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27 September 2012

A quick recipe - Lemon Grain Salad

I know, I know!  I owe you two more long, boring posts about my vacation and I promise I will get to that. Tomorrow.  However today I found a picture I took of one of my favorite recipes and I thought that I would share it since my recipe posting has been absent in the past year (or 2). Basically this delicious  and kind of girly recipe is perfect for a quick and easy meal that you will actually want to eat multiple times.  I mean you will actually enjoy having leftovers, which is more than I can say about most things.

Lemon Grain Salad with Asparagus, Almonds and Goat Cheese
(slightly adapted from thekitchn)

serves 4
8 ounces Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend
1 3/4 cups water
1 pound asparagus
Olive oil
1 cup sliced toasted almonds
4 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled and crumbled
2 lemons, zested and juiced
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper

Cook the TJs harvest grain blend like it calls for on the side of the bag.  If you want to make more, you can add some cooked farro, quinoa, wheat berries, or couscous to this once it's cooked.
Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus and cut each spear into a 2-inch pieces. Heat a little olive oil over medium heat, and cook the asparagus until just barely crisp-tender - about 1-2 minutes. Add to the grains and mix.  Throw in the sliced toasted almonds, goat cheese and lemon zest.

Mix the lemon juice with the olive oil, taste, and adjust. Pour over grain salad and toss, along with salt and pepper to taste. You can serve this at room temperature or hot.

*If you have meyer lemons, use 'em


21 September 2012

Vienna, Austria (2 of 4)

Hello again.  I know y'all were waiting on the tippie top edge of your seats in order to hear more about my vacation.  Actually you should be glad I'm sharing. This way you got a free vacation, while I had to spend multiple Gs of my hard earned money. Anyhoo, I am now going to tell you a brief bit about my time in Vienna, leaving out my bike trip in Austria; that will be another post (lots of pics). I will also make another post about Bratislava.  So think of this as the 2nd in a total of 4 vacay posts. I love to keep people shaking in their booties.

So B and I ride the train to Vienna.  BTW when taking a train from Budapest to Vienna always pay for the round trip, it's cheaper than the one-way.  Hungarians do this to stick it to the tourists who are just passing through.  Gotta love it! So we arrive in Vienna and B heads to work.  I decide to just walk around her 'hood, checking out the sights.  Oh I forgot to mention that this day was my 31st birthday... what, what!!  So I'm walking around checking the sites and decide to pop in to a cafe and have lunch.  I seat myself at one of the outdoor tables and wait until the waiter brings me the menu- I wait awhile, which I find is typical in Europe.  Those people are not in a hurry to do a damn thing.  When I get the menu I scan it multiple times.  It's all in German, not really surprising, but for some reason my 4 years of German from years before aren't really coming back to me.  I decide to only pick things that I recognize the words of... that gets me an octopus dish (Oktopus) and a dip that consists of tomatoes, avocado, and some other stuff.  Oddly the dip doesn't come with chips or anything for that matter. I just spoon it in my mouth. Still good. I really dig the restaurant porch culture in Vienna.  Every restaurant has outdoor seating and it's so relaxing.  If I had oodles of money and no job, I would totally lounge at a table all day every day and soak up the sun and fun.

B gets back and we decide to head to the Old City Centere and see some sights and walk around.  The main sight we see is St. Stephan's Cathedral circa the 1300's. I am in awe of the huge cathedral.  I am also shocked at how a Mcdonalds sits across the square from it.  Oh excuse me a McCafe as they are branded in Vienna.

St Stephen's Towering Cathedral


As we are admiring the cathedral we are accosted by Mozart, actually multiple Mozarts, all of them vying for our Symphony business. Didn't work, though I really wish I had gone to listen to see one of the orchestras perform. If wishes were fishes... 
Mozarts   For my super special birthday dinner that night B and I enjoyed a pasta meal fromVapiano.  Not really Austrian, but it hit the spot.   The next day I did a bit more random walking around near the Neubagasse Metro stop.  It was enjoyable to just pop in and out of shops and cafes and get immersed in Viennese life. B and I also rented bikes from CityBike (only 1 euro to register and then free for the first hour every time you rent a bike) and biked to the Danube.  There is this amazing park that goes on and on along an offshoot of the river and you can bike up and down it as well as stop at many of the public rafts that are along the Danube offshoot.  These rafts are used as points to get in and out of the water and to sunbathe.  It was a warm day when we went, but the water was cold so there weren't many people enjoying the rafts and green space.  The ones we did see however enjoyed it so much that they were bucknekkid.  Actually we only saw one dude who was in the buff (he did have a sock covering his junk, but more for the burn factor than to cover his family jewels from prying eyes), but apparently lots of woman go topless in the park and rafts and some men like to bare it all.  It's all perfectly legal.  I actually like that people can get naked if they choose too.  It would never work in the US because we are way to uptight about shit like that, but it would be nice if we could be evolved enough to not get the giggles every time we see a naked man or topless woman.   FYI I didn't swim in the Danube because it looked cold as hell. B assured me it felt fine, but I wasn't buying that shit:)  Later we went and enjoyed a drink on one of the tallest buildings in Vienna, the sofitel. It had an amazing 360 degree view of Vienna.  I would highly recommend having a drink or dinner there if you ever go.  The bar/restaurant is called Le Clos.    Homeless Dogs   Cafes in Courtyards   Another of the places I visited while in Vienna was the naschmarkt.  It's this huge food market that has a large variety of dining and food stalls. You can get any kid of food you want from here.  It was fun to walk up and down the road and get hustled by the food sellers.  The only rude person I exp[erienced while in Austria was here.  I noticed a pidgeon fly down and grab an almond and start eating it.  As I turned my camera toward the pidgeon to get a shot a woman started yelling and the bird to fly away.  It did, and once it was gone, the lady turned her attention at me.  I think she was pissed I observed it happening and was trying to take a shot of it, I don't know.  All I know is that I laughed and shrugged my shoulders since the bitch out was in German and I didn't understand it:)
 Enjoying the day   Spicy   Making Change  

On Wednesday, I went to Schönbrunn Palace, built long ago but remodeled in the 1700s.  The palace was huge and breath taking, but the gardens are even larger.  What I found most fascinating about the place was these massive long "walkways" throughout the gardens.  All ogf them had huge hedges around them which were perfectly trimmed straight down.  It was interesting and I can just see royalty riding up and down those walkways in horse and carriages as the women holding parasols ooohhed and ahhhed over the flowers and perfectly trimmed hedges.   
Overexposed Front of Schonbrunn   Glorious   Runners   Schonbrunn   Schonbrunn   Neptune's Fountain   The day was ended by a visit to the Wurstelprater, AKA the prater circa 1776, but the amusement park has only been there since the 1800s, and is about a 5 minute walk from my hosts home.  We walked over there and took in the sights. It is free to get in and walk around, but if you want to ride a ride you have to choke up a couple of euro.  The coolest thing about this place were the bars and cafes.  People just come here to hang out, but not necessarily to ride anything.  It has a very chill vibe.  It was extremly desolate as well or at least seemed that way.  I guess I'm not used to being at an amusement park in the off time so when you would see these huge 50 person rides holding only 4 or 5 people it was quite odd. It was also odd turning a corner and seeing bright lights and hearing carnival sounds, but at the same time seeing not a soul on the street ahead.  Very unsettling and neat at the same time.   Clown Game   Lonesome   Barren   Spinny Ride   Park People 

 Welp that's all of my time in Vienna.  I will be back next week with pictures and stories of my harrowing bike trip down the Danube from Melk to Krems.

17 September 2012

London and Budapest (1 of 4)

-The first 3 days of my Euro Vacay

I leave for Hartsfield Jackson at 6:30 pm for a flight that leaves at 9 pm.  There are no lines, of course.  Whoops, too early. So I drink a couple of glasses of wine at the bar while conversing with a cute Brazilian.  I was hoping the wine would make me sleepy.  It did, but not enough to actually sleep.

On the 8 hour flight to Heathrow I sit in a window seat.  Next to me is an old Indian woman, dressed in a sari with a bindi on her forehead.  She's around 70ish and doesn't speak a lick of English.  She also smells, but that's neither here no there.  She proceeds to spend the entire flight either trying to speak to me in her language, smiling at me and mimicking everything I do.  She also hands me food packages so that I can open them for her.  The cutest thing was when I had taken my headphones out of the bag, placed them over my head, and plugged them in ready to watch a movie she handed me hers. I took them out of the bag and gave them back to her.  She placed them over her head not bothering to undo the cord and plug them in.  She wore them like that for 2 hours until the flight steward pushed the cord in the outlet. I tried to do it for her, but she kept shaking her head. Poor cute little lady. I watch 2 movies on this flight and read my book.

We arrive in London at 10 am.  I immediately hop on the Heathrow Express which gets you to Paddington Station in 15 minutes. I change trains from there and headed over to the Portobello Road Market, the World's Largest Antique Market!  Anyhoo, I make my way down the road, popping in and out of the weave of indoor stalls. See a lot of shit, overpriced and/or repro.  The street is packed out with people.  It's hard to move.  There are crepe vendors and all other types of food vendors on and along the sides of the street.  I have been awake for close to 25 hours by this point and was losing steam quickly.  After getting a pint and some fish and chips I head over to Kensington Garden, where I lounge in the sun for a bit before making my way back to the airport.

Back on the airplane for another 3 hour flight.  Still no sleep. I get to Budapest around midnight.  My friend B meets me at the airport. We go to her flat where I quickly take a shower, take a shot of palinka (a Hungarian favorite- tastes like moonshine), and then it's off to catch a tram.  We head over to a rooftop bar where we have some wine tonic water spritzers. How very Euro of us.  Head home around 3 am, pick up a chicken shwarma sandwich, and finally get the sleep that I crave ( I've only been awake for 48 hours at this point).


Early the next morning we head out.  A latte and a bagel with lox in a gorgeous palatial room.  We check out the opera house and photography museum.  Later we head to the Danube for a photo opp.

Opera House

The View from above

Man and Beast

Even later than that we go to the subway to catch the train on our way to Buda Castle for a beer festival.  Some 70 cent tickets are stamped and some are notched when you use them - you should pay extra attention to this.  We didn't, and despite the ticket inspector us waving us in after having mine notched in the machine we were followed on to the empty train and told that we were being fined for re-using a ticket.  Fined $40 American, which is a huge sum in Hungarian forints. Despite trying to converse with the non-English speaking ticket inspectors and telling them we had extra tickets, and notching one to pay our fare, we still had to pay the fine.  The inspector kept telling us that if we didn't have the money he'd gladly follow us to the ATM.  Corrupt bullshit!  This picture was taken right before the corruption went down.

Anyhoo money paid, inspectors off our backs, we head on a bus over to Buda Castle where the afternoon and evenings beer festival was. They had Belgium, Czech, Hungarian, and Slovakian beers.  Good times were had.  I met some great Hungarians and drank some good beer. Listened to some music.



The next day we woke up, got some delicious egg mcmuffins from McDonald's (don't judge), and took a train to Vienna, Austria.

*Next Post will be about Vienna.  Hang on to your seats.

12 September 2012

The countdown has begun... and is now donezo

This is a blog post I started a bit ago and never posted:

 What countdown am I referring to?  Oh, just the one where I head over to Europe for "holiday". My plans are as follows:

Leaves the ATL.  10 hour layover in London (probably heading to Camden).  Budapest, Hungary for 3 days. Vienna, Austria for 4 days. Bratislava, Slovakia or Salzburg, Austria for 2 days.  Home again.

I'm so unbelievably pumped. This is the first European trip for me and I get to hang with one of my good friends all week long.

Sadly here I am 3 days post "home again" and sick as a dog.  The trip was great fun, but I left Heathrow with a stinking suspicion that I would catch something from the 5 million people in the terminal.  Sure enough I did and I now feel like absolute shite.  I almost upchucked my Tylenol cold medicine too. Not good homies, not good.

So I will start posting bits and pieces of my trip for you to get a gander at later on this week.  Get prepared.