American Soup & Confusion on Cooking in a New Country

Before I delve into the wonders of soup, I’d like to apologize. While I may not have followers by the thousands (or even hundreds), I made a personal pact to document my traveler’s life on this blog and I haven’t been doing a very good job. While I don’t know why I feel like I have to say sorry, just putting it out there makes me feel a bit better and gives me more motivation to keep working on this journal/space/tiny piece of the internet that is mine.

For my first couple of weeks in Spain, I convinced myself that I was invincible and proceeded eat ,basically, everything in sight. The food here really is amazing and I was really content for a couple of days. After indulging in too much street food (although there is never such a thing as too much street food), my stomach basically yelled at me and I realized I had to cut down on the awesomeness.

Exhibit A. Churros: Death by sweet, crunchy yet soft goodness. Yes that is literally granulated sugar on top of fried dough (best combination ever).

Exhibit B. Fried Ham/Bacon – i’m not really sure. Delicious but more thirst-inducing than any potato chip I’ve ever eaten.

Exhibit C. Whatever this mouth watering dessert is.

Taking on the challenge of making homemade chicken noodle soup (something that I had , surprisingly, never done before), I was pleasantly surprised with the tasty outcome of this nice recipe, the fact that it was incredibly cheap to make, and that it definitely did the trick in helping me get over my stomachache (confirming the idiom that chicken soup is really Jewish penicillin).

Here’s the recipe
Pro tips/Modifications:

  • Instead of buying the vegetables in their general quantities, buy a soup-ready fresh veggie mix that is easily found in most produce sections as a combination of celery, carrot, and leek. In my version I used one of these packages (which was around 1 euro) and it contained 3 carrots, 1 leek, and 2 stalks of celery.
  •  I decided to double the recipe, which made converting everything to the metric system even harder, but ended up with not enough chicken broth and had to add more later – so I guess you should cook soup with the mantra “more broth is always better”
  •  A new kitchen often comes without the tools you’re used to cooking with, so I had to peel my lemons with a knife and chop the rind up. Not ideal, but still resulted in awesome flavors!
  •  Substituting orzo for macaroni shaped pasta made this soup a little less classy, but reminiscent of my late nights fueled by Easy Mac (impossible to find in Spain, by the way) – so it kind of made it even more comforting.
  • I bought some cheap chicken breast from the grocery store and boiled it before putting it into the soup. Not the most flavorful way of cooking, but definitely cheap and effective.

The day I made this soup, my flatmates put together an impromptu dinner party and decided to combine a bunch of random foods that we had all made to have a gigantic, delicious, feast. As expected, the soup was part of said feast and has been dubbed by my Japanese flatmate as “American Soup”.

Last but not least, I want to mention the fact that ,in total, it only took about 8 euros to make this GIGANTIC pot of soup which fed me for about 5 days (including serving it at a dinner party). I am definitely going to making a lot of soup this semester.

– M

Swing: The Salsa of the West?

This past weekend was a really fun, quirky, sporadic one. I rushed to my ‘friday night groove’ hot yoga class after work and felt all of my cares (literally) melt away once I stepped into the studio. You seriously melt, it’s HOT in there. After listening to a room full of Malibu Barbie-looking girls chant their size 0 hearts out in Sanskrit (awkward), we plunged sweat-first into a great class. I still haven’t gotten used to how pretty people in California are. It’s almost as if they have some sort of inner glow that causes a bio-luminescence that draws foreign eyes toward them. Oh never mind, that’s called a tan.

After yoga, I headed to downtown Sacramento with a couple of interns to do some Swing dancing for the first time! Once I entered the antique ballroom, heard the sounds of the jazz combo, and saw the immaculately period-dressed hipsters, I was in love. The basic steps were pretty easy to pick up and I got asked to dance so courteously that I could never refuse the nerdiest/sweatiest looking people. For the record, nerdy/sweaty people are the best friends because they know what real life is about.

At a couple of times in the night I became entranced by the beautiful movement sweeping over the unlikely crowd on the dance floor. It was almost as if a bunch of odd misfits got together and decided to throw a swingin’, swayin’ soiree and I felt right at home.

Moving from Miami to Pittsburgh (where I live most of the year due to school) made me miss the vibrant Latin parties full of Salsa and Merengue dancing. I had long wondered what real American people do if they just want to go out dancing. While I may not be a fancy swing dancer (yet!), I can tell that this merge of great music and movement is going on my list of favorite things.

Oh I also went to the state fair, ate more fried goodies, took a long lone stroll through the mall, re-discovered my caffeine dependence, and cooked/baked a ton of things. Stay tuned for some cupcakes that will probably change your life.

Cheers,
M

Photo credit: http://arts2go.org/?q=node/898

Be there, the Fair!

This summer, I’m looking forward to exploring the beautiful, sunny, West coast of the US! In between work days, I’ll be blogging about different places and experiences. This past weekend was my first adventure starting with….Wal-Mart! While being bargain heaven was lovely, I was happy to get out of there with some friends and explore the local county fair. All of the cowboy-esque activities  made me a little confused at first, because I always connect boots, horses, and cattle to Texas and the Mid-West, but I never realized that “Western” also extends to California! It’s the silly epiphanies that make life so ridiculously funny. After I’d had my share of pigs, chickens, and hay, we decided to explore the plethora of food options. Having become a pescatarian (the only ‘meat’ products I eat are fish/seafood) last September, I’m still getting adjusted to the lifestyle and encountered some temptation in all of that slow roasted barbecue. In the end, I settled for some buttery corn on the cob and a platter of deep fried veggies with homemade ranch. Along with the greasy goodness, we also rode the “Starship” (a crazy, smelly, g-force ride that made us laugh uncontrollably), and saw a great country singer! Doing something a little different than the usual dinner or movie was really fun, and I’d definitely recommend everyone to check out community events like this one!

I rarely like zucchini, but this one was fried to perfection! The mushrooms and artichoke hearts were also delicious – I will definitely be attempting something like this in my own kitchen soon.

This bright blue sky still gets me every time I walk outside.

A really chubby bunny that looks angry in a really cute way. 🙂

Double-Triple Stuffed Oreo Chocolate Chip Cookies

Thanks to Mike and Jeremy for making these in my kitchen!

How to create your own batch of heaven:

Start with the Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe, sans nuts.

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large egg
  • 1 (12 ounce) package NESTLE® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels

Directions

  1. PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. COMBINE flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in morsels.

Then mold one tablespoon of your cookie dough around each Oreo (preferably double-triple stuffed Oreos) and place on a slightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake for about 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown.

EAT THEM RAVENOUSLY and proceed to drink many a glass of water because these guys are unbelievably sweet and amazing.

Mind-blowing, I know.

Salmon Stuffed with Asparagus

Being the on-duty RA (Resident Assistant) can have it’s perks. Since I’m forced to be in the building on a Friday night and encounter a lot of trouble finding the motivation to do homework/study, I usually cook! After having this great dish during New Years Eve at home, I decided to attempt it on my own.

I followed this video recipe: http://tiny.cc/4tot6

Tips:

  • Fresh salmon filet is the easiest to work with, frozen and then defrosted fish is harder to slice.
  • If you’re a college student or just on a budget and can’t afford tarragon, use some dried chives!
  • You can easily steam the asparagus in a microwave! Just peel, wrap in a moist paper towel and microwave on high for 3 minutes.

Here are some photos that will (hopefully!) cause your mouth to water 🙂