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Hi. I’m Jennifer.

Welcome to MidLife Modern, a lifestyle blog for grown-ass women. Me? I’m 40 +, urban dwelling, happily hitched, childfree and self-employed. I’m into food, travel, flea markets, home decorating, throwing dinner parties and boundless exploration. I like to dip my toes in wellness trends but will never give up butter. Like, ever.

I left my heart in Barttttttthhhhhhhelona so I ate tapas on my lap in my living room

I left my heart in Barttttttthhhhhhhelona so I ate tapas on my lap in my living room

I’d like to begin this post with a pretentious opening line, so here we go. My first visit to Europe was an outstanding trip to Barcelona in the late summer of 2011. The weather was perfect and every morning I toasted crusty European bread until the edges charred, then I slathered it with fine Spanish olive oil, sea salt and freshly shaved Manchego. Vin and I made a plan to go, then I mentioned the trip to my aunt, who shortly after started looking for tickets for her and my uncle. Next thing I knew, dad and his wife were on-board too. It was an amazing family vacation.

Barcelona is spectacular but it must be noted up front that the real stars of the show on that trip were my teeth. I’d just completed a 7-month course of Invisalign followed by an intense whitening treatment, and was completely feeling myself dental-wise. I’d always been a “Mona Lisa” tight-lipped smiler pre-braces, and this trip was extra special as it served as my full-frontal smile debut. I was so excited to show off my new chompers I would literally jump in front of the camera any chance I got. I even experimented with bold lip color for the first time, just to give those babies the attention they’d always avoided.

My teeth at Park Guell.

My teeth at Park Guell.

My teeth making love to the camera during a stroll in the park. Dad’s “vacation shirt” (and shark-tooth necklace??) are no match for their gleam.

My teeth making love to the camera during a stroll in the park. Dad’s “vacation shirt” (and shark-tooth necklace??) are no match for their gleam.

Here they are again with Aunt Renee. I’m not sure if we agreed to pose with our knees like this, but I think we should make it a family trademark. But please… pay no attention to my knee. WOULD YA LOOK AT THOSE TEETH!?

Here they are again with Aunt Renee. I’m not sure if we agreed to pose with our knees like this, but I think we should make it a family trademark. But please… pay no attention to my knee. WOULD YA LOOK AT THOSE TEETH!?

Not only did my teeth shine in photos, they also served me well as I ate the entire bounty of traditional Spanish nummies. I have this thing about only traveling to places with really good cuisine, and Spain obviously fits the bill in that capacity. Fresh fish with lemon and enormous langostines and saffron-soaked paella… sign me up! I haven’t found anything that doesn’t benefit from a shake of paprika or a drizzle of Spanish olive oil, and if there’s a cheese that rivals Manchego I’m not even sure I’m ready for that transformative an experience. I love, love, love Spanish cuisine (and architecture, and people and music. And ceramics).

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“I love my teeeeeeeeeeeeeth!!!”

“I love my teeeeeeeeeeeeeth!!!”

Anyway, for my first official “Friday Night dinner party”, I decided to serve up some tapas to our very worldly friend Zach and his new gf Diana, who he met while traveling briefly through Colombia two months ago. Diana speaks three languages, has a dry sense of humor and looks exactly like a Colombian Giada DeLaurentis, so if things don’t work out between her and Zach I will likely try to court her.

Here is the menu I decided on. Please read the whole thing before rolling your eyes and calling me extra.


TAPAS MENU

* Dates stuffed with blue cheese and smoked almonds

* Roasted peppers stuffed with goat cheese & herbs

*Mushrooms filled with chorizo, breadcrumbs and Manchego

*Cumin-paprika-honey ribs

*Shrimp with garlic-oil and parsley

*Cast-iron paprika potatoes with chorizo rounds

*Mussels in saffron-sherry-cream broth with bread

*Sangria with cognac, green apple and citrus

*Mallorcan almond cake with vanilla ice cream and toasted honey almonds


I know. It’s a lot of food for four people. That’s the thing about tapas. I’m like, “Hey guys, real casual, come on over, I’m just making tiny portions of a bunch of different things.” Then I remember that making small portions of many things is actually far more work than just roasting a chicken, sautéing some veggies and making a nice potato mash.

But I love to cook so this was actually fun for me. And our guests weren’t able to come over till 10pm so I had plenty of time to cook slowly, and it really was like eating in Spain.

Chorizo-stuffed Mushrooms:  Grind Spanish-style chorizo in a food processor. Cut stems off mushrooms, and hollow them out. Saute mushroom caps briefly in a little olive oil, then remove from pan and set aside. In pan, cook chopped onion, garlic and chorizo. Sprinkle in a bit of parsley. Cool, then scoop into mushroom caps, top with grated Manchego and bake until melted.

Chorizo-stuffed Mushrooms: Grind Spanish-style chorizo in a food processor. Cut stems off mushrooms, and hollow them out. Saute mushroom caps briefly in a little olive oil, then remove from pan and set aside. In pan, cook chopped onion, garlic and chorizo. Sprinkle in a bit of parsley. Cool, then scoop into mushroom caps, top with grated Manchego and bake until melted.

Garlic Shrimp:  Saute minced fresh garlic in a mix of olive oil and butter, toss in shrimp and cook until no longer pink. Finish with sea salt and chopped parsley.   Potatoes with chorizo:  Peel and slice potatoes, then slather them with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and a mix of both regular paprika and smoked paprika. Slice Spanish-style chorizo into rounds. For crispy potatoes, bake in a cast-iron skillet.   Stuffed Dates:  Use a small knife to slice pitted dates down the center, then stuff with blue cheese and top with a smoked almond (or better yet, a Marcona almond if you can find them!).

Garlic Shrimp: Saute minced fresh garlic in a mix of olive oil and butter, toss in shrimp and cook until no longer pink. Finish with sea salt and chopped parsley.

Potatoes with chorizo: Peel and slice potatoes, then slather them with olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder and a mix of both regular paprika and smoked paprika. Slice Spanish-style chorizo into rounds. For crispy potatoes, bake in a cast-iron skillet.

Stuffed Dates: Use a small knife to slice pitted dates down the center, then stuff with blue cheese and top with a smoked almond (or better yet, a Marcona almond if you can find them!).

Mussels in saffron-sherry-cream broth : Rinse mussels in cool water, and debeard. Keep cool in fridge until ready to use. For broth, saute minced garlic and onion in a mix of butter and olive oil. Once oil is warm, season butter with several threads of saffron. A lot of broths call for clam juice, but I just used a mix of white wine and Spanish sherry, mixed with water. I let it reduce, tossed in the mussels and cooked for about three minutes, until shells opened (throw away any that do not open). Pour mussels into deep bowl, then mix cream into broth and pour over. Serve with bread.

Mussels in saffron-sherry-cream broth: Rinse mussels in cool water, and debeard. Keep cool in fridge until ready to use. For broth, saute minced garlic and onion in a mix of butter and olive oil. Once oil is warm, season butter with several threads of saffron. A lot of broths call for clam juice, but I just used a mix of white wine and Spanish sherry, mixed with water. I let it reduce, tossed in the mussels and cooked for about three minutes, until shells opened (throw away any that do not open). Pour mussels into deep bowl, then mix cream into broth and pour over. Serve with bread.

Roasted Mini Peppers:  Coat peppers in olive oil and roast on high heat till charred. When cooled, stuff with softened goat cheese and herbs (I used parsley).   Sweet & Savory Ribs:  Marinate ribs in a mixture of cumin, garlic powder, honey, salt, pepper, paprika and olive oil. Cook ‘em low and slow in the oven for about 2 hours.

Roasted Mini Peppers: Coat peppers in olive oil and roast on high heat till charred. When cooled, stuff with softened goat cheese and herbs (I used parsley).

Sweet & Savory Ribs: Marinate ribs in a mixture of cumin, garlic powder, honey, salt, pepper, paprika and olive oil. Cook ‘em low and slow in the oven for about 2 hours.

Mallorcan Almond Cake:   Click for recipe

Mallorcan Almond Cake: Click for recipe

Me, in a cooking class in Barcelona. Ready to take a nose-dive into a giant pan of paella. I hadn’t planned to match their yellow tile wall, but I love the fact that it almost makes me look naked under that apron. I get crazy on vacation.

Me, in a cooking class in Barcelona. Ready to take a nose-dive into a giant pan of paella. I hadn’t planned to match their yellow tile wall, but I love the fact that it almost makes me look naked under that apron. I get crazy on vacation.

And here’s one last shot of my teeth, stirring eggs. They really had a great first trip to Europe.

And here’s one last shot of my teeth, stirring eggs. They really had a great first trip to Europe.













Moving in to the bright light city, gonna set my stove on fire

Moving in to the bright light city, gonna set my stove on fire

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