Amazing Desserts from Around the World

 

The Best Baklava

The holidays are such a special time. I feel so incredibly fortunate to have my friends and family so close by. So, when I was trying to narrow the list down to just 3 dessert recipes, naturally good friends who also happen to be good cooks with great stories from around the globe seemed like a great fit.

Let’s begin with my friend, Rose. We have been friends for over 6 years and used to work together. She always brought in the best food that either she and her husband made or that she picked up from delicious local bakeries for our meetings. Rose taught a class a few years ago about how to make baklava. I don’t know what my excuse was, but I missed the class. And baklava is one of my absolute favorite desserts! Rose was gracious enough to share her mother’s recipe with me.  Rose’s father immigrated to the United States from Damascus in 1938 and followed through with an arranged marriage to her mother. When Rose was 4 years old, her father passed away, leaving behind her mother and their 7 children. Rose credits her mother’s never-ending love and deep faith in holding their family together. Here is a picture of Rose’s mother with Rose’s children. Can’t you just feel her love of family in this photo? Mackinaw Road- Rose's MomRose shared that making Baklava is more of an experience and tradition for her than just baking a dessert. She and her family have made it for as long as she can remember. Every year, she and her siblings make their own baklava and share it with each other to see whose turned out the best. Rose, I’m available if you all ever need an impartial judge! Keep reading for her recipe below.

Baklava

Ingredients: 2-3 pounds phyllo dough, 2 pounds unsalted butter (rendered), 3 pounds ground walnuts, 5-6 cups of sugar, 4 cups water, 2 tsp orange flower water or to taste, 1 lemon (juiced)

Mix: walnuts with 1-2 cups of sugar and 3 tablespoons of melted butter. Add 1 tsp of the orange flower water. Set aside.

Layer: Start with 2 tablespoons of melted butter on the bottom of a 9×13 pan. Add 1 sheet of phyllo, paint with a thin layer of butter and then add another sheet of phyllo. Continue with 1-1.5 pounds of phyllo. Add the nut mixture and pat lightly but firmly in the pan. Begin the layering process again with the remaining 1-1.5 pounds of phyllo dough. Pat gently after each layer. DO NOT press hard. With a very sharp knife, cut into diamond shapes. Rows should be about 1 inch apart.

Best Baklava

Bake: @250 degrees for 2-3 hours. Lift corner piece to see if bottom is browning. If golden brown, then it is finished. You may want to turn on the broiler to crisp and lightly brown the top at the end. DO NOT take your eyes off of it. It browns quickly!

Boil: 4 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar. Add the juice of 1 lemon and 1 tsp of orange flower water. This is the syrup.

Either pour the HOT SYRUP on COLD BAKLAVA or COLD SYRUP on HOT BAKLAVA. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT IF YOU DO NOT WANT SOGGY BAKLAVA.

Next up: Nerin’s Tres Leches Cake

Day-After Recipes

 

day-after recipesThe Holiday Season is officially upon us. Lots of good food, good times, and good drinks are in our immediate future. I have already bought the ingredients for my Day-After recipes to get myself feeling healthy again. These are my top 3 contenders for the Day After I return from traveling as well. No matter how hard I try, I just almost always need the upgrade to french fries, at least one McDonald’s breakfast in the airport, and dessert, dessert, dessert.

Full disclosure… I don’t always love smoothies. However, I was forced into it after literally falling on my face last winter. That’s right. 6 weeks of soup and smoothies, so I do consider myself somewhat of an expert. And, these are so good that I still make them even though my jaw is back in working order.

Apple Pineapple Smoothie

A friend stopped by the day after my face plant with a big grocery bag from Trader Joe’s with all of the below goodness just ready to be blended.

Ingredients: apple (any sweet pink or red variety will do), 1 cup of frozen pineapple, 1 cup of coconut milk, 1 cup greek/Siggis yogurt, and a handful of kale/spinach. Blend. Enjoy.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothie

Pure Chocolate Peanut Butter goodness~ is there any better combination?

Ingredients: large handful of spinach, 2 TBSP of Peanut Butter, 2 TBSP of honey, 2 TBSP of cocoa, 1 1/2 cup of coconut milk. Blend. Pour over ice (or blend the ice with the other ingredients). Yum.

Robin’s Healthy Lentil Soup

I have to admit that as I read through Shauna Niequist’s Bread and Wine, this was not the first recipe that was on my list to try. However, feeling in need of something healthy one day, I decided to give it a shot. It seemed pretty basic- carrots, celery, lentils, etc., etc. But then you drizzle balsamic vinegar in at the eleventh hour, and it transforms into one of the most delicious soups.  I haven’t ever blended it, as the directions suggest one should, because, well, I’ll admit, I can only handle so much blending in my life. 

Here is the link to Robin’s Healthy Lentil Soup or you can also find it in Shauna’s book Bread and Wine, which I would highly recommend. 

Whether it’s the Day After a holiday party or the Day After your return from a trip (hopefully, not the Day After a broken jaw), I hope you find these recipes useful in your recovery.

** please note that affiliate links are contained in this post, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation. 

Gift Guide for the Traveler in Your Life, Part II

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

Welcome Back! Well, there is officially snow, and it is officially sticking to the ground, which signals the end to our lovely fall days but also the excitement that surrounds the holiday season. Now, where did we leave off?

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

Oh, yes, my great love of Mark and Graham. I just can’t get enough of their classy, functional, and fun travel selection. No one likes to lose their luggage and no one likes scrambling to fill out the paper tags that the airlines provide, so some durable and classic tags would be a welcome gift under the tree this year.

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

Another idea for the tech-loving traveler in your life is an External Power Bank for charging smartphones and tablets. That champagne gold color seems like a stylish bonus, too.

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

And, also, back to Klean Kanteen. The canteen I mentioned in the previous post works well for both coffee and ice water, but sometimes I just need to have both on hand. Therein, comes this bottle. Have I mentioned that I also really like Klean Kanteen’s customer service? One of the sports caps we owned needed to be repaired, and they readily and quickly sent a replacement.

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

A packable puffer coat is another must for me. I have taken a similar coat with me on several trips, and it has treated me well. Now, I wouldn’t hike through Antarctica in it, but it does keep me quite warm. It takes up very little space in my suitcase but is also just as easy to wear/take off/manage on an airplane. Even if I was leaving on a cold and blustery February morning to go to a warm, tropical island, I would probably still wear the coat to the airport. It’s just that easy to have along for the trip. Now, if only all travel companions were that low maintenance.

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

A little class. A little sass. And a whole lot of functionality. This small travel jewelry case is just the thing that has been missing from my luggage.

And that’s a wrap! (Yes, I sure did do that on purpose!)

The List

League Stripe Luggage Tag

External Power Bank

Klean Kanteen

Puffer Coat

Travel Jewelry Case

*Please note that there are affiliate links in the post, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may be compensated.

Gift Guide for the Traveler in Your Life

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

The Lake Effect snow is on it’s way, and I am finally realizing that Christmas is just over a month away. It’s time to get shopping. Fortunately, there are many, many, many gift options for the travel-lover in your life. Here are a few I already have or wouldn’t mind having show up under the tree this year.

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

Mark and Graham had me at Herringbone. Classy and organized? Yes please. If you haven’t checked out Mark and Graham, it is worth a look. There are so many gifts for the traveler in your life, and quite a few for the non-traveler too.

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

First of all, these bags!!! (Insert laughing, crying emoji here.) Second, instead of having minute-long conversations with your husband about who gets the dirty clothes and running shoes bag for the trip home, use these! Bonus, opening your luggage and looking at these bags would be an instant mood booster after a long day of travel. Moreover, there is also a male version, so you can each keep your own clothes in your own bags. Again, if you haven’t checked out Uncommon Goods, they too have great gifts for both the travelers and non-travelers in your life.

Mackinaw Island gift guide

I can already see myself lounging in the hotel room after a long day of wandering and exploring. How much do you love the new jogger-not-really-for-jogging trend?

Mackinaw Road Travel Guide

Let me give you a hypothetical situation. You are late for boarding your plane but probably/maybe have time for a quick stop at Starbucks. With one hand, you clutch your caramel macchiato for dear life and with the other you juggle the stroller, getting your children and all of their things out of the stroller, folding the stroller, and getting everyone to their assigned seats (you in the middle of the children, your husband across the aisle) only to find that half of your coffee is up your sleeve and the other half is dripping on your jeans. The insulated Klean Kanteen was life changing for me. I can quick transfer my coffee to this super-durable kanteen and my coffee is still hot hours later.

Mackinaw Road Gift Guide

More Mark and Graham brilliance here. A Leather Charger Roll Up~ classy, personalized, and useful. Win, win, win.

Well, this seems like a good start. If you are curious about the rest of the items in the top picture, descriptions and suggestions will be coming soon.

Have a great weekend and stay warm!

The List

Herringbone Travel Wallet

Women’s Organizing Travel 4-pack

Plush Jersey Drawstring Jogger

Klean Kanteen Insulated Bottle

Charger Roll Up

 

*Please note that there are affiliated links in the post, meaning that, at no cost to you, I may be compensated.

Top 5 Delhi Attractions

 

Namaste!

Remember how I told you what great parents we were to leave our children at home while we went to NYC for the Easter weekend? Well, we were equally fab parents and also left them for the Christmas holiday to go to India.

Now, this was not just another trip for me. I asked a zillion questions of my husband, knowing this would be unlike any trip I had ever taken. I had several talks with myself. Remember how I love to wander around? Go for jogs to get my bearings in a new city? Remember how I am Type A? And an introvert? Before I even got on the plane, I had come to grips with the fact that I would likely not be wandering around, not going for jogs, not be planning our days or what we would be eating, and would be around people all the time. And I let it go… And you know what? I had the best time! It was such a great trip!!!

After spending a few days in Mumbai for my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s wedding reception (More on that later! Talk about beautiful people inside-and-out and a gorgeous setting!), we (my parents-in-law, husband, sister-in-law and brother-in-law) headed to Delhi to visit my father-in-law’s family. Again, we had such a nice time! Below are the top 5 attractions I would recommend when visiting Delhi.

Dilli Haat- What a fun experience! Especially since we were with the negotiator of all negotiators. Dilli Haat is an open air market with several booths and also a food court Dilli Haatof sorts. The Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corporation run Dilli Haat and we could purchase tickets to enter. There were about 62 stalls, which are rotated every 15 days. We purchased scarves and more scarves for ourselves and for gifts as well as several wooden toys for our children. This was a really fun experience for me since I am the worst negotiator- mostly because I dislike confrontation. Basically, if someone were to say “no, this is the cost,” I would say “okay.” So, as you can imagine, the whole experience was mind-blowing for me.

Red Fort- Enclosed in red sandstone walls, the Red Fort housed emperors and their households beginning in the mid-1600s. Upon entering, there was a Red Fort New Delhihallway of different shops. Once we emerged from the market, we were able to walk the grounds and view several different buildings. I have to admit that I was skeptical about wearing the tourist headphones at first. That said, my #1 recommendation for touring the Red Fort is to rent the headphones. I learned an incredible amount of Indian history and just really enjoyed the experience of standing in front of something so amazing and, well, receiving an on-the-spot history lesson. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Humayan’s Tomb- the tomb of the Mughal Emperor commissioned in 1569-70. Again there is a heavy use ofHumayan's Tomb red sandstone; it was designed by Mirak Mirza Ghiyas, and is significant because it was the first garden tomb on the Indian subcontinent. More than 100 Mughal family members are buried in the complex, many on the first level terrace, which is often called the “dormitory of Mughals.” The property itself contains several additional tombs and structures, and it is clear that efforts have been made to preserve and respect this area.

Rashtrapati Bhavan- Or, as I pronounce it, The President’s House, is located in New Delhi. Built from 1921-1929 and made of cream and red sandstone, it The President's House New Delhiwas designed to be home to the Viceroys of India. We were able to follow along as a tour guide led us through just a few of 300+ rooms and the beautiful Mughal gardens outside. When we went, we needed to submit our request online along with photocopies of our passports; my husband’s uncle took care of all of this for us so a big Thank You to him. We were also required to bring our actual passports on the day that we visited. Sir Edwin Lutyens was the main designer.

India Gate- A magnificent structure also in New Delhi and reminiscent of India Gatesuch architectural icons as the Arch of Constantine in Rome, Arc de Triomphe in Paris, and the Gateway of India in Mumbai. India Gate is a memorial to the 82,000 servicemen who served in the Indian Army who died in the timeframe of 1914-1921. 13,000 names are inscribed on the gate. Sir. Edwin Lutyens was again the designer.

Taj Mahal- I know, this is not in Delhi but it is a MUST to travel to Agra if you are in Delhi for any length of time. It is a long day but you will not regret the drive Taj Mahalout to this amazing ivory-white marble mausoleum. Upon parking our car, someone offered to give us a tour of the grounds. We ended up with a knowledgeable tour guide who not only was able to give us several history lessons but was able to guide us through the masses of people. The grounds are lovely and tourists are able to spread out. However, once you put on your shoe coverings you will be semi-pushed past the fake sarcophagi of the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his favorite wife Mumtaz Mahal, who are really buried on a lower level. There wasn’t a whole lot of dawdling, so get ready to move once you enter. I think my favorite part was being able to look at the grounds and closely view the spectacular materials of the building from the porch of the Taj Mahal.

You could really see all of these sites in about 3 days. We spent just under a week in Delhi, doing both touristy things and visiting with family. While you may want to add a couple more days just so you don’t feel rushed, I would break up the activities like this…

Day #1 India Gate and The President’s House

Day #2 Taj Mahal

Day #3 Red Fort and Humayan’s Tomb

Alvida!

Friday Finds (Take 1)

Welcome to the first installment of Friday Finds, aka my excuse to be Random!

It is looking like another beautiful, slightly colder, weekend in Michigan. As such, my first random recommendation is to hit up Mt. Baldhead in Saugatuck. We took our kiddos last weekend, and we all had a fantastic day. Here is the gist: you climb up many, many, many stairs to discover spectacular views of Saugatuck and the Kalamazoo River. Next, you hike down a dune which leads to Oval Beach where there is plenty of sand, walking, and a swing set; there may even have Saugatuck, Michiganbeen some giggle-infested stick fights on our trip. When you are finished at the beach, climb back up the dune, take one last look at the views, and climb back down the stairs. We ended the afternoon with some beer for us and mac ‘n cheese for the kids at Wick’s Park, one of our favorite places to eat with kids in Saugatuck.

My second random recommendation is to check out Lole in Gaslight Village in East Grand Rapids. I’m not sure why but I am always shocked when it snows in Michigan and find myself scrambling because I am unprepared. Trying to makeFriday Finds Lole this year different, I decided to check out Lole for a ski jacket. They are having a promotion for which you bring in an old jacket (men’s, women’s, or children’s) and they will give you $50 off a new coat. The old coats are listed on minitradeca and proceeds in the United States go to Ample Harvest. Check out your Lole coat choices ahead of time here. Oh, and by the way, there is even a section just for Lifestyle & Travel!!!

My third random recommendation is a restaurant. If you happen to be in Friday Finds Wheelhousedowntown Grand Rapids or are even driving through, check out Wheelhouse. Their food is delicious (we had the duck sandwich and crab cake sandwich), the setting is modern, and the waitstaff is great, too.

 

 

 

My final recommendation is to go for a hike~ yes, again! It isn’t going to be nice like this forever. Check out Calvin College’s Eco Preserve. There areEco Preserve trails as well as a center to check out seasonal displays. It is so peaceful and fairly easy to navigate.

There you have it~ pure randomness!

Hope you have a very happy weekend!!!

*Please note some links may be affiliate links, which means that, at no cost to you, I may receive some compensation.

Top 6 activities in D.C. with Small Children

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Washington D.C. is one of my favorite U.S. cities. Not only is it beautiful and historic, but it also seems completely manageable regardless of who your travel companions may be. I have visited D.C. several times throughout my lifetime~ with my family, with my husband, with the Close Up program, and this time with our children, ages 5 and 2. We brought our double jogger and are so grateful that we did because walking was our main mode of transportation during this trip. We were able to walk to most of the activities described below with the exception of the National Cathedral area. Below are the top 5 activities that I would recommend in D.C. with small children.

Air and Space Museum

The Smithsonian Museums (National Mall)- I love, love, love the Smithsonians. The free admission takes all the pressure off parents and children. We were staying just a short walk away from the Smithsonians, so I could take the kids to a museum, and if we had to leave for naps or meltdowns, it was fine. We could also do quick walk throughs of the museums and then decide where to go back to spend more time or choose specific exhibits we wanted to revisit. The Air and Space Museum was the clear winner on this trip.

The National Cathedral- One of the most beautiful places in D.C., the National Cathedral took 83 years to complete and is the second largest cathedral in the United States, the 6th largest in the world. When we went, there was also a festival going on with all sorts of activities for the kids, including face painting, rides, and games. My husband and I could enjoy the beautiful architecture and our kids could enjoy transforming their faces into woodland creatures.

 

Beauvoir-  If you are up by the National Cathedral on a weekend, you should check out the National Cathedral Elementary School’s (Beauvoir) playground. It is immaculate, and there is a nice variety of activities for various age ranges.Beauvoir

Georgetown- Again, this is one for the adults and the children. My husband and I enjoyed pushing the kids in the stroller and window shopping. We finished at a kid-friendly, Mexican restaurant with friends in a nearby neighborhood. We went mid-afternoon, grabbed dinner, went to a nearby park, and were back at our hotel at a reasonable hour (we did take a taxi back). You can adjust the time you would like to spend in Georgetown depending on how much you want to explore or how long you want to shop. If you have small children with you an afternoon or even half of an afternoon would probably be enough time.

National World War II Memorial- Opened in the spring of 2004, this memorial has significance as a tribute to those who served during World War II. It is nice to visit in order to have meaningful and age-appropriate conversations with your children. Bonus: it is outside and our children had fun finding our state name engraved in one of the 56 granite pillars located around the plaza. Win, win, win.

World War II Memorial

Memorial Run- Speaking of memorials, we ran almost every morning by the monuments. While we could have spent more time (obviously) at each monument, I’m not sure our children were quite old enough to spend hours at them. Our runs seemed the most efficient and effective for our children’s ages, and there was just something so peaceful and serene about seeing the monuments before the hoards of tour groups descended on them for the day. During our run, we would stop to catch our breath, talk with the kids about the monuments, and take a picture. We were able to see the Jefferson Memorial, the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument all within our 35-minute run. Amazing.Memorial

 While there is so much to see in D.C. and we were not able to do it all, I feel that this list has a nice balance of history and activity considering the ages of our children. I hope that other families traveling to D.C. with small children will also find this list to be helpful. 

*Please note that some of the links in this post contain affiliate links, which means that, at no cost to you, I may be compensated.

3 Easy Indian Dishes

Cheater Indian Food

True story. I used to be cautious with Indian food. Now, I love it. As in, I can’t get enough of it. As in, I went to India for 11 days and came back craving, no not a steak, but more Indian food. Here is the thing, though, it isn’t a food that I find easy to make. There is a lot of preparation and generally a long list of ingredients, which basically explains why it is so good. I once asked my mother-in-law for her chole recipe and threw in the towel after only reading about halfway down the list. Thus, comes in my list of imitation foods that I can make quickly on weekdays, shortcut-style. I’m not pretending these could even come close in taste to an actual Indian meal, but they help get me through until our Thursday night, Indian-restuarant night or our next trip to the in-law’s house.

Cheater Indian Food

Chole- This is simple. Buy a bag of dried garbanzo beans. Follow the directions on the bag for either the long soak or the quick soak.  Then, cook the beans in about 5-6 cups of water. I use my favorite Dutch oven but any large pot will work. Bring beans and water to a boil, cover, and reduce to a simmer for 1 1/2-2 hours. Remove as much excess water as you can with a ladle; there should be some water leftover. At this point, you can also remove 2-3 cups of beans and set aside for the Roasted Chole recipe below. Next, add the Goan Coconut simmer sauce pictured above to the pot and continue to simmer until heated through, toss some frozen naan in the oven, and spoon the “chole” over jasmine or basmati rice. Add some chopped cilantro to the top if you are feeling fancy. Oh, and if you are feeling especially last-minute, you could always buy 2-3 cans of garbanzo beans and cook them on the stove with this sauce until heated through; how is that for a 15-minute meal?

Cheater Indian Food

Roasted Chole- Now, what to do with the chole leftovers? Leftovers at our  house just sit and sit and sit. After we have inhaled as much of the chole from above as we can, I try to get any excess sauce off the leftover garbanzo beans by using a slatted spoon. Then I line a cookie sheet with them, toss in olive oil, and cook at 375 degrees for 45-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. There you have it~ an instant protein-rich snack for the week. Remember how I mentioned you could pull out 2-3 cups of plain garbanzo beans? If you chose to go that route, you follow the same directions above but also toss with salt (or whatever spice combination you choose to experiment with). Easy, easy.

Samosas

Samosa’s- This last recipe is an oldie-but-goodie that I make often from Real Simple magazine. It is their Easy Samosas Recipe. Samosas are a great appetizer with either store-bought (hey, we are taking shortcuts here anyway, right?) mango chutney or an easy mint chutney. (For the mint chutney pictured above, I just blended 8 ounces of greek yogurt, 50 mint leaves, 15-20 cilantro leaves, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp pepper, and a splash of milk.) 

There you go… 3 Easy Indian Dishes. I hope you find them as delicious as I do!

*Please note that some links contained in the post are affiliate links, which means, at no cost to you, I might be compensated.

Top 5 Hilton Head Activities with Kids

hiltonheadtrip

We did it! Our first road trip. Naturally, we decided to drive to Hilton Head, South Carolina, a place my husband and I had gone together with our college tennis teams. (I can’t tell you how many times we have already forced our kids to take a walk down memory lane with us. Just add this to the list.) I won’t talk about the ride down, but once we finally got to the island, it made it all worth it. Listed below are our Top 5 activities that we did with our kids on the island.

hiltonheadtrip1.) Gregg Russell- Don’t skip this. It’s #1 on the list for a reason. Gregg Russell has been performing for over 30 years. Meet him under Liberty tree in Harbour Town. Your kids aren’t the only ones who will be laughing and singing along. We went twice and probably would have attended every night if we had been staying in Harbour Town. If your kids want to increase their chances of being called up on stage, they should bring posters saying, “Pick Me!” or something even more creative.

2.) Ride Bikes on the Beach- Again, this isn’t one to skip. How many beaches are hiltonheadtripthere that you can actually go for a bike ride on? I’m talking about riding directly on the sand. The beaches go for miles! Just be sure that you don’t get overly ambitious (as my husband often does) and go too far before turning around.

3.) Salty Dog Cafe– Located in Sea Pines, this restaurant is one of the most well-known on the island. You really shouldn’t go to Hilton Head without eating at the Salty Dog Cafe. And be certain to read The Legend of Jake, the Salty Dog to your children before you go.

4.) Watch a tennis match at Van Der Meer Tennis Academy– these kids are good! Players come from all over the world to attend this academy. We were staying right next door and were also able to use the courts to hit.

hiltonheadtrip5.) Take in the wildlife– all of the jellyfish that were washed up on shore were amazing, and our kids were entertained for a very good amount of time running from one to the next. (This is what happens to you after making it through another long Michigan winter- anything and everything outside becomes amazing.) We also were able to watch dolphins swimming in the ocean right from the beach and feed the turtles at our hotel. There were alligators on the golf course by the street leading up to our hotel. It was fun to look for them from the safety of our car.

Or, just go, have a seat, soak up some Vitamin D, and be happy you escaped a week of snow in April (Why, Michigan? Why?)

hilton head trip