Cooking Uruguayan Style: Learning to Love the Asado.

•January 25, 2013 • 1 Comment

In Uruguay I thought I was going to get gout.  Okay maybe I am being overly slightly melodramatic, but a diet high in red meat and low in dairy is the perfect combination for gout to wrap its acidic little inflammation right around a joint (or two) and wreak havoc.  But, again, I’m being ridiculous…or maybe not.  Needless to say, due to the excessive amount of cattle in the Uruguayan countryside, we ate a ton of red meat during my stay.  We consumed everything from Chorizo (my favorite that I kept asking for repeatedly on end) to traditional asado.

So I failed miserably at taking photos of a traditional Uruguayan BBQ, but what I did get were pictures of the cooking we did at the beach (asado on the stove; cooking by candlelight) and the cooking we did in the countryside (over a makeshift fire pit with a tree trunk as our communal plate).

Asado is a type of meat – it is much tougher and fattier than you may expect (take a look at the uncooked asado meat at the top of this post).  The best way to describe it is to think of American-style ribs, they are cut vertically from the cow, so the meat is horizontal and you have a nice rectangular slab of ribs.  Asado is the same part of the cow, the ribs, but cut horizontally so the resulting meat looks like a long thin string of meat with knobs of bone.  The strip of meat is only a couple of inches wide and when cooked it is pretty tough.  Still delicious.

A grill known as "Una Parrilla"

A typical asado grill.

There is the meat ‘asado’ and then there is the act of an ‘Asado’ where an ‘asador’ cooks the meat on a grill in a large outdoor brick oven over the embers that have emerged from firewood.  Confused yet?  Notice the asado grill outside our house at the beach, Cabo Polonio.  The firewood is stacked neatly to one side where it slowly burns and as the wood turns to embers the pieces are swept under the elevated grilled to essentially “smoke” the meat until it is cooked to perfection.  It’s a very slow process that fits perfectly with the culture in Uruguay – everything takes time and nothing is rushed so you enjoy the meal complete with good company and, most likely, lots of wine.  Despite the absurd amount of meat I ate, I still loved every single bite I took and would gorge my heart out all over again.

So that wraps up my (first) trip to the Southern Hemisphere.  It was a fantastic introduction to South America and I couldn’t have done it without the help of my good friend in Uruguay!  So, thank you!  I advise your own trip soon and let me know if you go.

Unable to Resist Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes

•January 22, 2013 • 1 Comment

So it never fails, when I have a (rare) afternoon without roommates  I take full advantage of my freedom and cook!  I baked, roasted, whipped, chopped, sautéed and tasted various dishes throughout my five hour cooking marathon.  Pandora was playing in the background and every inch of the counter was being used!

On the Menu:

-Sautéed onions and peppers (enough for breakfast each morning this week)
-Quinoa (for seared quinoa cakes filled with black beans, avocado and tomato)
-Butternut Squash & Apple Soup (for lunch this week)
Chocolate Cupcakes (Paleo-style for my dairy less self)

Every now and again I look for recipe inspiration because my own repertoire of food ideas gets a bit boring and slightly redundant.  So on a lazy Sunday morning, as Bentley and I were lounging on the couch watching Law & Order reruns, I started exploring dairy free recipes.  That’s when the magic happened – I stumbled upon Elana’s Pantry.  For anyone with food allergies, I suggest checking her site out.

Now to what you really want – Cupcakes!!

It really is a simple recipe that looks a bit intimidating with all the unconventional baking ingredients, but I can assure you, it is quite simply delicious (and I am not even that big of a coconut fan)!

Paleo Chocolate Cupcakes (Gluten Free, Nut Free, Dairy Free)

Preheat Oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit // Bake for 15-18 minutes // Makes 8 Cupcakes

Necessary Components:

– 1/4 C Coconut Flour
– 1/4 C Cacao Powder
– 1/4 C Coconut Oil
– 1/3 C Honey
– 1/4 tsp Celtic Sea Salt (Not sure the difference in regular sea salt and celtic, but I used plain ol’ sea salt)
– 1/4 tsp baking soda
– 4 large eggs

Three Simple Instructions:

– In a food processor (I used a blender because my food processor would have been a bit too small), pulse the dry ingredients together.
– Add the wet ingredients and pulse together.
– Scoop 1/4 Cup (this measurement seems to be a common theme) into each muffin cup, lined or coated in olive oil.

Note: I had NO idea what to do with coconut oil or how it functions in recipes so I immediately called upon my trusted consultant, Google, to help me out.  The final verdict was – Coconut Oil has the ability to continually alter its state between solid and liquid forms without damaging the nutritional value of the oil.  Therefore, in the summer, the heat may cause it to become liquid in form whereas in the winter it may remain in its solid state.  No biggie.  Just get what you need and warm it up in the microwave.

For the frosting:

– 1 C Dark Chocolate Chips
– 1/3 C Coconut Oil
– 1 tbsp Vanilla Extract

On very low heat, heat up the dark chocolate and coconut oil.  Mix in the vanilla extract once chocolate is melted.  Once completely melted, put in the fridge for 20 or so minutes to thicken.  Using a hand blender, mix until fluffy (I failed miserably at this part and mine did NOT fluff, so instead I used the icing as a glaze.  Still turned out pretty darn well.)

Warning: Proceed with culinary caution as these may result in complete obsession.  Enjoy!

Las Sierras de Minas: Villa Serrana.

•January 20, 2013 • 3 Comments

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That’s me, just snapping away, trying to balance taking photos to remember the scenery and actually soaking up the gorgeous views of the hillside.  If only all my problems were that simple…

It is always nice to go visit a local, especially in foreign country.  It is even  nicer to visit a friend who has a car to take you to places you may not otherwise get a chance to see.  And that’s exactly what we were able to do.  A few of us hopped in the truck and took Route 8 straight out of Montevideo through Minas to Villa Serrana.  According the the 2011 census, there are 89 people that call Villa Serrana home (similar to the 95 people residing year-round in Cabo Polonio).  Villa Serrana is located in the Lavalleja Department of Uruguay, which is just west of la Rocha Department (where I stayed at the beach).

This area of Uruguay is also known as Las Sierras de Minas named after the substantial presence of minerals in the area.  We were able to explore the gaucho country where cows roam freely (again!).  You may be asking yourself why I keep mentioning cows.  Great observation.  Of the 3.3 million people that call Uruguay home, 1.5 live in the Capital city of Montevideo and the rest inhabit the small towns in the sparse lands of the country.  Okay so wrap your head around that in terms of a US metropolitan area such as the Twin Cities; Minneapolis-St. Paul has an estimated population of 3.3 million people.  Now, there are 3.3 million people and there are approximately 10 million COWS!! That’s an insane ratio.  Uruguay is one of the largest exporters of beef (go figure).

In Villa Serrana, in the valley of the surrounding hills, lays a gorgeous fresh water lake.  Uruguay hosts a portion of one of the world’s largest groundwater reserves, the Guarani Aquifer.  This lake is fed by the aquifer and boy is that water freezing but oh, so refreshing on a sweltering summer day.  It was a refreshing change from camping in the hills.

Walking Over the Dunes and Through the Water To The Devil’s Point We Go!

•January 17, 2013 • 2 Comments

While staying in Cabo Polonio, we took a day trip to the next beach town over.  Valizas is just a bit further up the beach and easily accessible via a couple hour trek down the beach and over the dunes.  So we packed our water and ventured into the summer heat and scorching sun around 7am.  Cows roamed freely on the beach, random stray dogs followed us on our journey, early morning clouds helped to stave off the blistering sun and the quiet of nothingness guided us into an empty abyss of sparkling water and rolling dunes.

Does the Toilette Spin in the Wrong Direction?: A Journey to the Southern Hemisphere.

•January 14, 2013 • 1 Comment

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Every time I have sat down to write this post nothing comes out.  Maybe because there is so much to say or maybe because the photos just don’t do this place justice, but I have been struggling immensely trying to put ink to the paper (or type to the screen).  So in lieu of a lengthy post I am going to break it up into a few posts, with not too much text – although, I can’t promise I won’t go off on a tangent every now and then.  A bit of background on the trip, I flew down for a ten day trip to visit a friend who lives in Uruguay.

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Upon my arrival, we headed out to a beach town called Cabo Polonio.  It is located on the eastern coast of Uruguay, along the Southern Atlantic, in a region known as La Rocha.  Once you take a 4+ hour bus ride outside the capital city, Montevideo, you can either walk 45 minutes to get to the beach town or hop on a “buggy” that takes you into the center of this small town of about 100 houses.

cabotopographical

We stayed in the tiny red house on the far left of the image.  The yellow/red dotted lines indicate specific routes you can either walk or take the buggy ride into “town”.

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Our house was named ‘Lucifer’.

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It was necessary to sleep under mosquito nets at night.  There are many hostels in the town, but we opted to rent a small cabin for a few nights – still an inexpensive option.

shower

There is no potable water out in Cabo Polonio, so you have to first pump it from the earth, then you must boil it, and finally you can use it.  [Side Note:  There is a small general store on the peninsula where you can purchase small items such as water, vegetables, meat, bread, wine, and beer]  This, above, is the shower.  Yes, that is right, it is a rusty old bucket with a string to dump water on you (oh, and it’s almost directly over the toilette bowl).  No need to worry, we didn’t take showers.

FishSandwiches

This place had the best fish sandwiches – delicious bread stacked with breaded fish, fried egg, ham, lettuce, tomato and cheese (hold the cheese for me!)

lobo

There are sea lion colonies all along the coast.  The Spanish term is “Lobo” meaning Sea Wolf.

sealion

You can walk right up to them – they seemed to be all tuckered out from swimming to shore, so I was able to get pretty close to these guys without making them angry.  Side Note: Some don’t always make it across the choppy waters and wash up dead on the beach…morbid, I know, but it’s just a fact of life.

valizasview

The beach and dunes were an awesome juxtaposition – one like I’ve never seen before.

Upcoming posts:

  • Walking Over the Dunes and Through the Water To The Devil’s Point We Go!

  • Las Sierras de Minas: Villa Serrana.

  • Cooking Uruguayan Style: Learning to Love the Asado.

On Becoming a Hood Ornament.

•December 20, 2012 • 2 Comments

Certain events in life change our perspective on how we look at the world.  Whether it be a tragedy, a blissful experience or just an ordinary walk through the park in which you have some internal epiphany.  Regardless, these events shape who we ultimately become and how we coexist on this planet.  These events can also inspire or humble us.

Last week I was hit by a car while walking my dog on our early morning stroll.  We were crossing at a crosswalk and a car was turning and ran into us – he didn’t stop or hit the brakes even when I was on top of his hood.  The dog was still attached to my wrist while I was banging on the hood of the car yelling for the driver to stop.  As the car took the turn I rolled off the hood into the intersection.  Bentley, who was still attached to my wrist and caused me to later have a very sore arm socket, was incredibly freaked out so he started to run away; I had no choice but to get dragged behind my sprinting dog.  I saw a light pole ahead so I split the pole with him in order to stop us and try to calm him down.  We walked home.

I reported the hit and run when I returned home.  Not a single person stopped to see if we were okay…not one single person.  Of all things this struck me as the most surprising commentary on our lives; everyone is too wrapped up in the next meeting or being late for work or checking their email or whatever else they may be doing that they cannot stop to see if a girl and her dog, who were just hit by a car that drove off, are okay.  It made me rethink many things about my own life and about how I am so fixated on my next move or my weekend plans or what I am doing in six months that I often forget to stop and just live in the moment.

Your life can change or disappear in an instant.  Recent events that have made national news have further hit this home.  I’ve been struggling with the direction of my life for quite some time, hence the feminist rant, and becoming a real-life raggedy Anne has made me really think about what I am doing with my life, where I am, where I am going, how to live my life and all that comes with having a quarter-life crisis.  While I stress over this detail I am incredibly lucky to have a support system that is there for me no matter what (my dad flew up to help me drive back to Florida for the holidays, my roommates chauffeured me around so I didn’t stress my body out, and work was incredibly forgiving for missing a couple days to recover).

The accident comes at a time when I have three weeks off of work.  I took a week off to go visit a friend in Uruguay and then my company shuts down for a two week period over the holidays.  During the three weeks I will evaluate everything and put things into perspective.  Doing what makes me happiest is the most important thing right now.  There will always be challenges and bumps in the road but this is one of those experiences that makes you question everything, be thankful for your life and everyone in it and reevaluate what’s important.  I will be doing just that over the next couple of weeks.

This post morphed into something completely different than what I wanted to write but I guess that is the beauty of writing.  I struggled with even posting about the accident because the relationship between blogging/privacy/personal can often times be blurred.  However, life isn’t always delicious cookies and beer festivals and it’s okay to write about the traumatic times too.

Thanks for reading!

Recapping with Instagram.

•December 18, 2012 • 1 Comment

First of all, my thoughts go out to those near my current home, the State of Connecticut. It hits especially close to home since my mom is a teacher herself. There will be political conversations on what this means to the country and how we can prevent this in the future, but the most important thing is to remember those affected by this horrific act of violence. Their lives will have to adapt to a new normal.

I have been a bad blogger recently and for that I am sorry. To catch you up to speed, I am doing an instagram-style post on what life has been like for me this past month.  I have been all over the place – Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York City, North Carolina and Florida.  And currently I am en route to Uruguay.  Here goes nothing.

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Baked an Apple Pie as my contribution to Thanksgiving. I left my camera alone while visiting with both sides of my family – it was much nicer to visit than to snap away.

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Sunrise at Drakes Island.

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A dog and his beach.

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“Creamy” Avocado Pasta Sauce. Incredibly delicious.

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The famous Dinosaur Bar B Que opened an outpost in Stamford.

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An evening out in NYC. Cheapest (and most delicious) dinner in all of the city.

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Grand Central Terminal. Always a fun place to people-watch.

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Morning after breakfast tacos.

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Someone kept me company while I was recovering. More on that in the next post.

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Ugly sweater party. Happy Holidays!

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Rainy morning on day two of traveling.

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Cheapest gas around.

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Sometimes I really miss where I grew up. Sunset just outside home.