Italian Sunday Meal: No Fuss Lasagna

Who are we kidding- when is lasagna, no fuss?

And then, yet…if you prepare some of it in advance, there’s hope!  For instance, your sauce need not be prepared the day of.  Prepare it up to a few days before.

Cheese?  Grate that mozzarella the night before (or better yet, buy the pre-grated in-a-bag-mozzarella).  Same goes for the actual pasta used; you can buy the oven-ready kind.  It’s just as good.  All I do is pass it under hot water and then place directly in pan over first layer of sauce. Easy peasy.

As for the beschamel…well, that one you gotta do on the spot.  Unless you can prep this too the night before?  Never tried it- but if you have, let me know.

Note: For Beschamel sauce: melt about 2 tbsp of butter and 2 tbsp of flour on low heat. Gradually pour in milk. Stir on low to med heat until thickens. Pour as much milk as needed until you get the right consistency.

Alternate layers between beschamel and sauce.

All that’s left to do is put it in the oven for about 45 minutes covered at 200 c. Then uncover for another 15 minutes of cooking. Et voila!  Serve with a side dish of cauliflower and another of coleslaw.  Simple!

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And there you have it:  No-fuss Lasagna.  Enjoy!

 

Oberstdorf- Beauty in the Bavarian Alps…

 

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Click Here to see this beautiful hotel: HOTEL MOHREN

Being a figure skating mom does have its perks…travelling! Apart from the jet-lag and all the stress that goes along with being a Mom/ Chaperone to an athlete, I really am thankful for the opportunity of visiting so many overseas places. Our last trip was to Oberstdorf, Germany. We stayed at Hotel Mohren. Right in the middle of the town. The view was unbelievable- and the fresh crisp air made me feel so healthy. Bavarian Alps at best! This ski town, bustling with families, athletes from all over the world and the locals…perfect mix!

Besides being picturesque, quaint, but happening, Oberstdorf’s streets are lined with athletic shops, fashion boutiques, handcraft and souvenir hubs, cafes and upbeat restos and fine dining as well. The traditional look of Oberstdorf makes it sweetly appealing; especially when mixed with modern facilities to render your stay ever so comfortable. It still has the old European feel with traditional breweries, yodeling and all!

Being from Montreal, I can ‘somewhat’ compare it to Mont Tremblant…mostly because of its touristic feel. Oberstdorf has more streets, more restos, more shops and definitely more history. I enjoyed the food and of course dove into the schnitzel, as it’s traditional. It really was delicious.But these cabbage rolls though!

We did go to a cafe on our last night. But what really impressed me were the cafes along the streets. Everyone sips their coffee and dessert on outdoor terraces…uhm, it’s winter? No matter! People watching is all the rage, and why not sip your latte outdoors!

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And with me, some things never change…I was on a relentless lookout for fashion. I have to admit they have some pretty chic haute couture boutiques- but the athletic wear shops rule. So ski wear apparel was obviously de rigueur here…but I have to tell you- you know the typical Heidi mountain sweater look? Well, there’s still a lot of that too. Knitted sweaters, hats, mitts and more are still the rage here. And I was amazed to also find a shop that sells traditional Bavarian costumes!

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Oh and since it’s almost Valentine’s…chocolate and candy fest is alive and well here in Oberstdorf!

 

 

So with the excuse of going to a competition…I had myself a really good time in Oberstdorf Germany!  Good times with my beautiful youngest daughter…

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Hope to see you again, my lovely…Auf wiedersehen!

 

#confessionoftheday: those hourly churchbells still chiming in my ears- seriously though.

What’s My Fave-Quick-Fix-Getaway?

Where can I get a sunny beach, great food and lots of shopping a few plane hours away from home? Beautiful Florida whispers sweet callings in my ear… It’s my little haven of peace with a good dose of all of the above.

I realise that dream getaways involve a lot of downtime and peace away from the mad race of the city. However, it’s nice to also find all of the commodities you’re used to back home. I thought this especially true when we travelled with young children. It was important to be able to find the same stuff (especially pharmacy products)- and food they were used to (picky eaters!).

So we got all that in Florida plus the huge bonus of it being a short flight from Montreal and of course- the beach!! Imagine that while everyone flies during the winter months, our favourite time to go was in the summer. NO waiting lines at restaurants, assured good weather, quiet beaches and the list goes on. My kids’ best memories were shaped in Florida.

Today, I enjoy Florida at a much more relaxed pace when travelling just the two of us; hubs and me. It’s a lot less stressful and we’re off the clock, doing our own thing. This time around, without even planning it, we were in Florida for American Thanksgiving and Black Friday! We had such a great time that we will be planning the same time next year.

We ate at our usual favourite Greek restaurant, Greek Isles. This place has the best authentic Greek dishes- it also feels like you are eating somewhere in Greece; beach, sun and all. It’s a family-run business and they keep it as Greek as it gets. DELICIOUS. We also went to another close-by Greek restaurant, Thassos- this was again very authentic food, with a slightly more upscale atmosphere- less traditional looking than Greek Isles, but nonetheless exquisite as well.

Greek food is not all we ate. We went for some traditional Floridian burgers- have you tried Jack’s on Federal Highway 1? You gotta go if you want a mean, lean, all natural beef burger with all the American trims. For ribs and pulled pork, or prime rib- and you’re in a hurry- you’ll get your fix at Bones.

As far as the shopping goes, Black Friday did not disappoint. We were super excited to find out that it all began on Thanksgiving Thursday at 4:00 pm to 1:00 am…WHAT?!! We Canadians are not used to that! Yes, we have Black Friday- but I’ve been in the retail business long enough, and I can honestly say, that this was a real sale -that doesn’t run out of stock!!! We were at the Colonades in Sawgrass- WOW!; Designer stuff galore! Oh and if you you need to refuel on food, you can go to the PF Chang right there. I personally love the Mongolian beef and sweet and sour soup.

It definitely was a quick one week vacay, but when it’s just the two of us, the time felt just right. This wasn’t your all-inclusive dream island getaway, but for me it still and always will feel like a bit of paradise not so far away from home. If you’re Canadian, I know you get what I mean. Especially when you’re bundling up at -27 deg C.

#confessionoftheday: sun-worshipping is a hard habit to quit…It’s a 70’s thing

Moussa…Who? MOUSSAKA: the Reigning King of Satisfaction!

So some time ago someone decided they wanted a succulent, hearty meal that satisfies not only your appetite but sends explosions of taste throughout your mouth all the while transporting your senses- making you smile, relax and enjoy life…Leave it to the Greeks to invent such a dish! (Is that any surprise?) Presenting: Moussaka!

Beware though, Moussaka is not for the faint of heart! A small portion, accompanied by a salad or Horta, goes a long way. This is, in every sense a real-deal, hearty-meal. I prepare mine with a meat sauce (lamb is more typical, but any ground meat will do). Of course eggplant rules here, along with potatoes and a mouthwatering, creamy bechamel sauce tweaked with eggs. This happens to be my husband’s favourite meal- so I prepared this one for his birthday! To keep it a surprise, this time I cooked in my basement kitchen- I love that I can switch it up like that;)

Here’s the way I make my Moussaka:

Ingredients:

  • Meat sauce (prepared in advance)
  • Sliced Potatoes (enough to fill two layers of a baking pan-of your choice)
  • Eggplant (enough to abundantly fill one layer of a baking pan of your choice)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of flour
  • 3 tbl sp of butter
  • Milk as needed
  • 3 eggs  (Some people put upto 5- let’s keep it light at 3;)
  • Salt, pepper to taste
  • 1 tbl sp of grated Graviera cheese (or Parmesan)
  • Pam or olive oil to coat your pan

Let’s begin!

(To save time, make sure you’ve prepared a meat sauce in advance).

Slice your potatoes, salt and bake on light broil till golden – turn over and broil again (no oil- just Pam on the baking sheet).

Once broiled, layer in a baking pan. Next, cover potatoes with your meat sauce.

Slice your eggplant, salt and proceed as you did with potatoes.

Once broiled, layer over the meat sauce. (Then, again, cover these with more meat sauce).

Add a last layer of broiled potatoes over the meat sauce.

Now, for the Bechamel!

In a large pot, mix butter and flour until they amalgamate.

When it starts to sizzle slightly, add milk. Continue to stir as it thickens (you don’t want it to stick to bottom of pan and burn!) AND keep adding milk.  Add a bit of salt as well.  Continue to do this until you get a nice thick sauce. Sprinkle about a table spoon of grated Graviera cheese-or- Parmesan cheese (only if you’d like!) I did;)

Once the bechamel is ready, wait a few minutes off the burner- Then place pot in fridge to speed up the cooling process.

On the same token, place eggs in warm water to heat them up a bit (so there’s no clash of temperature between the two. Otherwise,this could cause the eggs to scramble when mixing them in sauce later).

Once the two are cool – or about the same temperature, fold the eggs into the bechamel sauce. Mix it up well.

Pour the whole mixture onto that last layer of potatoes.

Bake at 350 for about an hour or so…until the Moussaka is a nice golden color. (it should also rise a bit).

And there you go! Roll out the red carpet! Kali Orexi!

#confessionoftheday : It was impossible for me to resist temptation…I had more than one piece!

The Greeks Call it Yemista- Healthy Comfort Food

Deliciously filled baked vegetables that hit the spot! Yemista as the Greeks call this rich and satisfying meal is perfect for these nippy cold autumn days. For the record, Italians make this too- they call it, Verdura Ripiena (thought I’d add that in, since today’s cook, yours truly, is Italian;)

On that note, my recipe is a mix of both cultures: A Greek delicacy with an Italian flare. I have to warn you, this dish does take a bit of time to make. Here’s my way:

About 12 vegetables

3/4lb minced meat (I use a blend of veal, pork and beef)

2 onions

1 cup rice

salt, pepper, dill to taste, chilli flakes

Pam, a tiny bit of olive oil to drizzle

You can use a variety of different vegetables such as: Zucchini, eggplant, red, green, orange..peppers, yellow zucchini squash, potatoes , tomatoes- basically any vegetable that can easily be hollowed. Today, all I had on hand were tomatoes, red peppers and potatoes.

I usually begin by scraping out the vegetables, while keeping the top for a cap (you’ll see later). Then, all the scrapings are finely chopped and lightly salted.

If you clean out the potatoes first, as I did, you will need to place them in a bowl filled with cold water. This way they won’t turn brown while you work on the other vegetables.

Mix meat, scrapings, rice and onions together. Then, in a large pan, cook the mixture. Add salt, pepper and dill to your liking. If you prefer your dishes on the spicy side (Italian touch), add some chilli flakes, or peperoncino. Keep adding water as the rice swells.

When the whole mixture is consistently cooked (rice should be almost semi cooked), just go ahead and fill up the vegetables.

Place them neatly in a greased pan (I use Pam, but you can also use olive oil). Top them with their caps (helps keep them moist and cook evenly). Add about a ½ cup of water at the bottom of pan. Drizzle a few drops of olive oil.

Cover with aluminium foil and bake at 175C (325F) for about an hour. The last few minutes, uncover and set on broil – just long enough to get them nicely roasted.

Et voila! Or as the Greeks say: Etima!

Kali Orexi! Buon Appetito!

Home Grown – Home Made

Both of these delicious Venetian plates are from fresh produce and ingredients- straight from my cousins’ Lucia and Marylena’s homes.

Polenta, Sopressa, sausage, fresh salad and cabbage, and the famous Asiago cheese (straight from the farmer! Also, straight from the neighbor’s farm are the delicious pork chops on the grill.

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For dessert: fresh figs topped with walnuts, wine and grapes – all from the garden!

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I miss Italy…

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