armadillas


Fenway

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The first time I ever tried kimbap was in a hair salon. No joke. Sure, this isn’t the usual place one may expect to chow down on this Korean rice dish, but to be fair we were expecting to be at the salon for several hours and beauty requires energy. You see, when my cousin and I were in high school we went through this period of getting out naturally curly hair straightened. I can’t remember why. I guess it was hip or something, which was a shame really because curls run in the family and now that I’m an adult I better appreciate their beauty. But we were kids and our mothers may have had something to do with it. Her own mother being Korean, we always made a long drive a few towns over to get to the Korean salon (and honestly they do hair the best; I’ve tried the Brazilian treatments and would go Korean/Japanese in a heartbeat). Anyway, so that’s how I came to discover the magnificence that is kimbap, sitting on a leather couch in the middle of a Korean run salon while I watched my cousin’s thick curls be flattened out to straight perfection. It was love at first bite.

Now kimbap isn’t as easy to come by as one might think. Korean doesn’t seem quite as popular as Chinese takeout, but I’ve managed to find a few holes in the wall. Even better is making friends with someone that can make kimbap. I’ve attempted to make it myself a few times, following recipes quite miserably. But Friday night all that changed when I went over to a coworker’s apartment for lessons. And you know what? It really is not that hard.

Since it was a lesson and I was at a friend’s place, I didn’t document the process as well as I could have, but hopefully you find what I do have to be helpful.

Ingredients:

Seaweed sheets
Sticky rice
Cucumber
Spam (I usually eat it with imitation crab strips)
Egg
Daikon (pickled radish)

Really, you can put whatever you like in your kimbap, but I think the usual ingredients include daikon, egg, spam/crab, bulgogi, cucumber, carrot, maybe some spinach. We didn’t use all these things in my lesson.

Make up some sticky rice. I’m not 100 % sure how to do this, but my friend said it was better than using sushi rice.

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Fry your egg and spam, then slice them into long strips. Slice your veggies into long strips as well.

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If you’re not a professional sushi or kimbap roller, a recommend using a bamboo mat to make your rolls. Spread the rice out thinly over a seaweed sheet, rough side up.

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Line the end closest to you with your fillings. Using the bamboo mat as a guide,  roll everything together. This may be awkward at first but you’ll get the hang of it!

And that’s it. Keep rolling them slice it up into bite size pieces. Yumm

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Share with the dog if you feel so obliged

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Ahhhhhhh would be the appropriate response

There are many occasions in life that require a little comfort food. I mean, come on! Is there anything that comfort food can’t cheer away for a bit? I think not! It’s good for a rainy day, a sucky day, a remembering day- you get the picture. Comfort food is also AMAZING at calming nerves. It’s like going out for ice cream because you scraped your knee only ten times better.

Today I’m in need of something comforting in my belly because right now my belly is full of nerves. I’m so stressed and distraught, I keep pacing the house like a lunatic. In a minute I’ll be cleaning. That’s the kind of serious I’m feeling right about now. See, I’m quitting my job. Yup, saying good-bye to income. It’s only a little restaurant job that helped me get through college, but I’ve been there so long I feel like my soul is slowly being sucked out. In other words, I’m miserable. I’m beyond miserable. I’m so unhappy there, just thinking about going back in makes my stomach churn. Not exactly a good sign. When life puts you in a situation like this, the only thing to do is follow your gut and remove yourself from that situation. Your gut knows more than you would think.

So I’m taking the bulls by the horn, taking some risks, and am leaving. What’s my next move? TEACHING! I have a degree in Spanish Language and Literature. There is absolutely no reason for me to hold on to a job that is unappreciative. Life isn’t about holding on to safe fall-backs. It’s about challenging yourself, seeing what you can accomplish, and throwing safe out the window! It’s about living, and right now that is not what I’m doing. Today I submitted my application to two school districts. Tomorrow I might do a third as well. No more being afraid to take a chance and see what happens. Plus, I really do love Spanish (and really enjoy grammar)! Why not put my degree to use and share my knowledge. It makes total sense. Who would’ve thought…

Which brings us back to comfort food. What I’m doing right now is seriously risky for me. Between paying back my student loans and other life occurrences that pop up, I can’t afford to go without a job. But I’d rather bet all my ducks and be happy, then feel the way I have been feeling over the past month. It’s not worth it. Besides, I feel pretty confident about my applications. Stay positive! And that’s why I’m making rice and beans for dinner. I love rice. No matter what style, it’s at the top of my list of foods I wouldn’t want to live without. The first time I had rice and beans, I thought I was in heaven, which is rather appropriate since I was at a potluck at my dad’s church. There was definitely some divine intervention at play.

I’ve never made rice and beans before. And today I cheated by buying store bought sofrito (which inspired me to make rice and beans as my comfort food in the first place). I didn’t use beans either, but substituted frozen peas. Next time, I would also like to cook the rice with chicken broth/stock instead of water. I think it will give it a richer flavor. You know what? The dish I came ended up with probably should even be called rice and beans? But it wasn’t too bad. Room for improvement, but a keeper nonetheless. I really can’t wait to make it better though. Have I mentioned how much I LOVE LOVE LOVE rice and beans…

Ingredients:

1 cup rice
1 cup water
2 tablespoons sofrito
1 package sazon
1/2 cup tomato sauce
1/2 cup frozen peas

Spoon the sofrito into a sauce pan. I kept mine on medium heat. If a certain someone broke your measuring spoon the other day, just eyeball it with a regular spoon

Add the tomato sauce

And the sazon (perhaps some chicken bouillon would be good here too if you don’t have any broth on hand)

As the sauce begins to bubble, hurry up and toss in your peas. Give everything a good stir

Finally, mix in your rice and water (or chicken broth if you choose to follow my sound advice)

Wow, so easy! Bring your rice mixture to a boil. Then turn the heat down to low, cover, and let simmer for 20 minutes. DO NOT REMOVE THE LID! There’s no need to stir. Just let everything cook together. Have some faith. When your boyfriend walks in and lift the lid quicker then you can shout STOP, hit him out of the kitchen with a wooden spoon. Amateurs…always needing to stir and shake things that don’t need shaking or stirring. Hmph!

After 20 minutes, your arroz con gandules will be nice and fluffy. Some of it might stick to the bottom a little bit. That’s okay. Give it a big turn with your wooden spoon and serve

I cooked up some chicken marinaded in mojo, too. And some corn on the cob. Mmmm. Have I told you the secret of boiled corn on the cob yet? Adding sugar to your water. Like my mama taught me, ha!


Crazy curls

Guess who just went grocery shopping for only 80 bucks! Uh huh, that’s right! Way to shop on a budget.

Also, check out my mini harvest. My garden  may not be doing so hot this year, but it sure is exciting to go out there and pick a few things from the yard

Also, yesterday my dad took me to a Puerto Rican restaurant called La Palmera. Funny story is we’ve been meaning to go for nearly ten years now. Better late than never I guess.  We ordered the Pollo Frito, which came with rice and beans. Oh, how I love Puerto Rican rice and beans. My dad gave me a recipe sent from a friend of his and I’m determined to master it. I also tried their beef and cheese empanadas, which was pretty good. Dad order me a pastel to take home and try to. I can’t say I was the biggest fan of the pastel, but it wasn’t too bad.

I wasn’t expecting actual fried chicken when the menu said pollo frito, but I probably should have. It was still pretty good. The beans weren’t too shabby either

I think my dad said you could eat the banana leaf wrapping, buuuuut I didn’t really care for it. Anyway, now that there’s food in the house, I’m going to have to get creative with some recipes these next couple weeks. I bought mostly meat. I love my veggies, but I LOVE my meat. Maybe I’ll become a butcher one day. Could you imagine it? I’ll call my shop Hot Chops and paint the sign bright pink! I’m sure it would be a hit.Tonight my friends are coming over and cooking some curry. I think I might pull some fish out for tomorrow. It’s been awhile since I’ve tried my hand at fish. I wish I had some mussels! I just discovered not too long ago how much I like mussels. Clams not so much…

 


Oh, Costa Rica

Today was one of those rainy days. I live on the east coast and tropical depression Beryl (is that what it’s called) made its presence known. The sky was grey, rain pattered against my window nonstop, and my yard was flooded. Obviously, I decided it was a good idea to stay in. But my day was far from dreary. There are so many wonderful things you can do on a rainy day. For example, you can snuggle in bed with that book you’ve been meaning to finish for over a month now. Or you can curl up on the couch and watch a new movie from Redbox. Best of all, you can take a nice hot shower and then spend the rest of the afternoon walking around the house naked. Rainy days are rad!

(A market in Heredia)

What is my favorite part of rainy days, you ask? Stick-to-your-ribs food! You know what I’m talking about. The kind of food that speaks to your soul. Like chili. Like banana french toast. Like baked ziti. Like arroz con pollo- that’s rice with chicken for those of you unfamiliar. Ah, arroz con pollo! What a relationship the two of us have. You see, a couple years ago I spent part of my summer studying abroad in Costa Rica. Though I had the opportunity to experience some pretty tasty dishes (had the best fish I’ve ever tried), it would be a lie to say that my meals were varied. If I never see gallo pinto again as long as I shall live…I will die most satisfied. Arroz con pollo was a rather prominent guest in my diet that month as well. For the longest time, I’ll admit, I was pretty keen on leaving arroz con pollo in Costa Rica where it belongs. But all this rain today has reminded me of that summer down down south in Central America (June is part of their wet season- it rained every afternoon like clockwork) and arroz con pollo tugged a little on my heart strings

(This is gallo pinto with toast, fruit, and coffee)

Now, the recipe I’m about to share is not authentic arroz con pollo. It’s an easy concoction I whipped up with ingredients I already had on hand. I’m not above using substitutions and taking shortcuts. It makes things a little more interesting!

(My mamatica served some bomb guacamole on the side of her arroz con pollo!)

Ingredients:

  • Skinless, boneless chicken tenderloins
  • Mojo marinade
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 Green bell pepper
  • 1 Red bell pepper
  • 1 Onion
  • 1 tbsp minced garlic
  • 2 pks Sazon
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked rice
  • 1 can diced/crushed tomatoes
  • 1 bay leaf

Marinate chicken in Mojo. This step isn’t really necessary. If you like, you can just season your chicken with salt and pepper. But this entry is about using what you have on hand and I just so happened to have some unused mojo in my fridge. So I popped that bad boy open!

Meanwhile, chop bell peppers, onion, and garlic. I cheat and use pre-minced garlic. Saves me a little time and my hands don’t smell for days. Try not to slice your thumb off, which is exactly what I tried to do. Fortunately, I was not successful and a band-aid saved the day

Drizzle olive oil into a deep pan, preferably a dutch oven of sorts, set on medium-high. Toss in your chopped veggies and garlic and listen to them sing! Cook until everything starts to soften

Then add salt, pepper, and the 2 packages of Sazon (which can be found in the International or Mexican aisle of your local grocery store). This is what it looks like

Now add the marinaded chicken, cubed into bite size pieces. If you like, you can precook the chicken and shred it into the pot

Once the chicken looks about halfway cooked, add the can of tomatoes. At this point, you can also add the bay leaf

Pour in the wine and let bubble for a few minutes. Next, add the chicken broth. Bring to a roiling boil. Now add the rice

Finally, turn heat to low. Cover your pot and leave it alone for 25-30 minutes. Now, I know you’re going to be tempted to check on your little pot of gold, but it’s best if you don’t. This is because once you open that lid, you’re going to be tempted to stir everything together. That would be bad. That would be very bad. Stirring will not give you good arroz con pollo. It will give you sticky arroz con pollo- that’s sticky rice with chicken…not quite what we’re going for here. So, step away from the pot, head toward the living room, and watch the latest episode of Girls. Have a glass of some leftover wine while you’re at it!

See?! And you doubted me. Well, go ahead. You can give it a little stir now. Then scoop yourself a bowl and continue your afternoon HBO marathon. Bring on the next rainy day (probably tomorrow)!

Pura Vida!

Tijuana