Thursday, July 31, 2008

keeps getting better & better

That's how I feel about Santiago de Chile, with each day that passes I fall more and more in love with the city, my city. The stroll through paradise that I took at this afternoon, for instance, I mean, com'on, be honest, does life get any better than this?
Yesterday morning I left the house fairly early to get my morning errands out of the way and came home around 12 to find "mi abuela y mi mama" busy in the kitchen. The entire house smelled amazing and I ran in to help with the unidentifiable concoction... Cazuela! It's a tradition Chilean chicken/beef  vegetable stew. Fortunately they altered the recipe to make it meat-less for my sake. But the veggies, oh my, it took so long to chop everything up: bell peppers, onions, zucchini, squash, green beans, carrots, corn, peas, potatoes. We mixed it then with rice, chopped parsley, basil, mint, juice of a lemon and a couple of more spices and a few hours later, tah-dah (or cha-cha as the Chileans say) our dinner was served. I'll get you the exact recipe ASAP!
Where was my lunch you ask? Well, I ended up having a meeting around 2 so I brought some leftover spinach and a large salad for the road. When I returned home once more, this time at 7:30 p.m. our hard work was waiting for me with a side of fresh lettuce, tomatoes, and onions. Everything was so good and I was so hungry and so glad that I had been able to do everything I had to do, basically I was on cloud 9 :).
This wonderful state of being continued into today despite the fact that I had to wake up unreasonably early for another university's exchange student orientation (my program offers classes at both). After a long morning of presentations we were finally set free at noon. Four friends and I decided to walk up 2 blocks to this gorgeous park we had passed a couple of times but had not yet had the chance to see. It was huge! I couldn't even tell you how many stairs I climbed, but I enjoyed every step. This is the kind of cardio that I love and appreciate. 
To top it off last night's cazuela made a second appearance and, as is I expected, was better after having sat for a day. Oh and I followed my meal with a tart tangerine. Sitting in the sun, with friends, savoring good food, and gazing over our new city was such a nice treat and you would've never guessed it was winter here with how beautiful the weather was, we really lucked out. About an hour later we made our way out of our haven and back to the offices to meet with our advisors about classes. I am such a nerd but I love this part, you should've seen how excited I was! In case you're interested ;) I'll soon be taking: Chilean Spanish... Environmental Policy in a Developmental Context... Introduction to Human Figure Drawing... Chile, Chileans, and their Culture... and Indigenous Art History... sounds fun, huh?
Oh and I almost forgot, this day actually managed to get even better! I passed two special places on my way home. The first was this little shop which sold, you guessed it, organic & natural goods. I was so completely in my element for that half an hour I spent in there. I only bought a bag of ground flax seed but I'm sure that by the time December rolls around the staff will be able to greet me by name :). The second stop was Deportus, a fitness center that offers yoga and pilates night classes and is directly on my walk home from the metro station. Going back to sign up tomorrow! Finally, alas, after all this good fortune, and yet another busy day abroad, I am beat. Buenas noches todas!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

at last

I cannot even tell you how nice it was to unpack and unwind in the place that is going to be my real home for the next 5 months. I have loved and appreciated all I've done so far but even travel junkies need to plant their roots somewhere and that somewhere always becomes the perfect outlet for relaxation. Not only do I already feel secure here but I'm happy too. My family is wonderful in every way I'd hope they'd be... especially when it comes to food! They are super conscious of what they put in their bodies and the majority of every meal is made up of a variety of vegetables followed by fruit as dessert.
In these past few days my "mom" and I have discussed my reasons for becoming a vegetarian (well, pescatarian here, I guess, but you get my drift), the difference between supermarket and farmers market produce, passionate cooking and eating, raising veggie-loving children, and the importance of not filling your body with unnatural things like chemicals and processed goods. Just between the two of us I feel like it's a match made in heaven and I know we're going to become very close over the next semester. The rest of my family (my host dad, 13 y/0 brother, 11 y/0 sister, and baby sister) are also great. My first day off this past Sunday we all went bowling at their country club, so much fun! Now for a glimpse into Chilean eating habits...
Sunday morning's breakfast consisted of toasted Chilean bread, cheese, mixed berry jam, a banana, and green tea. The bread was by far the attention-grabber though, it became nice and crispy on the outside while still maintaining it's soft interior. Yum!
After morning bowling we all came home and I helped prepare and quick and easy meal for lunch. Spinach & Ricotta raviolis in a sauce consisting of tomatoes, onions, basil, oregano, and soy meat. It was quite delicious and filling and as is customary was followed by a salad.
It's interesting to note that by salad it usually means more than one mix of a single vegetable tossed in olive oil and lemon juice with a pinch of salt and pepper, etc. Here was our tomato dish with avocado.
And then the lettuce bowl. I'm almost positive that this was the South American equivalent of iceberg lettuce, plus the tomatoes were incredibly in season, so I definitely took a lot more from our first side dish. Afterwards I was felt perfectly balanced and satisfied and played with Julieta, my baby sister, for a while before going to my room to work on my first essay of the semester.
Later that night, around 7:30, my mom explained to me that although they usually have a real dinner, Sunday nights sometimes only consist of Once. This is a "meal" that is made up of bread, tea, and a few sweet condiments, similar to tea time. However, since she knew how I like to eat my 3-square-meals a day I had left over raviolis (a much smaller portion this time) with a side of carrots and cauliflower. Thanks Mom :)
Monday was a busy and big day for me. Not only did I have my orientation at the Universidad de Chile but I also had to get there all on my own using the city's metro system. It was about a 35-minute commute between the walk to the station, the line transfer, and then getting to the actual building but I didn't get lost at all. I was so proud, haha. For lunch my mom packed me a large salad with a hard-boiled egg, lettuce, carrots, tomato, avocado and cheese (although I didn't eat much of it as I'm not really a fan of cheesy salads). It was so basic and yet with a squeeze of lemon juice the flavors really came alive and I enjoyed my packed lunch as I reunited with my friends.
Dinner was absolutely delicious too! She made one of my favorite soups in the whole wide world, Lentil soup! I'm not sure of the exact recipe yet, although I'm sure I'll ask soon, but it was different and maybe even better than most I had eaten before (besides my real Mom's). I topped mine with a little sprinkle of cheese but my sister suggested I take a picture of her bowl since this is how it is more traditionally eaten... with a sausage, no thank you, lol. This was followed by lettuce and celery and the combo became my packed lunch for the next day which was even better when the flavors sat a bit!
Yesterday we finished our obligatory activities early and my friends and I strolled around our new city for most of the afternoon. It really seems like the ideal South American city to take classes in. It's just big enough, just busy enough, just safe enough, and there are so many beautiful buildings and parks. I really am loving it but it is not like any American or European city I know. I'd say it's closest to Montreal. Around 5 we stopped at one of many little cafes for a cafecito, steamed milk and coffee. It usually looks like a mini-cappucino but I mixed i together before the picture, oops!
Almost done! Last night's dinner was creamed spinach, potatoes, and a large camera-shy raddiccio salad. I only ended up eating 2 of the slices of potato because I was loving the purple cabbage so much. I feel so lucky to have a host mom who is such a good cook and cares about what she puts into her food, you can definitely taste it!
Finally I made it to today's breakfast which will completely bring me up to date with meals, yay. Is that a bowl of what you think it is? Oh yes ma'am. I went with my mom to the largest grocery store in the area and bought steel-cut oats, plain yogurt and peanut butter. The only thing this big bowl of goodness was missing was flax but I may just be able to get it today since we have another free day. And on that note I have to jump in the shower and start it, there are a lot of little things I want to get done. Thanks to everyone for joining me on my travels, I'll continue to try my best with keeping you interested a.k.a. more new foods and places to come! "See" you soon!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

the tasty southern cone

And I'm off again as I try to catch up on the two weeks I missed! As authentic as my last few meals were with my Ecuadorian family my final official meal at the Hotel Quito ended up being quite the mix of cultural foods- Chilean wine, a French mushroom quiche, and a Swiss chocolate torte. I guess globalization does have it's benefits ;)

Please note that this beautiful (and incredibly delicious) creation was shared at my table of 4!

My flight left early afternoon so we had a quick brunch (similar to the one from the beginning of the trip) and checked out. The airport was as I expected it to be, horrendous, I don't like airports to begin with plus one bag was overweight so I ended up leaving shoes in my friends carry-ons and I got chosen for a random security check so I had to watch as a man completely tore apart my other piece of luggage. Needless to say I was stressed out and, as a result, got a splitting headache :(. I sat unhappy and uncomfortable for a what seemed like forever before it went away. Luckily I still had time to grab lunch at a super nice cafe near our gate. My Sandwich Vegetariano was the perfect antidote for my hunger and wiped out self. Not only was there a wonderful medley of vegetables but they were also grilled to perfection!
After the airport experience and a 4-hour flight I was absolutely exhausted... that is, until we landed in Santiago. Have you ever been over-tired and excited? My friends and I were so completely hyper, haha.
And why not? We made it to our ultimate destination in one piece. Mind you, when I say destination I really one of my favorite cities in the world! I'll take some pictures ASAP but if for nothing else, Santiago stole my heart with it's cuisine. Yummy! Our flight got in late the night before and we had a less than spectacular breakfast the next morning but lunch. Oh. I'm speechless. We began with Cream of Spinach soup.
Followed by the vegetarian option of Vegetable Quiche and Mixed Greens. Everything was light and tasty and so very fresh. I wouldn't exactly call the quiche a quiche (it was closer to a frittata) but I loved it nonetheless. And mesclun lettuce? My, how I've missed thee!
Quite unfortunately my heavenly lunch had to end eventually. It's a good thing I had this warm pear dessert to ease my sorrows ;).

Our next meal, dinner, was "libre" so my friends and I walked to a farmers market 2 blocks from the hotel and went all out! We bought bananas and copious amounts of vibrancy in the form of veggies, of course! Zucchini, Bell peppers, Broccoli, Cucumbers galore and with a little bit of garlic and olive oil our dinner was served. Oh and I forgot to mention that we had a kitchen in our hotel room :) that would account for the home-cooked meal and necessity of a good glass of wine alongside it. Talk about eating for pleasure!
Yay and the next day's lunch was a hit too! Reminiscing about good food is so nice :). We had another group lunch at this FABULOUS vegetarian restaurant, El Huerto. If you have a chance to check out the website, it's quite the paradise! I had a vegetarian burrito and a glass of fresh lemonade which made for a divine and filling meal. It was exactly what I was craving and even better than expected... I am heading back over there as soon as I can though, there are so many options!
That night was spent with my new family. Dinner was exquisite and nutritiously balanced but the photo seems to have disappeared. Sorry about that! We had Baked Carrots, Brown rice with peas, Celery and Tomatoes with EVOO and Cilantro. Yes ma'am. I knew right then that this was my kind of family :) at least diet-wise. Not to mention that afterwards I helped my Chilean dad make bread. Although I was quite satisfied I couldn't help but try a piece of our creations. A+
Then we left, practically as quickly as we came! I had mixed feelings about the field seminar because I didn't want to leave my new family or new city that would be my home but I was excited to travel. However, those thoughts were soon forgotten as our flight to Buenos Aires commenced and we flew over the Andes. It's hard to believe that I saw their majestic peaks above the clouds with my very own eyes.
After a painless flight (I slept through most of it) we landed in the "Paris" of South America. Right away we had a quick city tour to familiarize with the city. There were millions of things to see and just by looking at the diversity of buildings architecturally it was so clear how many influences had built the city to what it is today.
Which in my book is another winner in the food department! Our dinner was a late one, around 9, so we ended up eating at a bar downtown. Do you realize that they call this bar food?! Salad, Bean sprouts, Soy burger, Sweet potatoes & cheese, Broccoli & Carrot slaw, Brown rice, and finally, soy sauce for dipping. I was beyond pleased!
The next day we spent time in La Boca, an eclectic neighborhood at the main port of Buenos Aires. The artistic scene is huge here so everything that could be decorated most definitely was. It was a really fun day and I bought a lot of cute things to bring home for my family (the one in the US, I love that I have to specify, haha).
For lunch we went to one of the best Italian restaurants ever! I know Italian food pretty well, not only is it one of my favorites but I grew up in a town with many other Italian immigrants and their descendants and this is definitely up there. In the early 1900's Argentina received a large immigration of Italians to it's cities too. Lucky us! I had Vegetable & Ricotta raviolis in  Rosa sauce. There was a lot more culinary adventures in Argentina but unfortunately my camera died before I could document them and I did not have a converter to charge it. In addition to exploring the city we also had the academic portion of the trip consisting of classes and lectures. They were incredibly interesting and we met a multitude of powerful, influential people. I am learning so much about the culture and it's history.
This program continued in our next destination, Montevideo, Uruguay where I encountered my favorite memory to date. With our Uruguayan guide we drove out into a shanty town of the city. I cannot even explain to you how humbling of experience it was. The level of poverty and the unfortunate results it can have on people, families, and especially children is entirely devastating. We were blessed to be able to visit a recreational center for the local kids. It is here that children from impoverished families, orphans, and those living on the streets come together to play, learn, and study, created to keep them off of the streets. It was amazing the kind of difference something so seemingly common at home can make in the lives of these individuals. I will never forget them, we had so much fun together.
Unfortunately we had little time to enjoy the food aqui (here). The one meal I did have that's worth mentioning was delicious, Grilled Salmon and Salad, another camera pic. Simple enough but a touch of Aged Balsamic Vinegar and sublime Extra Virgin Olive Oil made it out of this world! This was my last meal there too so I know I'll always fondly look back on this little city. And here we are, at the end of these marathon posts! Or nearly :) I still have to update you on my Chilean meals the past few days. How do I put this? Hm, let's just say I don't think it's possible to have fueled and honored my body better. Hasta manana!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

ecuadorian recap, proceed with caution!

Ah, finally home sweet home... my Chilean home that is ;). My trip was incredible but absolutely, positively, exhausting! It took a toll on my camera battery too and since I didn't have a Uruguayan converter it still remains dead. But have no fear my friends. I still have my last few days in Ecuador to entertain you with, and they were surely a mouthful. Now I must warn you, what is coming next is not pretty but it was a once-in-a-lifetime taste and I am glad I was able to try it. My family even made it a point to bring me to their favorite Cuencan restaurant to commemorate the event, big since they never eat out especially not at lunch. Alright, that's enough explaining, the picture speaks for itself:
Hm, cuy, what's that? Well. It is exactly what it looks like. Guinea Pig. If that fact alone isn't enough to scare you away, how's the fact that it was staring as me as I attempted to eat it! Haha, oh gosh, reflecting on this I'm surprised I was even able to stomach the poor thing. It was surprisingly quite good with a rabbit-like flavor although there wasn't much meat. I avoided the skin because it had been fried and handed it over to my "brother." Beneath my best friend's pet was a medley of hominy and rice. That's an Ecuadorian meal for you! A combo of their favorite starches and an Andean classic. Of course, as proud of myself as I was, that's not my kind of my meal, and before I even had a chance to ask, my "parents" ordered a large salad too :).  And that large and adventurous meal could obviously only be followed by one thing, chicha, a fermented drink made from manioca root. This was quite the digestif, and although I drank it slow because it was served hot and that's what my host mother advised I still felt an alcoholic buzz. What an experience :). It was a such a treat to have a long leisurely lunch out with my family but unfortunately it was cut short by my last Spanish class! Ah well, we had oral presentations followed by an sweet and encouraging speech from our professor. Here's the beautiful square on my walk home. Since dinners weren't really a meal in my house I haven't been taking pictures of what I've been eating in the evenings. This combination was a staple- toasted tomato & cheese sandwich, steamed veggies (broccoli in this case), and tea for warmth! It never failed to fill me up!
However, this particular evening was our very special goodbye dinner with our families so I finally got lucky, too bad I wasn't too hungry after my large lunch because... ...everything was incredible! It was held at best local steakhouse but the program director had the chef make me spaghetti as my main dish :). I filled my plate with salad, a vegetable medley, hominy, baked potato, and bread before placing my special order on top. It's really too bad this taste went to waste, I hardly made a dent. And that was that, the next morning I got up bright and early, ate a quick breakfast and headed to the airport. In short, it was a tearful goodbye. My family was wonderful to me and it was so hard to leave them behind. If I can, I would love return to Cuenca one day! Our plane landed in Quito after a quick and easy flight and we got straight onto the bus headed towards Otavalo. I woke a few hours later to find myself at our hotel and famished. My group dropped of our bags and headed into the city in search of lunch. Pretty soon we landed an adorably authentic restaurant where I thoroughly enjoyed a cheese sandwich with avocado, onions, and tomato. And french fries too 0:) they were so worth it. Everything was out of this world when combined with my hunger! Following our relaxing and exquisite lunch we made our way to the market. We spent the entire day browsing through stands of jewelry, crafts, art, and clothes. I purchased a painted feather and Incan coin earrings and obviously bargained them to an incredible price. By the time the vendors were closing up shop my friends and I were in dire need of a pick-me-up. We headed for ice cream but I couldn't pass up the cappucino. Yummy. Later that night we stumbled upon another great restaurant. They had so many options but unfortunately my appetite was not in favor of eating a heavy meal. In FWDGF fashion I tried to listen to my body's cues and ordered the Vegetarian Plate. It ended up being the perfect choice. Just look at the freshness of it all! The following day we turned around to return to Quito. I did mention how busy we were the entire time right?! Before we left I had one of the best cups of coffee I've had in a while, scrambled eggs, and fresh bread and jam. My friend drank the juice, lol. It was just the right amount to start my day, although, I must admit, I've had major cravings for my oats lately.On our way back we stopped here, an active volcano. It definitely does not look dangerous in the least, I was thinking gorgeous? Yes, it was, and our visit even included a motor boat ride on the lagoon.
Before we headed back to Quito we stopped for lunch. My lack of appetite had returned from yesterday so I ordered an appetizer, Shrimp Avocado. The avocado itself was amazing but the shrimp had been doused in mayonnaise so I only tasted a few. To supplement my small meal I also had a flavorful yet camera-shy Vegetable compote.
And this is where it ends, for Ecuador that is. The next morning I came to Santiago de Chile and met my new family. My Chilean mom and I didn't get the memo the make funny pictures, ha, and my host dad, brother, and baby sister didn't make it in time for the shoot, but here's half the family. Still, I only spent a brief evening with them; in the morning that followed I began my field study seminar and haven't been back "home" since then!

I will summarize my trip in the next post but here's tonight's meal, drum roll please- Zucchini Frittata, Rice with Carrots, Raddiccio & Lettuce in olive oil, lemon, s&p. Score. As fascinating as my recent travels have been, I haven't been able to make the best food choices for reasons beyond my control, so this nutritious and cleansing meal was just what I needed. Again, score ;). By the way, my apologizes for the bad photo, my phone is just not up to par I guess. And on that note, I'm plugging in my camera battery charger and off to bed. Let's hope I can get a real night's sleep for once, be back soon!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

i'd like to thank the academy ;)

but really I am so honored! The lovely Fitzalan over at Sweetsandsweats has given me my very first blog award. Thank you so very much girlie! I began reading food blogs only about a year ago when I stumbled upon Cristin´s Eat Like Me blog on the Self mag website. Thank God I did! Just by expanding my blog palate, if you will, I opened myself up to countless support and foodie news and thus, the entire experience has given me more than I ever could have hoped for. This blogosphere is and has always been such a comforting environment of smart, fun, and talented bloggers... so much so that when I discovered an opportunity to join I didn´t hesitate for a moment. I haven´t been around for long, yet each post comes with sweet comments and insightful questions, how lucky am I?! I appreciate every single one and this entire experience has been so rewarding because of it. This is for you, readers! :)
Alrighty then, here are the rules: (1) Put the logo on your blog (2) Add a link to the person who awarded you (3) Nominate at least seven other blogs (4) Add links to those blogs on your blog (5) Leave a message for your nominee on their blog.

And without further aideau here are my fabulous nominees and a few of my personal favorites from the blogroll: Emma at Gliding Calm, Linds at Coffee, Chocolate, Kitchen, Caroline at The Broccoli Hut, Jenna at Eat Live Run, Kate at Winning Friends with Salad, the infamous Chocolate Covered Vegan, and last but certainly not least, Sarah at Our Kitchen Adventures.

I can relate so well to each and every one of you, and you are always an inspiration! You all most definitely deserve some recognition!


P.S. and F.Y.I. (If you haven´t heard so already) I'm so sorry I haven't been able to post recently... I really have been itching to and I have so many new pictures, foods, and stories to show and tell you about! Nonetheless I am currently on my traveling seminar sans my laptop. Once I move in with my host family, a new post is first on my list of things to do, I promise, promise, promise! Thanks for your patience :)