Category Archives: Food

A Saturday Out…

Our bathroom was being gutted, so Rachel and I decided to go out for breakfast and a walk on Saturday. We started at Cafe Faux Pas, a place that does crepes really well. We split a savory crepe of egg, bacon, and camembert, then we each got a sweet crepe. Mine was, of course, chocolate and Nutella because that’s always what I go for. I loved the way they put things on top of the crepe to show you what was inside. Both were delicious.

We then trekked down to the river to go through the large farmer’s market there. We got macrons, and gingerbread, and cider. Rachel also bought earrings and a coat. There was much to see and it was crowded. To get away from the crowd and take a nice walk, we climbed the stairs to Vysehrad. The beautiful basilica of Saint Peter and Paul is nestled next to the national cemetery, which is unlike any cemetery I’ve ever seen. The sculptures and mosaics here are beautiful, and instead of slabs, there are often plots filled with flowers and plants. It was very peaceful to wander through there.

We then walked around the perimeter of the park, enjoying the views of the city and the river. It was a gorgeous day, and a group of sailboats was on the river. I photographed some ruins from around the 10th century as well as the lovely river scene.

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Lastly, my favorite photo of the day: a narrow doorway in an old wall. I just love everything about this image.

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Dinner in Mala Strana

A group of us ventured to Mala Strana to have a drink at a beer garden and eat dinner. Here’s a view from the beer garden:

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We ended up at Luka Lu, an amazing restaurant celebrating Italy and the Balkan nations. The restaurant is vibrant and colorful, the walls covered with photographs from the various countries the menu represents. This is the room in which we sat:

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Anyone who knows me will assume I began my meal with a fine wine, and that is exactly what I did. I settled on a glass of Vranec, a dry red house wine from Skopje, Macedonia. I should have purchased a bottle of it before I left because I liked it that much. We were served homemade bread that was soft with a chewy crust and had two cream cheese spreads with it. My main course was lamb roasted in the oldest method of Balkan meat preparation. According to my brief research, it is a common dish in northern Montenegro. The lamb is chopped into chunks and put into a clay pot along with onions, peppers, and carrots, oil, salt, and pepper. The food is covered with a domed lid and buried in hot ashes or live coal to slowly cook in its own juices for a few hours. It was so rich and comforting after the chilly autumn air. It was quite a delicious meal.

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Luka Lu is quirky to say the least. Apparently, it’s a thing somewhere in the Balkans to have a piece of furniture attached to your ceiling for luck or something. I couldn’t find any information about it. Luka Lu continues in that unique tradition, and there is always something fascinating to look at, whether it’s the walls or the ceiling.

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With excellent service, delicious food, and a unique atmosphere, we will definitely venture back to Luka Lu.

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Church in a Bar and Brunch

Last Sunday I attended a church that I think will become my new church home. It’s called Do.Slova, and is located in Prague 1. The problem is I don’t know if I can find it again. Anyway, it meets in this old bar which has a lot of character. I just felt at home there, and not just because of few of my coworkers attend there so I actually knew some people. It’s a bilingual church, so everything is in English and in Czech, which I think is quite beautiful. They also do communion, which is really important to me. Everyone was very friendly and welcoming.

Afterward, Shelby, Jen, and I went to a place called Coffee & Waffles for brunch. We had passed it on the way to church, and we just really wanted some waffles at that point. This place offers full breakfast all day as well as a variety of waffles with all sorts of toppings, from sweet to savory. Jen’s had peanut butter sauce and Nutella, if I remember correctly. Shelby and I went for scrambled eggs and the Czech version of bacon with our waffles. This place was a sweet little find.

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Festival & Fried Dough

Jen, Shelby, and I ventured out last Saturday to find a cultural festival taking place in another neighborhood of Prague. There were a number of food stalls as well as vendors with things to buy. A couple different stages had entertainment. We walked through everything once to get a feeling for the offerings. There was American BBQ, Chinese food, Mexican, and all sorts of South American representation, like Peru and Venezuela. Guys, it smelled really good. We got Mexican food, went to the Irish pub tent for Irish beer and cider, and watched a Bulgarian children’s choir as well as a good sized Salsa dance class.

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We then wandered over to Wenceslas square. Why did we bother with a touristy, crowded area? Because the festival was lacking only in fried dough treats, we wanted something like that, and Wenceslas square has it.

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We found fried dough, everyone. It’s actually a Slovakian treat called a trdelnik chimney, and it was doughy on the inside, crispy on the outside, and covered with cinnamon-sugar. Also? You could get the cones filled with goodness like Nutella and ice cream, which is what we did. Linda, my cousin, this picture is for you! Thanks for bringing my attention to this treat.

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Just So

We stayed close to home the other day and went to a nearby coffee shop. The cute little place is called “Jen Tak”, which means “just so”. Everything was just so in here, from the sweet barista to the perfect coffee to the display case of tempting treats. We were on a mission to eat medovnik, a delicious honey cake. Jen Tak did not disappoint, and I’ll definitely be back. It was nice to find a charming little coffee shop near the apartment.

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Look at our beautiful cappuccinos! Jen’s had hearts and mine was a flower. The cappuccinos were served in the most delicate china cups and the coffee was a perfect compliment to the sweet cake.

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Finally, we had medovnik! For those who love honey, this treat is a must. The cake had rich honey flavor which was balanced by layers of cream. This is a cake I will indulge in again.

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Adventures with Rachel, Pt. 1

I’ve titled this post as such because I have a sneaking suspicion that I’ll have more adventures with my friend, Rachel, to share with you in the future. Rachel and I met at Taylor University when we were are major undergrads. We both just happen to be teaching in Prague at the same time, so we’ve rekindled our old friendship. I had almost forgotten how much fun I have with Rachel. Here we are!

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Anyway, last Sunday, she took me to a restaurant up by the Strahov Monastery, which houses one of the most beautiful libraries in the world. Below is a picture of the monastery, but click the link highlighted above to go to the website and do a virtual tour. It’s a beautiful place.

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Below is the restaurant/beer garden we ate at, and it was great. It’s called Velka Klasterni. The food was delicious, the beer was perfect, and we had great conversation.

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And you cannot beat the view of the city from up here:

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To the left of the image is Prague Castle, which Rachel and I walked to and wandered around. Below is a close up of part of the castle compound. We did a lot of wandering and exploring. We ended our day with the amazing gelato at Creme de la Creme (future post – stay tuned) as we sat overlooking the river.

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Birthday in Bohemia

So, my birthday was this past weekend. So was Jen’s. We had a joined birthday celebration with our other housemates, and it was a perfect evening. First of all, we get off the metro and I have immediate balcony envy. Can you believe this place?!

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We went to dinner at a place called The Three Pigs. It’s not in a touristy area, and it had really good food. I had a dish that consisted of tiny potato dumplings (smaller than gnocchi) in a sheep’s cheese sauce with crispy bacon. I also had a mixed beer, the Czech equivalent of a black and tan. Beer is different here – it’s not so carbonated and it’s very smooth. The Three Pigs had a nice atmosphere and we enjoyed a good meal together.

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Next, we went to the Tower Park Prague. It was built during the communist era and looks like something out of Star Wars. It has a bar/cafe, restaurant, and hotel in its upper levels. We went up to the bar for after dinner drinks and to see the lights come on in the city.

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Gingerbread Manhattan – a delightful cocktail that came with pieces of gingerbread!

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The ladies I’m doing life with: Rachel, me, Shelby, Andrea, and Jen. Selfies are not our strong suit.

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Kitchen: Cinnamon Rolls

Making cinnamon rolls from scratch is a lot of work. Much work. For some freakish reason, I tend to enjoy these tedious baking projects. Naturally, one weekend, I decided to attempt this recipe. Now, these rolls were a big hit with the family, and they turned out beautifully, but they are definitely a once-in-a-while treat, and not just because of all the butter and sugar. They are so much work.

I used a recipe I found on Pinterest because, yes, I am one of those women who actually attempts the recipes she finds on Pinterest. They are based on the recipe used by Cinnabon, and are gooey and indulgent and comforting. They also reheat really well.

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Ingredients:

For the dough:
3/4 cup warm water
2 and 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup buttermilk, room temperature
1 egg
1/3 cup oil
4 and 1/2 – 5 cups all-purpose flour

For the filling:
1 and 1/4 cups light brown sugar
2 and 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/2 cup (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature

For the cream cheese frosting:
2 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, room temperature
pinch of vanilla powder ( or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract)
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 and 1/4 cups powdered sugar, sifted

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, add water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon of the granulated sugar. Stir together, then let the yeast rise for about 5-10 minutes. In a small bowl, whisk together buttermilk, egg, and oil until well-combined. After 10 minutes, the yeast should look frothy and bubbly. At this point, pour in the buttermilk mixture, remaining sugar, and salt, and stir together for 10-15 seconds.

Pour in 2 cups of the measured flour, and stir on low speed until incorporated. Continue to pour in flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the bowl and bowl starts to look clean. Increase speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes. The dough should be slightly sticky, but not sticky enough to stick to your fingers when touched.

Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, then set aside in a warm place to rise for 1-2 hours, or until dough has doubled in size.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, cinnamon, and cornstarch until combined.

Butter an 11×15 inch glass baking dish, then line with parchment paper, and butter again.

Once dough has risen, liberally flour a large, clean work surface. Punch down the dough to remove air bubbles, then transfer it to the work surface. Roll the dough out into a large rectangle, roughly 20×30 inches wide. Spread softened butter over the surface of the dough, leaving a 1-inch strip on the edge of the dough farthest from you untouched. Evenly sprinkle cinnamon sugar mixture over the butter, then use a rolling pin to gently roll over the mixture and slightly press it into the butter.

Starting with the edge of the dough closest to you, gently roll up the dough into a tight log, sealing it with the strip of dough you left untouched. Cut off any uneven ends. Score dough every two inches, then use those marks to evenly slice your dough into rolls.

Place rolls into parchment paper lined baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap, then set aside in a warm place to rise 1-2 hours, or until rolls have doubled in size and are almost touching each other. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 15-17 minutes, or until tops start to brown. Do not overbake!

While rolls are baking, prepare your frosting. In a bowl, using an electric hand mixer, beat together butter and cream cheese until smooth and creamy. Add vanilla and lemon juice and beat until combined. Pour in powdered sugar and mix on low speed just until incorporated. Then, increase speed to high and beat for an additional 5 minutes, or until frosting turns white.

Once you remove the rolls from the oven, spread half of the frosting on top of them. This layer will melt into the rolls. Once they’ve cooled down, spread on the remaining frosting. Serve warm or reheat before serving. IMG_2660IMG_2661IMG_2665

Enjoy. Indulge.

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Kitchen: An Italian Brunch

I’ve been wanting to make this brunch for my parents for a long time. It is composed of many of my favorite things: crisp prosciutto, polenta loaded with parmegianno regiano and goat cheese, and perfectly poached eggs. It may sound intimidating, but it isn’t, trust me. The polenta took about 3 minutes, if that. You follow the package directions, then add whatever you want at the end (in this case, a couple of cheeses) The prosciutto was put on a baking sheet in a 350-degree oven until it reached my desired crispiness.

The trick for me here was the poached eggs, as I’ve never made them before. It’s my favorite way to eat an egg, all softly textured with the rich, creamy yolk, but I only get them when I’m at a restaurant that will make them for me. I did what any curious cook with the internet should do: I googled and YouTubed how to make poached eggs. Some said to swirl the cooking liquid, some said it isn’t necessary. Some said add vinegar, some said it’s unnecessary.

I wound up cracking one egg at a time into a small, mesh sieve. This drains away all the loose whites that make poached eggs look raggedy. I then gently laid it into a large pan of simmering water. All I put in the water was salt, no vinegar. I then left the eggs alone, no stirring, no poking; I just kept an eye on them until all the whites had firmed up and there was no “clear” egg in the water. I surprised myself with delightful results.

Let me tell you, there are few things so decadent as a perfectly poached egg broken over a bowl of cheesy polenta. This meal stays with you for a long time.

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Behold the glory of a breakfast I wish I could eat every morning:

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Cooking: Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies

I cannot for the life of me remember where I found this recipe. My best guess is it is from Giada De Laurentiis, since quite a few of my recipes are derived from hers. I love these simple cookies, and they are perfect in a care package or as a pick-me-up. They are just the right amount of chocolate-y and just the right amount of chewy.

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Ingredients:

1 Cup (2 sticks) softened butter

1/4 C powdered sugar

1 tsp. cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 package mini chocolate chips

2 C flour

2/3 C Nutella

Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees and grease your cookie sheets.

Beat butter and sugar on high until light and fluffy. Beat in vanilla. Gradually add the cinnamon and flour, then beat in the Nutella. Lastly, fold in about half the bag of mini chocolate chips.

Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, drop 12 balls of dough at a time onto the greased cookie sheets. Bake them for 10 – 12 minutes. Allow the cookies to cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack or wax paper to cool completely. With a small scoop, I get about 3 dozen cookies.

Enjoy!

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