Well I've Never Been to Spain: Madrid

Pin It Well, Charlie can already cross Spain off his bucket list.  We had been singing that song this past week to Charlie.  It was a song I played over and over before I studied in Sevilla when I was 22. Well, little Bucket Boy is just over 8 months old and has already been to Spain, but not Oklahoma, nor Arizona.
We jet-setted to Madrid last Saturday* and by jet set I mean we took a metro to a bus to a plane to a metro again all over the course of a 8 hour period (which Charlie slept for a total of 40 minutes of, max! But was surprisingly chipper).  Once we arrived at our rental apartment, we were all exhausted and starving.  Being starving in Madrid is no problem, there is good food everywhere.  So the first thing we did was call up our Spanish amigo, Nacho, who took us to the famous Mercado San Miguel during peak lunch hour. Thankfully we had Nacho to lead the way as it was a little intimidating (and crowded) for us guiris (and my "Spanish" had definitely not kicked in yet as I was dropping oui's left and right. That's the problem of knowing little of two foreign languages - they are easily interchangeable when trying to speak.
*Last Saturday being a year ago by the time this post is actually posted...oops.
We shared the famous (and rightfully so) Jamon Pata Negra, some deliciously creamy artisan queso, and black rice (blackened by the ink of squid), topped off with some Rioja, naturally, all while Charlie snoozed away in the carrier.  Me thinks he was tie tie after the long journey.  We were afraid he wasn't going to sleep but Nacho assured us he would, and he did.  I guess Nacho is some sort of baby whisperer. I am a little bit sad right now as we didn't get any pics with Nacho, guess we were just too caught up in the moment enjoying life.  Enjoying life.  This is something the husband is constantly telling me to do.  "Don't take pictures of everything, just enjoy life."  And I did, and it was fun, but do I wish I had pics?  Absolutely.  Lesson learned. These market pics are taken on another day when I was in my normal "documenting life" mood.  Can't a girl enjoy life and document it, too?

So, we found out that the Rain in Spain definitely doesn't remain only on the plain, as it seemed to rain almost every other day on us.  Anyway, when it rains in Madrid, it isn't too big of a deal since you can spend time in the museums.  Planning on only going to the Prado, we adjusted accordingly and went to the Reina Sofia, too.  Charlie liked inappropriately chatting his way through the galleries, goofing off with dad, and taking a little afternoon snooze.

What else to do in rainy Spain, but eat?  San Gines Churros con Chocolate are what's for breakfast!
And then we explored just a bit more before we hopped on the AVE train to head south...where the rain would continue on and off for a few more days.
We picked up the rental car, only to realize we lost the second most important possession we were travelling with, Lovey.  We immediately set off to find something similar.  This was detrimental to sleep because Buckets had just developed a major attachment to said Lovey.  We picked up the best thing we could find, a Dumbo lovey,  and set off to the Alpujarras (the foothills of the Sierra Nevada) where we would spend the next few days outside the little town of Orgiva, surrounded by orange, olive and almond trees at the Olive Tree Yurt.  As we expected, Dumbo would not really do the trick just yet.
The sun was short lived as we awoke the next day to a very gloomy Southern Spain.  What's there to do when it rains in Orgiva, we asked our wonderful hosts.  Well, I suppose your best bet is to do some caving.  The response surprised us, but some "caving" we did.  We packed up and set for Nerja, a quaint and quiet coastal town with some unexpected caves. 
It wasn't at all what we had planned to do when we arrived in the South, but it was quite impressive.
The next day wasn't much better, but we spent it freezing our butts off in the rain at the Alhambra.  Though beautiful, both Granada and the Alhambra, the highlight was warming up and having some real tapas at the end of the day.  Granada is one of the only places in Spain that still serves free tapas with a beer. 
After a few cold and rainy days we were starting to get down.  A lost lovey, Charlie being under the weather and some festival in Orgiva where they set off fireworks all night long, we couldn't handle much more.  Fireworks and a sick baby are an exhausting combination.  Top that with a Dumbo lovey that was fooling no one, no one was very happy.

And then the sun came out. We kicked back and spent a relaxing morning on the property soaking in  Vitamin D, drinking coffee, eating almonds from the trees our hosts had picked for us and reading "Driving Over Lemons," a must read when visiting the area.  I wish I had read it prior to the trip, but I am just now finishing the third in the series (yes, one year later) and everytime I sit down and read it, it takes me back to this moment.  Reading, listening to the birds, and feeling the warm Spanish sun on my face, eating an orange picked right off the tree... this was exactly what we needed.
When Charlie awoke from his nap, we headed up the mountain to some of the little villages in the area. We decided to stop in the most beautiful white washed mountainside village of Pampainiera. 
They're known for their handmade rugs in this region, so we did a little rug shopping (which is my favorite souvenier of all of our Euro trip).  Charlie tests out his new play space rug below and then there is no better way than to end the afternoon with a little cafe con leche.
We headed back to the yurt, enjoyed a nice evening without any rain or fireworks, and on top of everything we all had a better sleep.  

We awoke to some more sun and the warmest day of the whole trip... too bad we had to fly back later that day.  We made the best of it, had morning coffee outside and then explored the property a bit.  I even went for a quick swim!

We took the scenic route back to Malaga and stopped along the way to dip our toes in the ocean and take our first family foot pic and eat one last orange from our tree.
Adios Espana!

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Saucy Roasted Veggie Burger

Pin It If you are in the mood for a light and tangy veggie burger, but not in the mood to bear the windshield and fire up the grill (Wisconsinites, I am talking to you!), then this Saucy Roasted Veggie "Burger" is for you. Wait, that's windchill, you say? Sounds a lot like windshield to me, just sayin'.
On another note, did you know that you are supposed to put only one space after a period? One. Space. I just found this out. I tried it out for a few sentences above, but it is going to take some getting used it. Not sure I can conform. These are the things I have gone through out life not knowing (and made my way just fine, I might add), but I can't imagine what other tidbits of information I am missing out on.
What I do know is that you can throw this meal together in 20 minutes flat.  Hello healthy and satisfying weeknight "burger". Goodbye who knows whats in that fast food "burger". Now that's some information I can happily live without.
Topped with hummus and a garlic infused sundried tomato basil yogurt spread, there is just the right amount of zip.  Note: I had garlicky and my husband so annoyingly reading over my shoulder suggested I put garlic infused.  He continued to comment I am always an icky or ish girl.  Okay, I may be an ish girl, but I am not icky. Personally, I think garlicky sums it up just right.  Because well, It. Was. Garlicky.  You might want to tone down the garlic if you are not used to lots of it.  We pretty much spend our lives walking around smelling like garlic.
Meatless, but just meaty enough.  Side note:  The whole reason I decided to make this was to use up an eggplant I had in my fridge.  I realized 6 hours later I forgot to use the eggplant.  It's official, I am losing my mind.

Saucy Roasted Veggie Burger
serves 2 

2 Portabellas
1 Red Pepper (halved)
1/2 Zucchini (sliced long way)
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar
Salt & Pepper
2 Rolls of your choice
1 recipe Garlic Infused Sundried Tomato Basil Yogurt Spread (as follows)

Garlic Infused Sundried Tomato Basil Yogurt Spread
1 clove Garlic, chopped
2-3 T chopped Basil
5-6 Sundried Tomatoes
1 t Lemon Juice
1/2 c Yogurt
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 350F.  Put vegetables in a large bowl.  Drizzle with Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar, Salt & Pepper.  Once oven is preheated spread Red Pepper & Portabella on a baking sheet.  Pour remaining oil mixture over vegetables. After about 5 minutes of roasting add Zucchini.  Roast for 10 more minutes or until desired softness is reached.  While veggies are roasting combine ingredients for Yogurt Spread.  Assemble vegetables on a toasted bun.  Top with hummus and yogurt spread.

Bon App├ętit!

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Sweet Sweet Santorini.

Pin It I have always wanted to go there.  You know, you see that photo with the white cliff side villages, blue dome churches, with a pink sunset and a clear blue sea backdrop, and you think someday I will go there.  Well, we just got back from there....
...and it was everything I dreamed of.  
 I was a little worried it wouldn't live up to the hype, but it did.  Santorini is my Favorite. Place. Ever. (besides White Lake).

Waking up to this view is easy to get used to.  The infinity pool was right outside our small apartment's door.  Perfect for travelling with Charlie!
Yes, we took our 8 week old son, Charlie, to Greece and I am pretty sure he loved it as much as I did.  Most people thought I was crazy when I told them, but we had a surprisingly relaxing vacation and Charlie did really well.  We figure the sooner he gets used to travelling, the easier it will be, and so far we are on the right track.
Thanks to the Phil and Ted's Traveller (which packs up to the size of a carry on), Charlie was able to hang pool side in the shade while we swam and relaxed in the loungers.  The housekeeper, Saba, loved little Charlie.  Greeks love babies and we felt welcome everywhere we went.
In fact, I think travelling with Charlie made our experience more exciting, because everywhere we went locals started conversations with us.  While shopping I learned so much about Greek culture from the locals (who would have thought?).  Did you know that Greeks spit on babies to bring them good luck?  No one actually spat on Charlie... but we got so many well wishes for him to have a happy and healthy life.  Even the men love babies.

My parents joined us on the trip, which made things a lot easier.  I don't think the trip would have been nearly as relaxing had it been just the three of us.  It helped that Charlie had four people to nap on.

We spent the first few days of our vacation in Perissa at the beach (see Charlie napping on Grandpa and Dad above). He brings relaxation to another level.  If only I could be as relaxed as that guy!

On our way to Oia (where we spent most of our time), we stopped at the Santorini Brewing Company, a micro brewery which just opened up in 2011.   On our way to the brewery we were a little lost, but ran into the Crazy Donkey Van. Follow that van!
Though there is no formal tour, they are happy to show you around the brewery and give you generous tastes of each of their beers (they were out of yellow donkey when we were there - but we did get to try it at a restaurant in Oia).  We tasted the Red Donkey and Crazy Donkey and both were pretty kick ass.  I think everyone's favorite was the Crazy.  Not surprising, since we are all a bunch of crazies! We bought some extra to enjoy at our hotel. We would have brought some back to Belgium- but the beer isn't pasteurized and needs to stay cold.
Thanks to Grammy and Grampy, Paul and I were able to get out sans bebe for a hike from Fira (the capital of Santorini) to Oia (the village we were staying in).  It was about a 3 hour hike along the caldera with incredible views.  At times there was sea on both sides of us.  This walk is a must do if going to Santorini.
We spent the rest of our days lounging poolside.....
...and enjoying Greek cuisine (which I have a new appreciation for!).  Tomato Balls recipe coming soon.
 Greek salads in Greece are amazing, but the most amazingly different tasting of all is the Greek Yogurt. So creamy and delicious, add a little honey and you have dessert.  I will forever dream of that Greek Yogurt...and Santorini.

Santorini we will miss you.

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Sweet Potato Falafel Ball Salad

Pin It For those of you who love sweet potatoes and love falafels, this is for you.  This here, is the good stuff.  It's funny, because a few years ago, I don't think you could have gotten me to eat a falafel. I wasn't a big fan of chickpeas (or trying new things) in general and I was pretty afraid of hummus.  In fact, I think the only sauces I would eat were ketchup and ranch.  Oh how my world has expanded and I have fallen in love with the chickpea and all its splendor (and lots of other things, too - I am still working on seafood though).

Every time I think of Falafels I think of Paris, and if you haven't been to L'As du Fallafel, put it on the bucket list.  It is that good.... and you can visit Paris on the side (bonus!)!  Well, this salad isn't quite L'As du Fallafel,  it is a delicious and healthy alternative (or you can try my Falafel Inspired Veggie Burger).
This salad was filling and a perfect way to spice up my post-baby salad a day plan.  I realized after a few days on the "regimen", I needed a salad with some oomph, or I would be snacking on chips an hour later (kind of defeats the whole purpose, hey?).  Breastfeeding makes a gal hungry and now is not the time to go on a diet.  Eat healthy, yes, but limit myself and feel famished (small exaggeration), no.  This salad will leave you full and satisfied.
I topped mine with a homemade tzatziki, but think tahini or hummus and tzatziki combined would be even better.  Yes, top falafels with hummus.  One can never have too many chickpeas.
Eat, Enjoy and brainstorm about what to do with 3/4 head of purple cabbage or plan a trip to L'As du Fallafel.  Ideas?

Falafel Ball Salad (as adapted from My New Roots)
Makes 15 balls

3 small sweet potatoes (mine were pretty small, if you have medium size, use 2, and large, use 1)
1 jar of chickpeas
1 egg
1/4 c chopped fresh cilantro
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 green onions
2 t cumin
Juice of half a lemon
3/4 c whole wheat bread crumbs
salt and pepper
sesame seeds (for rolling balls in)

Pierce holes in sweet potatoes with a fork.  Bake at 400 for ~30 minutes or until softened.  Let cool.  Peel and put flesh in a medium sized mixing bowl.  Mix egg and chickpeas in a blender until fairly smooth with some small bits.  Combine in mixing bowl.  Add cilantro, yellow onion, green onion, garlic, cumin, lemon juice, bread crumbs and salt and pepper.  Mix.  Refrigerate for at least 10 minutes (this will make the ball forming process easier).  Form into balls.  If it is too mushy, you can add more bread crumbs but I found 3/4 cup was sufficient.  Roll in sesame seeds.  Bake for 30 minutes at 400.  Top them on a salad.


1/2 head lettuce ( your choice)
1/4 head purple cabbage, chopped
1-2 carrots, shredded
1 red pepper

Combine all ingredients.  Top with Falafel balls and Tzatziki or Tahini Sauce.  Serve immediately.

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