Friday, September 19, 2014

our honeymoon

Robert really blew it when he took me to Lake Como to propose.  Just try finding a worthy honeymoon destination after that!

Varenna, Italy
We're getting married in a little over a week and we still haven't settled on a honeymoon destination.  A delayed honeymoon was always part of our plan because of Robert's autumn lecture schedule, but we didn't expect to have this much trouble deciding where to go.

We'd briefly considered taking a train over the Alps to Florence, renting a car and doing vineyard tour around Tuscany, but we do European city breaks so often that they've become something for a long weekend, not a honeymoon. 

We both love the romance of rail travel, so we'd considered taking the Orient Express through Southeast Asia, or the Deccan Odyssey through India but we weren't convinced that we wanted to spend that much time (and money!) on a train.

We both loved the idea of Maldives but their human rights violations caused us to reconsider and ultimately decide not to support their economy.  In keeping with the beautiful tropical theme, we'd considered a week on a private island in the Caribbean but figured we'd go stir-crazy after a few days of being stuck on an island.

A Seabourn cruise from Singapore to Bali was a frontrunner for quite awhile, but we finally decided that the cruise line wasn't a good fit for us.  Which brought us to a tour of Vietnam, with a cruise around Halong Bay, but that's my idea of a winter sun holiday, not a honeymoon. 

We'd even considered Toyko... or a roadtrip in the US.  I haven't been back to the States since 2011 and I've always wanted to drive at least a part of Route 66 before it disappears, but that's really not how I want to spend my honeymoon.

I love Mexico, but after having such easy access from the US, I'm spoiled and cannot justify the hassle and expense of getting there from Europe.

Machu Picchu is one of our dream destinations, but even a night with a view of the ruins couldn't sell it as a honeymoon... too rustic.

I'm half Cuban and it's been my lifelong dream to visit Cuba, but the travel regulations for Americans make it not worthwhile for an American to travel there with a non-American, so that will have to wait until I've got my British passport ;-)

So you see, we've got quite a first world problem on our hands!  Truthfully, we're just spoiled.  We each have six weeks of holiday time, and we travel all the time.  We can take our honeymoon pretty much anywhere we'd like, but we can't seem to find the destination that's the right mix of exotic, romantic and luxurious, which is really what we're after.

Got a suggestion?  Tell us about it in the comments :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

vegetarian hot & sour soup

I'm finally finding my "kitchen legs" again.  I joke that Robert's kitchen "was built by people who hate to cook for people who hate to cook."  Its poor layout, and lack of counter and storage space are really not meant for someone who loves cooking as much as I do.  But we live in the city center where space it at a premium, so that's how it is, and I'm slowly getting back into cooking, even if it does feel like I spend more time climbing up and down a step ladder to gather everything I need, than I do in front of the stove!

I'm also having to get used to cooking for a 13 year old boy.  I don't know the first thing about 13 year olds and I definitely don't know what to feed 13 year old Europeans.  But I'm figuring it out, and The Oik is a good sport about it.

One thing I love about living where I do now is that I have much better access to "exotic" ingredients, so I'm finally able to revisit recipes I'd abandoned since moving here.   I've got four Asian markets within walking distance, which is fortunate since American style Chinese takeaway has not found its way to Denmark.

I love hot & sour soup, but even in the US, it often had pork in it, so I had to make my own.  Now with such easy access to so many Asian markets, I've been able to dust off my recipe...

This is seriously easy, seriously delicious, and slimming ;-)

vegetarian hot & sour soup
6-8 dried wood ear mushrooms
175g tofu, in small cubes
1/2 t + 3T cornstarch
1 t marsala wine
4 cups veggie stock
1 medium carrot, cut into thin strips
150g bamboo shoot strips
7 t soy sauce
7 t black vinegar
1 T rice vinegar
1/2 t white pepper
3/4 t salt
2 t chili oil
2 t sesame oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
spring onions

Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the mushrooms and set them aside.  My wood ear mushrooms were labelled "black fungus" which is totally unappetizing, but if you can't find wood ear mushrooms, they might be called black fungus.  I cross referenced with the latin name, "auricularia auricula-judae" to be sure.

Sprinkle 1/2 t cornstarch over the tofu cubes, then toss them with 1 t marsala wine.  Traditionally, you should use mirin, but I have no other uses for mirin, so any sweet wine will do, it's just to give a bit of flavor to the tofu.

Once the wood ear mushrooms are soft, cut them into thin slices.

Combine the soaking water from the mushrooms with the veggie stock in a large pot and and bring it to a boil. Add the tofu cubes, carrots, bamboo shoots, and mushrooms, and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

In the meantime, whisk together 3T cornstarch and 1/4 cup of water.  Whisk in the soy sauce, black vinegar, rice vinegar, pepper, salt, and oils.

After the 10 minutes are up, turn off the heat, stir in the cornstarch mixture, then slowly add the beaten eggs and give the pot a few stirs so that the egg forms little strings.  Cover and let it rest for 5 minutes, then serve it topped with sliced spring onions.

This recipe is enough to feed three for dinner with little to none leftover, if you need to feed a larger group, or are big eaters, then it would probably be a good idea to double the recipe.

Monday, September 15, 2014

robert's orchid

Robert has been "suggesting" that I post a photo of his beloved orchid.  He says, "you've complained about the bloody thing so much, you have to show your readers that it's a lovely orchid."

So here is Robert's prized orchid, along with my grandfather's Buddha statue, which he acquired for some reason in NYC's Chinatown in the '50s for $2.95...

1950s Buddha Statue
The orchid is in its third bloom in 18 months and currently has 31 flowers :)

P.S. Now he's expecting all of you to comment on what a beautiful orchid it is ;-)
P.P.S. I'm slowly introducing color into his very white and modern world, starting with this sage green in the bedroom :)
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