Thursday, February 16, 2012

Saffron couscous with chicken and veggies

I see the light at the end of the tunnel. Temperatures have been higher in the past few days and it looks like tomorrow we might break 40. What a dream. The thing is, I have all these really cute spring clothes I want to wear, but the weather hasn't really been warm enough for any of them. And that's not the only problem. I had also gained some weight in the past few months, which made my clothes fit horribly, if they fit at all. Now I'm 7 pounds down and things are looking brighter. Another 5-7 pounds and I'll look and feel great, ready for warmer days and lighter clothes.

This is one of my "diet" recipes. One of the things that is helping me lose weight is packing my own lunch, so I don't end up eating huge sandwiches or pizza at some restaurant. Hence the tupperware in the photo. Sorry if it doesn't look great, but I swear it tasted really good!

For 1:

1/2 cup couscous
1 packet saffron
1 chicken breast, cut into pieces
 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
1 carrot, minced
1 small onion, minced
Salt and pepper

Cook couscous according to directions, adding saffron to the water.

In a small skillet heta up a little olive oil. Add carrot, onion and peas, cook for a minute. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper, then add to skillet and cook with veggies until browned.

Fluff couscous with a fork, add to skillet, mix well and serve.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Spaghetti with meatless meatsauce

Brrr. We have been hit by a tremendous cold front, which has brought tons of snow (or at least, tons by lake Lugano standards) and very cold temperatures, temepratures I had never seen around here. We are talking teens. We are talking "what the hell am I going to wear to work?" kind of temperatures.
I have pretty much locked myself in the house every single night. Going out for drinks or dinner? No thanks. All I wanted to do was sit by the fire or bake stuff in the oven to warm up the house.
The upside of it is that I've spent a lot of time cooking. The downside is that I haven't spent a lot of time writing about it because the cold made me lazier than usual. What can I say? That's the way it is some days.

Now the situation has improved a little, although we look like we are still very far from seeing the beginning of spring. Which is sad, because I have just realized that I'm so freaking done with winter. It's funny because I actually like the winter a lot and love the snow and skiing and all. But I reach a point, and this year that point was reached today, where I just cannot stand it anymore and I desperately want to wear spring clothes, eat asparagus and zucchini and sit outdoors with the sun warm on my face. So I keep looking at the forecast and end up being annoyed when I see no signs of spring in the near future.

And while I wait for spring to come I keep munching on winter vegetables that by now have really grown old, to say the least. I can barely stand them anymore. So I try to stick them in sauces and stews like this one, my first experiment at making "meatsauce" with seitan. I'm not a vegetarian and I will never be one, but I was intrigued by the description my friend gave me of seitan and wanted to try it. Well, it makes a really good "meatsauce", believe me.

For 2

1/2 pound spaghetti
1 seitan patty, processed until ground
2 carrots, minced
1 onion, minced
2 celery stalks, minced
1 cup tomato puree
1 cup water
1 vegetable borth cube
1 glass red wine
2 bay leaves
Salt and pepper

Warm olive oil in a dutch oven, add onion, carrot and celery and sautee for a few minutes, until soft. Add ground seitan, season with salt and pepper, sautee for a minute or two, then add red wine. Let cook until it's almost evaporated, add tomato sauce, water, broth cube and bay leaves and lower heat. Simmer on low for at least an hour.

Serve with spaghetti.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Indie Travel Challenge, week 4: Winter Getaways

It's week number 4 of the Indie Travel Challenge, and I have to say that this week's topic couldn't be more appopriate. The good folks at Boots'n'all want us to talk about our dream winter destinations. You can see the prompt here.

Saturday night I cam back from a 3 day mini vacation to Leukerbad, in the Valais canton in Switzerland. It was one of my 2012 travel resolutions to see more of the country I live in and going on this trip showed me how much I had ben missing. Switzerland is tiny, but is also very diverse in landscape, language, culture and food. In Tessin, where I live, we have a fiarly mild climate, everyone speaks Italian and things aren't as organized and rigis as one might think. Only two hours away, though, Leukerbad folks speak French and German, the cuisine is definitely not ass-friendly and the Alps, which I see from a distance here on lake Lugano, are so close and beautiful, they take your breath away.
I traveled there by train -total travel time 4 hours and 20 minutes- and was definitely happy not to have to deal with having a car there. It's not a car friendly village, unless you have a 4x4 with snow tires. I was greeted by a gorgeous blue ski and 29°F, perfect weather for a little exploring and working up an appetite. You can see my rendition of rösti, the Valais "national" dish, here.

View from the Alpentherme pools
After lunch it was thermal baths time. Leukerbad is famous for its hot springs and, even more, for the amazing Alpentherme, a complex that features indoors and outdoors hot water pools, saunas, steam baths and everything else your heart might desire. I went there both on Thursday and on Friday, after skiing which was heavenly. The best part? The 100°F outddors pool you can reach from inside, with a view of the Alps and massage jets. A 5 hour pass that includes access to all areas of the complex is 39 CHF, about 45 dollars. a little steep, but worth every penny. 
 Leukerbad also rocks because of its beautiful ski slopes. I spent Friday skiing at the Torrent station, at about 8900 feet. The weather, again, was wonderful, so skiing was even more enjoyable. Not to mention how enjoyable it was to stop at a bar at 8000 feet and drink a cold beer on the terrace, with my face in the sun.

I was lucky enough to see an abundant snowfall on Friday night, after I was done skiing. And Saturday morning, it was still snowing as I woke up. I lingered in bed, under the comforter, watching the snow fall out of the window. It was quiet and peaceful and beautiful, all at the same time. It reminded me of similar mornings back in the 90s, when my parents still had an apartement in Val Gardena, in the Italian Alps. It's alwasy nice to time travel while you are traveling. It made me feel like an 8th grader again, wishing the weather would turn so bad it would keep me from going back home.

Too bad it didn't happen. Not then, not now.


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