Tag Archives: Rio

Une Petite Recette: Roasted Broccoli Mac & Cheese

Roasted Broccoli Mac & Cheese
My favorite foods are grilled cheese with tomato soup, pizza, pasta and mac and cheese. Oui, I have the food palate of an 11 year old. When it comes to my favorite mac and cheese, it’s hands-down a Martha Stewart mac and cheese recipe my friend Annie shared with me a few years ago. I make it about twice a year – generally for Thanksgiving, my annual game night party and cold winter evenings at home, and it is always a huge hit.

Over the years, I’ve made a few adjustments and this weekend I added roasted broccoli and tomatoes to this recipe for my first time. I wasn’t sure how it was going to turn out, but it was freaking amazing. The flavor of the shallots blended nicely into the rue sauce and the roasted broccoli added a slight smokiness to the mac and cheese. Seriously – Rio even rated it an 8 out of 10! That may seem kind of unimpressive to you but Rio is a tough critic and rarely rates anything a 7 and above. And usually when it comes to things I cook, he rates it like a 6, and rarely a 7 or 8. Yeah – he’s a sweet one, this guy. The only other thing I make he really loves is my Chinese Fried Rice recipe…and that’s because Rio could eat rice three times a day if possible.

So, here’s my modified version of the Martha Stewart mac & cheese recipe. I’d like to say it’s healthy since there’s broccoli and tomatoes, but it’s definitely not. What it is, is a comforting hearty dish that pairs perfectly with a night in while snuggled on the couch watching movies or a game of football (what we did last night). Bon app, mes amis!

Roasted Broccoli Mac & Cheese
1 pound of shell-shaped pasta (or a 500 gram bag of pasta)
3 small to medium heads of broccoli, chopped into small florets
2 tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick and then halved
1 shallot, minced
6 tablespoons butter (85 grams)
5 1/2 cups skim milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sea salt
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon freshly grounded black pepper
1/2 teaspoon grated cayenne pepper
5 cups of sharp white cheddar cheese, shredded (2 Seriously Strong cheddar blocks at Monoprix would do)
1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, grated or shredded
1/4 cup of pecorino romano cheese, grated
5 tablespoons breadcrumbs

– Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (205 Celsius)
– Toss broccoli and tomatoes with olive oil, and a pinch of salt and pepper to taste. Put on separate baking pans and roast in oven for 30 minutes. Shake it a bit half-way through.
– Saute minced shallot and butter in a large saucepan. Once butter starts bubbling a little, add flour and stir for one minute. Make sure to mix the flour well with the butter.
– Add milk one cup at a time, whisking the sauce so it thickens a bit before you add another cup. For the last cup and a half, add the spices along with it.
– Once the sauce is thickened and starts bubbling, remove it from the heat. Add 4 1/2 cups of cheddar cheese, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and 1/8 cup of pecorino romano cheese and mix.
– Heat up a pot of salted water until it boils and cook the pasta about 2 minutes less than the indicated cooking time. Rinse with cold water and drain well.
– Take the veggies out of the oven (they should be done by now, if not about 10 minutes ago). Lower oven temperature to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190 Celsius).
– Butter a casserole dish and add the macaroni, broccoli, tomatoes and cheese. Stir well.
– Top this cheesy deliciousness with the remaining cheese and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top. Bake it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Mac & Cheese Tips
– You could use regular elbow macaroni, but I prefer pasta that has bigger nooks & crannies for the cheese to ooze into.
– The Martha Stewart recipe says to heat up the milk in a separate pot before adding it to the butter and flour, but since I don’t feel like washing an extra pot, I don’t do this. This may take longer for the sauce to thicken though.
– The Martha Stewart recipe also uses toasted diced white bread (crusts removed) mixed with melted butter as the breadcrumbs, but having done this a few times in the past, I prefer just regular store-bought breadcrumbs.
– If you like a little kick to your mac and cheese, you can add more cayenne pepper. I’ve already doubled the amount that the recipe generally calls for and find 1/2 teaspoon to be perfect for my tastes.
– And if all this cheese wasn’t enough for you (seriously?), you can also sprinkle a bit of extra pecorino romano in each individual serving.
– I usually use 4 cups chedddar, 1 cup gruyere and 1/2 cup pecorino. But use whatever cheese you feel like! I like the sharpness of pecorino, so always think that’s a nice addition.
Roasted Broccoli Mac & Cheese

Roasted Broccoli Mac & Cheese

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A Weekend in Amsterdam: In Video

This is about four months late, but here’s a video Rio put together of our weekend in Amsterdam back in July. If you’ve ever seen our Sri Lanka, Nice or Rome videos, then you can tell his videos have really improved. He may not be a professional, but considering he’s taught himself Final Cut Pro via random online tutorials and does this for fun, I think he’s done an amazing job!

For more Amsterdam photos and tips, click here, here and here. And for a recommendation on where to stay, here’s what I thought of Vondelview B&B.

Next video coming up? Istanbul!

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A Day in Normandy

With “I want to see the countryside” about as much direction as my parents gave me when they came to visit, I decided to rent a car for their first weekend so we could have complete flexibility on what they wanted to see. Plus, when I looked up trains to go to Normandy, it was about 75 euros each way, which would end up costing a lot more than a rental car. Here are some photos from our day trip. We started off by the D-Day beaches and ended the night at Honfleur before returning to Paris.
Approximately a three-hour drive northwest of Paris, we began our journey in the heart of the D-Day beaches where the Normandy landings took place on June 6, 1944 – Arromanches. After a quick lunch at Restaurant Le Pappagall (the mussels are highly recommended), we walked to Port Winston. This is not only where the Allied troops managed to move 600,000 tons of concrete and equipment across the English Channel to create an attack base against the Nazis, but it’s also where thousands died. You’ll see in the photo above that there was some sort of exhibit where human-shaped stencils were laid out along the beach to symbolize all the lost lives at this location during WWII. After taking this in, we walked about 20 minutes uphill to  Arromanches 360, a circular theatre with nine screens that sits on the Arromanches cliff tops. Not only did we watch a 20-minute movie with unpublished archive footages retracing the 100-day battle that took place at Port Winston, but because of the theatre’s location, we were also able to take in the views of the town below.
D Day Beaches

Parents in Normandy Arromanches View Arromanches
After Arromanches, Rio and I would’ve probably gone to the American Cemetery, but my parents were ready to move on. So we headed about an hour east to Honfleur for a completely different take on Normandy. I can see why Parisians call Honfleur the 21st arrondissement of Paris. A quaint harbor town, Honfleur is lined with narrow cobblestone streets, timber-framed houses, small art galleries and shops, and a bustling port area packed with boats, bars and restaurants. Upon arrival, we bypassed the town and drove straight uphill to see the views overhead, but having done that, I feel inclined to tell you that it’s not worth it. The views are quite industrial, and there’s not a natural viewpoint (at least that we could find) along the street to see the rooftops of the town. So I recommend heading straight to the center of Honfleur (after parking near the outskirts of town). In Honfleur, you can easily spend a few hours getting lost in the snug streets and taking in the dockside activity. But be sure to pop in a store for a Calvados tasting (the local apple brandy), gaze up at the ceiling of France’s largest wooden church, Church of Saint Catherine, which resembles a ship if turned upside down, and see what inspired artists like Monet and Boudin to paint this small maritime city. That’s exactly what we did before eating a filling dinner at Le Hamelin, even for American standards, before making our two hour-plus drive back to Paris.





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Tyler’s Pic of the Day: Le Mur des Je t’aime

Rio, Tyler & Le Mur des Je t'aime
Tyler has seen most of the major Parisian sights (Eiffel Tower, Pont Alexandre III, etc.), so it’s getting a bit harder to find interesting spots to take him to these days. Tough dog life, right? Well, one place he hadn’t been to yet – and neither had Rio or I – was a place called “Le Mur des Je t’aime” (I Love You: The Wall).

Located in the Montmartre area, the wall is found in this tiny garden called Square Jehan Rictus right by Metro Abbesses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve walked right past this garden not knowing that just inside was 612 blue enameled lava tiles forming a wall of more than 300 “I love you’s” in 250 languages. Quelle romantique!
Le Mur des Je t'aime Le Mur des Je t'aime
Tyler Waiting for Le Mur des Je t'aime
Sadly for us (and Tyler), when we arrived we immediately noticed the “no dogs” sign in the park. Merde! So the above pics are of us waiting for the park guard to leave so we could sneak him in for a quick photo shoot. Luckily, our patience paid off and as soon as the guard left, we skedaddled in there with Tyler in our arms as Parisians and tourists looked on. What can I say, I am one determined American.
Le Mur des Je t'aime
How many languages can you say “I love you”? I can say it in Polish, Chinese, Tagalog, English (obviously) and French.

Je t’aime, Paris! xx

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Recently on Instagram

Wow – it’s been more than two weeks since I’ve last posted! With work, vacation, planning vacations, socializing and overall laziness resulting from the heat in Paris without any a/c (but I’m not complaining!), I’ve been so bad about posting. So here’s a little Instagram post to catch you up a bit. Because you’re all so interested, right?! Riigghhhhtt.

I do oftentimes think about all the topics I’d post about if I made the had time. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. But I do hope to write some posts soon about my recent Amsterdam trip, a visit to the “I love you” wall in Paris, a delicious financier from Normandy and more.
On Instagram
Clockwise from top left:

  • I can’t escape photo booths post-The Knot, and that’s just A-ok with me! Here are some of the boys at Lindsey’s (of Pictours Paris) birthday party posing. This photo helped me realize what the duct tape prop was for as I wasn’t sure at first…
  • I got to see the Tour de France at the Champs-Élysées for my first time! We were supposed to go to a pop-up rooftop bar to watch the race, but alas, RIo was wearing flip-flops, so we were denied entry and ended up on the ground with the rest of the minions. Here’s a link to an Instagram video I took too. Those bikers sure are speedy.
  • The long queue at the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam. We ended up waiting on line for an hour and a half. Tip – if you want to go, make sure you book your tickets online at least two weeks in advance. I tried to do this the week before and it was already sold out – thus, the waiting on line. For your reference, this line is shorter than the one at the Vatican Museum in Italy.
  • Rio’s office recently moved from La Défense (the horrid soulless Financial District area, which even got some NYT attention recently) to the Trocadéro neighborhood! This means I’m actually willing to have lunch with him during the week now – and why not when you get to pass by this gorgeous lady right around the corner.
  • Last Tuesday was my first expat lunch date anniversary with one of my besties here Robin. We naturally celebrated with nine hours of drinking and about four bottles (maybe more??) of rosé.
  • August = vacation time in France. If you thought Mondays were dead in Paris, well, just experience Mondays in August. The city is desolate, sauf for the tourists, and many of your local shops and restaurants are closed for the month. All this makes me wish I was away as well. Thank goodness I have a vacation to the South of France coming up. It’ll be our first big road trip and we’ll be hitting up Provence, the Pyrenees and the Basque country. The phrase you’ll hear often now is “à la rentrée”, which essentially means “see you in September” because that’s pretty much when the city is returned to Parisians. So if you ever visit Paris, don’t come during August – you won’t truly experience la vie Parisienne during this month.

Bon lundi, mes amis!

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Dîner Sur le Balcon

Balcony Dinner
Dear Balcony,

You’re so amazing when Paris is warm and sunny! I know enjoying a coffee & croissant, une verre de vin or just reading my iPhone book on you will always be one of my favorite memories from my time in Paris. But oh, when Rio is actually home before midnight and there is still daylight outside – there’s nothing I love more than dining alfresco on you. Even though Rio thought it was cheesy and “très américain” of me to turn on the twinkle lights, je m’en fiche! It added to the atmosphere and when Frenchies walking along the street called up to us saying “vous avez de la chance”, I thought, “oui, I do”.

So, un grand merci for a wonderful night last night and here’s to many more.



PS – It’s clear Tyler loves you too as I oftentimes find him with you sprawled out and tanning his blonde-furred skin (as he is doing right now).
Balcony Dinner

Dinner Balcony

Dinner on Balcony

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Locked Out. Oh Merde!

It was only a matter of time before one of our worst fears in Paris finally came to fruition. We locked ourselves out of our apartment.

Just as I was closing the door behind me so we could take Tyler for his morning walk this past Saturday, I asked Rio if he had the key. It was said out of habit, as honestly, he always has his key, so I don’t usually bring mine. But nope, not this time. As the door clicked behind me (I can still hear the click now), he looked at me as if I were joking. When we both realized neither of us had our keys and this wasn’t a practical joke we were playing on each other, the look of surprise combined with “oh shit” terror hit both of us at the same time.

After we both patted down our pockets to make sure we really didn’t have our keys, I frantically ran to the guardian’s apartment to see if she might be home and have an extra key. No luck. I then ran from neighbor to neighbor’s apartment in hopes that someone would have “un radio” (AKA an x-ray). Umm – un radio, you ask? Oui, it is commonly known in Paris that to break into your apartment (apparently, an unfortunate common experience), you can try to use an X-ray to jiggle the door lock open. And oui, we all have copies of our X-rays since doctors here check us for tuberculosis. Well – let me tell you, the alleged X-ray trick does not work. Pas du tout. Not only did it not work for us, but it hasn’t worked for our friends Robin & Dave who’ve also gotten themselves locked out.

So how did I manage to get an X-ray? Third time’s the charm because that’s how many neighbors I had to ring before someone was home. The poor guy (whom I have never even seen in my life), looked so confused as I tried to sign language what an X-ray was since I couldn’t remember it’s called “un radio”. Luckily, his English-speaking girlfriend came to the door after a few minutes (in her bath towel, mind you), and was able to figure out what I needed. Keep in mind this is at 10:30 on a Saturday morning – super early for late-sleeping Parisians.

So back I ran upstairs with le radio in hand, hoping Rio had some hidden break-in talents I didn’t know about. Nope, nope he does not. At this point, I was starting to get worried we’d really need to call a locksmith and part with the rumored 500 euros it costs to break into your own home. Throughout all this, poor Tyler is also laying on our neighbor’s doormat probably needing to pee really badly and wondering what the hell was going on with his crazy parents. As a last resort, knowing that our dogwalker’s usually in the countryside on the weekends and that they have our extra set of keys, I figured I’d still give it a shot and text them to see if they might be stopping in Paris for some reason anyway. Turns out, they were already at their country farm BUT their cleaning lady was at their home outside Paris and could give us our key if we arrived before 2pm. Praise Jesus, Hallelujah!! After asking about seven taxis if they’d take Rio, me and Tyler to the dogwalker’s house, and all of them saying no, we decided to part ways and I’d make the trip on my own.

(Super) Long story short, after an hour, all three of us were back inside our home and the adrenaline rush from the morning adventure lasted throughout the remainder of the day. I’m so thankful it all worked out well, that we have the nicest neighbors and that we have a dogwalker who has a key!

PS – Did I mention the scene where the neighbor on our floor ended up being home, so Rio climbed over his balcony to hop onto ours and was about to break our window to get inside until I ran in there screaming like a banshee that we would be able to pick up our key from the dogwalker? Ahh – true story.
So thankful for our dogwalker and his key (or I guess, technically our key)!!
Taxi Receipt
45 euros lighter after a taxi ride from Paris to Sèvres and back.
X-Ray Remnants
X-ray remnants.

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Weekend Photos

Photos de ce week-end – plusieurs qui sont déjà sur Instagram. J’ai besoin de faire une poste de l’adventure nous avons eu ce samedi – essentiellement, we locked ourselves out!! More to come on that near-catastrophe. Thank goodness for kind neighbors and our dogwalker!
Wearing my new Kasia Dietz bag while running errands. Je l’adore!
Saturday picnic at Parc Monceau.
Post-lunch dessert on our balcony. Chocolate cookie and strawberry cake from Eric Kayser – divine. Flan from local boulangerie.
Walk with Tyler
Sunday evening stroll to Arc de Triumphe.

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Nice Weekend Getaway: A Video

Last weekend, Rio and I went to Nice for a little weekend getaway. It was our first time in the South of France and even though the weather wasn’t necessarily warmer than Paris, it was still un parfait petit week-end. Leaving Friday morning and returning Sunday afternoon left us ample time to not only see Nice, but we were also able to take the one euro bus (oui, only one euro!) to Villefranche-sur-Mer for a morning visit and delicious lunch at Les Garçons, and then hop on over to Monaco for the afternoon and early evening.

Here’s a video Rio made of our vacation – apparently, his latest hobby.

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The Perfect Parisian Sunday

Today, the weather finally reached above 70 degrees… hell, it finally reached above 55 degrees, which meant it was the perfect opportunity to visit Parc des Buttes Chaumont with some friends. Opened in 1867, Parc des Buttes Chaumont is the third largest park in Paris after Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne, and the steepest with 5 kilometers of hills and trails – perfect for hill training if you’re running a race.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
There’s a café that almost resembles a beer garden called Rosa Bonheur within the park with outdoor seating, and we were lucky enough to grab a picnic table and enjoy some nibbles and rosé. When we passed by later in the evening, there was a huge line of people waiting to get in. Apparently the place turns into a dance party at night.
Rio at Rosa Bonheur
Rosé at Rosa Bonheur
After Rosa Bonheur, we decided to veg out on the grass and soak up the vitamin D. To say it was packed is an understatement.
Picnic at Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Les Gens at Parc des Buttes Chaumont
After a lovely day in the park with friends, Tyler and I decided we deserved some ice cream from Amorino, while Rio was passed out on the couch from the beer and wine. Here’s a pic of us waiting on line. I hope you all enjoyed your Sundays aussi!
Waiting for Ice Cream

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