... 2-3 hours should do it.

3.  Pre-heat oven to 300 deg F.

4.  Place pork onto roasting pan and roast for 5-6 hours.   If you've got the luxury of more time, go slower for longer time at this low heat... it'll taste even better!  Rotate the meat every now and then while it roasts... every side needs to develop that flavorful crust.

5.  Baste with BBQ sauce around the 5 hour mark.

6.  Pork should be done at 190-200 deg F.  It's ready when the meat falls apart when shredded with a fork. (Naughty tip: I shred the pork directly in the roasting pan with all of the lingering flavor, oil, and burned bits.  Don't pour out the oil, unless it's really too much.  Shredding it directly in the pan eliminates dry pulled pork.)  Cover with aluminum foil until ready to serve.

7.  Warm a few flour tortillas.

8.  Layer on the pulled pork, avocados, red onions, and a squeeze of fresh lime.  Add a side of baked beans and an ice-cold beer.  Devour!


Paula's Granola

October 14, 2016

When we lived in the West Village a few years ago, our apartment was on the ninth floor of a great building.  We were just steps from Washington Square Park, and, quite literally, steps from the coolest neighbors ever.  There were only five apartments on that floor... and, rarely anyone locked their doors while they were home... hell, some even had their doors wide open.  It was the closest thing to a Friends living scenario that I've ever had.

One of these fabulous neighbors was Paula.  She lived in her apartment since the early days of her young adulthood when she worked in the TV biz (way before I was born!).  She had an incredible view of the Empire State Building... I kid you not, it was an entire wall of small, vintage glass panes... and at nine stories up, the view was just grand.

Credit: Link

She had a passion for interior design (her apartment was impeccable) and a passion for food (she also had a stint in catering).  Every now and again, Paula would ring our doorbell and hand over to me her latest culinary creation.  A container of Matzo Ball Soup, a tub of freshly made pesto, a plate of this or that.  What could I say? She lived alone and I loved being her extra mouth to feed.

One day, Paula handed me a box of something that totally changed my world view... of granola, that is!  She told me I would never go back to store-bought, and she was right! (Except for that one time I had a momentary relapse... forgive me, Paula, I'll never do that again!)

Now, I know that there's a gazillion recipes to make granola... or rather, a gazillion different ingredients... and, they all sound quite yummy... exotic... and, sometimes, a little expensive.  But, this granola is so simple, so lively, so open to collaboration with anything you want to throw at it... that I haven't been tempted enough to try any of the others because Paula's granola is just so, so good.

It's so good that Lil will request this granola with a bit of plain yogurt, fresh, cut fruit (or fruit jam, if we're naughty), and, a little maple syrup, for good measure.

Paula's Granola with Raisins and Walnuts

I like this recipe because I get to control the 'clumpiness' of the granola.  I don't like some of the extra-large tasteless, clumps in store-bought granola... and, the taste is simply so much better than store-bought.  I mix up the types of ingredients based on what I have left in the pantry - sometimes it's honey/agave or honey/maple as sweeteners, sometimes I add nuts or not, or sometimes  dried fruit... or not.  It's just so easy going, this recipe, that it could be all of those other granola recipes if you want to throw anything else in... or not.  It's a great base recipe.  It just goes with the flow...  just like I like it.

Paula's Granola

4 C rolled oats
1/2 C neutral oil
1/2 C sweetener (honey, agave syrup, maple syrup)
dash of spices (ground ginger, cinnamon)
chopped nuts
dried fruit

1. Pre-heat oven to 350 deg F.

2. Pour granola into a large baking tray.

3. Grab a 1 C measuring cup.  Pour in 1/2 C neutral oil and 1/4 C honey and 1/4 C maple syrup.  Mix well.

4.  In a nice toss-and-stir motion, gradually drizzle the mixed liquids into the granola.

5.  Once uniformly mixed, add the ground spices.

6.  Add the chopped nuts, or not.

7.  Pop into the oven for 15 min.  After 15 minutes, take the tray out and stir everything.  Pop back into the oven for the remaining 15 minutes. 

8.  In the last 5-10 minutes, add your dried fruit, or not.

9.  Take the granola out and give it a good, final stir.  Things won't feel too crunchy yet... give it time... it'll harden while it rests... Once rested, the granola will have hardened but all you need to do is to stir it 'round with a spoon.  Pour into an air-tight container, and you're good to go!

Thank you, Paula, for this tasty gem...
It will live on in our morning rituals,
 as will all of our other
memories together!


Tuesday Tidbits - Fall Flavors

September 27, 2016
Vincent Van Gogh [Credit: Link]

+ Summer, I'm never letting go!!!
key lime pie by deb

+ The nectarines just keep on comin'
vanilla pavlova with summer berries

+ 'Cos sometimes you need a healthier alternative -  zucchini fries

+ I grew up on those frozen mini pot pies from Stouffers.
I'm glad I can make them myself for El & Lil!
chicken pot pie

+ A bit of caramelization adds a ton of flavor!
seared broccoli & potato soup

+ It's apple season! - glazed apple fritters

+ For when I get bored of a simple roasted fish - salmon four ways

+ or simple, slow-roasted fish

+ I never knew homemade hummus was so easy...
and, even more delicious than store-bought!
genius hummus

+ Time to dust off the oven - homemade sandwich bread

+ 'Cos Asian rice gets boring sometimes - spinach rice

+ Fancy fried chicken - chicken schnitzel

+ Homemade fries are so much better than the frozen ones
crispy potato wedges

+'Cos I need to up my soup repertoire - split pea soup

+ potato leek soup 

+ double dark chicken noodle soup 

+ 'Cos homemade granola is the bomb!
brown butter pecan granola

+ A seriously fancy pancake - apple dutch baby 

+ and, baby dutch babies

+ Just the sound of this makes my mouth water - Austrialian chicken salt 

+ There's no Chick-fil-A in the Alps, so this will have to do -
homemade Chick-fil-A sauce 

+ A seriously fruity clafoutis - cardamon and stone fruit clafoutis

+ A Fall challenge for myself - homemade ramen 

+ This is a seriously good cookie - world peace cookies by Dori Greenspan

+ Keeping the oven going - baba ghanoush (roasted eggplant dip)

+ Show up at your next dinner party with these - almond thumbprint cookies 

+ Some really good tips from Marcella Hazan

+ A lovely base cake for a good fruity compote and whipped cream - Louisa's Cake

+ Damn! This chicken sandwich!

+ Damn, to this one too! Fake Shake Shack Burger

+ In lieu of blueberry muffins, I think it's time to try this Blueberry Boy Bait.

+ Classics. Period.  Best cookbook recipes ever.

+ A collection of vinagrette recipes to up your salad game

+ April Bloomfield's eat-it-on-everything salad dressing

+ NYC street meat comes to the Alps

+ Whoa.  Little Debbie was my best friend growing up.  Now I can
make some Star Crunch at home!

+ Stumped in the kitchen? Check out these recipe collections
to give you an inspirational kick in the pants!

+ Remember Cheez-its?

+ Time to pull out your KitchenAid mixer for these recipes! 

+ 10 Roast Chicken Ideas

+ Mini Tarte Tatins! 

Nuremberg Toy Museum

September 26, 2016

Miniature Doll House (through a Magnifying Glass)

This past weekend, we drove to Nuremberg, Germany, to visit a friend who was in town for business.  We immediately hit the center of town for the Altstadtfest - a market showcasing foods, crafts, sweets, and entertainment.  Afterwards, we wandered around town... peeked into a few churches and shops... hiked up to the Nuremberg Castle... and then made our way over to the famous toy museum.  (El & Lil were way more excited (and willing!) to continue walking for this destination!)

Also known as the Lydia Bayer Museum, Nuremberg's Toy Museum holds a collection of 87,000 toy objects that span from antiquity to modern times (with a focus primarily on the last two centuries).  Since its opening in 1971, this museum attracts four million visitors a year!  And, only 5% of the total toy objects in the collection are on view.  The remaining can be found via their virtual collection (in German only). 

A few early toys from Greek Antiquity

It was cool to see some of the earliest toys from Antiquity in the museum's collection.  It's clear that humans can be creative with whatever materials they have at hand.  All it takes is a child's imagination to bring a form to life!

Wooden Blocks Become a City

We saw this creativity explode with wooden forms and colors.  Shapes evolve from rectilinear to include curves, colors became more exciting, forms became more abstract.

Abstract Wooden Toys

And then, we found a room full of stamped and cutout metal sheets.  The scenes ranged from farms and cattle migrations to war-time troops and encampments.

Cutout Metal Sheet Toys

Matchbox Toys

Tons of planes, trains, and automobiles... metal working gets pretty serious now.

Handmade Tea Settings

Porcelain makers seemed to get into the fun too - by making endless varieties of tea sets and place settings... all of this had to go somewhere...

If you are a big fan of miniature toys, then this is a must see for the great condition of each set, the completeness of the set, and the enduring fascination that all of this was made by hand.

A General Store

A Dining Room

A Basket Shop

A Kitchen at Night

Then, lighting was added...

Fully enclosed houses with lighting became popular...

Jumping to the future, my, have things changed!

A Modern Kitchen

Lil Size Doll House

The size and scale of the sets grew over time... The inlaid flooring in the house above was so intricate.  I wonder how long it took to finish the house!

But, there were other toys, too! Bugs, bugs, and more bugs!

Toys to ride on!

Toys to hug...

Early Steif Bear
Toys to play magic tricks...

Toys that go from two dimensions to three using theatrical techniques...

Here, a city scene has the windows cut out and the lights turn on and off to give the illusion of life within the composition.

Sadly, a dark turn in toy history... 

And, a whole section dedicated to the modern toys made from plastic technologies that we are all familiar with... (but, I was more fascinated by the earlier, handmade toys, obviously!)

Hi, Guys!

The tour ends in a room dedicated, not to the toys, but to the children of the past century.  A selection of toys is displayed with a photo of a child either posed next to the toy or playing with the toy.  This is a sweet ending to our visit because it reminds us that it is a child's love and imagination that bring life to these toys... and, that, is the magical thing indeed!

. . .

On the surrounding walls are more photos of children, each with a toy in hand, reminding us of the countless moments of playful magic that have come and gone... maybe, it is also reminding us to continue to cherish and encourage child's play for generations to come!



Nuremberg Toy Museum 
(Museum Lydia Bayer)
Karlstraße 13-15
90403 Nuremberg