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April 27, 2014

Tiradentes

We took these photos last year during our vacation in Brazil on the day we visited a small town nearby where my family lives. Tiradentes is one of the smallest yet best preserved colonial and historic towns of Minas Gerais.

On weekends and holidays the population of this charming small town with its narrow cobblestone streets practically triples. Trails, waterfalls, handcraft and antique shops, homemade sweets and preserves stores, film festival, bike fest,  culture and gastronomy festival, besides good restaurants and excelente pousadas, and historic churches, including one with an all-gold interior. It amazes me how such a small town offers so much to its visitors and yet preserves its historic characteristics.

A little bird told me that a well known Connecticut furniture and accessories store often buys art and antiques in Tiradentes.




While living in Brazil, I only lived in Minas Gerais surrounded by its gorgeous green & blue mountains, so for me to visit Tiradentes is a trip back in time, maybe that's why I like to visit it midweek rather than when all of these exciting events are happening, this way I can most easily appreciate its many attractions. 


Wander at a slow pace on its narrow and hilly cobblestone streets, go where local residents go, listen to the unmistakable mineiro (those born in Minas) accent, which is very peculiar. Talk to people as I walk in front of their one-of-a-kind stores and houses. In general, Brazilians are friendly and helpful, and talk to strangers like they are old acquaintances. 
Simplicity and peace that's what I feel when I'm there, and so I feel at home. 


By the way, this is the color my front door will be next time I paint it. 

April 23, 2014

Salted Codfish Casserole - Bacalhoada

Bacalhoada or Salted Codfish Casserole, is a traditional dish at most Brazilian tables on Easter, and like others of our  food traditions its origin is from Portugal.

This fish isn't an easily-found-in-the supermarket item, and a good one can be pricey, that's why it's not an everyday meal but a special-occasion one. My American husband had never eaten Salted Codfish before I introduced it to him, and now he is a huge fan of it


Salted Codfish Casserole - Bacalhoada

♥ I always buy salted codfish fillets, boned and skinned, if you buy whole salt cod you'll have to remove the bones and the skin and discard them. Soak the fish in water for about 24 hours, changing the water at least 5 times to get rid of the salt, and that's the only trick on this recipe, otherwise it's an easy recipe to make. As you change the soaking water several times you may end up soaking out all of the fish's salt, in which case you'll have to add some back in. 

Just before you are about to start cooking bring the fish to a quick boil, drain well and pat it dry. Cut the fillet into about 2 inch square chunks. At this point taste the fish for saltiness, if most of the salt was soaked out of it, and it doesn't taste salty at all, I add a chicken, or fish bouillon to the water I'm going to cook the potatoes in. Set the fish aside.

♥ Start by making a homemade tomato sauce - to skin the tomatoes I place them into boiling water for about 45 seconds, and then place them in a bowl filled with cold water. The skins of the tomatoes will crack and start to peel, and all you have to do is peel them off completely. Cut the tomatoes into small pieces discarding the hard pieces. I know most people do not use the seed in their tomato sauce, but I do, I like it and I see no reason to discard them. This is the first time I used sweet campari tomatoes to make this recipe and I liked a lot the combination of the sweetness of it with the salt of the fish.

Start in low heat and keep it there, place about 2-3 table spoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a saucepan, add diced-cut onions and let them start to glisten and sweat a little before adding garlic, stirring constantly or you'll end up with burned garlic. Add diced-cut peppers, parsley, freshly ground black pepper and pitted black olives. For this dish I did not add salt to the tomato sauce. Stir constantly for a while and then cover the pan to simmer it until it's time to assemble.
I did not give the quantities for the tomato sauce because I think this is a matter of taste, if you like lots of garlic, like me, add them, but if you don't just add the quantity to your taste, the same to all other ingredients.

♥ Peel and slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch thick and cook them just tender but not fully cooked. 

♥ Generously coat the bottom of a large baking dish with extra-virgin olive oil. Place a layer of potatoes, and a layer of the tomato sauce over it. Add the fillet pieces and generously pour some extra-virgin olive oil over it. Repeat with another layer of potatoes, tomato sauce, fish and olive oil.

♥ Preheat oven to 350°F and cook uncovered for about 30 minutes, or until you see the fish has started to flake.

♥ Serve with white rice, and here again I adjust the salt content according to the fish salt. For this dish I decided not to put salt in the rice to balance the overall salt content of the meal.

Bon Appétit!

April 14, 2014

Easter is coming...

I'm a coffee lover but at least once a year I enjoy drinking tea, this is when n a couple of friends and I get together a week before Easter to celebrate it and have a tea party.


My husband said the table decor looked like a scene from Alice in Wonderland, which I did not have in mind, I just wanted to create a feminine, soft atmosphere. I like Easter decor, soft pastel colors and the light and flowers of early Spring.


We had fruits, strawberries, raspberries and grapes, which I forgot to photograph. Avocado and cream cheese canapés, mini cupcakes, merengues, and chocolate eggs, of course, after all it was an Easter celebration. It was a sweet afternoon, if you know what I mean. 


A celebration with friends without some diy? That's not possible. A simple condensed milk can and a piece of vellum paper held by a piece of washi tape and right there you have a unique candy dish. 

For the rabbit-face napkin rings cut a toilet paper roll, paint it inside to give it a nice finishing, cover the cut pieces with scrap paper (another option is to use fabric), draw & cut some rabbit-shaped ears, and cut faces with a round paper puncher. Add ribbons and ric-racs to embellish them and small pompoms for a cute nose.


Have a good week.

April 7, 2014

I ♥ tin cans

On early Saturday my friend texted  me to go to her house for brunch and talk about a project she would like to carry on  in her backyard this Spring. Like me, she loves gardening and handmade stuff. 

I didn't have much time but I didn't want to go to her house with empty hands, so I ran to Home Depot and bought a Viola seedling pack to bring to her, but how to make a flower plastic pack look pretty?


I always save tin cans from the kitchen, I send some to the recycling center but some I keep for myself and then I wonder what can I do with them? And something always comes to my mind...

If I had had time, I would have made draining holes in the bottom and painted the cans, but I did not have time, so with the help of some paper scraps and washi tapes I decorated the cans to hold the flowers.  
   

Pretty simple, right? No glue, no paint, and in a matter of minutes I cut some pretty paper scraps wrapping them around the cans and taping them with a piece of washi tape.



If she wants, she can reuse these cans to store some bits & pieces, I know I would do that.


Here are some other crafty ideas to re-purpose tin cans, just using what you have on hand, scrap paper, fabric tape, washi tape, lace, embellishment, left over paint. Mix and match them and create little pretty and personalized touches for your home.

Fabric and washi tapes and a piece of lace (I used double sided tape to hold it) and an olive can was transformed into a can holder to store these pretty porcelain spoons my sister gave to me.


Using paint, scrap papers, washi tapes and embellishments I transformed these cans in pen & pencil holders. I made them last year, and they still look good.


Have fun and get your craft on!