Tag Archives culture

PAD THAI

by Monday, November 2, 2015

My inspiration for this months GLOBAL RECIPE  is Pad Thai. I had this in Bangkok, Thailand and it was my first real street food experience.  I was excited and nervous at the same time. It looked so good and was so cheap I couldn’t wait to try it.  In the back of my mind, however, I had that creeping thought that I could possibly get food poisoning if I eat this.

I ate it and I not only, didn’t get food poisoning, but it was the best pad Thai I have ever eaten in my life!  Sometimes when I think of my visit to Thailand I think about this dish and eating it at home at a restaurant, always makes me smile.

I will get back to Thailand one day to explore more of that beautiful country, but in the meantime, creating this dish is a way for me to remember the culture and the friendly Thai people I met on my visit.


 

PAD THAI (serves 4)

ingredients:

  • 16 oz. rice noodles
  • 20 peeled shrimp (raw)
  • 4 cooked chicken thighs (chopped)
  • 3 T  soy sauce
  • 5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 red chile (chopped) to taste *optional
  • 2 t grated ginger
  • 8 green onions (chopped)
  • 2 eggs
  • 7 oz. bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cups dry roasted peanuts (chopped)
  • 3 t vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup chicken stock
  • lime wedges- *optional
  • 4 T rice vinegar
  • 4 T brown sugar
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  • crushed red pepper flakes-to taste *optional
  • sriracha (additional topping-optional)
  • ***some recipes call for fish sauce- (I don’ t like it, so I omitted this from the recipe)

instructions:

  1. cook rice noodles according to instructions on package
  2. heat vegetable oil in large skillet (medium-high)
  3. crack eggs into hot oil, cook until firm
  4. add shrimp, cook 2 minutes
  5. add minced garlic, cook one minute
  6. stir in cooked chicken
  7. add: chicken stock, vinegar, brown sugar, red chile, grated ginger, cayenne pepper ( here is where you would add fish sauce-if desired), stir one to two minutes
  8. add noodles, stir to mix all ingredients
  9. add soy sauce (more if desired)
  10. stir in bean sprouts, green onions
  11. garnish with chopped peanuts and lime wedges
  12. serve with sriracha sauce (optional)

video to come of the live cooking demo

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And the final product:

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pad thai

Food Culture Around the World

by Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Food culture around the world varies from one location to another. What determines the food in a particular region is determined by a few factors such as climate, proximity to the ocean, resources available and agriculture. When visiting different regions of the world, the one thing that makes a location stand out is, more often than not, its food.

When I travel, one of my favorite parts of the trip is experiencing different foods from that place. It’s always exciting for me to try whatever the locals love and helps me to get a better understanding of the culture.  Discovering the “hidden gems” or “secret spots” to find an authentic meal of the locale is always an adventure and you usually find great deals than if you would,  just sticking to the eateries that cater to tourists.

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dosha in India

There are times where the foods are so extremely weird or different that its hard tho believe that these people really eat things such as grasshoppers, frog legs or rotten shark meat.  But they do!!  I try my best to be non-judgemental about their food choices and try everything I can, well at least a “no thank you helping” anyway, to not offend, plus I try to think of it as a learning experience. And although there are foods I will never be able to say I truly enjoy, (or would ever want again) I was able to immerse myself into a new culture by trying it’s regional cuisine.

The worst type of travelers to me is a picky food eater. The worst! Thank goodness I really haven’t traveled with anyone that isn’t game for trying new things, (like me) but when I hear stories of friends who only sought out American food, like KFC or McDonald’s I shutter at the thought of how terrible that would be.

How in the hell do you feel like you are going to experience a place you visited without trying their foods?

I don’t get it? Not to mention, American fast foods is awful, (to me anyway) and yes, you can get it, literally everywhere in the world. When I see the big yellow arches or the Colonel’s face on a sign, in the most random places in the world, I almost feel embarrassed of what we eat as Americans. Other countries must think we are crazy for what we eat!

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crawdads in New Orleans, USA

Food culture around the world to me is how we connect with each other. We may not be able to speak to each other because of a language barrier, but if you are given food and smile and nod your head in approval of the taste, there is no loss in that translation there. It brings people who have nothing else in common, together.

When I fondly reminisce of a place I visited, one of the first things that comes to the forefront on my mind  is a dish that I enjoyed there. I jut recently became aware of how much food has really impacted my travel experience.  I’ve realized how much it has enhanced my enjoyment of virtually every destination I’ve been, whether it be another country or another region of my own country. Each place has given me a new taste to savor.

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street food-pad Thai in Thailand (my favorite!)

It’s funny that this has never dawned on me before because I love all food, especially ethnic food and am always super eager to find something to try the second I arrive in a new land. This has got me thinking of what I wanted to do next on the blog.

Let me digress a bit. When I return from a trip I usually always get the,  back to reality blues, and want to find some way to keep the trip alive. So of course, I write about it, share my travel stories, share my video and pictures of my trip, but I also do something that maybe some of you don’t or didn’t think of.

I try to imitate a recipe of a food I ate while I visited.

I seriously do this every time I come home from a trip and it is usually within the first week, back home. I know, I’m pathetic. Maybe I am pathetic, but it is a way for me to remember the trip and most importantly, I get to taste that amazing dish once again without having to revisit in order to experience it.

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Indonesian food in Amsterdam-its a thing there

How I do this is, I just search the internet for a recipe of that delicious ethnic dish I’m craving.  I have no trouble finding a recipe or two, or 10 with all the ingredients I need.  Some recipes are easier than others and some require ingredients that I’ve never heard of or are very hard to find at a basic grocery store, but mostly, it can be made with a quick run to my local market and can be made for dinner that night. I must admit, although I am a pretty decent cook, it never comes out the same as if you ate in first hand, but its a good second.

Even before I started my “world travels” I would do this (in a sense) when my kids were little.  I didn’t make foods that were from a foreign land that I visited myself, but it was from a foreign land that I intended on visiting some day. It also made it a really fun a way to teach my kids about other cultures.

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shwarma in Dubai

This is how it went. I would pick a country on the globe, (sometimes with the kids help, sometime not) and then I would google a little information on it and print it out. Then I would find a popular dish that represented that country.  This part was sometimes tough because it was hard to have a 4-year-old and an 8-year-old to eat weird or spicy things, so sometimes I would improvise  a little, but you get the idea.

Dinner time came and we all sat down to eat. I would show them on the globe where this food came from. I’d give them a little background history, which was super basic since they were so young, and then we would eat.

The kids thought it was fun, as did I,  since I’m obsessed with travel (obviously),  but it also made them learn about other places other than just what was outside our back door. It also made them learn to try new things and not to be closed-minded that how we live, or what we eat, for that matter, is NOT the only way or the right way.  They sometimes didn’t like the food and I’d have to make them a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead, but overall they always had their,  “no thank you helping” and enjoyed our little cultural lesson a lot.

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Icelandic lamb soup in Iceland

Today my kids are 17 and 20 and thankfully, are both not picky eaters. My son thinks he is the next Andrew Zimmerman, by always wanting to try bizarre foods, and my daughter is now a world traveler, herself, loving the diverse foods she tries, at every place she’s been. I really think that this cultural food experiment we did when they were at impressionable ages, helped them see that, a lot of enjoyment in life is through food. It also let them taste flavors and regional recipes that have been passed down from one generation to another from all over the world and that steak and potatoes may be good, but there is so much more to try that will make your taste buds sing with joy.

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creme brulee in Paris

Which brings me to my next idea for the blog: Recipes from around the world!  Yay!

I will post one recipe a month that has inspired me through my travels. Some recipes may be from places I’ve already gone to and want to share a dish that I loved, while others may be dishes I aspire to try on my upcoming adventures, but all of them will be made for the sole purpose of sharing with you guys, so that you may be able to make it too, even if you can’t visit these places yourself.

Clearly you can just hop on a search engine and look up a recipe yourself, but this is a place that you can go to for inspiration of foods you may not have tried before or even heard of. (so how could you search for it? right?) I will also share where I got the recipe and a lot of times I blend recipes to my liking, so I’ll tell you exactly what I did to create my masterpiece. I will give you a  step by step guide, with pictures, and maybe even a video if I’m not feeling shy?

The first edition to my Global Recipes page will be November 1st, so check back soon for the first installment. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it. Cheers!

What is your favorite dish from a country that you visited? I’d love to hear about it and maybe even try to make it?

 

 

 

 

Volunteering Abroad: The Inside Scoop

by Monday, September 14, 2015
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Maddie and Evan with the kids at GoEco day camp in Cape Town, South Africa

Last month my 17-year-old daughter, Maddie,  and her best friend did some volunteer work in South Africa. I was initially super excited to let her have this amazing opportunity, but then was a little worried about her safety and the unknown, having never done volunteer work myself.


I have always wanted to do volunteer work abroad,  and now I would be letting my daughter be a guinea pig (if you will) by experiencing this first.


 

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www.goeco.org

She was determined that this was going to happen and did all the legwork herself. She found an organization called Go Eco (http://www.goeco.org) that had a great reputation and offered a program that spiked her interest.

She chose the Cape Town, South Africa location that would have her working with underprivileged children at a day camp, teaching them life skills through sports, such as surfing. This was the one. She was to go for three weeks and stay at a volunteer house with other volunteers from all over the world.

She went from July 29, 2015 to August 18, 2015.

When she returned, I decided to interview her about her experience, not only for my knowledge, but to share with others who are also interested in volunteering abroad.


 

Here is a little insight on how her volunteer experience was:

Me:Was the GoEco organized with documentation and the transfers/airport pick up?

Maddie: GoEco was very organized. I was a little worried about not being picked up at the airport, but there was no problems at all and it was easier than I thought.

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Maddie and Evan in their shuttle from the airport, heading to their volunteer house for GoEco in Cape Town, South Africa

Me: How were the conditions of the volunteer house?

Maddie: There were 4 connected houses with 8 people in each. They were very basic with no frills at all. There was no television, no radio and each house had one bathroom to share.  

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Go Eco volunteer house in Cape Town, South Africa

Me: How many volunteers were there? And what were the age ranges?

Maddie: There were about 20 volunteers from all around the globe, ranging anywhere from 17-30, but mostly college aged. We were the youngest ones. There were only a couple other 17 year olds there.

Me: Did you feel safe in the area?

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Maddie and Evan with their new friends Alex and Joey from London

Maddie: Yes, we felt extremely safe and anytime we went out in the town, we always stayed in groups.

Me: How was the work? Was it hard?

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Maddie and her new friend Alex from London playing with the kids

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The kids in the classroom, ready to learn

Maddie: It started out with a few days of training and then we worked everyday, all day (usually 8:30 am-4:00 pm). The mornings were in the classroom and afternoons at the beach doing swim lessons with the 12-14 year olds.  It was very intense and harder than I thought, mainly due to the language barrier and keeping the kids paying attention.  After our long day at project, we would often have lesson planning to do for the next day. Our nights and weekends were free to explore the area.

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Maddie and Evan sightseeing in Cape Town on the weekend

Me; How was the food?

Maddie: The food was okay.The breakfast was yogurt and fruits and the lunches and dinners were simple, with a protein, starch and a vegetable. It was very Americanized type food, which I was little disappointed in. I wanted to try some weird foods. I did get to try a traditional South African sandwich called a”gwenya” though, which was like a puffy bread bun with french fries and some red spices. It was so good! 

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A “gwenya” South African sandwich

Me: What did you like best about this experience?

Maddie: Making new friends from around the world and the kids. They were so adorable and full of so much love.  Every time we walked into the class, they would literally jump all over us hugging us nonstop. It felt great to make them so happy.

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Maddie and her new friend David from Sweden making “friendship bracelets”

Me: What did you like least about it?

Maddie: I wish I would have gone in a different season. It was winter season when I was there so it was very cold for surfing and our volunteer house had no heat, so nights got extremely chilly.

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Maddie and Evan hat shopping. Its winter season in August for South Africa

Me: What kinds of things did you do on your free time?

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Maddie and Evan out with their new friend Julia from the Netherlands

Maddie: We went out at night to a local bar and socialized with other volunteers and backpackers staying at a surrounding hostel. It felt kind of crazy being at a bar at 17, but in South Africa, it doesn’t matter. I even ordered a drink (oops). On the weekend we went hiking and shopped in the town and I even went skydiving! (sorry Mom)

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Maddie skydiving!

Me: Would you use Go Eco again to do volunteer work somewhere else?

Maddie: Yes! I plan on doing another one, probably somewhere in South East Asia when I am 18.

Me: Did you learn anything by volunteering abroad?

Maddie: Yes! I learned so much! I learned how to interact with people from diverse backgrounds and found ways to connect with them, other than by just talking (a language barrier was there in many cases). I also learned how to take care of myself and it made me feel more confident that if I can travel across the world at 17 alone, I can pretty much do anything. This experience also taught me to be grateful for everything I have. Seeing these underprivileged children being so happy with absolutely nothing, humbled me in a way that made me want to give back even more.

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Maddie looking down at Cape Town, South Africa from a view point at Lions Head

Me: Do you think everyone should volunteer abroad?

Maddie: Yes! I think this experience is mind-opening and would be beneficial to anyone, no matter how old or young. I feel like volunteering abroad has changed my life in so many positive ways. I can’t wait to do it again!


 

 

 

 

 

 

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