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Food Travel

Barcelona: Foodlover Tapas Tour

While I’m here in Spain, I made a quick trip via high-speed train to Barcelona for a few days.  As part of one of my excursions, I signed up for a Foodlover Tapas Tour. Along with our guides Javier and Daniel, there were 8 of us hailing from the USA, Germany, Luxemburg and the UK. There were a great bunch and it was fun to share food and stories with them! Here’s photos of all the tapas I tried along with plenty of wine (of course).

Our first stop was La Boudequeta Provença:

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Octopus Salad, Ensalada de Pulpo

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Bread with Tomato, Pan Con Tomate

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White wine from the Pamplona region.

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Fried Anchovies, Boquerones Fritos

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Salt Cod Croquettes, Croquetas de Bacalao

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Fried Baby Squid, Chopitos

Stop number two was a few blocks away and a small rustic and intimate tavern, Taverna Mediterrania:

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A handcrafted Vermouth aperitif to start.

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Mushroom and Egg Omelette

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Ox Stomach Stew, Tripe Aita

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Steamed Mussels, Mejillones al Vapor

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More fried anchovies, Boquerones Fritos

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Chickpea Stew with Morcilla, Cocido

Our final stop of the night was Bardot in the L’Eixample district:

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Beef Croquettes

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Calamari and Beans

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Salt Cod Omelette

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Braised Oxtail

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Vegetable Risotto with Pancetta

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Grilled Beef Steak, Chuleton

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Postres — Chocolate Torte and Crema Catalan with Ice Cream

We finished off near midnight satiated and quite happy.  I really enjoyed the people in our tour group, and Javier and Daniel were great guides!  I’d do another Foodlover tour next time I’m back in Barcelona!

Food Travel

A Day in Alessandra’s Italian Cucina

Since both my husband and I are foodies, one of our favorite things to do when we visit Tuscany is to eat. And an even better way to enjoy the food is to learn how to prepare regional cuisine from a local chef. Chuck and I took cooking classes from Chef Alessandra during one of our first trips to Cortona and we had such a blast that we enrolled again during our visit to Tuscany this past Fall.

Right from the beginning of the day, when you meet in a cafe in Cortona and Alessandra initiates the group to the menu, you know it’s going to be a glorious day (despite the rain). She led us as we walked to the various shops that supply her ingredients — the meats, the vegetables, the bread, the cheese, the wine etc. While in the shop, she gave us some history on the shop and the ingredients she purchased.

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Then, we headed down the hill to Alessandra’s home kitchen where we were put to work immediately. We began prepping, pouring, chopping, peeling, mixing and rolling out pasta all the while hearing tips, tricks and tales (many great ones) from Alessandra. We broke halfway through the day and shared platters of antipasti (salumi, mortadella, cheeses, bread) and a fair amount of wine — to get us warmed up for the rest of the afternoon.

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When it came time to eat what we had prepared, we celebrated the beauty and flavors of each dish we prepared: Risotto alle Zucchine, Ravioli al Ragú di Porcini, Filetti di Maiale Alle Cipolle e Mele, Patate Arrosto, Panna Cotta al Caffè.

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Everything thing was delicious thanks to guidance from Chef Alessandra. Lots of stories were shared and Alessandra’s big beautiful Italian personality kept us thoroughly entertained well into the evening. I was sad to see the day end. Alessandra not only filled my belly, but she also filled my heart.

This is a must do when you’re in the Cortona area of Tuscany.  You can book a cooking class with Chef Alessandra through her website. She fills up fast, so make sure you contact her well enough in advance!


Recipe: Thai Chicken

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We tried this recipe last night and it was incredibly delicious.  And easy too!! It’s important to use chicken thighs with the skin on. My husband wanted to steal the crispy spicy sweet skin off my plate, but there was no way I was going to let him.  I also can’t recommend enough to you to try out the Plan to Eat website and sign up for a free trial.  It’s the best recipe capture and storage site ever!  I’ve got over 500 recipes in my recipe book there!

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Easy Thai Chicken


Course: Main Course

Prep Time: 10 min

Cook Time: 30 min

Total Time: 40 min

Serves: 8


  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • 14 cup peanuts chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro leaves
  • 12 cup sweet chili sauce
  • 2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 lime Juice of
  • 1 teaspoon Sriracha or more, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. To make the sauce, whisk together chili sauce, soy sauce, garlic, fish sauce, ginger, lime juice and Sriracha in a small bowl; set aside.
  3. Melt butter in a large oven-proof skillet over medium high heat. Add chicken, skin-side down, and sear both sides until golden brown, about 2-3 minutes per side. Stir in chili sauce mixture.
  4. Place into oven and roast until completely cooked through, reaching an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, about 25-30 minutes. Then broil for 2-3 minutes, or until caramelized and slightly charred.
  5. Serve immediately, garnished with peanuts and cilantro, if desired.

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Recipe: Pasta e Fajioli Soup

This is one of the first soups I made in my new Instant Pot pressure cooker.  Even though the recipe is for a slow cooker, I modified it and used my Instant Pot pressure cooker. It turned out fantastic and was done in half the normal time!

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Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup


Course: Soup

Serves: 8


  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 2 whole carrots diced
  • 4 celery stalks diced
  • 1 medium onion diced
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 2 cans (14.5 ounces each) beef broth
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 12 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup ditalini pasta uncooked


Add olive oil to a large skillet and add in ground beef. Cook until browned and no longer pink.

Place the beef in a slow cooker along with the rest of the ingredients except for the beans and pasta.

Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 3-4 hours. 30 minutes before serving stir in beans and pasta.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaves before serving.

Serve immediately while hot.

Pressure Cooker/Instant Pot Directions:

Add olive oil to a large skillet and add in ground beef. Cook until browned and no longer pink.

Place the beef in the pressure cooker along with the rest of the ingredients except for the beans and pasta.

Cook on High Pressure for 40 minutes. Let steam release using the Natural method. Open up the lid and stir in beans and pasta. Cook on High Pressure for 10 minutes. Let steam release using the Natural method.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. Discard bay leaves before serving.

Serve immediately while hot.

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Ode to Instant Pot

My mom has had a stovetop pressure cooker for years. After seeing other food bloggers fall in love with their Instant Pot, I bought myself one.  Best decision ever — I’ve fallen in love with it after having it less than a month.

It’s a multi-cooker, capable of completely replacing your pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice cooker/porridge maker, sauté/browning pan, steamer, yogurt maker and stockpot warmer. Most importantly, Instant Pot cooks meals faster with less energy while preserving more nutrients.

I’ve used it to make perfect rice (yes, brown rice too) which is difficult at this altitude. I made bone broth in 1/4 of the time, soup in half the time, a perfect stew with tender meat, yummy chili, steamed potatoes in half the time. It’s become my new work-horse appliance. I plan on using it for beans, oatmeal and, who knows, I may even try to make my own yogurt!


Tuscan Recipe: Pasta Al Fumo

One of my favorite local dishes from the Cortona area in Tuscany is Pici al Fumo.  It’s a pasta dish with a tomato cream sauce that gets it flavor from bacon, garlic and rosemary.  It’s rich and divine.  I wanted to recreate it here in Mexico and found a great recipe. I make it with Bucatini pasta and it worked great!

Print Recipe

Pasta Al Fumo

Course: Main Course

Cuisine: Italian

Serves: 4


  • Ingredients
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1.5-inch sprig of rosemary cut into three equal pieces
  • 3 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 100 grams pancetta or smoked bacon, cut into a small dice
  • 2 oz vodka (1 generous shot)
  • 1 small can tomato paste (~6 oz or 3/4 cup)
  • 12 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 12 cup water
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 lb pasta (like pici bucatini, or penne)
  • Salt to taste


  1. Place olive oil, 1 piece of rosemary, and garlic in a medium saucepan. Turn heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, until garlic is golden. Remove garlic and rosemary, and add pancetta/bacon and remaining rosemary. Cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until pancetta is golden-brown. Remove rosemary.
  2. Add vodka and cook until the smell of alcohol is gone (don’t take a strong whiff right away – it’s potent!), then stir in tomato paste and water. Bring to a low simmer.
  3. Stir in red pepper flakes and panna (or equivalent) and bring back to a simmer. Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until sauce is thick and deep orange in colour. While sauce is simmering, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water (time the pasta to finish around the same time as your sauce). Once sauce has finished simmering, taste and adjust with salt as necessary. Toss together drained pasta and sauce and serve!

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