Category: Food and Drink

Argentina: A Themed Staycation

A staycation (or stay-cation, or stacation) is a period of time in which an individual or family stays at home and relaxes at home.

As there are many families going through tough economic times right now, I thought it would be a good time to talk about Staycations.  Even if you can’t afford to go far during your vacation time this year, you can still take the opportunity to make it a fun time for your kids and add a little culture while you’re at it.  Recently, we hosted an Argentinian Wine Tasting Party and I thought why not extend this fun to the whole family and make a week out of it.  I love a theme, so I’ve come up with some ideas so that you can pretend you are visiting Argentina for the week.

Most important thing you need is food. Argentinians love their beef and barbecued meats so stock up.  This recipe for ‘Best Chimichurri Sauce’ was found in House and Home Magazine in August’08.  Chimichurri Sauce is an Argentinian condiment.  I served it with beef tenderloin, barbecued and then thinly sliced, placed on top of fresh bread slices and topped with this garlic and parsley condiment.  It was delicious and easy to make!

For best results, use a mini food processor to turn the aromatics into a paste.

3 large cloves garlic, peeled
2 shallots
1 bay leaf
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves ( or 1/2 dried)
1/2 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
several grindings of black pepper
pinch sugar
2 cups flat-leaf parsley leaves ( gently pressed into measuring cup)
1/2 cup olive oil

1. Combine first 10 ingredients in mini food processor and puree to a paste.  Scrape into bowl.
2. Finely chop parsley in food processor.  Add to garlic mixture.
3. Stir in olive oil.  Chill at least one hour (or overnight) before serving with barbecued meats.

Next the family needs to learn to Tango! You can watch instructional videos on youtube such as this one:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jMZDCk6dT6c&playnext_from=PL&feature=PlayList&p=072C38A00E96724B&playnext=1&index=18

Get some roses (real or plastic) for the kids to use as they tango around the room.  You can also find tango music to play on itunes by listening to the Latino radio stations or find music to purchase by typing Argentina tango in the search box.

Greet your kids each morning with ‘Ola Buenos dias’ and say ‘Gracias’ at every opportunity.  Encourage your kids to learn some new Spanish words.  You can find free Spanish lessons on-line at:

www.learnspanishtoday.com/

www.studyspanish.com/

Plan activities that you would normally do on vacation, but near your own home such as hiking, swimming or kayaking.  Before you go, you can watch some videos on Argentina so that you can imagine the scenery while you are there.

Youtube videos:

Ushuaia, Argentina- penguins-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dk-FIi0kSKY&feature=related

Buenos aries- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XYirXGk9ysI&feature=related

Patagonia- Argentina- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0jlOF7Bci8

Iquazu waterfalls-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y0jlOF7Bci8

Other ideas:

  • organize a soccer game with friends and family
  • For young children give them a snorkel and mask in the bathtub to find the penguins and seals

Do you have any other ideas?  Post a comment and share!

Dreaming of Street Meat

The world is full of tasty delights.  While sitting down to a meal in a nice restaurant can be a great way to end the day, there are lots of other options that are easier on the pocket book and sometimes end up being the food you remember most about a country.  In many places ” Fast-Food” doesn’t involve looking for the golden arches, it is available direct from a local entrepreneur and prepared fresh in front of you.  My husband and I , affectionately call this ” street meat ” because the first time we encountered it, we were terrified that it would make us sick.  It turns out however, that every time we have been sick while traveling, it was after eating at a nice restaurant.

There are of course some guidelines, you need to follow, to ensure that the food is safe for your family to eat.  Always be sure that meat products were properly stored.  Watch to see if it is removed from an ice chest and make sure it is cooked fresh in front of you and hasn’t been sitting out for a while.  When possible, bring your own mug or glass, because re-usable drinking cups may not be washed in safe or hot water.

The following is a list of some of the best street food I’ve enjoyed.  Whenever I get home from traveling, I always want to eat like this but it seems that the key to these regional specialties is the availability of fresh food which we don’t often have access to in North America.

1.  Fresh Fruit, Bangkok, Thailand.- Fresh pineapple and melons on ice are peddled around in glass carts and sold on street corners.buying-fruit

2.  Corn over charcoal- Chaing Mai, Thailand.

3.  Donairs, Halifax, Canada- Atlantic Canadian version like the usual doner kebab, but uses a slightly sweet milk-based garlic sauce and tomatoes/onions. It should be very soaked and sloppy when served.

4.  Grilled mystery meat on any street corner in Asia.

5.  Fresh Seafood on the beach in Oualidia, Morocco.- The fisherman will come around to take your order then set up a BBQ and grill it right in front of you. Oysters are also on this impromptu menu if you are so inclined.Fish in Oalidia

6.  Orange Juice in Djamaa El Fna, Marrakesh- freshly squeezed but I recommend your own glass.

7.  Red Tea Djamaa El Fna, Marrakesh.

8.  Mint Tea, Fez, Morocco.- Made with green tea and fresh mint leaves steeped in you own tea pot with lots of sugar and poured using a special technique into what look like large shot glasses.

9.  Cheese, bread and sausages-Portugal, Spain, France and Italy- A staple found in any market, bakery etc.

10. Gyros,  Corfu, Greece.  – Consisting of meat (typically lamb and/or beef), tomato, onion, and tzatziki sauce, and is served in pita bread.

Meals to Remember- The Best Food in the World

During this festive season, I’ve been doing a lot of eating and it seems that food begets food.  The more I eat, the more I think about what my next culinary delight is going to be, and so I have been reflecting on some of the best meals I’ve ever had and whether or not I could re-create them.  This is unlikely since, although I love to eat food, I have little time or patience for actually preparing it.  I guess that is why all of the meals on my list, are those that were cooked by someone else!

This will be one of the many posts I will have about food.  The following list is meant to get your taste buds watering.  They are not in any particular order, just the order in which I am recalling each feast.

1.  La Quebecoise, La Paz, Bolivia- On a dark, tree-lined street, where each quaint home, building and business has a wraught-iron fence and a bell to ring to be received at the front door.  It was my birthday, 2003, and we decided to try out this homey French Canadian restaurant, found so far away from home.  Regrettably, I don’t remember the exact name of the dish I had, but I remember it resembled cannelloni and was served with fresh baked bread and good wine.  This restaurant is highly recommended for a date night!

2.  Happy Campground, Rome, Italy- Home cooked meals prepared by the family that owns this campground, were served on a porch or at tables set in amidst the greenery.  Between my husband and I we tried most of the pastas on the menu and they were all so flavorful that we didn’t want to eat anywhere else.  Great place to take your kids as menu was mainly pastas and pizzas that they would enjoy.  The campground had a nice pool and provided transportation to the train station into the city.

3.  Forodhani Gardens ( Night Market ), Stonetown, Zanzibar, Tanzania- This is the place that I learned to like seafood.  Every night the fishermen set up food stalls and charcoal grills ready to prepare their catch of the day.  The choices are endless.  I tried crab for the first time, and have never again tasted anything like it.  It was so fresh, and right off the boat.  I also had kebabs of flounder, swordfish and other delicacies of the sea.  I tried the Zanzibari pizza too.  I will put a disclaimer on this that I got sick following this meal, however none of my other 3 traveling companions did, even though we all ate the same thing.  Even though I paid for this meal after the fact, I am still putting it on my list because it was that good!  Oh, and it was also probably the cheapest feast I have ever had.

4.  Freeman’s on the Alley, New York City, USA –  My meal was a chicken dish that is no longer on the menu, however, my husband ordered the ‘Seared Filet Mignon’ which was to die for.  It was so simple, yet so tasty. It came with a whole roasted onion and a large dollop of horseradish cream.  I’m salivating just thinking of it.  It was also reasonably priced for NYC at $24.   We shared the restaurant with Mike Myers where I had to restrain myself from going to his table and reciting ‘Git in ma belly’ or that will cost ‘ One Million Dollars’.  Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings) was also in the restaurant that evening.

5.  Bha Bha, A Persion Bistro, Naples, Florida- Located in a strip mall but elegantly decorated, this bistro was a delightful surprise!  I went with my family so was able to try a wide variety of fragrant dishes all served over saffron basmati rice.  I would recommend, Shireen Polo with Saffron poached chicken, Duck Fesenjune (a succulent orange braised duck with pomegranate and walnut sauce), and Lamb Bademjune ( done in tomato lemon sauce with eggplants and sour grapes ).  This restaurant was also very accomodating for our baby.

6.  The Press Gang, Halifax, NS, Canada- There are many restaurants in Halifax, I’d like to list but that will have to be a separate post.  For now, I’d like to highlight the Sweet Potato and Blackened Scallop Chowder and Flourless  Chocolate Espresso Cake I enjoyed at this cosy restaurant located in an historic building.

7.  Bar des Imagens/Costa do Castelo, Lisbon, Portugal-  The outdimg_1500oor patio has spawling views of the city and a casual relaxed atmosphere.  The food was prepared with such care.  Suprisingly my husband daughter and I had the restaurant to ourselves most of the evening as we dined.  I ordered a salad prepared with greens, beets, mixed vegies, goat cheese, garlic and oil.  The main course was a chicken dish and then we splurged on a chocolate dessert that melted in my mouth.  I wish we’d had another night so we could go back there!

I haven’t even started to share my favorite Asian cuisine but I think I’ll leave it at that for now.  I’m craving so many things I’m going to have to sign off, while I go make a snack.  I hope your holidays are filled with good food and good company.  Don’t forget to make a donation to your local food bank so that the less fortunate can also eat well this holiday season.  Bon Appetit!


 

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