Sunday Stew

Chilly Sundays were made for steamy bowls of fresh, homemade vegetable stew.  You should really make this.  It was quick, super easy, incredibly cheap, and I bet you have at least half of the ingredients on hand already. Also, after a weekend full of turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie and everything else under the sun, your body needs this.

I almost forget to mention that it’s vegan, full of protein, and yields approximately 3 days worth of meals for a single person.  No scrounging the office for leftovers this week!

Easy Veggie Stew  (slightly adapted from original recipe, here)

  • 2 cans of vegetable broth + 1 cup of water (more or less depending on how stew-like you want it)
  • 1.5 cups of frozen vegetables ( I used broccoli, cauliflower and carrots)
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can of mushrooms, drained (I would actually use fresh next time)
  • 1 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 cup of quinoa
  • handful of chopped fresh carrots
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 t of paprika
  • salt and pepper to taste

Bring vegetable broth to a boil, add in all ingredients and seasonings, stir well and bring back to a boil.  Turn heat to low and simmer for approximately 30 minutes or until potatoes are cooked through, stirring occasionally.

Told you it was easy!

The Story of Thanksgiving

I wake up to the sound of a jackhammer pounding away at the neighboring construction site.  I almost let out an audible grumble to express my irritation, but I become distracted by the sound of the coffee pot gurgling as the last few drops of joe collect in the pot.  My first sip instantly perks me up, but that’s not the addiction talking, it’s the realization that Thanksgiving is upon us.  A time to eat, relax, and enjoy the company of those around you.

The anticipation of this year’s great feast immediately brought me back to this time almost exactly a year ago.  I was living in Spain and about to spend my very first Thanksgiving away from home.   At the time, the whole idea felt incredibly wrong.  I was alone in a place that didn’t share my culture or heritage during an important holiday that I always spent with family and loved ones.

My phone rings and instantly snaps me back to reality.  It’s my mom calling, as she usually does every few days to catch up on life.  We begin talking about our respective plans for the holiday, as once again, we won’t be spending it together.  After I explain that I’ll be visiting with my boyfriend’s family this Thursday she tells me how much she misses me and that although she wishes I was home, she’s happy I’ll be surrounded by a big, loving group of people this year.

“I feel happy knowing you’re in good hands,” she says.

I thought of the group of people I shared Thanksgiving with last year and wondered what they were up to now.  More than likely, most of them were not thinking about how they would celebrate Thanksgiving in a few days.  Last year I shared the holiday with a group of complete strangers- most of us had met only hours before we sat down to a table full of food.

Last year’s scene was, on all accounts, drastically different from what I was used to.  Not a single person in the room was related, pumpkin pie was nowhere to be found, and to top it off we were all speaking Spanish instead of my native and familiar English.

As the hours passed and the wine flowed, a wave of realization suddenly washed over me. It took 22 years and crossing an ocean until I felt like I truly understood some of the ideals this holiday was founded on; cultural exchange and sharing.  It didn’t matter that we were strangers and on the surface had very little in common.  The essence of sharing brought us together.  We shared our cultures and language, shared laughs, memories, and most appropriately, shared food.

As I hang up the phone with my mom, I find myself thinking about her last statement.  I trust the sincerity in her voice and believe she really is at peace with our apparent trend in long distance holidays.  I smile fondly as I write down the ingredients for a new recipe to try this year- one that was shared with me by a stranger.  I realize there may be a new theme emerging when it comes to holidays.

Fall.

Fall in Kansas City has been lovely.  I feel like we’ve seen an incredible spectrum of color this year and the progression has been slow, yet constant.  Somehow the leaves are still clinging to the tress as they seem to continue pushing their limits, evolving from yellow-green to bright orange and finally, to vibrant shades of red.  It’s been truly delightful for the average nature appreciator.

What To Expect When Dining in Spain

For many visitors to Spain, some of the largest cultural contrasts exist around meal times and eating habits, and rightfully so.  It’s an adjustment that certainly takes some getting used to for most foreigners.  If you’re wondering what to expect when traveling to Spain, here are some quick and dirty tips that might come in handy:

-Don’t expect to find oatmeal or pancakes on the breakfast menu.  If you’re in the south, you’ll likely start your day with a thick, lightly toasted baguette drizzled in olive oil and topped with diced (or sliced) tomatoes and a dash of salt.

-Lunch is the largest and most important meal of the day, but never before 2pm.  If it’s before 2pm you’re still eating breakfast.  Dinner typically occurs after 10pm and is much lighter than your midday meal.  Got that?

-If you’re a vegetarian, try not to act surprised when your salad comes with a heaping pile of tuna on top.  Eat your protein. (Just kidding…but not about the tuna).

-You like love dry cured ham and seeing pig legs hanging from the ceiling of every bar and restaurant, right?  Good, because the Spanish take their jamón very seriously and this is not a force to be reckoned with.

-Be prepared to drink alcohol at every meal, but don’t get drunk at every meal-that’s frowned upon.  Also, if you want a beer, I hope you aren’t looking for choices because you came to the wrong country for that.  I actually commend the way the Spanish have streamlined the alcohol ordering process.  None of that “what do you have on tap/in a bottle” business.  You just ask for a beer and BOOM, you get a beer.

-If, for some reason you choose not to drink alcohol at every meal just keep in mind that “free refills” don’t exist here.  Seriously though, who wants to sip an orange Fanta when you are visiting a place where the wine flows like water?  Not this girl.

-Mayo is the new Ranch.  Put it on everything.  Your eggs, your steak, your vegetables…everything.  Same goes for olive oil.

-Don’t worry about putting your napkin in your lap.  It will be a small, waxy piece of paper that you will simply wipe your fingertips on once before discarding.  They actually don’t even work too well (read: AT ALL)  so you’re better off wiping your hands on your jeans or trying to “pet” that cute fluffy dog that keeps passing by…  Oh, and hopefully you aren’t environmentally conscious or anything because you will use approximately 100 of these during your meal.

-Finally, don’t wait for your server to bring you the check- you need to ask for it.  But don’t stress about leaving a tip either-tipping isn’t really necessary in Spain.  You’ll feel like a rebel at first but trust me, you’ll get used to it.

¡Buen provecho!