Roasted Rosemary Potatoes with Lamb Chops

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes with Lamb Chops

Every kitchen, every family has a staple dish that is done over and over. In our family, roasted potatoes are a staple. But not any kind, Rosemary Roasted Potatoes. I have been making this recipe since my first cooking attempt, fail proof recipe and nothing to it. Peel, cut and season the potatoes, and in the hot oven they go.

A rack of lamb sliced into chops, seasoned with sea salt and rosemary, a green salad and here is dinner all ready at your table in less than 45 minutes.

Bon Appetit!

Giangi

Roasted Potatoes with rosemary 4 copy

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

4 medium Russet Potatoes, peeled and cut into 1″ cubes
3-4 tablespoons Olive Oil
Fresh or dried Rosemary cut in small pieces
Salt

Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees. Spread 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on a cookie sheet. In a bowl add the potatoes, rosemary and the remaining olive oil.  Mix well to coat all the potatoes cubes.

Place the potatoes on the cookie sheet and sprinkle generously with the salt. Place in the oven and cook for 30 minutes or until the potatoes have formed a nice crust on the bottom and are golden on top.

Roasted potatoes with lamb chops copy

Roasted Potatoes with rosemary 2 copy. JPG

Penne alla Vodka

After a long wonderful summer traveling and enjoying the best food that each place we visited had to offer, coming back to my kitchen has been hard. I guess my mind is still in vacation…

With that said, we wanted something new and easy last night. Penne alla Vodka has been a recipe that we love but never make it at home. I must say it is surprisingly easy to make and quite addictive. A huge platter all gone before we know it.

There are so many recipes for Penne alla Vodka that it can get pretty confusing. This is my adaptation, easy and tasty. If you have children, not to worry about the alcohol content has it has been evaporated in the cooking process.

Bon Appetit!!

Giangi

Penne alla Vodka copy. 2

PENNE ALLA VODKA

Sea salt

1 pound penne rigate

2 tablespoon olive oil

½ medium yellow onion, chopped in small dice

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 28 oz. can of San Marzano crushed tomatoes

¼ cup vodka

Fresh ground black pepper

½ heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

½ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook the pasta according to al dente package instruction, 11 to 13 minutes. Reserve ½ cup pasta water and drain pasta.

In a large skillet, large enough to hold all of the cooked pasta, over medium heat add olive oil, onions and garlic. Sautee until translucent, about 3 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, vodka, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes until alcohol burns off. Stir in heavy cream and butter.

Add the pasta to the skillet with the sauce. Toss the pasta in the sauce over high heat until well coated. Add a little of the cooking water if the sauce is too thick.

Top with Parmesan and parsley and mix gently.

Serve immediately.

Penne alla Vodka copy

Paradise…

Love this place! Just love Thailand. Since the first time I visited here, I found this place to be of comfort to me, a sort of hideaway. Love the people, their kindness, smile and eagerness to always want to help you. Love how they can read you and make you feel. Love the cuisine and how spicy it may be. Love all the places we have been fortunate to visit.

I guess I need to share something very personal. Fifteen years ago we lost our daughter. Our world came crashing down early in the morning and our hearts, guts, life was forever changed, transformed. A nightmare that I do not wish upon anyone. You feel you can’t breathe anymore. Coming home to an empty baby room, shattered dreams. Three months later, almost to the day, I lost my father, my best friend, the man who raised me, gone. The following year is not even a blur, is of no existence. I have memories thru a camera viewer because of all the pictures I took. We, my husband and I, started travelling all over the world. An escape you may say. I am sure it was. We had to come to Thailand for work. And this is the only place I remember from that year. We stayed in Bangkok a few nights and then outside of Bangkok. I remember how people could read you and how wonderful and comfortable we felt here. I remember how it felt to be so far away from home and trying to figure out what I had no clue how to figure out. How to put one foot in front of the other. How to deal with the pain that was so deep I cannot even try to put it in words. And yet, here, I was able to breathe.

As I sit here today, enjoying this beautiful place, my heart is filled with love, gratitude and happiness. My son is here and all the dreams are becoming a reality. Every activity has such a deep meaning. Each moment is a blessing.

As soon as we got to Bangkok, we took a tour of the city and of Royal Palace. A magnificent place filled with gold statues of Hindu God, jade Buddha. Looking at my son face as he is taking it all in, was wonderful. There is so much to take in, so much history, so much beauty.

We also have had a true Thai massage. My first time here, I did a whole week of Thai massages. Thai massages are different, very deep tissue, every muscle of your body is stretched and your body can twist into a pretzel, yes you can, trust me. What amazes me how tiny the therapist are, and how Goliath their strength is. They walk on your body and you feel yourself letting go and relaxing. Here is my teenage boy getting his first massage. He was so thrilled by the experience and loved every minute of it.

Today we took a Thai cooking class. Magical to be together, only us in the class and cooking and enjoying our favorite dishes. The love I felt today was so deep, anything I ever experienced before. Here he is next standing next to me, cooking and juggling the food in the pan and managing his own cooking, and all the sadness and pain I felt so many years ago is gone. Love is all around me, happiness surrounds me. All the dreams alive and here in front of me. I am so grateful of all the blessing that I have been given.

Giangi

IMG_6804

Royal Palace in BangKok

IMG_6833

Library

IMG_6838

All the statues are in 10K and 14K gold

IMG_6887

Statues all around the Temple

IMG_6925

IMG_6939

Phuket Market

IMG_6949 1

Hot chili peppers. The smaller they are the hotter they are

IMG_6980 1

Our lunch – Tom Yum Goong or Spicy Prawn Soup

IMG_6992

Gang Keaw Wang Gai or Chicken Green Curry

IMG_6998

Phad Priew Wan Pla or Sour and Sweet Fried Fish

20160728_035511954_iOS

One of my favorite flower. Good Night every one and see you soon.

xoxox

Elephant riding in Chaing Mai

Our journey has taken us to one of my favorite places…Thailand! As you may know, travelling with a teenager can be a bit challenging. There are only so many museums they can enjoy. Sooo, we decided Chaing Mai, was the place to start our new adventure. Chaing Mai is famous for, among other things, it’s elephants. For us, it was the “Thai Elephant Home”, in the jungle/mountains about an hour and a half from town.

After hearing all the horror stories from the news reports and documentaries about the treatment of these magnificent animals, I was thrilled to see the exact opposite. Thai Elephant Home is a sanctuary and rescue center for elephants. They are free to roam. No chains, no whips, no harpoons, only voice commands and lots of love.

The adventure began. Since we were going to spend the day riding up and down the mountains and through the jungle, the home provided us with a uniform that saved our clothes and comforted the elephants.

After a quick orientation on how to treat your elephant and learning five basic commands to guide it, we were handed a basket filled with sticks of sugar cane and off to the elephants we went.

As soon as our group (there were six of us) reached the elephant quarters, they all came out to greet us. Of course, “greet us” is just another way to say “let us feed and pet them”. Quite an animal I must say!!! You do not realize how big they are until you are next to them. After the greeting, we were all paired up with our elephant. My new friends name was Betsy.

Now, getting on an elephant is not an easy task. They are big! So, down they come and up we go. To say the least, riding an elephant bareback is a challenge. Wow! They’re REALLY BIG! You are up there and sitting on a four to five thousand pound animal and you feel every step they take.

So, off we went. As soon as I started getting my balance, we hit the river. Thanks to the rain from the day before, the flow of the river was intense. No great shakes for the brave of heart (the elephant, I mean) so into the river we went. She didn’t ask for my opinion.

As I sat frozen, with white knuckles holding onto a tiny rope and my life flashing in front of me, my little Betsy gingerly swims upstream, having a wonderful time. Finally, after what seemed to me an eternity, we reached the other side where our jungle adventure began.

Somehow I ended up in the front of the pack and I loved it. Not seeing how the animal and the person in front of me were going to react made it easy for me to let my fears go.

Betsy was sensing my fear and she was doing everything she could to make me feel relaxed. My test came when we reached a pin sharp curve. Rocks in front of me on my left, one-foot-wide mud road under foot and a steep ravine to the right. I stopped breathing and just held on tight. One very calculated slow step at the time, she made that curve look effortless. At this very point I let go of all the fears and trusted her. Something magical just happened to me. I felt free to breath, free to enjoy the most beautiful surroundings. But most of all I trusted someone else with my life and that was scary, and yet releasing.

From that point forward, not having me stressed out anymore, Betsy relaxed as well, so when she saw a bamboo shoot or a banana leaf she wanted to enjoy, she steered off, stopped, grabbed it and enjoyed it.

Lunchtime came in the jungle for all of us and not a moment too soon. My cheeks were screaming and my knuckles needed color. Terra Firma never felt so good. After lunch it was elephant mud bath time. What a site! What a treat! Here’s this huge animal, laying on its side, while twelve loving hands were scrubbing her all over with dark, gooey mud. Ahhh, what a treat. I don’t know who was having more fun, us or the elephants. We were all laughing hysterically as this mud caked body below us was falling asleep.

On our way back it was river bath time. As soon as we got into the river, Betsy placed her trunk under water and started splashing all over. She was having the time of her life, I was trying to keep dry and that was not a good combination, if you see what I mean.

Would I do it again? Yes…in a heartbeat!

Giangi

IMG_4671

Sugar cane time

IMG_4732

meet Betsy

IMG_4745

White knuckle time for me

20160724_050537265_iOS

Our Lunch, Chicken Pad Thai, yummy!!

20160724_050143279_iOS

Getting ready for the mud rub

IMG_4826

OK!!!! I am having a lot of fun playing in the mud

IMG_4800

And yes, I got a kiss, too!!!

20160724_044512387_iOS

20160724_064852633_iOS

20160724_065009625_iOS

Our journey continues…. Taj Mahal, India

Our adventure continues and here we are in New Delhi, India. This little side tour is a “bucket list” wish for me. I have been fascinated by the Taj Mahal ever since I can remember. As the trip plans were coming along, an opportunity arise and we could not pass it up.

So here we are… and loving it.

I cannot express how peaceful and serene this place is. Monsoon season is here and all the trees and grass are of a vibrant green.

As we enter the palace thru a gate I can’t tell you how emotional it was for me. Here I am standing in front of this magnificent marble palace which was built over 400 years ago in memory of a great love. All the worries and concerns are gone, peacefulness takes over. Life comes to a standstill and tears are coming up. Beautiful beyond expectation.

As you know the Taj Mahal was built upon the death of the Emperor wife. Her death-bed wish was for him to build her a resting place as beautiful as their love was. Ok!!! I am a romantic at heart what can I say!!!

On the same day we were able to squeeze in  a visit to the old Agra Fort where the Emperor spent the last eight years of his life under his son imprisonment. .

We loved our stay in India and now we also have a new fondness for Indian cuisine. All the wonderful spices that blend together make extremely tasty dishes. Curry and hot chili paste in most dishes. Vegetarian dishes and the garlic naan, have been our staples throughout our stay. And the sweets…. Oh boy!!!

We have been very fortunate to have had a great guide and a great driver. We were not going to attempt to drive on the opposite side of the road.

A joke that our driver shared with us: To drive in India you need three things: A good horn, good breaks and good luck…”

With love and gratitude, see you all on our next adventure.

Giangi

Taj Mahal

Taj Mahal

IMG_6593 1

Yours truly..

IMG_6630

Marble work and semi precious stones inlay

IMG_6586

Fountain in direct line with the Taj Mahal

20160721_050021490_iOS

Looking at the Mosque from inside the Taj Mahal

IMG_6633

Agra Fort

Agra Fort

Agra Fort entrance

 

IMG_6663

Welcoming courtyard inside Agra Fort

IMG_1556

Driving around town

20160721_094006832_iOS

Monkeys roaming around the town waiting to be feed

20160722_085302776_iOS

Paneer with cottage cheese, curry and hot chili, absolutely delicious

20160722_090913442_iOS

Moong Dal Halwa

20160722_155215200_iOS

Garlic Naan… could not stay away from it

IMG_6760

Good night and good bye Delhi

Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid

Our Madrid portion of the trip is almost coming to a close, and I must say, I am sad to leave this city. This city is vibrant day and night, and  I have met the kindest people and everyone really goes out-of-the-way to help in any way they can. The weather was just perfect and the food…. Well!!! You must come here as I cannot even begin to describe the flavors, sauces and the textures. Restaurants in every corners, a real food delight.

On our city expedition we made it a point to visit the Mercado de San Miguel. Using the word Mercado, I was expecting vegetables stands, chickens all lined up to be taken home and cooked at home, and Jamon and charcuteries. Where to begin to tell you how exciting this place is? First of all, each stand is specialized in a specific food, what I mean is that you will found a stand that only sells oysters, another one only Jamon and sausages, and another just crab meat and anything you can create with crabmeat, empanadas filled with all sorts of goodies… I can go on forever but you get my point.

The place is packed from business ladies and gentlemen, to friends meeting for a quick-lunch bite, to tourists like me that are just mesmerized and taking it all in.

We, I guess the me of we, just had to have a few snack of tapas, empanadas, and croquettes.

With a very filled and happy stomach, I share those few pictures with all of you.

Giangi

mercado 3

Tapas of Goat Cheese and Red/ Black Caviar eggs

mercado 4

Oyster bar with a smilemercado 5

Tostas, antipasto and pasta

mercado 6

Bread and stuffed bread and more Spanish dishes

mercado 13

Do you crave crab? Here is a huge selection of crab prepared in the shape of a sandwich, a salad…

mercado 11

Tapas and more tapas. Love the potato wrapped around the prawn

mercado 12

You select your fish and they will cook it how you like it under your eyes in minutes

mercado 14

Jamon and more Jamon. Do not forget those cute little cups filled with sausages prepared with different spices and aged to different stages

IMG_6075

Mercado de San Miguel from the outside

Love and Romance in Barcelona

Barcelona, what a beautiful city!! I love it here. I am in complete awe about the architecture. Every building is different; every building has a story to tell. On our first day we walked alongside the port and decided to take the Funicular de Montjuic, or gondola, from the port to the Parc of Mirador. Spectacular sights of the whole city. No taxis in sight therefore we decided to brave it and walk back down to town. By doing so we stumbled upon the maritime Museum of Barcelona. Enjoyed it immensely. They are having an exhibit of oil painting under water. Truly amazing.

Christopher Columbus plaza led us into the old Town Center. Little streets, no cars and lots of architecture. Restaurants, bars, shops everywhere. Walked and walked never got tired and took in all the beauty that the town has to offer.

We made it a point to visit The Sagrada Familia, an exceptional place of worship based on the traditional Gothic and Byzantine Cathedrals . Started in 1866 and still a project in the making with ongoing construction of the west sacristy and the central towers. and with a proposed finished date of 2027. Towers, play of colored windows that portray the coolness of the morning and the warmth of the afternoon sun. If ever in Barcelona, a must see. I cannot describe the beauty and the overwhelming feeling. The internal structure will keep you peeled to the walls, staring at the ceilings and all the intricate stone work.

Walking around town we came across this tiny entry way with a board of tapas, Bodega La Puntual. Our stomachs brought us in. Small galley entry which opened on a huge room. We got seated and menu in hand placed our order for tapas.

Anchovies marinated in vinegar and served with olive oil and green olives, pickled mussels, cockles with a lemon oil sauce, cod fritters, Classic Russian salad and grilled octopus with potatoes parmentier. Yes… we eat all that. The wonderful thing about tapas you just taste, and taste we did. My favorite: the cockles, cod fritters and grilled octopus with potatoes parmentier. The parmentier is made of mashed potatoes that is passed thru a food mill to reduce to a fine cream, some olive oil and pimiento oil over it lightly, and here you have a delicious creamy parmentier . Of course all this with a great glass of sangria.

The tapas menu is mouthwatering and to satisfy all appetites. From a snack with little bites, to sharing, a palate teaser, to finish with a more copious plate of food.

The restaurant got packed and busy in no time. I had the opportunity to talk to the manager, Miriam, who, even though was busy running from table to table, took the time to talk to me.

A definite place to visit while in Barcelona and definitely will go back.

I am leaving you today with a few pictures from Barcelona and our lunch.

xoxo

Giangi

IMG_5931

The Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

IMG_5976

Morning light reflection thru the window panels, cool hues

IMG_5957

Afternoon light reflection thru the window panels, warm hues

IMG_5950

Interior pillars symbolizing elevation towards God

IMG_5961

External façade representing the death of Christ

20160709_111258182_iOS

View from above of the coastline

20160709_113259111_iOS

Columbus monument from the gondola

20160710_115648683_iOS

Marinated anchovies, pickled mussels, cockles, Classic Russian salad and Cod fritters at the Bodega La Puntual

20160710_123524537_iOS

Grilled Octopus with Potatoes Parmentier

miriam and me

Miriam and me.