You say “Tortilla,” I say “Torta,” let’s call the whole thing…by L

… an omelette. 🙂

Torta: A Filipino Omelette Story

In our household, a number of languages are spoken throughout the day. You’ll hear English, Tagalog, Catalan and Castellano. Along with a diverse number of languages, also comes a variety of dishes coming out of our kitchen.

Onions from Holesovice Market

My mom is in town and at the moment, our stomachs are being well nourished by her homemade Filipino dishes. I love my mom’s cooking and her meals remind me of growing up and living under her roof all over again, minus the curfews. When my brothers and I were kids, we always looked forward to eating Mom’s “Torta.”

Fresh carton of eggs from the Andel Market

For a Filipino person, the word “torta,” means an omelette made with a mix of different ingredients. This could be eggs made with any of the following: eggplant, onions, tomatoes, ground meat, potatoes, green peas or peppers. Some “tortas” can be prepared using one of these ingredients or a combination of them. For this post, mom used onions, potatoes, red and green peppers. As winter continues to push autumn away, (our first snowfall was on Oct.27th!) we will begin to depend on these kinds of vegetables, as well as carrots and cabbage to get us through the coldest of seasons.

Czech potatoes from Holesovice Market

Now, back to our language study. Well, “torta” in Spanish means cake and it is highly probable that this word was adopted by Filipinos when Spain conquered the Philippine islands many decades ago. What’s interesting to me about the use of this word, is how a Filipino “torta” does resemble a small pancake. In my husband’s native soil of Spain, this dish would be referred to as “tortilla.” In Spain, this word does not mean a piece of flat bread used to hold a number of hearty Mexican fillings inside. A “tortilla” is an omelette that is also made with a variety of fillings, such as potatoes, onions, tuna, spinach or my all-time favorite: artichokes. The main difference between the Filipino and the Spanish one is that my people’s version comes in several small round pancake size servings, whereas the Spanish style omelette is as large as the pan it is cooked in and meant to be cut and served at the table. (My husband makes a very tasty “tortilla de patata” and I hope he will guest blog about it in the future.)

Peppers in all sorts of shades from the Andel Market

With the sudden changes of temperature in Prague, it looks like the forecast will be potatoes, potatoes and more potatoes to come. So, Prague friends and those outside our borders, when you are tired of your usual bramborak (the Czech potato pancake) try the Filipino version!

Mama de la Isla’s Torta Special (Makes about 24 small-medium sized pieces of torta)

Mama de la Isla: the one and only!

8 medium-sized potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces

8 cloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tomato, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

7 medium-sized eggs

1/2 red pepper, chopped into small pieces

1/2 green pepper, chopped into small pieces

2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large pan.

Add garlic, onion, tomatoes and let it cook for about 5-7 minutes.

Then add the potatoes.

Stir well and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, beat the eggs in a large bowl.

Add the chopped pepper.

When the potato mixture is ready, let it cool then add it to the eggs and pepper.

If the potatoes are too hot, it will cook the egg and you don’t want that to happen.

Stir until well combined.

Heat a large non-stick frying pan, turn heat to low.

Drop about 1/3 of a cup of the mix to the pan. (There is no need to add extra oil for frying because there is enough oil in the mixture.)

When the bottom looks cooked, take your most trusted spatula and carefully flip the torta over.

Repeat until all the mixture has disappeared.

Enjoy with a plate of rice and tomatoes. (I like to also have a side of ketchup on hand. Yes, I am a true Filipina!)

OR… as a sandwich

¡Torta con pan!

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Another ABC – Autumn, Berlin, Chocolate Cake!

Pumpkins = Autumn

This week I visited Berlin, Germany- yet again! It has very quickly become one of my favorite cities in Europe. Berlin has a certain vibe to it that is rich in culture and uniqueness! It reminds me so much of Portland, Oregon- my home town.

Berlin + Outdoor Markets

There is an outdoor market in Prenzlaur Berg that I always visit if I am in Berlin on a Thursday or Saturday. Traveling with a friend from Portland, I wanted her to experience authentic Berlin… so to market we went!

My favorite Berlin market…

Located on Kollwitzplatz square, this market is an ideal place for buying fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables, a variety of bread, tasty treats and many other beautiful, hand made creations.

A quiet market day…

The market was the quietest I have seen it-  not as many vendors as I remember from the last time I wandered through the market in late August. It was a drizzly, Thursday morning when were were wandering this Thursday, but I am sure the market would perk up later in the afternoon when the sun came out from behind the clouds!

I didn’t purchase anything this time although I was tempted by a jam vendor I have not seen there before… sometimes I just enjoy wandering through the market without a list, without the intention to buy anything. Instead I just wander and admire the colors, smells, and hustle and bustle of the people.

Because it is Autumn, there are certain foods, spices and smells that make Autumn heavenly for me… such as cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin pie and Chai spice. It was L’s birthday this week so I didn’t need ANY excuse to make this beloved Red Wine Chocolate Cake. I first made this cake one year ago today for dinner with friends during October holiday. Now, I find because of the red wine, cinnamon and chocolate combination it is a winner! The only thing I adapt in this recipe is the wine… sometimes I use what I have on hand, such as the Argentinian Malbec I used today; other times I vary it using a rich Merlot a Cabernet or even a Syrah… regardless, it is my GO-TO cake for birthdays, celebrations, game nights, dinner parties and chocolate lovers in general.. try it out!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake… rich and delicious!

Red Wine Chocolate Cake

recipe from Smitten Kitchen

Notes and Adaptations: The wine does NOT fully bake out of this cake… which makes it oh so good! Also, I prefer to use a pie plate instead of lining a circular pan with parchment paper. I serve triangular slices with a big dollop of Marscapone cream… everyone LOVES it!

Cake
6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup (179 grams) firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup (50 grams) white granulated sugar
1 large egg + 1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
3/4 cup (177 ml) red wine, any kind you like
1 teaspoon (5 ml) vanilla extract
1 cup  (133 grams) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (41 grams) Dutch cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Topping
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup (118 grams) chilled heavy or whipping cream
2 tablespoons (25 grams) granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cake: Preheat the oven to 325 Degrees F or 180 Degrees C. In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, cream the butter until smooth. Add the sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and yolk and beat well, then add the red wine and vanilla. Don’t worry if the batter looks a little uneven. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together. Mix until 3/4 combined, then fold the rest together with a rubber spatula. Spread batter in prepared pan. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. The top of the cake should be shiny and smooth, like a puddle of chocolate. Cool in pan on a rack for about 10 minutes. This cake keeps well at room temperature or in the fridge. I like to dust it with powdered sugar.

For the topping: Whip mascarpone, cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form — don’t overwhip. Dollop generously on each slice of cake. It can also be covered and refrigerated for up to 4 hours.

Rockin’ Red Pepper Pesto by Allison

Rockin’ Red Pepper Pesto

Red peppers are one of my favorite vegetables most definitely and for the price of 34 crowns per kilo, why I think I love red peppers even a little bit more than before. When the price per red pepper can be $1.39  back in the U.S., I think to myself, well I’ll just grab a few more! I ended up with several bags of red peppers on Saturday and decided to make red pepper pesto while I was at the Holesovice market.

I scooped up approximately 2 cups some walnuts from a vendor and tucked them inside my bag as I hunted around for some other items on my list.

Later in the day, I went to the “River Farmers’ Market” and grabbed a jar of these gorgeous sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil and carried it home as I walked along the river.

Where did I find fresh basil at this time of year? I’ll tell you my secret not to worry. The potraviny near the Ujezd tram stop (if you’re going in the direction from Narodni Divaldo to Ujezd it is right there on the same side of the street as you exit and it is long and narrow shop with wonderful produce.

This roasted red pepper pesto is insanely good. Get creative and use it as a veggie dip, a sandwich spread, a pizza sauce, over gluten-free pasta, on GF crackers, add a little cheese and spread over an omelette. Did I mention this freezes well? I made two batches and I just might make more soon it is that good!

Rockin’ Red Pepper Pesto

Ingredients

  • 6 – 8 red bell peppers
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts
  • 3 tablespoon chopped sundried tomatoes
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup olive oil (or, more or less as desired)
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Cut (washed & patted dry) peppers in half lengthwise and remove seeds and membranes and arrange them in a single layer on a foil lined baking tray. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast for about 20 minutes or more depending on whether you like a blackened red pepper. When you pull the red peppers out of the oven,  wrap in foil and set aside. Using a food processor, pulse garlic and walnuts until finely chopped and add roasted red peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and basil, and process. Add in the olive oil gradually and  then add crushed pepper flakes and process until all the ingredients are well combined, make it as smooth or as coarse as you want it. Add salt and ground pepper to taste. Enjoy!

recipe from elsbro.com

P is for Pumpkin Puree by L

How To Make Your Own Pumpkin Puree: a visual guide

Once upon a time, I was a teacher. An early childhood teacher to be exact, and that meant, I spent plenty of time in the cheerful company of children between the ages of 3 and 7. All of that was once upon a time. When I used to share what I did for a living, many of the responses I received went a little something like this:  “Wow! You must have a lot of energy!” or “I could never do that!” Nowadays, when I look back at working with our youngest learners, it all seems like a breeze. My current stint as a stay at home mom of toddler twins, has shown me how much energy I truly possess, how there are things I thought I would never do and discovered how love could make me do anything.

Step 1: Wash and cut pumpkin in half. Then scoop out the seeds with a sturdy spoon.

When I reflect on those days in the classroom, one of the things that I fondly remember doing is cooking with my students. During a study on pumpkins, my students and I made pumpkin puree a few times a week. Together with my group of four or five little learners, we would gather around a table, cut our pumpkin in half, scoop out the seeds and prepare it for the oven. Afterwards, my young chefs would use their “special” large grown-up spoons to scrape out the baked pumpkin’s flesh and store it in jars. We stocked up on loads and loads of this puree to use in recipes for bread, jam or cookies and even kept the seeds on the side for toasting.  The ironic bit in all this, is that before I became an early childhood teacher, I knew zero about cooking with pumpkins. Fast forward to the present, ten years later and I can say that I’m an expert in all things pumpkin.

Step 2: Place pumpkins face down in a baking pan filled halfway with water (bain-marie)
Bake at 350/180 degrees for 45 minutes.

Time has moved quickly since I last led a group of young children in circle time or acted out a story or tricked children into learning addition by teaching them a math game or had my hands covered in a colorful palette of acrylic paint. Yet, two years later and I am still pumping out batches of pumpkin puree. Those years of practice have certainly paid off. The jars of homemade sweet orange mush are now enthusiastically enjoyed and devoured by my semi-toothless toddlers. Soon enough, (because the cliché is so true) they will graduate to more adult-like food and swap the straight up puree for pumpkin pie, cookies, cake and maybe one of these Nutty Pumpkin Carrot Chocolate Chip squares.

Step 3: Peel skin or scrape the cooked flesh and blend in food processor or with a hand blender. If it is too dry, you can add some of the cooking water. Use immediately or store in glass jars or freezer bags for future use.

Nutty Pumpkin Carrot Chocolate Chip Squares (adapted from the cookbook One Smart Cookie)

Nutty Pumpkin Carrot Chocolate Chip Squares:
nutritious and delicious!

Ingredients:

1 cup flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. salt

1 large egg

1 large egg white

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup pumpkin

2 tbsp. oil

2 tbsp. butter

1 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup grated carrots

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/3 cup pecans

Squares au natural!

Preheat oven to 350/180 degrees

In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt.

In a larger bowl, beat the egg and egg white until foamy.

Add the brown sugar, pumpkin, oil, butter and vanilla and mix until smooth.

Add the dry mixture to the wet ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon until it is well blended.

Add the carrots, pecans and chocolate. Stir until smooth.

Pour and spread batter into a 8″x8″ greased pan.

Bake for 30-35 minutes.

Cool on a wire rack before serving.

Cream Cheese Frosting (optional)

1/2 cup of butter (1 stick), room temperature

8 oz of cream or quark cheese (1 package), room temperature

2 – 3 cups of powdered sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Mix cheese and butter until smooth.

Add the vanilla.

Then slowly begin adding the sugar until you are happy with the consistency of the batter.

Enjoy!

Gluten-free Pumpkin Cake by Allison

Gluten-free Pumpkin Cake 

Pumpkins, pumpkins everywhere.   With October in full swing and Halloween just around the corner, one can see all the different varieties of pumpkins stacked on top of one another at the farmers’ markets. Pumpkins were for carving when I was younger, or even for coloring as I won a “pumpkin decorating” content at the co-op one year by drawing hair on my pumpkin with a marker, I’m sure that was the deciding factor in me bringing home the grand-prize!

When my Mom made her fabulous pumpkin cake, she used Libby’s canned pumpkin, and the cake turned out delicious every time. When I moved to Prague there was a shop where I could purchase the infamous Libby’s canned pumpkin, but the supply was not consistent as I’m sure people were hoarding cans of this coveted goodness to squirrel away for Thanksgiving or another yummy dish of some sort for the future. During my second year in Prague, the shop closed and was replaced by a museum, which was not conducive to impressing cake lovers in my social circle with my amazing pumpkin cake.

Liezel suggested I try roasting my own pumpkin instead, so when I ventured into uncharted pumpkin roasting territory and made my first cake with homemade pumpkin puree, the result was better, way better. So goodbye Libby’s canned pumpkin, so long, farewell and I don’t think I’ll ever need you again. I’ve got bags of frozen pumpkin puree in my freezer ready and waiting to become future and fabulous pumpkin cake. When I had to go gluten-free nearly two years ago, I thought the days of eating to-die-for pumpkin cake were over, but I was so wrong. Luckily, this happens to be one of those recipes where a direct substitution of gluten-free four and gluten-free baking powder work magically, thank goodness my life is not without pumpkin cake after all.

Ingredients

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups pureed pumpkin
  • 2 cups gluten-free flour (Marks & Spencer gluten-free flour blend works great for this recipe)
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder (can be found at Interspar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves*
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg*

* May substitute all these ingredients with 1 tablespoon and 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice.

Cream cheese frosting (optional)

  • 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 3/4 cups powdered sugar
Directions:
Roast the pumpkin
Cut your pumpkin into quarters, core and remove seeds. Place skin-side up and flesh side down on a roasting pan and add water to cover the bottom of the pan. Roast at 200 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour,  Baked until pumpkin flesh tests uniformly tender when fork is inserted. Let cool, discard the skin of the pumpkin and add the pumpkin to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth.
Prepare the cake
Preheat oven to 170 degrees C. Combine first four ingredients in a large bowl. Using a wire whisk, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices; add to pumpkin mixture and mix well. Pour into greased 9″ x 13″ pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Cool. Beat together the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract, gradually add powdered sugar. Frost cooled cake. Cut and share with friends! Enjoy!

Autumn Lovin’ from the Oven by Nikki

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms w/Feta

For some reason, this meal reminds me of Italy.. or rather- Italian food! It is hearty, best served warm, and full of flavor from a variety of Italian spices! I love mushrooms, and lucky for any mushroom lovers in Prague, it just so happens to be Czech Mushroom hunting season. Last year while I was visiting my Granny in New Zealand, she gave me a recipe for Hungarian Mushroom soup… I would love to try this with some fresh Czech mushrooms, but I am not a mushroom picking expert. So, I will be buying them this weekend at my local farmers market instead!

thick slices of Feta cheese – yum!

But what I CAN do is tell the difference between a good dinner and a not so good dinner. Stuffed mushrooms with zucchini, red and yellow peppers, green onion, and chopped mushroom stems- this is a great dinner! It was my evening to host Game Night this month. After deciding on homemade Bolognese and pasta for my game-loving freinds, I decided to make something different for my 2 vegetarian friends. Stuffed Portobello mushrooms- tis the season!. These type of mushrooms are very “meaty” which in vegetarian language (I assume) means thick! They hold the vegetable ingredients safe and sound until it is time to move it to your plate and gobble it down! And with a little oil, spices, and baking in their own juices the mushroom stays firm but not too tough… If you are a mushroom lover you should give this a try- and vegetarian or carnivore, I encourage you to be creative with your fillings! Enjoy!

Autumn Lovin’ from the Oven

Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms

(serves 2-4)

Ingredients: 4-8 large, firm, fresh Portobello mushrooms, olive oil, dried Spices: oregano, thyme, basil, paprika, garlic powder, ground pepper.

Fillings: be creative! (I used red and yellow bell pepper, zucchini, green onion, and 3 of the mushroom stems)

Toppings: your preferred CHEESE! (I used Feta)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees C or 350 degrees F

Directions:

1. Prepare filling by dicing veggies or browning meat, etc.

2. Pull stems out of mushrooms and chop as many as desired to add to your filling.

3. Add a small drizzle of olive oil to a baking pan and place mushrooms with the inside facing up- like little bowls!

4. Place in oven for ten minutes prior to filling…

5. Saute veggies in olive oil and desired amount of spices- just until tender.

6. Fill mushrooms and bake for another 10-15 minutes… or until mushrooms begin to shrink and become tender.

7. Top with cheese and serve warm preferably with a side salad

8. Enjoy!

The Breakfast Battles by L

Zucchinis at the Andel Farmer’s Market in Prague 5

I’ve only been a parent for 14 months, but I quickly discovered that nothing, NOTHING remains constant for too long when it comes to raising a baby. Actually, I should now be using the word toddler. Once I thought I got the whole “Eat, Sleep, Play” routine down, my two toddlers go ahead and twist the whole game around.

Breakfast time is where our current struggle lies. When my daughters first began “eating” solids, they sloppily, but happily, took their baby cereal first thing in the morning. Lately, one of the girls has begun to refuse her daily bowl of porridge. Her favorite food to break her fast is plain ol’ natural yoghurt. She doesn’t seem to tire of it, but I do. As a new mother, it concerns me that yoghurt is all she will consume. Therefore, I went on a search for new breakfast ideas that might entice her appetite and keep the door open for variety.

One of the things I didn’t want to do is trade her natural yogurt for something sweet and unhealthy. I looked to my trusty and much-loved cookbook, The Laurel’s Kitchen for help, but none of the recipes met my needs. So, I turned to their other book, The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book and that was where I found my pot of gold: Zucchini Cheese Muffins.

This was a meal in one. A savory muffin made with whole wheat, oats, a veggie and protein. Then there was the added plus of NO sugar. It seemed like the perfect breakfast food to bake. Now, I don’t want you to think I’m the sugar police! My daughters do enjoy a cookie here and there for a snack. However, my conscience feels better knowing that the food they eat is packed with sensible nutrients and the right kind of calories.

This is quick and easy to prepare. These days, having hassle free recipes on hand is essentially important for maintaining a household with a set of toddlers. It only took one bowl to mix the ingredients together and very little preparation was needed.

Is your muffin bigger than mine?

So, what did my daughters think? Well, Ms. Picky Eater wouldn’t let her muffin go after she got her hands on it! We even had to wrestle the wrapper out of her hand. I read that as a good sign.

Can you guess who Ms.Picky Eater is?

Zucchini Cheese Muffins (adapted from The Laurel’s Kitchen Bread Book)

As I was trying to photograph the muffins…

2 tablespoons minced onions

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 egg, slightly beaten

1/2 cup oat flakes

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon grated mix of Swiss, Cheddar and Parmesan cheese (to save time, buy the pre-grated packs)

1 1/2 cups grated zucchini

2/3 cup of water

1 1/3 cups whole wheat flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

pinch of nutmeg (optional)

…they kept disappearing!

Pre heat oven to 375/190 degrees

Prepare your muffin tin.

Saute the onions in the oil.

In a large bowl, add the egg, cooked onions with the oil and the oats.

Mix.

Then add the cheese, zucchini and water. Stir.

Add the flour, salt, baking powder and nutmeg.

Stir until well mixed.

Pour a few spoonfuls of the batter into each muffin wrapper.

Top with remaining pieces of cheese.

It should be enough for 12 muffins.

Bake for 20-30 minutes.

Cool before serving.

Your muffin will taste even more delicious if you find an adorable little toddler to share one with!

Gluten-Free Pear-licious Crumble by Allison

I couldn’t resist these pears at the market. Their two-tone skin and crisp flesh made them a perfect for snacking on throughout the week as well as adding them to yogurt or on top of a salad. I had a few left at the end of the week and was craving a fall dessert. I put together my first gluten-free crumble and it turned out marvelous. I haven’t been able to put my hands on certified gluten-free oats here in the Czech Republic so instead I used gluten-free cereal biscuits from Schar and crushed them up to add to the texture.

These pears are beautiful, in fact, I could have done a still-life painting if I thought I could do their beauty justice.

So instead, I cleaned them, cored them and sliced the pears to make a mean crumble.

I thinly sliced the butter I had and added it to the top instead of cutting it into the dry mixture. It looks like quite a lot but in actuality it is almost 1/2 of what a normal crumble has in it. 

Into the oven for 4o minutes and the aromas of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves wafted through my apartment. As I sat near the window, I heard the leaves rustle in the wind and admired the colors of autumn. Soon the leaves will gone, but until then, I will enjoy my favorite season and so should you! Make this pear-licious crumble and savor the flavors of fall!

Gluten-free Pear-licious Crumble by Allison

Ingredients

3-4 crisp pears, cored and sliced

3/4 cup gluten-free flour (I used Marks and Spencers brand)

1/3 cup natural cane sugar

1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped

2 1/2 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or equal parts of cinnamon, ground ginger, ground cloves, allspice and nutmeg)

4 gluten-free schar cereal biscuits, crushed

1/8 tsp salt

1/4 cup butter, sliced

Directions

Pre-heat oven to 175 degrees Celsius. Fill a pie pan with sliced pears

Mix the gluten-free flour, cane sugar, spices, almonds, crushed biscuits and salt in a bowl and combine. Sprinkle over the sliced pears and add sliced pats of butter on top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes depending on desired texture of fruit when cooked. Enjoy warm crumble with friends on a fall evening!

Simple (let’s shave a few calories) Salad – by Nikki

A Simple but Colorful Salad

This past weekend, I was at Lipno Point in Czech Republic. Near Cesky Krumlov in South Bohemia, Lipno is a place of nature and beauty.  It was our faculty retreat weekend and because it was a three day weekend for the Czech Holiday of St. Wenceslaus, we had two full days of relaxing in Lipno. The apartments we stayed in are situated on Lipno lake and it felt like home to be near the water and surrounded by the Autumn foliage.

View of Lipno lake from the ski slope/hiking trail…

I spent two days relaxing by catching up with teacher-friends I don’t get to see on a daily basis, getting to know new faculty, playing card games and there was a LOT of laughter (and singing) by the bonfire! I swam in the lake on Friday afternoon after a sweaty game of “beach” volleyball and rare for me- took a three hour nap! On Saturday, I spent the majority of the day kayak/canoeing with friends. We were not really sure what we were actually floating down the river in; I think they were combo-boats! At some point during the first “rapid” I hit the water with a shocking thud and floated along the river trying to avoid but slamming into a few rocks… lost my shoes but saved my paddle! It was wild, very cold, but a fun story to tell to the rest of our colleagues! But after three days of vino, pivo, pork, potatoes and plenty of bread for breakfasts I felt very FULL.

fixin for a salad

The scale wasn’t pretty this morning so in an attempt to do damage control from the weekend fun, I decided it was a week of protein/berry smoothies for breakfast, plain yogurt and fruit for a snack, soup for lunch and a BIG GREEN SALAD for dinner.

Salat mix from the Dried Fruit and Nut Vendor

Because I wasn’t able to visit my local markets this weekend, I am featuring the salat mix that I always have on hand. I buy this on a regular basis from the market and you can find this vendor at both the River Market  and at JzP market – look for the bright, orange tent! This salty mix of pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds add a complimentary texture and taste to the fresh vegetables and lettuce. The Summer sun might have vanished, the cool October air might be here for good, and our sweaters, boots and jeans might be making an appearance in our daily wardrobe, but I am still enjoying a simple, summer-ish salad!

Tasty and low calorie!

My Favorite Low Calorie Salad

by Nikki

Ingredients: half a carrot (peeled), one roma tomato, half a red or yellow bell pepper, quarter of an English cucumber, half a Granny Smith apple, half a rip avocado, one green onion, and 2-3 cups of lettuce, salat mix (seed-nut mix), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, ground pepper

1. Chop all veggies to desired thickness or size

2. Put all veggies and lettuce into a big bowl.

3. If using a seed/nut mix, add 1/4 cup then dress with oil, vinegar, ground pepper or desired dressing.

4. ENJOY!