This the 22nd episode of Ligia’s Kitchen, and let me just say this first: yum! 🙂

This Christmas, make super-tasty raw chocolate brownies with juicy, honey-dipped orange peels, glazed with thick, creamy chocolate syrup! It’s a decadent holiday dessert that’s perfect for Christmas or New Year’s!

The video is exactly 3 minutes long because we were challenged to edit a full recipe (that would normally take 7-10 minutes) to that length by Chow.com. It was a challenge issued to the YouTube Next Chef winners. We met the challenge dead on and walked away unscathed, albeit a bit dazed! 🙂 While the video fits within the 3-minute space, it would do much better as a 4-5 minute video.

Here’s the recipe!

Chocolate Glaze:

  • 2 cups raw cocoa powder
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 tbsp cocoa butter
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 1 tsp mesquite

Brownie Mixture:

  • 4 cups flour from sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup chocolate syrup
  • 1 cup orange peels, diced and dipped in honey

Decoration:

  • coconut flakes
  • almond slivers
  • golden raisins
  • anise stars
  • chocolate glaze
  • pomegranate

Enjoy and thanks for watching!

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Released 12/20/11

Places, Video Log

The winter road trip

After a cross-country trip through Romania to visit family for Christmas, our car’s on-board computer told us we logged 1,560 km (969.34 mi). I was already a big fan of our VW Jetta TDI, but now I like it even more. Our average fuel consumption was 6.1 l/100 km (38.6 mpg) while our average speed was 63 km/h, though we traveled around 90-100 km/h (62 mph) when the roads allowed it. Our total fuel cost was roughly 300 RON (about $100). Total driving time over a period of a week or so was 24 hours and 54 minutes. Although there were two trips whose time was around 9 hours and 30 minutes, somehow small trips here and there added an extra 6 hours to our driving time.

We left as a recent snowfall was melting and the weather had turned dreary, and we came back through fresh snow and clear, sunny skies. As we crossed the Carpathian mountains, we found ourselves in a winter wonderland. Trees and mountain slopes as far as the eye could see were decked in pure white snow, lit up by the most gorgeous morning hues of orange and purple light. I took photos, and also recorded a driving video. I hope you’ll enjoy them, they’re posted below.

If you plan to travel on A2 (Autostrada Soarelui), the Romanian highway between Bucharest and Constanta (which is still unfinished and only goes to Cernavoda,) be aware of two things. First, they’ve started charging 10 RON for the use of the highway, so it’s become a sort of a turnpike, although it’s the only highway in the region, so that’s not right, and two, it’s full of potholes. During our drive from Cernavoda to Bucharest, during the night, we not only had to deal with black ice, but with over 40 potholes, each over 20 cm in diameter and 5-10 cm deep. If we had been traveling at the posted speed limit of 130 km/h (81 mph), our suspension would have blown up long before we reached Bucharest. Instead, we drover 80-100 km/h, weaving in-between potholes while trying to guess which portions of the road had black ice. And yet the people who administer the road have the gall to charge money and ruin our car at the same time.

Still, we weren’t going to let a thing like that spoil our trip. The weather was truly beautiful on our return, and the snow made everything look gorgeous, particularly once we approached the Carpathian Mountains. We got close to them at daybreak, and by the time we were crossing them, the golden-pink hues of the dawn light made each snow-covered peak look magnificent. The mountain forests were glorious. Branches everywhere were laden with snow, and the crisp mountain air made each roadside stop memorable. You’ll see what I mean if you watch the video, which is about 10 minutes in length.

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Events

Christmas train show at US Botanic Garden

Every year, the United States Botanic Garden in Washington, DC, puts on a great Christmas show that features toy trains. These aren’t your average toy trains, like my own set, but large-scale Lionel model trains, made of metal, lit up inside, painted carefully, running on metal tracks. The decor is also special. They put together a different setting to showcase the trains each year, built around a particular theme. The year that I filmed the train show, they’d put together a mountain terrain with tracks hugging the mountainside, going through tunnels inside the mountains, passing by waterfalls and little mountain towns, and crossing long suspended bridges overhead. The video you see below was recorded on December 1, 2007, and you can watch it on Youtube or here.

This year, the Holiday Magic show runs from November 26, 2009 through January 10th, 2010. If you’re in DC, don’t miss it. It’s held in the Conservatory East Gallery and Garden Court. Here’s what the US Botanic Garden says about this year’s show:

The U.S. Botanic Garden’s National Mall and fanciful garden-train exhibits have become a beloved Washington tradition, and this year we’re serving up even more magic with larger and more amazing displays made of plant-based natural materials. You’ll find an enchanted storybook garden with trains popping in and out of a landscape that now includes Snow White’s cottage and the Owl and the Pussycat’s beautiful pea green boat. Our exhibit of the National Mall landmarks is up to date this season with the Obama children’s swing set and another new addition: the National Museum of the American Indian. Again this year, one of Washington’s largest indoor holiday trees will tower over pools of colorful poinsettias and other holiday plants. The whole family will enjoy the children’s plant hunt, which will take visitors through our collections in search of particularly “magical” plants.

For more information about the US Botanic Garden, you may view a gallery of photos I took inside, or you can visit their website.

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The Toy Train
Video Log

The toy train

Updated 11/02/2018: This video now has over 25,000,000 views. Thank you!

My wife gave me this great little train set as a Christmas present a couple of years ago. I thought it’d be fun to film it in action one day, and when I edited the video, I looked for the right kind of music for some time. The end result was worth it though, and it sets the mood for the upcoming holiday season. Enjoy!

You can watch the video here or on YouTube. The soundtrack for the video is called “Choo Choo Train” by Daffy Dave.

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Happy Easter!

We’re getting ready to have our Easter meal, and Ligia cooked some really delicious pastries. They’re traditional Easter foods in Romania. The first you see below is called Cozonac, and the second is Pasca.

Cozonac

Pasca

Both are made with pretty much the same ingredients, but their texture and look is quite different, as you can see. The ingredients are: flour, milk, honey, sugar, sweet cheese, rasins and eggs.

Let’s not lose sight of the true meaning of this holiday though! Easter is Easter because Christ is risen!

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Merry Christmas!

I know Christmas isn’t celebrated by everyone, but if you’re one of those who does celebrate it, Merry Christmas! Even though the origins of the date are pagan, the meaning we have chosen to ascribe to it over time is certainly worth celebrating. For those among us who are Christians, it means our Savior’s birth. For others, it means that time of year when we think of others, and give them presents. For others still, it’s a joyous holiday time spent with family, winding down the year and looking forward to the next. However you choose to celebrate it, I hope you’ll enjoy these next several photos I’ve prepared.

As Christmas nears, I love the change that comes over the home. The decorations make it a special time of the year.

Christmas time

Keep the light burning brightly

Let’s not forget to pick out just the right Christmas tree.

Got that tree?

And fill it full of wonderful ornaments.

Play that golden harp

A wreath of holly

How about the last minute gifts that we forgot to get? What to pick, I wonder?

The last minute gift

As Christmas Eve draws near, some of us like to sing Christmas carols.

Let’s sing in the town square

On Christmas Eve itself, we have a wonderful Christmas meal. In my family, the food we make this time of year is always special and plentiful.

Seeker of light

By the way, this is how the sunset looked on Christmas Eve this year.

Christmas sunset

Those of us who choose to ascribe a religious meaning to Christmas remember the story of the star in the East, and of the angels’ appearing.

Visitation

A star in the East

That ocean of angels that filled the sky on our Savior’s birth night must have been a glorious sight. This is a poor approximation, but it will have to do.

Apparition

According to popular legend, the little town up North where toys get made is pretty quiet on Christmas morning. Perhaps it looks something like this?

The little town where toys get made

Merry Christmas!

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