Cutting Winter Short in Catalonia

Oops! This post has been lurking in our drafts for a couple months. Sorry about that!

We needed to get outta town for a change of scenery after getting most of the way through the winter. Plus, it was a chance to celebrate a milestone and a Hallmark Holiday.™ Barcelona was the right mix of travel effort, climate, and activity.

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Basic Pizza Sauce

This came together as the amalgamation of at least 6 different pizza sauce recipes. Skip the pepper flakes if you prefer it mild. When cooking, I like to leave the sauce slightly thinner than optimal. We make pan pizza at home, so the thick crust needs a longer bake than the toppings. We bake the crust for 10 minutes with sauce only, then 10 more minutes with cheese and toppings. The first bake allows the sauce to evaporate extra liquid.

1 T butter
1 T olive oil
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz/400g can whole stewed tomatoes
1/2 t dried oregano
1 t dried basil
large pinch salt
large pinch sugar
1/2 t whole fennel seeds
large pinch dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1 small onion, peeled and halved

Heat a small saucepan to medium and add butter and oil, cooking until milk solids just start to brown. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes or until very fragrant. Add tomatoes and juices to the pan. If you like your tomatoes chunky, add them to the pot whole and break them up with a spatula; for smoother sauce, run them through a food processor first. Stir in all of the rest of the ingredients plus a half-can of water, bring sauce to a simmer and cook on medium-low for one hour or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove onion, taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Warming up in Porto

After that stunning — but chilling — visit to Iceland the first week of November, we knew we’d need a little dose of sun and warmth before diving into the long, dark Upper Palatinate winter.  We came back for basically a weekend at home in Regensburg before turning around and departing for Porto. 

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Visit to Iceland — Day 4

We did four full days in Iceland in November 2018. Here’re the write-ups for Day 1 and Days 2 and 3.

Day 4: South Shore

It felt significantly warmer on this, our last day of adventure in Iceland. Unfortunately, that meant also it rained cats and dogs. Really would have loved my rain pants here. It was too warm for the ski pants but not dry enough for just jeans.

Reynisdrangar rock formations and hexagonal basalt cliff walls

Continue reading Visit to Iceland — Day 4

Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin is pretty naturally sweet, so don’t be bashful with the salt and cheese.

4-5 c/1-1.25 L vegetable broth
2 T olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
500 g arborio or carnaroli rice
0.5 c/100 mL dry white wine
1 c/225 mL pumpkin purée
1 t dried thyme
1 t ground black pepper
salt to taste
2 T butter
1 c/225 g grated Parmesan, divided

Heat oil in large deep skillet to medium and bring broth to a low simmer. Sauté shallots and garlic until tender and fragrant. Add rice and stir until coated with oil and starting to smell toasty. Add wine and stir until mostly evaporated. Start adding broth by ladleful, stirring constantly. When the pan starts to look dry, add another ladle of broth. After adding about half of the broth, add the pumpkin, thyme and pepper. Taste and add salt, if needed. Keep adding broth until it’s gone. Once all broth is in, remove skillet from heat, stir in butter and half of cheese thoroughly, cover skillet and let stand for 5 minutes. Serve with cheese for sprinkling.

Visit to Iceland — Day 1

We met my parents, sister and brother-in-law halfway: in Iceland. We finally managed to get the six of us together on vacation in the same place, scratch off another country on our list (and crack into Scandinavia along with it), and see some really cool (and cold) stuff.

We opted for a travel company’s package instead of doing all these things ourselves:

  • accommodations and breakfast
  • car rental and driving
  • admissions, scheduling
  • POI-selection based on weather, etc.

We had a limited amount of time and the travel agency packed in quite a lot to see for the time available. I don’t think we could have done that better than they did. But that also meant a lot of time spent on the bus. Was it worth it? Continue reading Visit to Iceland — Day 1