Saturday, December 4, 2010

From Turkey to Christmas...

As promised, here is part two of my recent update- where in the world has Nikki been! 
I love Thanksgiving... it's the holiday I enjoy most because it is about being inclusive and celebrating with friends... and of course about being thankful. I look forward to this time of year and I begin to reflect as another new year approaches... and I feel blessed to be the person I have become and have so many wonderful friends and family members to share my life and experiences with... ahhh, American Thanksgiving...

This year it was more of a multicultural celebration with many traditional foods. 
Susan and I co-hosted which basically, means she was amazing and opened her home for us to invite our friends to eat, drink, and be thankful for one another. 

We created a sign up on our school mail system for everyone invited to list what they wanted to bring... of course we asked for some of the traditional holiday foods including stuffing, mash potatoes, and cranberries but otherwise we were open to any goodies for the table! The only problem with our holiday was we had to work the next day- despite the food coma!
Susan fast-cooked the turkey after school - thank goodness for the convection oven setting- and despite not being slow-cooked it was a very moist and juicy turkey! 

 I used my Grandma Hume's Deviled Eggs recipe and displayed them on my new polish pottery egg plate! They were gone quickly- per usual!

I made a Cranberry, Apple, Raisin Dressing... using a bagette I dried out for two days! 
I followed my dad's stuffing recipe he wrote down for me two years ago... It was super fluffy and yummy!

I also made Green Bean Casserole! My mama brought the French's dried onions in her suitcase... (thanks mom!) This is a no fail, much-loved Thanksgiving dish. I just wish my sister was here to eat it with me- it is our shared Thanksgiving FAVE!

Wayne and Lindsey are already slipping into Thanksgiving heaven smelling the goodies that arrived on our table! Lindsey is "wafting" in this photo.. can't you tell?

 Overall, it was a great Thanksgiving full of smiles- especially from our Welsh friend Anne! 

The day after Thanksgiving Susan, Lindsey, Allison, Anne and myself took a bus to Nuremberg for the opening of their Christmas markets!

Last year, Allison and myself went to Vienna the weekend after Thanksgiving for their holiday markets, but this year, Lindsey suggested we go somewhere we haven't been...

... great idea Linds! 

 mmmm... Nuremberg Sausage!

... one of my ore traditional purchases!

 (Anne, Susan, Allison, Nikki... Lindsey is taking the photo...)
In addition to some shopping at the department stores we walked the markets, drank hot wine, ate the best-ever shortbread cookies, fresh stollen bread, and of course sausage and saurkraut... it was cold and snowy and made me feel like Christmas is around the corner!

Since October, I have had a full and busy life... but I am still very happy in Prague and looking forward to 2011! Can you believe it is around the corner?

So, where in the world will I be next? 
Here is a clue... a sheep-shearing country and land of the kiwis and Maori people...
Check back around the holiday for a hello from none other than beautiful New Zealand!

Cau for Now! - Nikki

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Where in the world is Nikki?

 Where have I been you might ask? Well, right now I am in Praha where the snow is steadily falling and building up so much it is threatening to shut down public transportation!
 And here is the evidence of build up on my terrace...

And here is the view from my front windows! At some point I might not be able to see out my window anymore!

Since October I have been keeping busy both by traveling and working! This blog post is a visual update of my whereabouts starting with my mom's visit to Europe over October holiday! 

 Who is that beautiful lady in the beautiful Autumn leaves? My mama...

 Mom and Nikki tour the inside and out of the St Vitus Cathedral in Prague Castle.

On Sunday, mama met my good friends Anne, Liezel, Jesus and Allison (not pictured). We went for breakfast at cukr, Kava, Limonada in Mala Strana then took a stroll over the Charles Bridge.

After a few days hanging out in Praha, mama and I headed to Italy- to Sorrento and the Amalfi coast.

We endured a little rain, a little wind (and rocky seas) and then we got a day of sunshine! 
 Mama was looking forward to getting sandals made for us... new shoes made for our own feet- yes please- like mother like daughter!!
 One of our days was spent on the Island of Capri off the Amalfi Coast. It was stunning.. and we ended up on an adventure walking (forever!) to the Blue Grotto! It was too rough to tour but still very neat to see the water.
 Mama got to put her feet into the Mediterranean Sea!

And we enjoyed gourmet foods such as this lemon cake and cappuccino! 

 We ate calamari and laughed together!

and of course... we drank plenty of vino! 

It was so fun having my mama in Europe with me- to see where I live and meet my friends. It was also fun to travel with her and see her expressions to many things European- like Naples!! 
Following my mama's visit, Liezel, Allison and myself co-hosted a Pumpkin Party on Halloween weekend. I made Pumpkin-Ricotta Stuffed Shells with pasta I brought back form Italy! 
 The shells were incredible...

 but Liezel's Peanut Butter Cake Chocolate cake is sooooooo yummy!

 Three beautiful hostesses ready for carving!

 Liezel and I carved Hello Kitty into our pumpkins!

 Derek is concerned about my pumpkin-carving skills...
... but I think we did well!

Following Halloween, I went to Nice, France for Professional Development.
  For five days, I enjoyed the beautiful coast along Southern France.
"Hey! Now I have seen the Mediterranean sea from three countries this year- Spain, Italy, and France!

 I was traveling with my two friends- Susan and Lindsey. We all attended pre-conferences in addition to the general ECIS teacher conference... but we were smart and flew in a day ahead of the conference using our Czech holiday and day off school to explore the Provence area!
 We took the train to Antibes, where we walked along the water, explored the outdoor "farmers" market and then made special lunch purchases...
 ... goat cheese, mixed olives, fruit, freshly baked bread and sliced ham and salami!

We ate our picnic water-side, in the sunshine and seriously, we couldn't have asked for a more relaxing and enjoyable day!
Following our return from Antibes, we shopped and explore more of old town Nice before ending our day at this fantastic vino bar! 

We were lucky enough to be in France for Beaujolis Nouveau... New Wine Day! 
We tasted a bottle with hints of cherry... not our favorite thing we tasted while in France...
 ... but this came close... fresh cream- thick and unsweetened but oh so tasty!

On the last night in Nice, we went to dinner with many of the faculty who were at the conference. I had the Sea Bream with a side salad and grilled Aubergine and peppers!
So tasty! 

Southern France was lovely... sunshine, being near the water, and wandering the quaint, winding streets of Old Town was an exciting way to spend a week in mid-November!

But the fun doesn't stop there... tune in this weekend (the next blog) for a look at our 2010 Multicultural Turkey Day and the Nuremberg Christmas Market Adventures! 

Cau for now!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

What to do with your Farmer's Market Goods!

COOK! I have spent the past few days at home with yet another sinus infection. But this time I had a fridge full of goodies from the farmer's market to keep me busy. Too bad you have to avoid company when you are sick... but no big deal, I still ate well. Here are a few photos of my creations...

 Veggie Soup

Look at all those fresh farmer's market veggies...
This was a super tasty soup. I made it on Saturday night when I was beginning to feel sick. The warmth of the broth and the Vitamin C in the veggies were a bonus on a cold rainy night!
I enjoyed this soup with an open faced ham and smoked cheese melt, oh and a chunk of Fall Czech bread.

Spaghetti Bolognese w/Whole Wheat Noodles
On Monday, I was craving pasta with a preference to a favorite meaty sauce!

 I used my basil and tomatoes from the Farmer's Market, 2 cloves of garlic and a pat or two of butter to make this fragrant and fresh base for my Bolognese sauce...
 The smell was intoxicating with basil, butter and garlic...
 Add a carton of tomato sauce and the mixture was ready for the simmering...
 Yum! Thick, meaty, perfectly spiced Bolognese Sauce!
Add a side salad with cucumber and fresh mozzarella and dinner is served!

 BAKING with CZECH ingredients! (Attempt #1)
 So far while living in Prague, I have not experimented with my love of baking... too many Czech words to translate and then hunt for in the market. BUT feeling the need to try an conquer something new, I decided to make muffins. 
 Zucchini-Cranberry Spice Muffins to be exact... but it wasn't until I arrived home from TESCO that I remembered I don't actually have a muffin pan. This is one of those moments you wish you knew your neighbors, right! Instead I searched the internet for a recipe to make a cake with the same ingredients...
And it turned out excellent! My German made oven is a rockstar when it comes to baking... 
and doesn't it look even better baked all pretty inside my Polish Pottery!

Butternut Squash- SOUP!
 Butternut Squash is a coveted find in Praha. It is very seasonal, and one is very lucky to stumble upon it. But I happened to do just this, stumble upon, my squash last Friday at a local BIO potraviny. So I bought one- my friend Lynne did also, and then I told Anne about my find and she went for one the next morning... like I said, coveted!
and then I turned mine it into a savory soup... with a hint of Nutmeg!

Complimented by a fresh ear of corn from the Farmer's Market and paired with a green salad and a roll for dipping, it was the perfect "stay-warm and get healthy" meal on a cold Tuesday evening.

Stuffed Eggplant with Basil and Cheese
 This was the first time I made this delicious meal. I halved an eggplant (or aubergine as the Brits say), scooped out the middles then chopped the middles up and sauteed in olive oil with onion and mushrooms. I then mixed this yumminess with the left over Bolognese sauce from Monday night and stuffed each half of the eggplant. Topped with slices of Mild English Chedder (a special find at TESCO) as well as strips of fresh Parmesan (Parmesano Reggiano to be exact), sprinkled with basil and then baked for 20 minutes.
Perfection- really! I never used to eat eggplant- except in Thai food because I didn't care for the texture... but then I gave it a whirl a few times and it changed my palate!

So, that is how you can spend time when you are sick... cooking comfort food. Like I said in last week's blog... whether you enjoy jumping in the leaves, picking the first pumpkins, or cooking with seasonal foods, I hope you too are enjoying the beginning of Autumn... and stay healthy!

Cau Cau- Nikki