A Couple Beautiful Days in Istria And a Recipe to Go With It


Monday, September 19, 2016

As I write this, my husband is out pressing our very first vintage of wine!  It's harvest time here in Croatia, and for the first time ever, it's harvest time for us, too. We're like giddy little kids! that keep giving each other high fives. One of our biggest dreams together is to have a vineyard with a large family running around. Not just that, but we want to make really good wine from our vineyard. And have our kids work it with us (wink). While we're of course not there yet (we have a grand total of 8 vines... we have to start somewhere!) we've been given the most incredible opportunities to learn in each step of the way. I only have to look at our marriage and our children to know that the best and sweetest things in this life take time. Hopefully one day you'll visit our winery and drink an amazing bottle of wine and want nothing more than to enjoy it outside and to take a case home with you. Until then, we're working on a dream, and loving every glorious moment of the dream we're presently getting to live out in Croatia. God is good and God is gracious.

We were in Istria during harvest season last year, too. It's such a special time when you can be walking through vineyards, medieval villages and olive groves, watching tractors slowly go by (can you hear John Shea jumping up and down?) carrying loads of harvested grapes.

One afternoon, with Nana and Pops driving our Green Lantern behind us, we followed signs up a winding dirt road on our way to explore an abandoned medieval village. Tucked in between centuries old stone buildings half standing, covered in creeping ivy, were huge fig trees. I'm not kidding, the trees were so big and expansive they dwarfed the stone walls in comparison. I made a beeline to every one we passed, my tall love picking all of the ripe figs that I couldn't reach.  That evening while Cam grilled vegetables and kobasice (an incredible sausage found throughout Croatia) I made an appetizer of crostini with melted brie, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and slices of those fresh, juicy figs we picked.

While putting together the photos for this post, I kept thinking about that simple meal and wanting it again, but different. So this amazing grilled kobasice sandwich was born. Simple, flavorful, so good we've had it two nights in a row! With the weather still warm, the last of the figs meeting the arrival of apples, and 70 liters of grapes gifted from our friends' harvest being pressed into our own wine... the end of summer might just be the most beautiful part of summer after all.

Grilled Kobascice Sandwich with Melted Brie
(makes two sandwiches)

2-4 high quality kobasice (called "kielbasa" in English)
1 baquette or 2 sandwich size baguettes
200 grams brie
fresh spinach 
red pepper hummus
sweet pickles

Served with a salad, this makes a perfect end of summer meal that's both quick and full of flavor. Please feel free to leave off the hummus and spinach, but the brie, mustard and pickles really make this sandwich!

Preheat an outdoor grill and the broiler. Grill the kobasice until fully cooked and grill marks form. While they are grilling, halve the baguette and divide the brie between each top piece. Place under the broiler, also with the bottom halves. Cook for 1-2 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly, being careful not to burn the bread. Remove from the broiler and spread hummus on the bottom halves, then pickles, then spinach. Once the kobasice is off the grill, slice each in half lengthwise and place on the sandwich. Spread on some mustard and top with the melted brie bread. Serve with a salad (I made caprese from the tomatoes in our garden) and a cold beer. Enjoy!

Inspiration From my Favorite Cafe in the World


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Each time we come back to Groznjan, a fairytale medieval village in Istria, right here is where we like to spend the mornings. Nana and I spent a long morning here drinking coffee, talking and taking mental notes (as I always do!) for the future home Cam and I dream about together. I love that hand carved chunky green table and the collection of antique wood tables up against the stone church. And then there's all the natural elements! Everything from the huge plantation trees, lavender and citrus trees in terra cotta pots, and the open terrace of stone and gravel that overlooks a breathtaking vista of olive groves, rolling hills and vineyards stretching to the Adriatic. It's open, breezy, green and so peaceful that you just sit back, sip on coffee, juice or wine and totally lose track of the time.

It's my favorite cafe in the world, in one of the most charming villages of Croatia.

Even the drive getting up to Groznjan is peaceful!

Isn't that view amazing? Happy Wednesday!

My Kids' Favorite Pumpkin Spice Muffins


Monday, September 12, 2016

Zagreb is slowly starting the dance from summer heat to cooler temps, back and forth as we get closer to Autumn. Our neighbors gifted us with their first pumpkins and all kinds of white, orange and yellow varieties are popping up at the markets. The exciting start to the changing of seasons isn't the only reason I've been making these delicious muffins, though. I make them year-round for our kids because they go absolutely crazy for them!

You can cook or bake something so delicious that it is a total joy to eat, but sometimes there's far more joy in the cooking, when you know those smiles and happy little faces will run excitedly into the kitchen at the first smell of their favorite treat baking in the oven.

Our whole family loves these, but seeing that sweet face, I think I'm secretly the one who enjoys them the most!

Pumpkin Spice Muffins (Inspired by Smitten Kitchen)
(makes around 18)

15 oz canned pumpkin
1/2 C olive oil
2 eggs
1 1/3 C raw sugar + more for topping
1 TBS pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 C flour (substitute gluten-free if need be!)
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon + more for topping
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 C - 1 C chocolate chips (optional but highly recommended!)

This is adapted from a recipe I found years ago on Smitten Kitchen. It's now lovingly our own version here, but I've always stayed close to SK's recipe thanks to how moist and flavorful these muffins are!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F, 176 degrees C. Place liners in a standard muffin pan.

Gently combine the pumpkin, olive oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla extract. Gently add in the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate chips. If using, gently fold in. Pour batter into the liners at 3/4 full. Sprinkle on some cinnamon and sugar on top.

Bake for 25 minutes (my oven cooks quickly!) and check with a knife or toothpick to make sure the muffins are cooked through in the center.


John Shea Turns Three!


Friday, September 9, 2016

It's hard to imagine a little person more sweet, tender, open-hearted, affectionate or loving as John Shea. I have loved every single milestone and age of his - he is the most radiant and joyful soul we know and he only becomes more so each year. He LOVES having anyone and everyone over to the house so he's going to be really excited tomorrow at his pool party with a few of his favorite little kids (and their families) in Zagreb!

Happy Third Birthday to our darling John Shea, who is never without bear hugs, kisses, huge smiles and a total excitement to see us, even if it's only been moments since we were together. We all love you more than words could ever say!!

His look when we put him in our bed, snuggled under the covers and he saw Daddy walk in with his birthday-breakfast-in-bed tray. His favorite-- chocolate chip waffles (our Saturday morning tradition!) with scrambled eggs.

Seeing the living room covered in balloons and his presents in the middle!

We brought his cake next door to our neighbors' house so they could be part of his birthday!

Chasing Rex through the vineyard and he got to stay in his jammies all the way until bath time. He didn't stop smiling or giggling all day!

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