Saturday, June 25, 2011

Italy - here, there and everywhere...

I wanted to bake something for you all. Baking is all that's always on my mind. But back from a vacation a woman's gotta do what a woman's gotta do = buckets and buckets of laundry (especially having traveled to Europe with a  toddler), toddler jetlag = wierd sleep schedule, tons of cleaning up, haywire help schedule= no help at all and this could go on and on and on...

Stunning architecture, steeped in culture, a complete harmony of the cosmopolitan embedded in historic and a gastronomic paradise - truly describe Italy. Our trip started in Rome and took us through Siena, Florence, Montelpulciano and parts of the Tuscan countryside ending in Venice (for any details on how, where, what please email me). I did a lot of detailed research on the hotels I chose and why I did and all of them were excellent choices.

Hotel Michelangelo, Rome was a 2-minute walk from Vatican City, a great 4 star, with well stocked and very clean rooms offering a view of St. Peter's Basilica, a hearty breakfast and helpful staff - all requirements when travelling with a toddler.

Our hotel was away from the sites yet just 10 minutes away from every place we wanted to be at - picking up our car from Roma Termini, eating and chilling at the Spanish Steps. Being able to sit and absorbing the beauty of the Basilica from outside is truly a remarkable experience but little can you guess the splendor in store for you on the insides - a true visual orgy. Though it was my second time inside the Basilica, I was truly spellIt was astounding to sit at the fountain and just stare at the Basilica and its fine architecture.

Villa Elda, Siena was our home while we were in Tuscany and we couldn't have stayed in any place better. It was near the Fortress, very close to the Basilica & Piazza and a short walk from the Duomo. It had a beautiful terrace & garden - excellent breakfast and cappuccino, huge modern rooms, very friendly & helpful staff who gave us excellent tips & suggestions and made our trip truly memorable.

One of the best Piazza's where we chilled for an entire afternoon with food and fine and the toddler running around in glee. Less touristy than Florence but very lively and full of life.

Suites Torre dell'Orologio, Venice, right at St. Marks was the most gorgeous hotel we lived at. Was sad it was just for a day... a gorgeous suite in a by-lane just near the clock tower giving us a very homely feel (thank you to a reviewer on TripAdvisor we found our hotel in 2 minutes) in the midst of the hustle & bustle. Friendly staff, great eateries all around - couldn't have asked for more.

Rialto & St. Marks were the true touristy things to do but with one day on hand and a tiring journey to Venice we couldn't have achieved more. Just sitting under the stars at St. Marks and listening to the gorgeously played orchestra is a a blissful and romantic experience. Venice has become really tourist and you need to really save yourself from the 100 Euro Gondola rides which we couldn't!

I have stressed on the breakfast everywhere 'coz you need a huge breakfast to take off on all your walking adventures throughout Italy and don't want to keep stopping for food, water and coffee. Our usual was eggs, sausages, a variety of pastries, fresh juices and excellent coffee. We always carried some fruit or snacks for the toddler to tide him till lunch time and that the mornings were best for places that had entries or lines. CAn't stress more or how much our umbrella stroller helped us on our trip - we couldn't have survived without it - nap times were a cinch.

We had great recommendations for restaurants and staying away from the touristy places helped. The Hop On Hop Off bus was great in Rome, maybe July wasn't peak tourist season... we couldn't have seen Rome without it.

Now the part you have been waiting for our the pics. I didn't get any food pics because we were always ravenous... but I did get pics of an Italian Restaurant Kitchen. And I got some lovely pasta tie & die colored green pasta and animal shaped pasta to humor me. Wish I gotten back some cheese, olive oil, marinated tomatoes but we had no place after packing our bottles (only 2) of wine.

The first cut of pictures have only Rome in them... you will have to wait and watch the space for more. Also, the sky's were going to pour almost everyday we were there that's why the dreary skies...

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

To make up for my absence... and the bad picture earlier...

I am sure you have been in the situation when you're running to reach a deadline and are very very far behind (read packing with the toddler... and winding up the house).

Crazy things have been happening last week and I am just glad I am well enough to travel...would have turned out to be a very expensive illness if I couldn't have!

So, I have been MIA and made a comeback with a very grainy pic... but my camera is not all that bad.

I promise you some lovely pics soon... just wanted to leave with some pics from my vacations earlier...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Secret Recipe Club: Supposed Chicken Broccoli Stir Fry = Cottage Cheese & Veggie Stir Fry !'s idea of the secret recipe club is really working and with a 100 odd participants it is a really fun event to take part in. We are assigned a blog in secret and have to cook from it and all the particpants post on the same day... the fun part is looking through all the blogs and seeing who has cooked what!

This time around I was assigned Thru the Bugs on my Windshield a great blog written by Suz and all her experiences of travelling and eating along the way... she has some great recipes and pics and it was a tough choice to make but I will explain you why in a minute.

Last week I got back from a visit to my mum's and was ill with my sinuses playing up, a fever, a bad back and the works...

But let me hit on the highlights... going to your mum's is always great - don't you like how you get to kickback and relax while she says she has got everything in control.

You get to eat your favorite  foods without having to lift a finger and they taste so much better.

You child gets taken care of and he is actually having tons of fun and getting pampered silly...

When you get back, the hub has been missing you, so YOU get pampered silly :)

And then after my l'il illness I am off to another vacay with the hub and the bub... and will share all once I am back!

I am going to eat to my hearts content, not care about my weight (and neither should you on vacation), do as much site-seeing as the tot permits and drink in as much of the culture and atmosphere as I can...

Now, with the falling sick and packing and ensuring we are absolutely organised for the trip within 10 days of having come back from my mom's  (read: dumping clothes in washing machine, sending them to be ironed, ensuring baby has enough under garments, food to eat on flight, what's with the sudden weight restrictions on luggage, remebering to cart the potty seat - we don't like ugly pots and want to make them our own etc I had my hands quite full)

This recipe just stuck out the perfect thing to do with my leftovers... as I am in the process of winding up my kitchen. While you read this I am already off on my vacation... You can read this recipe here but basically I just made it my own... asi t easily adaptable!

I know you do not see Broccoli in my pics - I had to leave the day before I cooked and pictured this and my hubby and baby both are not fans of Broccoli so I just left it out. Also, I was using up the leftovers in my fridge...

Basically, take a huge wok, heat it with a little oil and then I added the veggies in a different order from Suz....with due respect to the original recipe it was supposed to be something to do with leftovers and I am blogging a couple of hours before I have to catch my flight with a very supportive hubby finishing all my last minute packing...

Veggies sliced - whatever you have on hand depending on the portion of rice
I used one onion sliced
1/2  a small carrot
1 tomato cubed
4-5 mushrooms thinly sliced
6-7 cashews fried
1 egg
shredded chicken - my toddler decided to munch on while I cooked so I had to add some cottage cheese
1 cup cooked rice

I added some onions / scallions and carrots, mushrooms (let the water dry off), tomatoes and then broke an egg into this and just scrambled it. I seasoned this with salt, pepper and a bit of paprika & soy sauce.

Yeah, the egg's my addition - my dad does this great egg fried rice and when I started doing this I had this sudden urge to get the same flavor in and I had one lone egg staring at me =  yeah, why not.

Then I added the rice into this and gave it a good stir so it absorbs the flavors... and ta da... we are done.

I topped this off with cooked cottage cheese  since the chicken I had planned to add was munched off in front of me by my toddler, some fried cashews for extra crunch (the only nut my toddler wilfully eats) and my leftover rice was ready!

The flavors are nice... the tomato adds a nice tang which we Indians are used to in our dishes... so I hope you go and try this out!

I really apologize for the pic as the camera has been packed and this is my very old cellphone trying to do it's work!