Sweet & Spicy

This is not a recipe blog, and I haven't written much about food since the long lost days of this special personal project, BUT I made a new appetizer this weekend for my roommate's Memorial Day BBQ and many, many friends asked for the recipe.

It's Sweet and Spicy Roasted Cauliflower from How Sweet Eats, and it was pretty easy and extremely tasty. You should probably head over there to make it asap and, while you're at it, make all her other stuff, too!

Amigos de Austin

I traveled to a whole different part of the world and where do you think the first estadounidense I met was from? No place other than Austin, Texas! Yee-haw!

Sara is super nice and welcoming. She moved down here to start a bakery and a pizzeria. What a fine place to do just that. Pan de Vida is a relaxed respite off busy La Calazada street with great pizza, plenty of hammocks, and cinnamon rolls that I am not going to say whether or not could come close to my grandma's because sometimes she reads this! You'll have to try them for yourself.

Pan de Vida Granada, Nicaragua

I'm glad to have met Sara early in the trip, because she told me an easy way to remember the money exchange rate when I kept forgetting which ones were from Asia and which one was for here. The next day that knowledge saved me when the street converter tried to rip me off 200 cordoba. But all I had to do was correct him and he gave me the difference plus a little more. Sometimes it really pays to talk to strangers.

Pan de Vida in Granada, Nicaragua

Singaporean Strolls

If you're looking for somewhere very clean, very efficient, and where nothing ever goes wrong because all preventative measures have been taken to ensure that nothing can ever go wrong, Singapore may be the place for you. It's an other-worldly city, nicer than any I've ever visited. It sort of makes you afraid to touch anything or mess anything up for fear of receiving a $500 fine or a public caning, but I didn't see anyone being fined or caned so it wasn't very scary walking around sightseeing and enjoying the cuisine in designated eating spaces.

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This is a melting pot for sure, and I ended up spending most of my time in Chinatown and Little India before exploring any Singaporean culture. It's hard to pass up $3 meals in the Chinese food stalls, but you can find similarly priced delicacies from local hawker stands. After just a day, you may find yourself pointing and gesturing for mysterious ingredients, knowing you'll end up with phenomenal results. 

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There's so much to see and do that I'm not sure three days was enough for fully uncovering this gem of a city. Fortunately, the public transportation system and flawless and will take you nearly everywhere you need to go. Unfortunately, the hostels and the people working in them are so nice that you might not ever want to leave. I'm glad I have a mini stopover on my way back to try more.

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Live to Learn

Like I told you in the last post, I'm not the greatest of granddaughters, and before my recent trip to Buffalo, it had been quite a while since the last visit to upstate New York to see my grandma. This time, I took advantage of our stay together to convince her to share one of her most powerful areas of expertise: baking cinnamon rolls.

She has long been known throughout our family and her group of friends for her special touch with these tasty spiraled treats. My sister and I share antagonistic photos whenever one of us is lucky enough to get a full pan of her own in the mail. Despite my grandma's desires to spend the trip showing me around the Grand Island Golden Age center, she kindly agreed to spend a day in the kitchen walking me through all the mixing, rising, and rolling steps. And, even though the instructions have never been exact, the batch she guided me through came out pretty deliciously!

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As the people we love grow older and begin to downsize in their living spaces, it's usually inevitable that we'll end up inheriting some of their precious possessions. Even better than the invaluable antique jewelry and multi-generational family heirlooms are the pieces of knowledge we can pick up along the way. A few years ago, my grandma taught me how to crochet, and now I think of her anytime I'm working on a project. And I've only made a few pierogi on my own, but I'll never forget holidays spent making them in a flour-filled kitchen with my aunt and uncle. It's a reward on two levels: you get to spend a special time together learning the craft, and then end up with lifelong memories that spring up whenever you decide to attempt it on your own. While I might not have perfected the kneading and measuring processes yet, it makes my heart happy that my grandma had the time to pass her unrivaled ability along to me. Hopefully I'll get to carry it with me for a long, long while, even if I'd rather not know how much powdered sugar ends up in the glaze.

Disclaimer: I did also come away with more than a few vintage skirts from the guest room closet, so don't go thinking that this post is wholly immaterial.

Sweet Summer

If any past/present/future employers are reading this, please know that I am very dependable and dedicated, and this post is most definitely not about me. However, for some people who are surely not me, certain times of year require the skipping of work in exchange for the seeking out of fresh fruits.

If you're finding yourself in that seasonal position, and if peaches and blackberries are the objects of your sweet desires, here are some do's and don'ts to guide your quest:

  • Do carry out your search in Fredericksburg.
  • Do check the pick-your-own calendars before you go.
  • Don't stop at the jam/salsa stores along the way or you might take pity on lonely little old ladies with lots of free samples and end up buying more jam/salsa than you had originally planned.
  • Do stop in Dripping Springs for the very best pizza or pastries.
  • Don't run out of time for sunning and swimming on your way.

 

Pick wisely and enjoy!

Southeastern Spring

Spring Break happened last week, and as a person who has not had a spring break in some time, I can tell you that it was a miraculous feeling. Spending your hours with 4-8 year olds can be a ton of fun, but I was pretty excited to only interact with humans in my age range for 7 straight days. Not needing to set an alarm was pretty great, too.

The first stop was Nashville, which I knew would be a marvelous place since everyone I've ever met from Tennessee has been of the friendliest and most down-to-earth nature imaginable. Lainie (you already know her) met me at the airport, and her amazing friend Lindsay let us stay in her amazing apartment for the whole weekend.

It was cold[er than Austin], yet sunny, which turned out to be the perfect weather for walking around and snacking on scotcheroos (link warning: very, very addictive), hot chicken, and the most incredible donuts you'll taste in your lifetime.

Anyway, we two-stepped a bit, too, so it must have all evened out.

How-to: Campfire Thanksgiving

This is coming a little late, but fortunately for you and for all of us, campfire meals needn't be limited to the end of November. Here's how to make a good one at any time of year, and particularly for that one special day when turkey is required.

1. Spark it up

Light a fire, bring a camp stove, or, better yet, combine the two and cover all your bases. We cooked our sweet potatoes, sausages, and dessert over the fire and saved room on the stove for crucial sides like stuffing and mac & cheese.

2. Improvise

Unless you are much better at packing than we are or you are camping in your yard, you probably won't be able to roast a whole bird over your flames. We ended up with turkey sausages, but you could try breasts for a more authentic experience. There's also bacon, cold cuts, or the option to become a vegetarian for the day. 

3. BYOB

You can skip cranberry sauce and still get your servings of fruit by adding juice to your mimosa! Bonus tip: this will help shield you from any doubts that your meal might be subpar and erase any homesickness about what your relatives used to make*.

 

*Dad, if you're reading this, I hope you will still make me real turkey at Christmas.

Eating in Reykjavik: Don't be skyred!

*Disclaimer: I didn't actually eat that many adventurous Icelandic foods. I just wanted to make this pun using skyr, a delicious yogurty dairy product that they eat for breakfast, snack, and dessert.

Skyr in Iceland

So I didn't try whale, puffin, or seal because I didn't feel like eating whales, puffins, or seals, but I did eat a tiny bit of lamb, A LOT of wonderfully fresh fish, and as much skyr as I could get my hands on. 

Our first coffee on the island

Our first coffee on the island

Our celebratory, start of trip meal at Kopar could go toe-to-toe with most top restaurants in Austin, and our servers were always perfectly friendly and helpful. We even ate a traditional, mayonnaise-slathered hotdog on the last day, despite the fact that neither of us likes mayonnaise or hot dogs.

Icelandic hot dog

Then we went and swam in some geothermal pools, and all was fine and good.

Blue Lagoon in Iceland