Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas with the Kranx

Christmas at home in PA means a lot of things but the best part is probably the crazy silly fun we have with my family. My sister and I have an annual Christmas photo shoot (one of my favorite parts of Christmas) which is always hilarious. This year, my sister rediscovered her musical talents from middle school, busted out her flute, and got her tunes on.

 Zagreb Philharmonic is looking for a new flutist...I think they should consider her!
 
 Watch out Lisinski, there's a new girl coming to town! There's also a brand new juggler!


Dominika and her bestie Robin (aka another member of our crazy Krank family) rocking out

 Tomislav learned how to build a fire! Sitting by the fireplace is one of my absolute favorite things to do in the winter at home, I just wish we'd get some snow soon!

 
Lovely :)

 Every year, poor Dad has had to take our Christmas photoshoot pictures, we get so silly!

 My beautiful sissy!

 Dominika and I - the best Maid of Honor ever!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

I'll Be Home for Christmas!

T-Slav and I are coming home for the holidays on Saturday (albeit on different flights, na┼żalost). I cannot wait to see my sister and brother-in-law, my parents, and all of our family friends! I'm super excited to see all of my friends in Philly and anyone and everyone else we get to meet up with. My Mom asked what we wanted to eat when we got home so of course, I requested her amazing pierogi. I'm dreaming about them already.


You can see the pierogi on the left. Ooh and while we're at it, I'll add barscz to the list of things I'm drooling..I mean, dreaming about already. Also known as borscht, it's that amazing beet soup that you can see in the white cups.

Here are some other things I'm really looking forward to while I'm home:
-Sushi! from that place in Old City we went to for Peter and Staci's pre-Costa Rica going away dinner. AMAZING!

-Thai food! Obsessed with take-out from Tamarind on 2nd and South in Philly (like this Panang Curry!)


-Pho..cannot wait for T to try this one. He's gonna love it!
-Having the ability to buy hummus at the store
-My own bed, so comfortable!
-Diversity, and the normalcy of it.
-Seeing what our Save the Dates look like in real life
-Bloody Mary's!
-Sitting by the fireplace
-Going skiing with my family

-Going to our Church
-Wearing the best sweatpants in the world. I wonder if the original owner of the sweatpants knows that they're everyone in our family's favs. That might be weird.
-My family's Polish Christmas Traditions (including watching Home Alone on Christmas Eve) and this incredible meal:

The other special thing about Saturday? 
Exactly one year ago, Tomislav popped the question! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

From PA to Zagreb!


Yayyyyy!!!  
We are SUPER EXCITED to share the news that we're going to be filming an episode of 


Big, huge thanks to first of all, my amazing sister, Dominika, for urging me to start this blog, without which we wouldn't have gotten approached to be on the show! Not only do I love writing my blog, it's really fun for me, but it's also the reason why we'll get to be on the show. This awesome producer, Michelle, found my blog and left me a comment on here and we started corresponding about our story and they thought we'd be a really great fit. 

Then, our lovely friends, Sarah and Jan, filmed us running around Zagreb showing our favorite things so that the other producers and network could see what we're really like. They loved the video (despite my horrible editing and file compressing efforts) and notified us that we'll be featured on the show! I've been a huge fan of the show and it's literally like a dream come true that we'll get to be on it. I'm so excited, it's gonna be a really fun experience for us! If you haven't seen the show before House Hunters International is a half-hour program currently airing on the Home and Garden Television Network (HGTV) in America. The series is designed to de-mystify the international home-buying process by going behind the scenes of a house hunt where expats and their real estate agents tour 3 homes. At its core, House Hunters International is a travel show concentrating on the idiosyncrasies of the locales and what makes them special and different.

You can watch an example of the show here. (California to Vienna)

If you want to check out the video we made, you can see it here:
 

If this video doesn't work, the producers put our video up here. Check it out! P.S. Our friends who helped film the video, Sarah and Jan, can be seen having a coffee with T-Slav in the video :) Thank you thank you everybody!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cooking with Saffron

I've been curious about the ever elusive, expensive saffron for a long time. I'm a huge fan of the Food Network and I've heard about it so much but never used it in my own cooking. Part of that reason being that it's so expensive, but I love how in Croatia you can find so many different sizes of packaging to buy spices in. I saw a small package of saffron in the supermarket for about 5 kuna (a little less than $1) so I knew this was the perfect time to try to cook with it. I'd heard so many times that you only need a pinch to make it go far, so I was really excited to try it!  I found this recipe that had relatively few ingredients (all of which I had on hand!) and it seemed to really make saffron the star of the meal, which is exactly what I was going for.


Saffron Chicken with Parsley and Lemon

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (thighs would be great too!)
1 large onion cut in lengthwise slivers
1 Tbs sunflower oil
1 tsp. butter (optional, but it adds a lot of flavor)
pinch saffron (about 1/4 tsp. or less)
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 1/2 Tbs fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1 red bell pepper (optional)
1 green bell pepper (optional)

Cut the chicken into cube/bite sized shapes.  Peel the onions and cut into lengthwise slivers and chop parsley.

Use a heavy frying pan which is not too large and has a tight-fitting lid.  Heat the olive oil and butter, then brown the chicken quickly over medium-high heat.  (Don't let it cook long enough that the outside starts to get hard.  The chicken does not need to be cooked through.)

Remove chicken to a plate, add onion, and brown over very low heat until edges of onion pieces are turning golden, about 12-15 minutes.  Remove browned onions to another plate. Add chicken back to pan, and cover with onions.  Heat chicken stock, add saffron and stir to dissolve, then pour over chicken and onions. Simmer on very low heat with pan covered 30-45 minutes.

Add chopped parsley, lemon juice, and a tiny bit of additional water if needed, and simmer 15 minutes more. At this point, I added my chopped red and green bell peppers but next time I make this, I would omit, just because the flavors are already so good without it. Or I would roast the peppers first to give the flavor more depth. Serve hot, over rice. I added a pinch of saffron to my rice's cooking water so not only was my rice infused with the flavor of the saffron, but it was also a beautiful yellow color!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Hungry Man Meal!


I love having variety in the meals I make. Since I'm still a relatively new cook, there are a ton of things that I have never made yet and I just love to experiment. Making new things keeps cooking exciting for me and the best thing in the world is when I'm making something new and tasting it along the way and it tastes like the best thing I ever made. Yesterday was one of those days.

For a while, we were eating Asian inspired meals almost everyday. After we became obsessed with Thai take-out in the States in May, I spent the summer recreating those flavors in almost every meal. Now it seems, I'm getting really into comfort food. But it's winter, so I guess that's exactly what's supposed to happen! 

We got this really great ground beef and I wanted to try something new with it so I searched the internet for what to make and everything kept pointing me towards Salisbury Steak. I was hoping to try to make my own meatloaf sometime soon so I figured this would be a great way to make a Salisbury Steak/Mini-Meatloaf meal that would be hearty for my hungry man. I scoured the internet, reading reviews on every recipe I found and finally found the one I wanted. It's originally from the Sokolowski University Inn and is apparently from a Polish Kitchen episode, so no wonder I was drawn to it and inspired by it! It was a little daunting to see how long it would take to make it all, especially since I was really hungry after work, but for me, I'd rather make something that will taste excellent, rather than just so so. The extra time made it so worth it!
 
Here's what I used:
  • 1 large onion (minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground beef
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup bread crumbs
  • 1/4 cup (approximately) parsley
  • bunch of sage
  • 350g (about 2 1/2 cups) cooked and diced button mushrooms
  • 2 Tbs flour
  • 2 cups beef stock
  • 2 dried bay leaves (to simmer in the beef stock)
  • salt and pepper (as preferred)

Directions

Saute onions (reserve about 2 tablespoons for gravy) for about 10 minutes, until they start to caramelize 1 tablespoon butter, then add garlic and half of your mushrooms to the pan and saute for another 5 minutes.  Set aside to cool. Mix beef with cooled onion mixture, eggs, bread crumbs, parsley, sage and mushrooms. Form into 4 patties and saute in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until golden brown on both sides and set aside. In saucepan melt 2 ounces of butter and add flour and cook over low heat for 1 minute until wet sand consistency. Begin to add beef stock 1/3 at a time whisking and bringing to simmer each time making sure there are no lumps. I added the remaining onions and a bit of minced garlic at this point. Then, add mushrooms and simmer for 1/2 hour. Place patties in a roasting pan and pour gravy over patties and bake in a preheated 375 degree (190 degrees C) oven for 45 minutes.
 
Since we don't have a deep roasting pan, I used about half of the gravy on the mini-meatloafs that went into the oven. I roasted the veggies, broccoli and cauliflower, on the same pan. The sauce was so good, I couldn't stop tasting it so I made the executive decision to add more beef stock, a bit more flour to thicken it more, and made more gravy so we could pour it over the egg noodles that I served it with. 
 
The gravy was so amazing, T-Slav and I both wanted to drink it up. It's amazing what you can do with the same 3 pans but that's what we've got and I'm making it work. This is definitely something I'll make again and I think my Mom would be proud! 


  
 
 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

The Many Seasons on a Drive Throughout Croatia

On Tuesday morning, I awoke to a wonderful surprise. It was St. Nicholas Day, which in Europe is also the day that I celebrate my Name Day! When I went to sleep the night before, I had totally forgotten about it!

I was shocked to see St. Nicholas had remembered to visit our place!

He even found my boot! I got a nice big chocolate and also a gold stick which represented that I had not been all nice this year. 

Tomislav had a business trip he had to take to Porec, Croatia on the seaside which I tagged along on. The drive to the seaside from Zagreb is incredible. First, we left the fog of Zagreb for the snowy mountainous region.

The picture does not do it justice. It looked gorgeous!

The snow brought our Christmas tunes to life!

When we arrived in Porec, T-Slav went to work while I got to relax near the sea.

It was warm and beautiful, once the sun set though, we had to move on.

Since T had to work in Rijeka on Wednesday, we drove down Tuesday night and were so happy to see such a beautiful, Christmas-y city!

The pedestrian zone in Rijeka is so long, I think even longer than in Belgrade and it really put us in the holiday spirit.


The best part of our time in Rijeka for me? Probably the hotel, for we had the best view we have ever had before here!

From the balcony, you could just see water all around, it was so beautiful.
I loved it!

Yay!

It was so peaceful

Thanks to the Best Western: Hotel Jadran for giving us the best view in the entire hotel!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Yes, Deer!

 
One of the best things about being in Zagreb is that it's so close to many other countries so you can make a weekend trip, or even a day trip very easily! We went with our friends, on Sunday, to two towns in Slovenia: Olimje and Celje. At first, I was a bit apprehensive about how fun and exciting this trip would really be. Tomislav and Lovro had visited Olimje last year and talked about feeding deer and to be quite honest, I wasn't impressed. I mean, I grew up in the Poconos, PA...basically the deer capital of the world. I had no idea how awesome it would actually be! So first we visited this "Witch's Hut" which is an interactive playhouse made completely of recycled materials.

 An optimistic friend greeting us at the Witch's Hut

It's Pippi Longstocking! My favorite girl from Villa Villekulla (aka Villa Kunterbunt auf Deutsch!)
 T-Slav playing "the bells" for us!

This isn't the actual witch, it's Maja :D


In the town of Olimje, it's really neat because this seemingly tiny village has a lot of beautiful and interesting things to see, all within 2 minutes of each other!

There is a beautiful church and monastery.
 
This is inside the church, and Maja

 Big beautiful goldfish were swimming outside the monastery (and Nemo type fish too!), plus the reflection of the monastery looks awesome in the water

 Me explaining stuff about the monastery, in Croatian. Oh yeah, very accurate indeed. Not sure if we were supposed to actually be in that part of the monastery, oh well! Was very cool!

 Such a beautiful view of the town at our next stop of the trip, home of the deer!

 They were so sweet! We got corn to feed the deer and although some of the Bambi baby types were scared, the big guys were hungry and happy to eat right out of our hands. So sweet!

 Maja feeding the deer

 Here's Lovro 

 Here is Jan

 Here is T-Slav feeding the cutie deer

 As the day went on, it got rather chilly so feeding the deer was a great way to warm up my hands too ;)

Beautiful animals!

 Had to take a gluehwein/kuhano vino/hot mulled wine break :)

 One of my favorite things about winter in Europe is that people continue to use outdoor seating at cafes, bars, and restaurants. The cafes often provide those standing heaters (or better yet, feet heaters!), and what's even cozier, are the soft warm blankets!


Next up, we made our way to Celje, which is actually the 3rd largest city in Slovenia. Unfortunately, on Sunday afternoon, we didn't quite get the impression that this was a large city because by 5pm it was very dark and there were so few people out.



 There were a few lit up decorations though :)

 Maja rode home with this nice Celje man on his bicycle :)



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