Cooking and Booking IV

Although I’ve already checked off my 30 books and 30 recipes before turning 30, I am keeping up my “cooking and booking” post series, as a way to easily find these recipes when I want to make them again, and because who can’t use more book and food recs? One slight change: Rather than logging ALL the new recipes I try out, I am only going to post recipes that were good enough that I have made them multiple times or plan to do so. Any recipe below has my hearty recommendation! As for the books, I am continuing to list all of the books I read with no particular rating or recommendation, just a tl;dr book summary in parentheses. Enjoy!

Here are the recipes! The first three I made for a tapas party.

31. Easy Spicy Pork Meatballs, from Pinch and Swirl

32. Gambas Al Ajillo, from Genius Kitchen

33. Chickpea and Spinach Stew, from Food & Wine

34. Easy Slow Cooker Pulled Pork, from Chowhound

35. Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, from Food Network

… and the books!

31. Beth Kobliner, Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance in Your Twenties and Thirties. (Want to adult like a pro? Get this book.)

32. Daniel Branch, Kenya: Between Hope and Despair, 1963-2011. (Postcolonial Kenyan history. Title sounds overly dramatic and pessimistic, but I recommend it.)

33. Markus Zusak, The Book Thief. (WWII historical fiction. Probably my second favorite in that category, after All the Light We Cannot See.)

34. Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy. (Nonfiction/memoir. Young lawyer helps free an innocent man from death row in Alabama and highlights the injustices in our justice system.)

35. Emma Straub, The Vacationers. (A book for the beach. Or a book for the winter when you hate winter and wish you were at the beach.)

 

For more recipes and books, see Cooking and Booking III.

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[Away from] Home for the Holidays: Reflections on Christmases Spent Across Oceans

Some memories, in pictures and words, from Christmases spent in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France; Fez, Morocco; and Kisumu, Kenya. One month past Christmas isn’t too late for a Christmas post, is it? 🙂

As countless Christmas songs and Hallmark movies remind us, home is the place to be for the holidays. “For the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home.” And yeah, you kind of can’t. Without baking Christmas cookies with my grandmother at her house, without hanging stockings over my parents’ fireplace, and without my mother’s Christmas Eve beef wellington feast or our annual Christmas morning family brunch after transforming the living room into a sea of wrapping paper, Christmas just doesn’t feel quite like Christmas. But we all grow up, and maybe we live overseas for a time, or we get married and have a whole new second family to split holiday time with. I’ve spent three out of the past nine Christmases far, far away from my home town. Something felt a little off about those three Christmases… and yet, not in a bad way, for they have remained my most memorable Christmases. There’s no place like home for the holidays, and there’s also no place like not home for the holidays.

Christmas 2009 in Nord-Pas-de-Calais, France

There was a frosty train ride north from Paris. There was a buche de Noel cake, log shaped and hiding tiny treasures, and festive table settings made by my host family’s kids. Their grandmother cooked all day and we ate like kings, and the kids put their shoes out at night to be filled with candy and gifts by morning. We made a snowman and came inside and the grandmother made us the most amazing hot chocolate I have ever had. It tasted like a scrumptious Swiss chocolate bar melted straight into a cup of hot cream, and maybe that’s what it was. There was a walk through a grove of snow-decked pine trees to midnight mass at a tiny old stone church. And there were World War I monuments rising out of fields still pockmarked with the craters of century-old shells.

Christmas 2014 in Fez, Morocco

There were twinkling strings of lights on orange trees across the border in Ceuta, Spain. There was a university strike in Tetouan, doors barricaded and guarded by students, classes cancelled, and a sudden day off on December 25th. There was a bus ride through rolling mountains, through blue Chefchaouen, to Fez, where the air was icy cold but indoors it was toasty warm and we cooked pasta and exchanged gifts while Handel’s Messiah played in the background. There’s no Christmas in Morocco, but there was for the six or seven of us in that dar in the Fez Medina. There were roof terrace views, mountains in the distance, walks through winding medina paths dodging donkey carts and tea kettles and leather goods, and a cozy fire in the Ruined Garden Cafe.

Christmas 2017 in Kisumu, Kenya

There was a road trip from Eldoret to Kericho to Kisumu, big family piled into two cars, stopping for tea and mandazi and scenic overlooks along the way. Family outings are a common way of celebrating Christmas in Kenya. “Like the first Christmas,” my grandfather, a pastor, said. “Think about it. Everyone was on the road.” The national park was full to capacity, with lines stretching far out the gate, so we skipped it. We took a boat ride on Lake Victoria and ate whole grilled tilapia with ugali and sukumawiki on a hilltop overlooking the lake. It was eighty plus degrees and felt like July. On the drive home, everyone was out, happy people walking along the side of the road, kids in fancy new Christmas outfits, young men who’d done a little too much partying, and families like ours heading home. Everyone outside on the road under the moon on that warm, warm Christmas night.

Cooking and Booking III

Well, I can officially check goals #9 AND 10 off my 30 before 30 list! Since making the list, I have cooked 30+ new recipes and read 30+ new books.

I’ve already listed 30 recipes in previous blog posts, but here are a few additional recipes that I’ve recently discovered and fallen in love with. These are seriously good and have officially made it into my regular recipe rotation!

 

And now for the books:

21. Fredrik Backman, A Man Called Ove. (Lonely, grumpy old man finds joy and a reason to go on living. Will seriously warm your heart.)

22. Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See. (My favorite book in the gigantic category that is WWII fiction.)

23. Brock Clarke, An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England. (Comments on the back claimed this book was “funny” so I feel like I should warn you that it was actually a lot darker than I expected.)

24. Paula Hawkins, The Girl on the Train. (Dark psychological thriller. Reminded me a lot of Gone Girl.)

25. Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar. (A young woman’s mental breakdown. Probably semi-autobiographical. Definitely brilliantly written.)

26. J. D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy. (Memoir. Reflections on growing up in rural white working-class America.)

27. Paul Fleischman, Seedfolks. (A community garden brings a neighborhood together. Kid lit, but I think every adult should read this one too.)

28. Garth Stein, How Evan Broke His Head. (Father reunited with long-lost teenage son. Coming to terms with secrets he’s kept inside for years.)

29. Sarah Gruen, Water For Elephants. (Drama and intrigue in an early 20th century American traveling circus.)

30. Kennedy Odede and Jessica Posner, Find Me Unafraid. (Nonfiction/Memoir. Overcoming adversity and working for social justice and community empowerment in Kibera.)

And a bonus: The book I’m currently reading, which by the way I highly recommend to anyone and everyone in my (millennial) life stage…

31. Beth Kobliner, Get a Financial Life: Personal Finance In Your Twenties And Thirties. (Title says it all.)

 

Check out Cooking and Booking I and Cooking and Booking II for more recipes and books, and My 30 Before 30 List for the idea behind these posts.

What to eat in Barbados?!

The hubs and I took a trip to Barbados this summer, thanks to an incredibly cheap ticket (shoutout, secretflying.com) and the fact that neither of us needed a visa to go there. More pictures coming soon, but for starters, I absolutely have to do a food post. We ate very well in Barbados, and managed to keep most of our meals in the $5-$10 per person range. Food can be surprisingly expensive in Barbados, so if you’re traveling on a budget, definitely check out these places! And let me know if you’re planning a trip there and looking for a place to stay, because I would 1000% recommend our airbnb host. The majority of these food recs came from him. Foods we tried for the first time on this trip included marlin, dolphin, flying fish, breadfruit, macaroni pie, ackee, and coucou.

Tender, savory ribs at a rum shop called Kermitt’s Bar, where everything is painted green, from the walls to the tables to the pickup truck:

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Ackee fruit from a roadside vendor:

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Fresh fried marlin and breadfruit near Bridgetown at Baxter’s Road, which used to be the hot fish fry spot before Oistins. The fish here was cheaper and in my opinion possibly even better than Oistins!

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For a mid-afternoon coffee and dessert pick-me-up, Graeme Hall Nature Sanctuary has a cafe with lovely outdoor seating, boasting beautiful views and some overly friendly ducks.

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Cuz’s Fish Shack on Pebbles Beach is the place to go for delicious fish cutters (sandwiches). The perfect beach lunch! We went back for seconds!

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In St. Lawrence Gap, we found opportunities to take in gorgeous ocean views while sampling Barbados’ own Mount Gay rum in the form of drinks you can really only ever order at the beach.

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And around sunset in St. Lawrence Gap, grills and red umbrellas suddenly appear, and you can get an amazingly delicious “gap burger” for $5, grilled for you right there. We’ve since tried to recreate this burger on our own grill back home!

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While strolling around St. Lawrence Gap in the evening, we wandered into this jazz bar, Scoopie’s, drawn in by the sound of live music. We loved it! Definitely recommend.

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The fish shacks at Oistins are of course a must. We had dolphin at Mo’s. Sadly, we left on a Friday morning and missed the famous Friday night fish fry, when Oistins gets much more crowded and lively, so I hear. I guess we’ll just have to come back!

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Sharing the Bajan herb chicken, a salad, and macaroni pie at BBQ Barn in Rockley:

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We started our mornings with egg cutters on Bajan salt bread, followed by walks to The Coffee Bean, a coffee shop with this lovely view just outside:

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And finally, coucou and stew just before heading to the airport:

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We had flying fish cutters at the airport before boarding our flight. Not the best flying fish I’m sure, but they were yummy and we couldn’t leave Barbados without trying flying fish at least once, even if it was out of season!

Wandering Venice

The hubs and I spent a lovely weekend in Venice celebrating a friend’s wedding. Afterwards, we had some extra time to spend sightseeing. I originally had a whole itinerary planned, with every minute accounted for, but a last minute visa problem cut our trip shorter than we had planned. As I flipped through the guidebook trying to figure out a new itinerary, I suddenly remembered the way I used to travel: Show up and wander. Get lost. Take in all the sights and sounds and smells of the city. And so, aside from an obligatory Saint Mark’s Basilica visit, because you can’t really go to Venice for the first time and not do that, wander is what we did. We meandered though narrow streets and across bridges, no deadlines or specific destinations, just exploring Venice. And it was lovely. Here are a few snapshots. Venice is a destination we definitely plan to return to with more time to spend, but this weekend was a lovely introduction to a gorgeous city!

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So many beautiful bridges and canals everywhere!
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A gondola! No cars in Venice. Walking and boating are how you get around.

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Saint Mark’s Square: Eternally packed with tourists, but if you want an empty plaza for picture-taking, try going before eight or nine in the morning: it’ll be surprisingly calm and empty.

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Charming little courtyard where our hotel was located. Breakfast on the terrace was a lovely way to start the day.
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Canal-side dining on the Fondamenta della Misericordia. Spaghetti al nero di seppia, spaghetti with cuttlefish and a sauce made from cuttlefish ink, is a Venetian culinary specialty. Although it may sound strange, I promise you it’s delicious! Try it!
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Brightly colored glass dishes, jewelry, and decor, made on the Venetian island of Murano, are on display in countless shop windows in Venice. Glass earrings and coffee were the two souvenirs I chose to bring home. (Mmm… the coffee… don’t even get me started on the coffee.)

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Cooking and Booking II

Woohoo! I can check Goal #10 off my “30 before 30” list, and I’m two thirds of the way to Goal #9! Since making the list last summer, I’ve cooked 30 new recipes and read 20 books. For the first 10 recipes and books, see this post. And here are the latest!

Recipes #11-30

* = yuck, ** = meh, *** = okay but nothing special, **** = pretty good, will probably make again, ***** = yum, yum, delish, will definitely make again

11. Couscous with spiced zucchini, from Epicurious ****

12. Cheddar Chive Drop Biscuits, from The Pioneer Woman ****

13. Mussels in White Wine and Garlic Sauce, from food.com *****

14. Red Lentil Curry, from allrecipes ****

15. Tomato Herb Rice with White Beans and Spinach, from Budget Bytes *****

16. Classic Beef Stroganoff, from Betty Crocker ****

17. Chocolate Hazelnut Spirals, from my grandmother, similar to this recipe *****

18. Baked Brie in Puff Pastry, from food.com. I used apple butter instead of raspberry preserves. *****

19. Chicken Tikka Masala, from food.com. I reduced the pepper and used half and half instead of heavy cream. *****

20. Chana Masala, from Minimalist Baker. I used fewer peppers and replaced the coconut sugar with regular sugar. *****

21. Lobster Risotto, from NYT Cooking *****

22. Spicy Roasted Chicken Thighs, from NYT Cooking *****

23. Salmon Burgers, from NYT Cooking *** (Flavorful but fell apart)

24. Asparagus, Goat Cheese, and Lemon Pasta, from Smitten Kitchen ***

25. Boeuf Bourguignon a la Julia Child, from food.com *****

26. Picadillo, from NYT Cooking.*****

27. Falafel, from Epicurious ****

28. Hummus, from NYT Cooking *****

29. Mushroom Risotto with Peas, from NYT Cooking *****

30. Monterrey Chicken Skillet, from Budget Bytes ****

 

Books #11-20

11. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Half of a Yellow Sun. (Nigeria. Biafra War. Love affairs. Impossible to put down.)

12. Gary Chapman, The Five Love Languages. (Really wise marriage advice.)

13. Haruki Murakami, What I Think About When I Think About Running. (Will inspire you to get out there and finish those distance runs.)

13. Mai Al-Nakib, The Hidden Light of Objects. (Kuwait. Short stories. Heart-wrenchingly beautiful.)

14. Pam Munoz Ryan, Esperanza Rising. (Kid lit. History. Mexico and California. Immigration story. Coming of age.)

15. Binyavanga Wainaina, One Day I Will Write About This Place. (Memoir. Kenya. Occasional stream of consciousness.)

16. Janet Wallach, Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell. (History. Herstory.  The Middle East.)

17. Thomas Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem. (Lebanese Civil War. Israeli-Palestinian conflict. History book meets journalist’s memoir.)

18. Marjane Satrapi, Persepolis. (Graphic novel. Autobiography. Young girl growing up in Iran in the 1980s.)

19. Atul Gawande, Complications: A Surgeon’s Notes on an Imperfect Science. (Inside the mind of a surgical resident. Doctors as humans. Challenges and difficult decisions in medicine.)

20. John Grisham, The Whistler. (You think you’re too sophisticated for this one, but you secretly know you’re not.)

My Two Favorite Recipe Hacks

In the spirit of goal #10 on my 30 before 30 list, here I am in the kitchen again! These are not recipes of my own, but rather, two easy and fast adjustments to recipes that already exist.

(1) Rosemary Cheddar Biscuits

Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of dried rosemary to the Food Network’s “Almost-Famous Cheddar Biscuits” before the kneading stage. I promise you, the rosemary will take them from almost famous to most definitely famous. These are easy to make and always a big hit.

(2) Best Ever Scrambled Eggs

Follow whatever method of egg scrambling you typically use, and just add a little bit of cream cheese when the eggs are almost done. Ta-da, the loveliest creamiest scrambled eggs you’ve ever tasted. Seriously, cream cheese, the secret ingredient to perfect scrambled eggs.