Archive | February, 2016

Five Days in Croatia Part II: Something For Everyone

17 Feb

After all that indulging on our first day of our honeymoon, I was ready for a run. I went through the Old City and followed the main road around the coast, which mostly was filled with very beautiful views, like this one:

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But when I got to the end of the road, I found myself in the opening scenes of The Walking Dead:

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Apparently, this is the old Hotel Bellevue. Prior to the war, it had been the grandest hotel in Dubrovnik. During the war, it acted as a main battlement due to its strategic location on the cliffs of the Adriatic. After the war, it was closed and a rebuilt a few kilometers away. I’m not quite sure why the building pictured above hasn’t either been remodeled or leveled, but I was glad for the natural turnaround point… I wasn’t getting any closer to this creepy site!

Moving right along, we spent our second full day on the island of Mlijet, which is a large island National Park about 2 hours from Dubrovnik. Of course, we took a ship named after MamaKef:

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There’s all kinds of stuff to do  on the island– a few villages, two saltwater lakes, and a bunch of opportunities for tanning and swimming. In other news, it has lots of nicely-graveled paths, so don’t do what I did and waste a perfectly beautiful run on the Walking Dead when you could be running with this as your view:

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We opted to head to the Isle of St Mary for a chance to visit one of Europe’s oldest monasteries… plus it’s an island ON an island, which was too meta to miss.

… but not before we found a snack that would suit MrKef’s needs (“All Cameroonian men love peanuts when they travel,” quoth he. Good to know.).

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Once we were properly fueled, we set sail–and were immediately rewarded with more incredible views. Can I say without being obnoxious that, while this scenery was obviously amazing, it was made much moreso because I was with my incredible husband? Time with someone who makes your heart sing is truly one of life’s experiences to be treasured.

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The parts of the monastery available for touring are small, but man–the details are impressive:IMG_4590

After we got some history, it was time for some swimming, sun and (more) selfies!

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MrKef was ALL about the salinity, and eagerly waited for me to be finished with my swim to take advantage of the goggles I brought along (a triathlete is always prepared for an Open Water Swim!):

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The vegetation on the island was really interesting, and included these cute little bananas AND BabyKef’s favorite plant, aloe!

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After a swim, we headed over to the only restaurant on the island for some lunch. MrKef was ready to buy the island when he realized it was totally acceptable to drink a liter of beer for lunch while on a European honeymoon. We took this to be Croatia’s homage to HomeBrewKef.

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I couldn’t decide whether to be in heaven or hell when I realized the only vegetarian option on the menu was ALL THE GLUTEN (not even a salad…talk about insular parts of the world). And then my pizza came and it became clear that the Kingdom of Heaven was mine:

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The trip back was even more spectacular than the one coming. First of all, we came across this dapper gent along the way:

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And then we were met with this sunset as we pulled back into the port:

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Pas mal, no?

This is likely the night when we were too tired to trek up the stairs to change for dinner and then trek back down again, so we sat down at a yummy-sounding restaurant only to realize that entrees were ~$45 each, and then told the waiter we forgot our wallets and ended up slinking around the corner to Buffet Zvonik, where we gorged ourselves with all this food for a quarter of the price. Mmhhhmmm. IMG_4618

Then we headed to what would become our Croatian Cheers– La Bodega.The nightlife scene in Dubrovnik consisted of a European MegaClub filled with British teenagers or hotel bars with older Germans just off their River Cruise… neither were quite our speed. And then we found La Bodega in the main square, a perfect blend of lounge and bar with great music and people watching for the ages.

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Sooner than we wanted, it was the next day and we were off to the very top of Dubrovnik, via the Funicular!

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So far in this post we’ve seen a boat named after MamaKef, a national endorsement of HomeBrewKef’s favorite past time, and BabyKef’s favorite plant… in the mountaintop museum we stumbled across a photo of what JetSet would look like if he were ever unfortunate enough to find himself in a war zone (may God forbid it)– blazer on and wine bottle in hand (NB: this is not a photo of someone suffering that I am making light of– this was in the happy part of the museum).IMG_4634

In addition to the stunning views, I FINALLY found just a plate of vegetables up on that mountain. Food in Croatia is good, but not varied– pretty much everywhere had some iteration of a sign that un-ironically read, “Light Lunch: Risotto, Pizza, Cheeseburgers.” It felt fun to be forced into junk food for about a day, but by the time the third day rolled around I was more than willing to pay $8 for these 8 slices of vegetables (not kidding).IMG_4640

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We headed back down the mountain, and took a walking tour of Dubrovnik, where we learned the hilarious story of this graffiti from 1597 that reads, “Peace be with you, but know that you must die, you who play ball here.” Apparently, a curmudgeonly priest was none too pleased that the alley outside his bedroom was a makeshift soccer field, and took the time to etch his grievances into the wall. College ChefKef is jealous of that guy’s gumption. Yikes.

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After the tour, we split ways– MrKef went off to do a Game of Thrones tour, and I headed to over to Buza Bar which puts the term “hole in the wall” to new meaning

It’s nearly impossible to find, but I knew I was onto something when I saw this:

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Needless to say, I strongly preferred the words on this wall to those scrawled by Father McMeanie. Twice as needless to say, the views did not disappoint.

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I met back up with MrKef, who was grinning from ear to ear like a Lannister who, um … does whatever Lannisters do… after his GoT tour, and we enjoyed some scenes of Dubrovnik by night :

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And soon enough, it was time for a nightcap at La Bodega for me and some ice cream for MrKef!

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Next time on the Ndjatou World Tour, we head off to Montenegro (which is where the previously-promised manspreading adventure came to pass) and then to a haunted island… oo la la.

Could-Be Paleo Sweet Potato Skins

16 Feb

Hope everyone is enjoying their two-hour delay/unscheduled telework (by the way–when did THREE hour delays become a thing, Feds?). I am trying to be patient with Mother Nature and remember that I was running in shorts all the way through December, but very few people would list “patience with things she finds stupid, even if it is a fact of life” as one of the skills I employ most frequently.

So, instead of trying to get all patient and zen, I’m just going to remember that when it’s winter, it is absolutely seasonally appropriate to eat 10,000 sweet potatoes. And that’s what we’re working with today.

These sweet potato skins are more like twice-baked potatoes. I made them for the Super Bowl and ate more than my fair share… whoopsies (remember those ribs I swore I was making to bring joy to my husband? They were actually just meant to distract everyone so I could eat all the veggies myself).

The original recipeoriginal recipe comes from Paleo supersite Mark’s Daily Apple, but I found them under spiced and my adjustments are reflected below.

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Sweet Potato Skins

Ingredients

  • 6 small sweet potatoes, washed and dried
  • olive oil or butter, for brushing
  • 1 TBS cumin
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • Optional Dairy: grated cheddar, Greek yogurt, sour cream, or creme fraiche, to taste

Assembly

  1. Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise. Bake on a baking sheet flesh sides up for 40 minutes, or until tender. Set aside to cool for ~ 10 minutes.
  2. When cool enough to handle, carefully remove almost all the flesh from the skin (leaving a thin layer of flesh in the skin helps avoid tearing them and maintains shape). Put the skins back on the baking sheet, brush with oil or butter, and return to oven for about 10 minutes, or until they are lightly browned.
  3. Put all the flesh in a medium bowl and mash to desired consistency–I like them very smooth but you do you. Mix in all the spices except for green onions and dairy (if you are using it). Remove the skins from the oven and divide the spiced flesh between the skins. If using grated cheddar, sprinkle as much as you’d like on top of the re-filled potatoes. Return to oven and cook until warmed, 5-7 minutes.
  4. Top with green onions and serve warm.

Five Days in Croatia (Part I): Lots of Firsts

15 Feb

[sorry to email subscribers who received a draft version of this post last week. speaking of which–you should subscribe via email by typing your email address in the box to the right so you never miss the kefi… or any of my snafus!]IMG_4468

After a crazy weekend of wedding events (go to: the beginning, the ceremony, the tearful roastings, the dancing, the prancing, and the details), it was time for the Ndjatou World Tour.  My beloved MrKef and I had taken lots of mini trips together but never a full-fledged vacation, so we were both ready.to.go. after a weekend high on fun and low on sleep.

We chose Dubrovnik, Croatia for a few reasons: 1) it had ample opportunity for both beach and non-beach things, which is key for this Greek-Cameroonian couple 2) neither of us had been there before 3) Game of Thrones is filmed there, so I knew MrKef would be in rare form, and 4) we could make a stop in England on the way back, where both of us have family members who weren’t able to make the wedding but that we very much wanted to see. It turned out to be the perfect choice–we had so much fun together that just picking pictures for this post gave me a joy spurt that should last til next week (or at least through this wintery week–boo). Hope y’all like pictures and captions–’cause that’s what we’re going with today.

Inspired by Monica and Chandler, we told anyone who would listen to us that it was our honeymoon. Sadly, we didn’t get any first class upgrades (the danger of taking budget airlines on your honeymoon, I guess!), but people were excited for us and did what they could.

A very lovely flight attendant gifted us wine and chocolate:

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And an absurdly helpful man at Gatwick racked his brain trying to think of a way to help us celebrate and came up with this, um, Premium Security Pass:

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After a couple of flights and a long layover, we were finally in Croatia! We landed at night but were lucky to find our sweet little AirBnB without problem. We dropped our stuff, showered, and headed right out to explore Dubrovnik! Here’s out first look of this magnificently-preserved Old City:

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MrKef wasted no time getting down to business, and is pictured here with his first-ever miniglass of cordial.

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It was the middle of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival, and the Croatian Symphony was kind enough to have orchestrated a dress rehearsal  to coincide with our first night:

 

Once I found out that food in Dubrovnik is heavily influenced by the city’s age-old ties with Venice (read: tons of pizza and gelato), I decided that if I wanted some  ice cream while on my honeymoon, I would have it–evils of refined sugar be damned.

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In other news, we both got a good giggle out of this flavor, because well… these are the things that give us the giggles (just ask JetSet about that time he played Cards Against Humanity with MrKef).

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After a stroll and an ice cream, we headed back home. This would be a good time to discuss what it meant to get to and from the Old City from where we were staying. We chose this specific AirBnB because it was cheap ($68/night!), boasted beautiful views (we’ll get there) and was, by far, the closest to the Old City for that kind of price (only 700 meters from the Old City gate!). What the AirBnB description failed to mention is that it is 700m straight up 379 stairs! Somehow I never got a good shot of allllll the stairs, but here’s a little peek into what quickly became the bane of MrKef’s Croatian existence.

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Anyway, after a 24 hours of traveling and a trek up those stairs, we slept like babies. When we woke up, we got our first real look at Dubrovnik. It did not disappoint:

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This would be the first an only time that MrKef would rush down those stairs– he just couldn’t wait to explore.

We spent most of our first full day just poking about, planning out the next few days, and taking a billion selfies:

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And then it was time for another first: some random people came up to MrKef and gesticulated something about a picture. Because MrKef is a lovely human, he assumed that they wanted him to take a family photo. Turns out that they wanted to take their picture with him because he’s black.

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It’s possible that they are just huge Extra Black Gelato fans… but probably they are just from an insular part of the world. Diversity is an asset, people.

Anyway, after a yummy pizza lunch we took the Dubrovnik Wall tour. This is a good time for a quick history break: Dubrovnik was founded in the 7th century and was an important port for the next 1,000 years. It was settled and conquered a few times, was a de facto outpost of Venice for much of its history, and still is comprised largely of building that was completed in the 16th century. Despite some high profile damage in the 90s, the  city remains nearly perfectly preserved/restored. The wall tour takes you around the city from the perch of 10-meter-thick fortified walls, and was definitely a highlight for us–not to be missed!

This was so beautiful that I could not choose only a few shots, so I will just post a whole bunch:

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Please notice all the trek up the wall stairs!

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Not exactly regulation, but major points for commitment to the game!

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After that tour, MrKef fulfilled a fantasy: sitting on the Iron Chair!

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Later that night, we had a romantic drink at the Troubador, Dubrovnik’s live jazz spot.

 

And because he’s a romantic at heart, we slow danced in the street when the band played “What a Wonderful World,” which got all those children you can see jumping around in the video pointing and laughing.

To end our first full day, another first:

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Yep, that’s right: mojitos to go!

IMG_4565That seems like a note as good as any to end on… and it’s past my bedtime, so come back next time for some day trips, manspreading, and funiculars!

Ribs So Easy Even A Vegetarian Can Nail Them

9 Feb

It is well-known in these parts that neither MrKef nor I quite qualify as an omnivore–I am all about the leafy greens, and the maddest MrKef has ever been at me was the time I suggested he add a vegetable to his plate of lamb, beef, AND chicken (not kidding). I thought about making an herbivore/carnivore dinosaur joke, but I think in this case I would be the pea-brained brontosaurus and he’d be the king of Jurassic Park… I’m not ready to go there.

You may have heard that there was an eating–err, sporting–event this weekend. I was feeling gastronomically generous, so I decided to make my sweet, tender, T-Rex husband some ribs. I am quite sure I have never actually eaten a rib, so I was lost at sea… until this month’s issue of Bon Appetit showed up in the mailbox to save the day.

These ribs are so, so simple and got big raves from everyone at the party–it was truly one of my crowning achievements.

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One more thing before the recipe: while I have always known my husband loves to devour meat, I had no idea of his penchant for celebrity news. And then a long conversation that ended like this occurred:

 

Right, so on to the ribs:

Pastrami Ribs from Bon Appetit Feb 2016

Ingredients

  • 1/4 c black pepper
  • 1/4 c chili powder
  • 1 TBS (heaping) ground coriander
  • 1 TBS brown sugar
  • 1 TBS (heaping) ground mustard
  • 1 TBS (heaping) smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • ~ 2 lbs St. Louis-style pork spareribs (feeds about 4)
  • 1/4 c distilled white vinegar
  • 2 TBS kosher salt
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/4 c Dijon mustard
  • 3 TBS apple cider vinegar
  • 3 TBS honey
  • 2 TBS soy sauce

Assembly

  1. Mix together spices (except salt). Brush ribs on both sides with white vinegar and sprinkle with salt. Identify and remember which is the fatty side–you’ll need that later. Pat ribs all over with spice mixture (they should be well-covered but the rub does not have to be thick). Place on a rimmed baking sheet and chill for at least one hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 325 and place a rack in the lowest third of the oven. Transfer ribs to a roasting pan with the fatty side up. Pour 1/2 cup of water in the pan. Cover tightly with tin foil. Bake until meat is tender and falling off the bone, about 2 hours.
  3. Remove ribs and let stand (COVERED!) for 30 minutes.
  4. Whisk together the mustard, apple cider vinegar, honey, and soy sauce. Increase the oven heat to broiler/high/550.
  5. Remove cover from roasting pan. Brush ribs liberally on both sides with mustard glaze. Return ribs to the broiling oven until lightly charred, about 3 minutes.
  6. Slice into individual ribs and serve.

Perfectly UnSweet Sweet Potato Pie

4 Feb

Today’s preamble is short and sweet but the recipe is really not– I made Civilized Caveman’s gf/sf/pretty paleo sweet potato pie during the snow. It has all the yummy texture of sweet potato pie, but none of the goopy caro-syrup oversweetness. MrKef is more or less used to the warnings that come with my baked goods (“It’s a chocolate chip cookie, but without the chocolate, the chips, and it’s more like a muffin than a cookie.”), but two other additional lovers of gluten and sugar tried and approved of this pie. I really enjoyed eating it for breakfast, and SummitKef both gave this pie her stamp of approval and agreed that it belongs in the realm of morning foods.

This is an easy-peasey recipe–the original contains pecans, but I didn’t have those on hands so nixed them and made a few other tweaks. My recipe is below, but definitely check out Civilized Caveman for more brilliant takes on old baking tricks.FullSizeRender (6)

Not-Too-Sweet Sweet Potato Pie

Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 1.5  c almond flour
  • 1/2 c coconut flour
  • 1/2 c coconut oil, melted (I used olive oil)
  • 2 tsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp raw organic honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2-3 TBS ice cold tap water

For the filling

  • 2 sweet potatoes, about 1.5 lbs
  • 6 ounces full fat coconut milk
  • 1-2 very ripe bananas
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1-2 tsp raw organic honey
  • salt to taste
  • 1 TBS maple syrup


Assembly

  1. Preheat oven to 350. Roast sweet potatoes for 45-60 minutes, or until tender. Set aside and let cool.
  2. Mix together all the crust ingredients except water in an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Once mixed well, add water 1 TBS at a time until a nice dough has formed that won’t stick to your hands. Press it into a pregreased, parchment paper lined 9 inch cake pan
  3. Remove the skins of cooled sweet potatoes and mash them in a bowl. Add coconut milk, banana, egg yolks, cinnamon, nutmeg, honey, and salt and using a stand mixer or whisk mix well get a nice and smooth filling. My batter was a little too runny, so I added another banana.
  4. Pour filling into crust. Drizzle thewith maple syrup if that’s your jam.
  5. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean.
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