Tag Archives: food

Embassy Days Part 2: Shortcut to Europe

12 May

After last week’s awesome meanderings around the world, I couldn’t wait for this weekend’s adventure: Europe. We started early and on the outskirts so we beat the crowds. Our itinerary centered around food and dogs – the two most important things in life


Egg artists

At our first stop we were greeted with tiny cups of delicious food and wine. At first we were leery of the sauerkraut, potatoes and bacon but it was perfect. As we pined for more, we wandered around the airy rooms admiring the tables of glossy travel brochures and displays of traditional costumes and modern art.

I really enjoyed looking at the decorated eggs. One woman used a technique, which my family had actually tried at Easter this year, where she used a razor to etch a continuous design around the egg. The woman said she had learned from her parents and practiced for years (seven?).


Austria was chosen because the promotional materials promised apple strudel demonstration. We didn’t see the demonstration by sampled some nice flaky pastry and juice from an Austrian fruit that I can’t remember – Red Bull and coffee were also available.

Live musicians played and little girls in dresses twirled around the room. Keeping with the food theme of the day, we tasted cold-pressed pumpkin seed oil.

Sugared and caffeinated, we boarded a shuttle and traveled to our next country.

Czech Republic

The Czech Republic had the most extensive and detailed presentation,  all centered around the theme of movie. Apparently, many films —including big Hollywood blockbusters such as the “Bourne Identity” and “Mission Impossible”— have been filmed in the Czech Republic. I was excited to recognize “Closely Watched Trains,” a film from my European cinema class, on a poster.

As we walked up to the embassy, a youth choir was singing (some of them had been on the Metro with us). Then, a comedic Renaissance stage combat team demonstrated different types of fighting including swordsmanship.

And, of course, I must tell you about the food we sampled: The Bohemian spa wafers reminded me of a flat, fancy sugar ice cream cone (but in a good way – there were flavors like hazelnut). We also tried kolaches, traditional Czech pastries, from Bistro Bohem, the only Czech restaurant in DC. Mine was kind of like a pudding, but again, in a good way.


Cute summary of embassy days: younger generations carrying on traditions and teaching others

So my favorite stop of the day was of course Hungary because of the kutya – dogs! I was so excited that as soon as I chomped my way through a pretzel-type thing and made my way through security, I strode determinedly through to the embassy and didn’t stop until I found a dog.

In a room across the patio, I man had a friendly long-haired dachshund and I asked if I could pet it. Content, though slightly disappointed that that was the extent of the dog experience,  I continued down the steps and out into the embassy’s backyard and saw the most glorious sight: dogs, several of them, running around. Before I had asked a random guest to pet his dog but now I had found the real deal.

I had seen vizslas , the Hungarian hunting dog, on Animal Planet but never in person.  Their playful energy and rust-golden coat and matching eyes hooked me instantly. One super friendly sweetie covered my face in wet-tongue kisses and then tried to sit in my lap.

Talking to the dog’s owner, she told me the butt-to-owner position is a common stance for vizslas. She thought it was unique to her dog but at an event with other vizslas she saw dozens of other dogs doing it as well. They like to see what’s going on around them while staying close to you.

In addition to the vizsla, Hungary is known for the puli, a herding breed that bears a remarkable resemblance to a mop (or, as you might remember from the beer commercial, a head full of dreadlocks).


After I had fulfilled my doggie needs, my friends and I headed down to the most concentrated cluster of embassies in DC. We wanted to go to Belgium for the chocolate, but the line was too long. We wanted to go to Finland, but the line was too long. All of the embassies had lines that rivaled those of popular Disney rides during peak tourist season.

At that point, I gave up. My feet were tired and it was hot. There’s always next year.


Community Clam Chowder

8 Nov
clam chowder

The first meal I prepared for my community

Here in DC, I live in an intentional community with other Catholic volunteers. We live simply and take turns doing chores and cooking dinner — and tonight it was my turn.

When my parents moved me up last week, it was ridiculously cold so my mom scribbled down her clam chowder recipe for me.  It was my first time making it, but it turned out alright. Yesterday I peeled and cubed the potatoes, cried my way through cutting the onions and simmered it all together before letting it sit in the fridge over night. After work I took it out of the fridge and slowly warmed it up while I prepared a salad and cut up our donate bread.

Here’s my mom’s recipe, should you want to make something to warm yourself up.


2 bottles of clam juice

2 cans of whole baby clams

1 can evaporated milk

3 cups of milk

1 medium onion (chopped)

3 to 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

3 heaping tablespoons of cornstarch

butter – just enough to brown onion

optional: celery


Brown onion in butter. When soft and lightly brown. Add clam juice from bottles and drain from canned clams. Add potatoes. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are soft. Add clams. In a separate bowl, add the milk and cornstarch, stir well to mix/dissolve before adding to pot. Add can of evaporated milk. Lower heat and simmer for 1-2 hours. Cool before putting in fridge.

Best if made the day or two before. Reheat slowly (stir frequently) so milk does not burn. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Just a note: If you hear your housemates screaming while you’re reheating and stirring, take the pot off the stove and don’t be gone long...even if a rat has two of your friends trapped on top of one chair.

Pasta …for breakfast?

17 Sep
Dr. Oz's fat burning noodle pudding

Today's breakfast

This morning I made Dr. Oz’s Fat Burning noodle pudding for breakfast (OK, brunch. I slept in). My non-breakfast-eating dad described it as “tolerable’ while my mother thought it was heavy on the cinnamon and doubted she cold eat it every morning.

I thought it was pretty good. But I had halved the recipe at my parents suggestion and didn’t reduce the cooking time, so I wonder if it’s supposed to be creamier. I will be digging into the leftovers tomorrow.

Dr. Oz introduced this recipe on his show this week as part of his suggestions to burn belly fat.  His advice is to eat most of your carbs before noon so that you can burn them off during the day (My mom’s friend received similar advice for her diabetes). Oz created this high-carb breakfast of whole wheat pasta, Greek yogurt, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla and dried fruit.

It was pretty easy to make, but I definitely recommend breaking the pasta before putting it in the boiling water. My rookie mistake made for messy serving and eating.

While I was cooking it, I started brainstorming some variations:

  • Apple – Use fresh or dried apples (probably more than recipe requires) and it would be like having apple pie for breakfast.
  • Pumpkin – Take out the vanilla, reduce the Greek yogurt and add a little pumpkin – yay for vitamin A and  beta carotene!  Exchange some of the cinnamon for pumpkin pie spice.
  • “Baklava” – Swap the vanilla for honey and the dried fruit for nuts.

While poking around the Dr. Oz website, I found a recipe for “The Sleep Doctor’s Slim Sleep Smoothie.” I frequently have trouble falling asleep and require a snack before bed, so last night I made the smoothie.  I liked the taste of the tart cherry and while I can’t definitively attribute my sleepiness to the smoothie, it certainly didn’t hurt my journey to dreamland.

In Orlando area, the Dr. Oz show airs weekdays at 4 p.m. on WFTV Channel 9, the ABC affiliate. Everyone else can check their local listing here.

Krispy Kremes, hot off the rollers

1 Sep

Today I had my first hot Krispy Kreme doughnut. It was so fresh, I watched it go through the glazer.

Krispy Kremes go through the glazer

My doughnut getting glazed

My friend Maggie and I happened to be in the vicinity of a Krispy Kreme, and each time we drove past it, she wold get a glazed look in eye and would glance over to see if the “Hot Doughnuts” light was on. Alas, it never was. But when I told her I’d never had the doughnuts hot and that we had time to kill, she did a U-turn to head back to the doughnut shop. It was worth a shot.

When we walked in, we could see the fried balls of dough rolling down the conveyor belt. These  doughnuts were destined to be filled with creme or jelly, so they were solid instead of the classic ring shape. So determined to have hot doughnuts, Maggie asked if we could have some of the fresh ones, just without filling.  The cashier was amicable and ran our half dozen through the glazer herself.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts

Our half-dozen (minus the one in Maggie's mouth)

Back in the car, we enjoyed our warm, sugary treats. While it was a truly magical taste experience, I think I prefer my Krispy Kremes to be room temperature so that the glaze sets.

When it comes to the great debate of Dunkin’ Donuts vs. Krispy Kremes, I stand with the team of green, white and red. The doughnuts from Dunkin’ are too thick and cakey (though I do love their bagels). A Krispy Kreme, on the other hand, will simply melt in my mouth. It’s actually kind of dangerous because I could easily eat several.

What are your doughnut preferences?

Oreo cheesecake balls

14 Aug

Spending a long, hot summer day with 100 kids can be really draining, so the counselors at my camp tend to turn to afternoon treats as a pick-me-up.

Friday Miss Hannah brought some delicious little “Oreo cheesecake balls.” I have several friends whom I thought would really enjoy the treats, so I asked her if I could get the recipe sometime.  I expected to exchange email addresses or receive a photocopy at work on Monday, but instead, she just leaned over and wrote the recipe out, “It’s so easy!”

And she was right. Here are the ones I made for my birthday girls:

oreo cheesecake balls

All you need is one package of Oreos, one 8-ounce package of cream cheese (I used neufchatel but kind of wish I had used regular), and two pacakges of  Baker’s Chocolate (I only had one and when I ran out had to switch to Almond Bark. Moral of the story: Buy two packages of Baker’s).

Open the package of cream cheese and put the block in a big bowl. While the cheese softens, crush the Oreos into fine crumbs (I used a little food chopper). Dump almost all the crumbs into the bowl with the cheese, saving about half a cup as garnish.

It was at this point that I thought, “How am I going to get ALL these crumbs inside this little package of cheese?” and “This little package of cheese is not going to make many balls.” Boy, was I wrong.

But moving on: Assuming you washed your hands before you started cooking, use them to mix the crumbs in with the cheese — that’s right, lots of squishing and mushing. When it’s thoroughly blended, roll the mixture into little balls. Melt the chocolate by following the directions on the package. Dip the little balls into the hot chocolate and then place on a wax paper-covered cookie sheet. Sprinkle the tops with more Oreo crumbs and then pop the sheet in the fridge to harden.

Covering the balls with chocolate was the hardest part for me. Sometimes they would break apart, so I’d have to fish them out and just eat them then. I found they stayed together better if they sat in the fridge or freezer for a few minutes before getting dunked. [BTW: If you’re ever going to throw a chocolate fondue party, Oreo- and-cream cheese balls should definitely be on the menu. They taste phenomenal in warm chocolate.]

I forgot to count how many balls I made, but I would guess the recipe yielded about three dozen.On the Baker’s Chocolate website, however, I discovered an identical recipe that Kraft calls, “Easy OREO Truffles.” According to them, the recipe yields 48 1-inch balls. What can I say? I’m an inconsistent baller. The Kraft recipe also says to store the truffles in the refrigerator in an airtight container.

A neat variation would be to use white chocolate instead of regular chocolate. Ooo! Or maybe you could replace the Oreos with  Nilla wafers and some strawberry jam or pie filling for a chocolate-covered strawberry truffle.

To turn these treats into a sweet present, place them in a  small gift box lined with parchment paper and tied up with a ribbon. Colorful Chinese take-out style boxes (available at craft stores such as Michael’s) are another cute way to gift desserts.

Making crêpes

31 Jul

Crêpes are a fabulous blank canvas for breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert — think really thin pancakes with the versatility of a tortilla.

In high school, the French Club would make crêpes at home and then bring them to school sell them in the mornings before class, usually during La Semaine du Français (National French Week). When the club taught us how to make crêpes, they instructed us to flip them using our finger tips. Instead, with my mother’s help, I would pour the batter into an eight-inch pan and then after about 45 seconds I would flip it into a bigger pan for about 15 more seconds. Only with this assembly line could we crank out enough crêpes, saving our sanity and finger tips.

Street vendors and crêperies  use a special circular electric griddle and a stick, but people can use a nonstick pan at home can get theatrical and flip the crêpe in the air. On La Chandeleur (French version of Candlemas), they hold a coin in one hand and flip a crêpe in the other. If they catch the crêpe, their family will be prosperous for the rest of the year (Hey, it’s no weirder than a groundhog predicting the weather).

Anyway, I was making crêpes last night and decided to try the flipping for myself. I was hesitant because, well, I’m pretty clumsy. But I did it! Unfortunately, I had no witnesses. So when I told my mom, she offered to record it while I showed her. So here’s the proof:

My friend Stephanie came over the next morning to enjoy a delicious crêpe breakfast with my parents.

If you can make pancakes, you can make crêpes. There are tons of easy recipes online. Here’s a few tips:

  • Let the batter rest in the fridge before you use it. About an hour should be good.
  • If you’re using an eight-inch pan, only pour out a little less than 1/4 cup of batter. Immediately tilt the pan to swirl the batter around.
  • I use Pam cooking spray on the pan after every two or three crêpes to make them easier to flip.
  • Separate stacked crêpes with wax or parchment paper, or else they’ll all stick together.
  • Store crêpes in the fridge (sealed in a plastic bag) for up to about three days.
  •  Sweet crêpes have sugar in the batter and are yummy when filled with fruit, jam, Nutella, or just butter and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. “Savory” crêpes are plain and are meant to be filled with meats, cheese, eggs, etc. The batter should really only have flour, water, eggs, milk and salt or sugar. Avoid recipes calling for whipping cream or other random ingredients because that’s just too complicated/expensive.
  • Top sweet crêpes with Greek yogurt (I used vanilla on top of fresh strawberries) to add protein and calcium.

It’s all Greek to me

7 Mar

Tonight for dinner we tried  Greek Flame Taverna in Dr. Phillips. There were too many delicious choices so we split appetizers and dessert and each had a salad. If you’re wondering what these delights are (clockwise from top left) dolmades (Stuffed Grape Leaves); Psito Domata kai Feta (Baked Tomato and Feta); hazelnut baklava; and spanakopita, tiropita and kreatopita (Greek pies).