Monthly Archives: September 2014

My Hotel Kitchen: Food Ruts (and Other Notes)

Hello friends!

Greetings from still summery Texas. I am done with this warm weather, guys. D-O-N-E. Winter will spite me for this later, but seriously, I just want to wear jeans and sweaters and eat soups and stews and not feel like the front desk’s fall decorations are a farce.

On the bright side, I did wear pants the other day, and it was very comfortable except when getting into my warm car. So maybe we’re turning the corner? But the leaves haven’t started changing colors yet! Do they even do that here? What if I get back to the Midwest and I’ve already missed the fall colors? And the best of the apples? And the Halloween decorations- which means Christmas decorations will be up? Ahhhh!

I’m getting a little ahead of myself. In conclusion, I hope it’s fall-like where you are and that you’re enjoying it!

So. Food!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, cooking for one- and not eating the same thing all.the.time.- has been more challenging than I anticipated. I’m probably done with sautéed shrimp for a while. Ditto for burrito bowls. And despite the persistently warm weather, I have started to have cravings for fall foods. Soups, stews, roasts, baked pasta dishes- the whole nine yards of carbs and red sauce and slow-cooked meats and vegetables. However, I am one person who cannot eat an entire pot roast or beef stew or lasagna in the course of a week. And I’m not about to cook for my coworkers. *insert discussion about personal and professional boundaries here*

I had one particularly strong craving for ghoulash. Ghoulash is a kind of a soup/stew hybrid. Go ahead and Google it. This is a family recipe that was introduced through my grandmother and subsequently adapted by my dad. I made some adjustments based on what ingredients I had. Want to see how I did it?

First, brown some ground beef. I used ground sirloin because it was cheaper. P.S. Beef is expensive right now, people. If it was expensive here- less than an hour from the self-proclaimed Beef Capital of the World (Hereford, TX)- I can’t imagine how much it costs when you actually have to transport it.

Second, chop up yellow, red, and green bell pepper, and white onions. Add to the beef and sauté just until soft.

Look at the colors!

Look at the colors!

If you’re not already working in a big pot, dump this stuff in a big pot. Add canned diced tomatoes (yes, canned- you want the liquid), some beef broth, a little sugar, and spices. In this recipe, we use salt, pepper, paprika (Hungarian if you can get it), cayenne, and a little chili powder. Simmer for a bit.

This is when it starts getting good.

This is when it starts getting good.

You'll know it's been simmering for long enough when it starts to smell realllyyyyy good.

You’ll know it’s been simmering for long enough when it starts to smell realllyyyyy yummy.

Now, if you have flour, add a little flour to a little water. Cover the container and shake it up. Then, add that to the ghoulash. I skipped this step because I don’t need to buy a pound of flour for one little recipe. If you have flour, you probably want to do this to thicken the mixture.

Let the mixture simmer and thicken a little more. If you want your ghoulash to be more like a stew and less like a soup, let some of the liquid cook off. Also, the longer it simmers (simmer, NOT boil), the softer the vegetables will get and the more the flavors will develop.

In the meantime, cook some elbow macaroni. I had some kind of “healthy” penne already cooked, so I used that. Elbow macaroni is better, though, because it has nooks and crannies that grab a lot of the ghoulash, especially if you’ve thickened it up with flour. It’s also better because that’s the pasta my family uses for this recipe.

Add the macaroni to the ghoulash. Stir to combine. If you’re using pre-cooked pasta, let it heat through (cold pasta + hot ghoulash = yuuuuck). Finally, serve with shredded parmesan or “shaky cheese” (this is the powdered parmesan you shake out of the plastic container). I prefer shaky cheese, but since I had shredded mozzarella, I used shredded mozzarella.

Ta-da!

This is fresh ghoulash. You can see all the juices- this was not a thick ghoulash.

This is fresh ghoulash. You can see all the juices- this was not a thick ghoulash.

The really awesome thing about this recipe is that it gets better over time. I was talking on the phone with my dad, and I mentioned that I was going to heat up some leftover ghoulash. He said it’d be really good because the peppers will get sweeter. As always, my dad was right! The flavors really meld together and the peppers do indeed get sweeter.

Ways this version is different from my family’s: the consistency was a lot more liquid than usual. I do not yet possess the knife skills to chop those peppers and onions as finely as my dad does, and the veggies were pretty crunchy. I don’t like any raw vegetables except carrots (I know, what a child), so the way the peppers got better over time was a big plus of eating the leftovers. There was also a huge difference with the penne versus the elbow macaroni. Additionally, the melty mozzarella was pretty delicious (see below), but it’s just not the same as shaky cheese.

Also, FYI: this recipes makes a lot. Be prepared to eat a lot of it or share it.

This is the ghoulash on Day 6. It is bonkers good.

This is the ghoulash on Day 6. It is bonkers good. Did I eat this sitting on the couch in front of the TV? Yes, yes I did.

900 words on ghoulash, guys. I also made quesadillas with that precooked chicken, corn tortillas, leftover black beans, corn, cheese, and more sautéed peppers and onions. One trick is to heat that precooked chicken in a skillet with seasonings. It makes a big difference!

I also made tacos with the same ingredients. Gotta use up those leftovers!

I also made tacos with the same ingredients. Gotta use up those leftovers!

Did you see the burn marks on that pan? Real talk: I need an oven and nonstick cookware this instant. Part of the reason I’m in a food rut is because my tools are limited. Also, I need more people to cook for! The recipes that catch my eye are the ones that feed four or more people and are prepared in a Dutch oven or a big casserole dish and go into the oven.

The plan right now is to leave Texas in just about a month. This hotel thing has been convenient and comfortable (daily maid service, my company pays for it, etc.), but I think I want to live in a real apartment next. I think.

So, if you have any recipe suggestions or anything you’d like to see me attempt in a hotel kitchen, you have approximately four weeks left! Leave a comment and let me know what you think!

With love (and ghoulash),

Gaby

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Ready for Fall, and College vs. Employment: A Pro and Con List

Has anyone else started to freak out that it’s already the middle of September and the season of all pumpkin everything and leggings and boots is upon us? I mean, the stores are already filled with fall and Halloween decor. And you know what that means.

The second that Halloween is over, they’ll start playing Christmas music. So it’s practically the holidays already. I mean, it sure seemed like it at Kohl’s yesterday.

STOP THE MADNESS!!!

STOP THE MADNESS!!!

I LOVE this time of the year. I love it when the weather gets cooler and I can bundle up a little more. It means I get to wear jeans and sweaters, which means I don’t have to shave as often (ladies, don’t deny it! That’s a HUGE perk of this season!). I can drink hot tea or coffee in the middle of the day and not sweat. I’m already really excited to start adding fall/winter colors to my wardrobe. I’m thinking I’m going to build a palette of dark grey, camel, aubergine/eggplant, and burgundy/wine. Maybe some forest green and cream if I can find the right pieces.

The (maybe) two men reading this post just totally checked out. Moving on.

As excited I am for the change in seasons, however, this fall is also a really big life moment. It’s the first fall in 18 or 19 years that I haven’t gone to school. This has brought up a lot of conversations between me and my friends about what we miss and don’t miss about college- even for the friends who are in grad school.

This week, I made a pros and cons list for College vs. Employment. School vs. “Real Life.” Pre-Adulthood vs. Trying to be an Adult-hood.

Let’s get started, shall we?

COLLEGE/KAWLEDGE

Pro: being able to spell “college” like that and people might maybe think it’s funny or witty. This does not happen after college.

Con: Being surrounded by people who spell words like that all the time in an effort to be funny. We need more creative wordplay.

Pro: dining halls and meal plans. Access to nearly unlimited amounts of food, two or three times a day. Then, on top of that, you have a magical ID card which allows you to purchase more food outside of meal times- and, more importantly, gives you access to significant quantities of Starbucks.

Con: eventually, the food gets boring. Also, the ID card is not actually magic and all of that Starbucks makes the magic run out more quickly than you thought.

Pro: Dorms! All of your friends, all people your age, all of the time. In many cases, you never want for company.

Con: Sometimes, it’s nice for it to be quiet and solitary. Also, totally done with the whole sharing a bathroom thing. I’ve taken more than my fair share of other people’s hair out of the shower drain.

Pro: Sleeping in late, or, as late as possible, because you don’t really need to dress up for your 8 AM class.

Con: You’re sleeping in so late because you didn’t go to sleep until 2 AM, for no reason other than homework.

Pro: Free workout areas and cheap fitness classes.

Pro: It’s still acceptable for your parents to take care of your finances.

Con: Even if you’re working, you’re probably not earning very much money. And much of that goes to cover your regular spending- partying, shopping, and so on.

Con: HOMEWORK. Because it was just a blast coming home from evening activities after 10 o’ clock, having to start reading 40 pages of political theory, due at 11 AM the next morning.

Con: Ruuuuuuules. Parietals? Alcohol? But we’re all 18 or older. Which makes us legally adults. Which means we totally don’t need those rules to keep us from making poor decisions…right?

Pro: Football weekends! Two solid days of school spirit and zero expectation of getting any work done.

Con: It’d be nice to be able to go into the bookstore after 12 PM on a Friday without having to weave through packs of alumni. I just need some folders…not a $50 sweatshirt.

Pro: you get to do a million things and have a bunch of different identities. You can be an actress and a researcher and an educator. You don’t have to choose!

Who else misses this? *sob*

Who else misses this? *sob*

EMPLOYMENT

Pro: FINANCIAL INDEPENDENCE. Nothing feels better than buying something for yourself and knowing that you yourself earned it.

Con: Life is expensive. I mean, have you actually looked at what a box of cereal costs?? What happened to my free Cracklin’ Oat Bran?! Oh, and you actually do have to pay that credit card bill. That’s NOT a magical ID card. (See above, though. Paying it off feels GOOD.)

Pro: NO RULES! You can drink whatever you want every single night and have friends (or more than friends) (or even strangers) of the opposite sex over past 2 AM- heck, as late as you want!

Con: If you took that pro to the extreme, you may make some poor decisions and they will have consequences. Just saying. You do you…but maybe think about it first?

Pro: NO HOMEWORK!!! Well, this isn’t true for everybody. Some people do have to bring work home with them. Including commuting, I work until 8:30 or 9 PM most nights Monday through Thursday, but when I get home, I don’t check my email, I don’t open up Excel, and I veg out. It’s the greatest thing to know that you’re done for the day.

This was a long day, but it was worth it to get it all done!

This was a long day, but it was worth it to get it all done!

Con: What happened to all of my friends? Where are all the people my age? I can’t order and eat an entire pizza by myself…and I don’t have any place to just leave it out where I know it will get eaten.

Con: No more monthlong vacations.

Pro: PAID vacation.

Con: You might not be walking everywhere all the time (to class, running errands, etc.) so you’re getting less exercise. Also, gym memberships are expensive.

Con: If you got a job (that you like) straight out of college, a) congratulations! This is an awesome club to be in, right?, and b) you’re probably still really young in most people’s eyes. I’m finding that the years between 21 and 27 are a total vacuum. It’s before the time that people start talking to you about your biological clock and getting married, which is a plus. But it’s also before the time that people will trust that your age equals some level of experience. I get a lot of comments that I look 18. Glad to know that I’m not aging prematurely…but it requires a lot of work to gain professional credibility.

Con: Dressing the right way as a young professional woman. Too frumpy, dowdy, and matronly, and people think you don’t care about your appearance. Appearances do matter, friends. However, if you dress too young, skimpily, or fashionably, you may not be taken seriously. There’s a very fine line. For me, it means a lot of plain blouses and finding the correct length pencil skirt.

Pro: Proving that you can do something with your education that earns actual money and does not require more school (for the time being, anyway). All of those classes and papers and discussions and exams really and truly resulted in skills that I use every day, and I’m getting a salary and benefits for it!

Pro: You’re not alone in this. Everybody is just figuring it out as they go along. That goes for grads who are working, grads who went back to school, grads who are looking for work, and grads who are doing service. Unless your whole group of friends has magically stayed together in the same area, doing the same things, everyone has to learn how to make new friends as an adult and how to maintain the relationships we worked so hard to cultivate in college.

This sky looks like hope. And freedom.

This sky looks like hope. And freedom.

Now, all of the choices are yours. Not your parents’, not your professors’ or advisors’, not your college’s. They’re yours.

And that’s probably the biggest pro of them all.

With love,

Gaby

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A Love Letter to Chile

Querido Chilito,

Tu eres como uno de estos chicos que yo sé que no debería mandarle un mensaje, pero igual lo hago sólo para recordar una época en que yo creía que esto podría haber sido para siempre. Y mandarle un mensaje es una mala idea, y después siempre recuerdo que es mejor para mi salud emocional que no hablemos, pero igual lo hago. Porque perderte completamente sería un tipo de sufrimiento demasiado duro para el corazón. Porque lo que queda es mejor que nada.

You’re like one of those boys that I know I’m not supposed to message every again, but I do it anyways just to remember a time in which I thought all of that could have grown and lasted forever. And sending that message is always a stupid idea, and I always remember afterwards that it’s better for my emotional health that we don’t keep in touch, but I still do it. Because losing you completely would be a kind of suffering too hard for my heart to handle. Because whatever we have left is better than nothing.

Bueno, eso era demasiado dramático. Pero igual es buena la analogía, ¿no? ¿Por qué tenemos recuerdos? ¿Por qué los revisitamos una vez y otra y otra y otra? Siempre hay razón, ¿no?

All right, that was a little dramatic. But it’s still a good analogy, right? Why do we even have memories? Why do we revisit them time and again? There’s always a reason, right?

Me cuesta nada para recordarte. El barrio donde mi oficina me acuerda de Linares. Aun hay tiendas y restaurantes con señales escritos en español. Compro palta cada semana. Todavía creo en los beneficios de una aguita después de una gran comida. Escucho el ruido de las motocicletas y recuerdo que esto era el señal que mi papá chileno llegó después de trabajo. El otro día estaba en el supermercado y estaban dando muestras (¿pruebas?) de vino de Concha y Toro, y yo podía decirle a la mujer que yo actualmente fue al Casillero del Diablo. (No le impresioné tanto, pero ¿quién más en Amarillo, Texas puede decir esto?)

It doesn’t take much to remember you. The neighborhood by my office reminds me of Linares. There are even stores and restaurants with signs in Spanish. I buy avocados every single week. I still believe in the benefits of herbal tea after a big meal. I hear the sound of motorcycles and I remember that that was the sign that host dad had come home from work. The other day I was in the supermarket and they were giving out samples of Concha y Toro wine, and I told the lady that I actually went into the Devil’s Cellar. (It didn’t really impress her that much, but who else in Amarillo, Texas can say that??)

Tengo los antojitos peores para comida que sólo existe ahí. Chandelle, Ramitas, Watts nectar de durazno, empanadas chilenas (NO mexicanas), manjar. Sopaipillas de la calle. Completos (y ni me gusta la mayonesa). Un lomito de la Fuente Alemana. Pizza de Pizza Nostra (y no es como no tenemos buena pizza aquí, LA TENEMOS).

I have the worst cravings for foods that only exist there. Chandelle, Ramitas, Watts peach juice, Chilean empanadas (NOT Mexican), manjar. Sopaipillas from the street. Completos (and I don’t even LIKE mayonnaise). A huge lomito sandwich from Fuente Alemana. Pizza from Pizza Nostra (and it’s not like we don’t have good pizza here, we totally do).

Yo trabajo con personas que hablan español, pero no es mi idioma. Esto no es el español que tengo en mi alma. No entienden cumbia. No conocen la muchedumbre de Baquedano durante la hora pic, ni recuerdan el olor de las medialunas como el olor de las mañanas. No conocen el frío de pasar a la cocina en la mañana, antes de que aprendamos la estufa, o muy tarde por la noche después de una locura en Bellavista. No cachan qué es compartir papas fritas en el centro después del carrete. O pasar por las calles, completamente acurrucados en un auto, a las 6 de la madrugada, todavía media curada por unas piscolas bien chilenas, pero totalmente, sumamente viva. 

I work with people who speak Spanish, but it’s not my language. It’s not the Spanish I have in my soul. They don’t get cumbia. They don’t know the crowd in Baquedano during rush hour, nor do they remember the smell of medialunas as the smell of the morning. They don’t know that kind of cold you feel when you go down to your kitchen on a winter morning, before the space heater is turned on, or that chill you feel when you’re looking for a snack in that kitchen after you return home from a crazy night in Bellavista. They don’t know what it’s like to share French fries in the city after a party. Or cross the city streets, completely snuggled up in a car, at six in the morning, still half drunk from those strong Chilean piscolas, but feeling totally, absolutely alive.

A Ustedes gringos que están ahí ahora: que lo disfruten lo más que puedan. Esta experiencia les va a cambiar por siempre. Les va a inculcar con un deseo interminable para viajar, para experimentar nuevas culturas e idiomas, para conocer a nuevas personas con historias completamente distintas que las suyas. Bueno, esto podría decir sobre cualquier persona que estudia en el extranjero, pero veo a mis compañeros del programa de Chile, y realmente, nosotros crecimos mucho más que los estudiantes que fueron a España, o a Londres, o a Dublin. América del Sur- y Chile, por supuesto- tiene algo especial. Algo distinto. Y mejor.

To all of you gringos who are there right now: I hope you enjoy it as much as you can. This experience is going to change you forever. It’s going to instill in you an interminable desire to travel, to experience new cultures and languages, to meet new people with stories completely different from yours. All right, I guess you could say that about anyone who studies abroad, but I look at my classmates from the Chile program, and really, we grew a lot more than our friends who went to Spain, or London, or Dublin. South America- and Chile, of course- has something special. Something different. And better.

Hace más que un año que estaba ahí. Espero que no pase otro año hasta mi vuelta. Ya estoy tratando de guardar plata por un viaje el próximo julio. Invierno, otra vez, pero el próximo momento cuando voy a tener vacaciones suficientes y cuando mi familia chilena va a tener vacaciones también. Acepto todo tipo de donaciones- plata, pasajes, oraciones, buenas vibras. (Es broma. Bueno, media broma.)

It’s been more than a year since I was there. I hope it’s not another year before I get back. I’m already trying to save money for a trip there next July. Winter, once more, but it’s the next time I could get enough time off to make the trip, and the next time my Chilean family will also be on break. I am accepting all kinds of donations- money, plane tickets, prayers, good vibes. (I’m kidding. Well, only half-kidding.)

Me han dicho que esta pasa a todas las personas que estudian en el extranjero, y que nunca termina. Bueno, Ustedes ya lo saben porque esto es como el décimo post que escribo sobre Chilesickness. Pero en eso estamos, no más. 

I’ve been told that this happens to everyone who studies abroad, and it never goes away. Well, all of you already know that because this is like the tenth post I’ve written about Chilesickness. But that’s just where it’s at right now.

Feliz septiembre, Chilito. Amigos ahí- por favor tomen un vasito de chicha o comen una empanada por mí.

Happy September, Chile. To my friends over there- please have an extra glass of chicha or an empanada for me.

Besotes y abrazotes,

Gaby 

 

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