Bosnian Moussaka (Bosanska Musaka)

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I really wanted to prepare a moussaka, preferably one like my mother used to make but my memory of the recipe was a bit fuzzy so I started doing some research. I realized quite quickly that there are many moussaka recipes, most stemming from Greece, as most would expect.

Traditionally, Greek moussaka is a baked lamb and eggplant casserole covered with a thick layer of bechamel sauce that becomes golden and crispy. It can be made with other ingredients as well, such as lamb and eggplant, using beef, or vegetables like zucchini or potatoes.

Greeks believe that the moussaka was introduced when the Arabs brought the eggplant, although Arabs, especially in Lebanon, think of the dish as Greek. Moussaka is also found in Turkey and differentiates itself by sautéing the eggplant and using strictly minced beef. The Ottoman empire played a significant part in the way many cultures would adapt and create their own version of the moussaka.

The Bosnian version (as well as Serbian & Croatian) is quite simpler than the traditional Greek moussaka. It is made with minced beef and sliced potatoes. Bosnian or former Yugoslavian food tends to not use too many spices and is generally quite a simple cuisine that uses simple ingredients and preparation, making it quite accessible.

Bosnian people, like their Slavic counterparts, love their meat and potatoes so it makes sense that the moussaka would include those ingredients. The Russians also have their own moussaka, however their version does not include an additional layer of sliced potatoes but rather cheese is used to top the minced beef.

It seems that most cultures have adapted their own moussaka but the Bosnian version is closest to my heart and frankly, one of the easiest to make. Here is how I made the Bosnian version and it turned out quite delicious.

INGREDIENTS

  • Ground Beef (400 gr. or 14 oz)
  • Minced Onion (1)
  • Potato (3 – large)
  • Egg (1)
  • Milk (1 cup)
  • Melted Butter (1-2 tbs)
  • Salt & Pepper (1-2 tbs or as desired)

PREPARATION

Sauté minced onion and add ground beef. Add salt and pepper. Put aside and heat oven to 375 Fehrenheit.

Cut potatoes into small slices and start layering it on a buttered surface in a deep pan. Once the first layer has fully covered the pan’s bottom surface, add all of the sautéed beef. Spread the beef evenly over the potatoes. Repeat the same process, covering all of the beef with the remaining potatoes. Spread melted butter on the top surface of the potatoes so that they can become brown and crispy.

In a separate bowl, mix egg with milk and salt and pepper. Set aside.

Bake moussaka for 15 minutes while covered with aluminum foil. Add the egg and milk mixture over the entire moussaka and cook for another 30 minutes uncovered.

Let moussaka stand for 10-15 minutes as it will be very hot. You can also add some shredded cheese if desired.

Prijatno!

 

Top 5 Things to Do in Koh Samui

Koh Samui is one of those exotic and culturally enticing destinations filled with countless attractions. It can be a bit difficult to prioritize what to see in a relatively short amount of time, so here is a list of the top 5 places you must visit:

1. BIG BUDDHA

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Anyone that admires impressive architecture will be enlightened by the beauty and detail of the Big Buddha. This is probably one of Samui’s most well know landmarks, located in close proximity to the airport making it impossible to miss if you are lucky to have a window seat on the plane.

12 meters high, the golden Buddha was built in 1972 and is located inside the temple grounds of Wat Phra Yai, meaning “Big Buddha Temple”.

Inside the surrounding temple are many different shrines and other smaller ornate Buddhas. There is also a small market selling a wide range of souvenirs alongside numerous food stalls.

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2. Namuang Safari Park

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Namuang Safari Park is a very well maintained animal adventure park with elephants, jeep rides to mountain vistas and waterfall hikes.

A great place to visit with children and adults will most definitely enjoy a hike to the beautiful namuang waterfall. It was a bit difficult to go all the way to the top with a toddler but a 10 minute steep hike without children should not be too strenuous otherwise.

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Namuang Waterfall

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3. Lamai Beach

Lamai Beach

Lamai beach is a must for all relaxation seekers. It is very laid back and offers many excellent restaurants that include beach chairs, amazing food, and some even a massage area.

The Black Pearl was one of our favorite restaurants and we found ourselves visiting multiple times during our stay. We recommend the thai style lobster, chicken stir fry, and of course the 300 BHT (9 USD) massages right next door on the beach.

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3. Samui Rock Bar by Hin Ta & Hin Yai Rocks


The Samui Rock Bar is located right next to Hin Ta & Hin Yai Rocks (another popular destination also named “Grandma and Grandpa Rocks”) and offers an extremely relaxing atmosphere with its reggae vibe.

It is built on a few connecting rocks, hence the name “The Rock Bar”.

Enjoy some good food, stare at the endless ocean, and enjoy a nice cold Chang beer.

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4. Goddess Guanyin at Wat Plai Laem

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“Goddess Guanyin is believed to be a source of unconditional love and a protector of all beings. Her multitude of arms is seen as an illustration of her ability to reach out and provide help across the world.”

Goddess Gunyin is located in the Wat Plai Laem Buddhist temple compound and is a serene and remarkable white structure. Her influence has spread thoughtout East and Southeast Asia and dates back to ancient China.

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5. Chawang Market

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Chawang Market @ Night

The Chawang Market is a must for souvenirs. You will find a enormous abundance of goods as well as music and great food surrounding the countless merchants.

From various t-shirts to jewelry and designer replicas, you will find it all here at a bargain.

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Delicious Balkan Treat: Oblatne w/ Toddler

Oblatne, aka wafers with creamy chocolate filling, have been one of my favorite deserts when I was a little girl. I remember the delicious taste of the chocolate filled wafers delightfully enticing my taste buds during each bite. Once I realized how easy oblatne are to make and how much my toddler loves to participate in kitchen matters, I decided to make him my sous-chef de cuisine. 

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 eggs
  • Butter – 200 grams or 7/8 cup (room temperature)
  • Sugar – 300 grams or  1 cup
  • Chocolate – 100g or 3.5 ounces
  • Wafers – 1 pack (buy here)

The melting of the chocolate with the eggs and sugar should ideally be done in a glass bowl over a pot with boiling water for about 15-20 minutes to ensure that everything is thoroughly melted and cooked. Make sure that you stir continuously. Add the chocolate mixture to a separate chilled bowl – let it cool down a bit so that it does not fully melt the butter but rather creates a creamy consistency and add the softened butter while thoroughly mixing everything together.

The next steps should include a toddler  – spread the chocolate on each wafer. Place the oblatne for a few hours in a fridge and serve cold or at room temperature. I prefer cold but they are equally delicious when left at room temperature. The consistency is bit thicker when it is cold and seems slightly less messy.

Prijatno!

 

Spanakopita with a Cheesy Twist

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As a fan of dough and all things cheese related, I thought why not give the traditional Spanakopita a little cheese boost. Here is familiar recipe with a slight twist – a cheesy one.

Ingredients

  • Phyllo Dough (1 pack)
  • Olive oil (2 tbs)
  • Melted Butter (2-3 tbs)
  • Salt & Pepper (2 -3 tbs)
  • Baby Spinach (12 oz)
  • Ricotta Cheese (7 oz)
  • Crumbled Feta Cheese (6 oz)
  • Shredded Mozzarella (3-4 tbs)
  • Shredded Cheddar (3- 4 tbs)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 3 Garlic Cloves

Preparation

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and brown the garlic and onions. Finely chop the spinach and add to the skillet. Mix this mixture with the eggs (beat in a separate bowl), add the salt & pepper, ricotta cheese, crumbled feta cheese, shredded mozzarella, and shredded cheddar.

In a non stick pan, add a 1/4 of the phyllo dough with a 1/3 of the spinach mixture. Continue until you add the last layer of phyllo dough and brush it with the melted butter to give the top layer an extra browned and crispy crust.

Cook for 34-40 minutes on 350 degrees.

Enjoy!

 

 

Quick & Easy Seafood Paella

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This recipe is really quick to make and takes about 10-15 minutes to make!

INGREDIENTS (Serves 2 people)

  • Cooked Spanish rice (2 cups)
  • Olive oil (2 tbs)
  • Saffron (2tbs)
  • Paprika (1-2 tbs)
  • Salt & Pepper (1-2 tbs)
  • Crushed Garlic*
  • Calamari (1/2 cup)*
  • Shrimp (1 cup)*
  • Muscles (1 cup)*
  • Peppers (1/2 cup)*
  • Peas (1/2 cup)*

*I used frozen vegetables and seafood to make this quick and easy. 

DIRECTIONS

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the frozen crushed garlic, calamari, shrimp, muscles, peppers, and peas and saute until they are thawed. Add the cooked rice and season with saffron, paprika, salt, and pepper.

Mix everything together, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes with the rice on low heat. Serve.

Enjoy!

Rigatoni with Creamy Mushroom Alfredo

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Tonight I decided to make some rigatoni with creamy mushroom alfredo sauce. This is a simple recipe that is pretty quick to make and does not require many ingredients – perfect for a family dinner on a lazy Sunday!

 

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb rigatoni pasta
  • 1/3 cup butter
  • 1-2 cups milk, depending on desired thickness
  • 1-3 tbs flour
  • 1/2 lb pound mushrooms
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/3 cup onion
  • Salt & black pepper
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan

 

Directions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta, stirring occasionally, about 10-13 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking:

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter to skillet along with the garlic and onions. Add salt and pepper. Once the garlic and onions are slightly browned, add the mushrooms. Cook for 3-5 minutes until they are soft.

Add the milk and add a spoon of flour to control the desired thickness. Add the parmesan. Garnish as desired.

Buon Appetito!

 

Best Ways to Travel with Small Children

I will never forget the words of one of my dear friends: “Be sure to travel before kiddos come into the picture.” Obviously, I was clueless and didn’t really understand what she meant. I think we are all oblivious until we are deeply seeded into parenthood but there is an element of deceit. The media is not very realistic about the struggles of travel with children. From various travel advertisements to social media, most parents present this experience as a happy and easy one. No one likes to depict the cranky mornings or the restless flights with toddlers so our perception of travel with children is a bit skewed.

I mentioned in one of my other blogs that I don’t really consider travel with small children a vacation because what I consider a “vacation” is a restful period of time. Trips on the other hand are active periods of time, which is what travel is with small children. You are not going to rest the entire time but that does not mean that you can’t have fun. You just have to be realistic about your expectations when you do decide to travel.

Our son is a little over two years old now and we have dared to travel internationally with him and have taken a few trips that demanded a plane rides. Here are some things we have learned when it comes to travel with small children:

Accommodation Really Matters

One great way to make trips or “vacations” (I still have mixed feelings about using this term but what the hell) with small children is to find accommodation that is kid friendly. Invest in a nice resort that will make this experience easier on you. From providing a crib or toddler bed, kids play areas, toys, kids pool(s), kids menu, and other forms of entertainment that both you and your child can enjoy, it really will make a difference. Invest in a place that will focus on making family vacations fun filled experiences. Most places offer some form of accommodation involving children but not all have the same level of options. The Four Seasons in Costa Rica for example even offered babysitting and parent’s night out if you are comfortable with it. Our son was a bit young for this but it’s just nice to know there are many options out there. They had an entire section named “Kids for All Seasons” that involved days filled with activities and entertainment for children of various ages.

Be Strategic with Your Flight Plan

If you are going to travel with children, book a direct flight if you can. Don’t make it more stressful than it has to be. If there are no options for direct flights, be strategic and don’t put yourself on long layovers, avoid night flights with infants or toddlers (they will not sleep), ask for a free seat (just by asking, we were given an extra seat for free on flights that had extra room), and try scheduling a flight when your child tends to take their regular naps.

Bring Entertainment for the Plane

This is kind of a no brainer but we didn’t really think things through and actually lacked on variety. We brought the usual toys and a few new ones but if you are going to travel for a longer period of time, bring a lot of new toys. Now that our son is older and enjoys electronics, we will probably have him watch his favorite songs to keep him entertained. Just make sure that you have plenty of things to keep your little one entertained because they are very excited to be on a plane and if they can’t move, they will give you a hard time so be creative with what you bring with you.

Bring Your Parents If you can

On one of our first trips with our son we traveled with one set of grandparents which allowed us to have some alone time at the pool/beach and take turns when we needed some rest. It’s also just a really fun way for everyone to bond and have a good time. Other times we did travel without the grandparents and occasionally also took turns to give each other a break here and there.

Have Fun

The point of travel is to have a good time so don’t stress more than you have to. I think its a little harder when you are a new parent and not used to traveling with children because you tend to overthink and over plan every single scenario. That’s ok but remember that children live and survive in many places on this planet just fine. Everything will be ok and if you choose a safe location (and yes, choose a safe location), there will be resources for almost every scenario. Take lots of pictures because this is your time with your family and they grow up so quickly. The beauty of travel is that you will introduce your children to new experiences with you so that they become used to it as well.

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Soccer on the beach in Costa Rica

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Fun Twist on French Fries

Home made french fries are by far the most delicious and today I decided to cut up some leftover baby potatoes since they are delicious and colorful. They are a little harder to peel and cut because of their size but the extra effort is worth it. And I love the extra touch of color! Great addition to any meal.

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Just peel and cut baby potatoes, fry in olive oil and vegetable oil (50/50), add some salt and serve! 

Things to do in St. Martin

This beautiful and culturally diverse island has much to offer. From incredible beaches, shopping, nightlife, restaurants, and many other exciting things to do, here is a list for those visiting St.Martin for the first time:

1. Maho Beach

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Maho Beach is one of the most popular beaches in St. Martin. This is where you can watch the planes land and inhale jet fuel if you decide to get really close to the fence. It is found on the Dutch side of the island in Phillipsburg by the Princess Juliana International Airport. You will also be amazed how many tourists from all over visit this place. Be sure to stop by for a Carib at Driftwood Boat Bar, located right on the beach. They post the flight schedule daily and you get to relax watching the planes land.

2. Restaurants To Visit

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Don’t miss going to Le Marrakech. It is one of the coolest middle eastern restaurants to visit. It has a beautiful ambiance and amazing food. From the outside, Le Marrakech looks much like any other Caribbean residence turned restaurant. Step inside and you’ll feel transported straight to Morocco: mosaic topped tables, elaborate metal chandeliers, flickering candlelight and billowy drapes set the scene perfectly. The back patio space is equally stunning and ideal for a romantic date.

Bamboo is an Asian restaurant that serves various Asian dishes with a Caribbean twist. A truly unique cultural twist with food. You can get terrific sushi and sashimi, both classic Japanese varieties and Americanized ones like California roll.

L’Effet Mer is a French restaurant that serves award-winning cuisine of chef Stephane Decluseau. It is in the heart of Grand Case Bay and serves incredible lunch and dinner. You can hang out on beach chairs outside, but the real action is inside, where creative and first-rate cooking is served with charm, precision, and panache.

3. Shops to Check Out

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Be sure to visit Sint Maarten Guavaberry which sells St. Maarten’s national liqueur. Crafted of cane sugar, oak-aged rum, and the elusive guavaberries that grow in the island’s central hills, this signature spirit boasts an addictive flavor that visitors come to love.

Shipwreck Shop is a treasure trove of gifts. Goods are characteristically Caribbean and include guavaberry liqueur, local spices and seasonings, and crafts of all sorts. Other great discoveries include artwork, clothing, jewelry, books, an array of delightful domestic goods, and reminders of your time in the Caribbean. An ideal, duty-free stop for souvenir-seekers.

Marigot is the bustling shopping hub on the French side of the island. Designer fashion boutiques are prominent, but perfume and jewelry shops are numerous as well. Manek’s, a two-story duty-free emporium on Rue de la Republique, is a treasure trove of luggage, cigars, liquor, electronics, perfume and apparel.

Belgian Chocolate Shop will have you moan with delight if you are a chocolate lover after tasting the gourmet morsels at this small establishment. Expect to see a line however, as this place tends to attracts quite a few tourists.

4. Nightlife @ The Beach

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At Lazy Lizard Beach & Bar Grill, you can enjoy great views of cruise ships and yachts, fabulous food, speciality cocktails and the owner even infuses his own rum. What more could you wish for.

Located right on Simpson Bay Beach, Karakter is ona quiet and calm stretch of sand that is just perfect for the entire family. It is open all day (9am to 10pm) and serves really amazing food.

Sunset Bar & Grill is nested between the runway and sea, the Sunset Bar has perhaps the most photographed beach in the Caribbean. Great place to have some coctails, take pictures of the planes, and listen to some awesome music. They also have a full schedule of when the planes are schedule to land by which airline.

5. Other things to do

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Rent a Scooter!
We rented a scooter at Johnny’s Scooter & ATV Rental and had a blast driving around the island. We explored Marigot, Simpson Bay, and Phillipsburg with the ease of parking and had a really great time checking out the island.

Lunch in St. Barts

When we vacationed in St. Martin last month, we made a decision to also visit Anguilla and St. Barts since those islands/countries are 30-40 minutes from St. Martin. Each experience was quite different from each other. St. Martin was an international hub for those wishing to escape winter, Anguilla for those wishing to escape people, and St. Barts for those wishing to meet the rich and famous.

The ferry ride from Philipsburg to St. Barthelemy was very bumpy as the winds are notoriously strong during the winter months. Luckily my husband and I do not get sea sick and we had a lot of fun during the ferry ride. We were greeted by French officials, speaking only in French (of course) and taking delicate time to look at our passports.

Once permitted to enter the beautiful volcanic island, we took a look at the marina and were enchanted by the many restaurants, bistros, and shops. The first shop that we entered was Dolce & Gabbana and there he was, Domenico Dolce. The boutique was new and he stopped by to help decorate it. They asked us to join a fashion show and after party but we were there just for the afternoon and had to politely decline.

We visited a number of boutiques, had some fabulous lunch at La Cantina and walked around the mesmerizing marina. We also had amazing cappuccino at Le Repaire.

St. Barts is the French riviera of the Caribbean. The population there looked like they were mostly of European decent and while having lunch in La Cantina, I was taken back to my time in Paris. I enjoyed observing the French, their gestures and depth of conversion (they could have talked about plumbing, and we probably still would have enjoyed listening to them), the way they held their cigarettes in such an elegant way and the way they gazed at us. It was charming.

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