Part 3: Bordeaux, France

There are some cities that are perfect in the rain. When I am in Greece for my 31st birthday am I thinking this? Absolutely not. However, in a romantic, land-locked city such as Paris or Bordeaux, there’s something about a grey, drizzly day that makes the atmosphere even more dreamy – if that’s even possible! You have to walk closer to your lover to huddle under a shared umbrella, and the dull, grey skies makes the city’s hues splendidly vivid. You can’t spend too much time outside, so you don’t feel guilty for sleeping in, and spend your days hunkered down inside some of the most charming old stone buildings sipping a cold beer (or perhaps something a bit stronger!) by candlelight. Yes, I am an optimist and a romantic, but I love a good gloomy day every once in a while! And while our friend trip to Bordeaux wasn’t exactly the pinnacle of romance, we had been treated a glorious days of sun, and so on our last day in town, when it rained, I didn’t bat an eye but merely grabbed my rain coat and umbrella, and headed out for an adventure! We had spent a day in the city and a day exploring the seaside, and so on our final day in Bordeaux, we had to do the wine thing!In addition to being a stunning world heritage site, Saint Emilion is also one of the most notable wine regions in Bordeaux. With a history that dates back to the Romans, Saint Emilion is a charming stone village surrounded by thousands of acres of vibrant green vineyards. Continue reading

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A Progressive Dinner of Awesomeness

It’s been a while since my last post, and I miss you guys! Funny enough, despite the lack of new content on here, my site traffic continues to climb. It’s like you don’t even care that I’m not here anymore! Amsterdam & Beyond is thriving without me, which is both flattering and alarming. When did my baby go and get so grown up?!

On a more serious note, it really has been a while. I don’t want to make excuses, but real life has been pretty freakin’ awesome lately, and so that’s what I’ve been doing. Living. And my neglect isn’t focused solely on Amsterdam & Beyond – it’s all social media. I used to be a Pinterest queen and an Instagram junkie, with the occasional Facebook post just for giggles. Now, I rarely spend down time on my computer. I prefer to laugh, dance, kiss, talk, drink wine, eat sweets, run, and explore. I have a backlog of photos from the past few months, but have barely made a dent in editing them. My *goal* is to blog once a week. If I can keep up that pace, I will be happy :) So let’s see if I can get any better in April!IMG_4036These photos are a few snaps from a dinner the girls and I concocted last weekend. Have you ever heard of a progressive dinner? It’s a food tour through several houses, where one course is enjoyed at each stop! We thought it would be a fun idea for a Saturday night, as a prequel to some dancing :) And so we rallied eight ladies, four bringing beverages and four offering up their homes to host and cook! Read through to the end for some tips if you’re looking to throw your own progressive dinner party :) Continue reading

Cheesy Breakfast Boats

Whenever we have a catered lunch at work, we order from the delicious Uliveto. I’ve literally had clients say, “Hey, can we have the meeting at your office so you can order that AMAZING Italian?!” The food from Uliveto is hearty, drenched in olive oil, and seasoned with fresh herbs. They have one dish – a sweet potato and ricotta pie – that is comparative mouth-crack. A crispy, flaky crust engulfs a cheesy mixture of broccoli, sweet potatoes and onions, all swimming in a soft blend of Italian cheeses. I would eat this addictive concoction for breakfast, lunch and dinner, day in and day out if I had the chance, however, I have NO idea how to re-create this delicacy at home. Next weekend I’ll probably march on down to Uliveto to pick the chef’s master mind, but in the meantime, I’m left craving soft broccoli with an abundance of cheese crammed into small, green florets. And thus breakfast boats were born – an easy, quick creation of mine that eliminates the need for a homemade dough or crust, but still captures all the delightful magic of vegetables smothered in cheese.IMG_9234This recipe takes about 10 minutes to construct, and a a mere 15 minutes in the oven. So in less than 20 minutes, you can have a delicious, cheesy bread boat meal, without hours of labouring over a hot stove. To get started, you’ll need a few key ingredients. Continue reading

Baked Macaroni n’ Cheesecake

There’s really nothing I can say or do to prepare you for this blog post. It’s cheesy. It’s bacon-y. And it’s probably the most delicious one-dish-wonder you will fork into your mouth this week. Saliva glands, prepare! I proudly present to you, in partner with my hungry stomach and my fat-kid imagination, baked Macaroni n’ Cheesecake:Macaroni and CheesecakeBefore I dive into the recipe, I want to tell you how this cheesy brainchild was born. I invited the girls over for a roast on Sunday, and promised them, well, a roast. However, the night before I drank just a littlleee too much, so instead of a pan roasted chicken and baby rosemary potatoes, all I could think about were carbs. And bacon. And cheese. And so I walked through the grocery store, collecting my hungover cravings. By the time I got to the checkout counter, it became apparent – we were having mac n’ cheese. But as this was Sunday dinner, I had to try and make it a little fancy, right? So I whipped out my bundt pan, buttered her up, and took your standard macaroni and cheese to a whole new, fancy-pants level! Continue reading

Hot Pockets of Love

Last Valentine’s Day I had big ambitions. The day would start with a romantic breakfast in bed. B and I would then get up and have a leisurely coffee at our favorite spot. We would walk to work and I would sneak home early, in hopes of arranging a surprise British summertime picnic in our living room. Sounds dreamy, right? In reality, I ended up staying awake until 2am the night before, cooking said picnic, cleaning the house, and making an extra last-minute homemade gift. So in the end we skipped the romantic breakfast in bed, and our leisurely morning coffee. Whoops!

Anyways, I’d had this recipe in my repertoire, ready to go for a quick and sweet weekday breakfast. A year later, I’ve finally gotten around to trying my own rendition! Granted, strawberry Nutella poptarts sound divine. But I’m more of a sweet and savory gal myself, and I live in the land of cheese. So instead of Nutella, I’ve used camembert. And instead of a pie dough, I’ve used a can of flaky crispy croissant rolls (I’m somewhat addicted lately), ready to be rolled out and bundled into a sweet pile of awesomeness for the oven. I give you, Hot Pockets of Sweet, Sweet Love. Or just poptarts, if you please.HOMEMADE POP TARTSFor this recipe, you only need three and a half things. Strawberries, camembert (you can use any soft cheese, even cream cheese if you like), and a can of pre-made croissant rolls. The ‘half’ ingredient is the sugar, which doesn’t really count, as I’m sure you have this in your kitchen already! You’ll need about a teaspoon for each poptart, or perhaps even just a drizzle of honey if you prefer. IMG_8795IMG_8806First, pop open your croissants, leaving them in squares of two. Lay them down on a flat surface.IMG_8804Next, use a knife to slice your cheese. You’ll need a little less than a thumb for each poptart. Place the cheese flat on the dough and make sure the cheese fits within the edges of the pastry. You’ll need to be able to seal the pockets later, and you wont want any pesky cheese poking out.IMG_8810Now it’s time to add the strawberries. Wash, and then slice your strawberries into thirds, discarding the stem. Pile the strawberries as flat as you can, into a pig pile on top of the cheese.IMG_8811Now it’s time. Sugar time! I used raw sugar, but you can really use any sweetener at hand, even a sugar alternative if you like. Without a pop of sweetness, the strawberries remain quite tart, so I don’t recommend skipping this step, unless you plan to smother your poptarts with Nutella in the end! Sprinkle about one tablespoon of sugar on top of each poptart.IMG_8822Now, fold the ends of the dough up and over to cover the strawberries and cheese. This should make a rounded pouch. I used my finger to gently seal down the lip in the middle, but you could also use the edge of a fork to create a light seal.IMG_8828Flip over the poptarts so that the fold is on the under side. Use a fork to crimp and seal the edges, pressing down gently, creating a light, decorative edge.IMG_8834As I had a handful of strawberries left, I followed the original Novice Chef recipe and created a strawberry heart adorned the outside of the pastry. However, unlike the Novice Chef recipe, I did not cut out a hole for the strawberry in the tart, I simply pressed it down lightly onto the outside . . . and added another sprinkle of sugar for good luck!
IMG_8838Now it’s time to bake! Transfer the tarts onto a greased baking tray or oven dish, and follow the baking directions on your croissant roll can. As a guide, I cooked my tarts for about 15 minutes in a 200°C oven. IMG_8881When they’re done, take the pastries out of the oven and serve hot, ideally with a big mug of cocoa or a warm pot of tea.IMG_8883The lucky recipient of this recipe was B, who finally got to eat these delicious Hot Pockets of Love, almost a year after I had originally intended to make them!
IMG_8892The inside was molten and cheesy, oozing with sugar and sweet, slippery berries. Overall a delicious concoction, and a quick one at that. This poptart recipe took about 5 minutes to prep and 15 minutes to cook – an ideal easy morning breakfast before work, or a simple quick dish to whip up when you have a group over for brunch.
IMG_8895Smakelijk!

xo Ali