October 21 2018

By the numbers 2: Food and Market

1:  Number of times I had pizza. Although advertised as ‘cheese pizza’ it certainly had a lot of onions on it.  Also the number of kilograms of peanuts and sugar purchase since August.

2:  Number of times I go to the market each week. Once to the Huye market and once to the Mbazi market.  I absolutely hate the market and as much as I hate the grocery store, I’m looking forward to just having to deal with Publix instead of 10 different people for 10 different items. Also number of kilograms of rice and beans purchased since August

4:  Number of new dishes I have learned to cook courtesy of my closest fellow volunteer who loves to cook

Potstickers… one of the dishes I’ve learned to cook in the last two months

5:  Number of times I have fixed spaghetti in the 2 months I’ve been at site. I went a couple of weeks without but now it’s my Friday night activity along with watching a movie—dinner and a movie… I’m leading a fancy life over here among the hills.

6:  Number of Rice Krispies Treats eaten in one day [I received 8 in a care package; had self control on day 1 and 2, then….] 3 number of days said rice crispy treats lasted

8:  The number of times I’ve eaten at the local Chinese restaurant. 4 number of different dishes I have tried at said restaurant.

Molly loves me

12:  Number of recipes in my current rotation.  Other than the spaghetti, this ensures that I eat something different every day in a two week period. [soups, sandwiches, potatoes, eggs, and rice and beans make up the bulk of my diet]

Tomato and Avocado sandwich with homemade pickles… a lunch staple

15:  KG the amount of gas I bought in August that I am hoping will last me until February [or longer]

23:  The total number of pounds lost since my arrival in Rwanda; also the number of  pounds of pizza the average American eats.

24: Number of Fanta Citrons consumed since my arrival to the South [This may or may not be a lot, but it is my only beverage other than water.  And it’s much better for me than Dr. Pepper.

52 (out of 60):  Number of times I have skipped ‘the most important meal of the day‘.  Mornings and I are not friends.  Even in Rwanda when everyone is up with the sun.

500 RWF:  Cost on a 500ml Fanta in a restaurant. 1 or 2:  Number of Fantas I drink per week.

1440:  The number off calories my fitness pal says I am supposed to eat per day. 0:  the number of times I have exceeded 1440 calories in one day; although one time I did exceed the number however the total was offset by the gratuitous amount of walking I did that day upping my calories to 2145 for the day… I came nowhere near 2145 calories.

3500 RWF:  The average amount I spend at the market buying the following:  Cucumbers, carrots, potatoes, red onions, green beans, green peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, mandarin oranges, apples, and bananas + bread and cake.

 

Apple Cinnamon Crepes

 

September 30 2018

Spaghetti with tomato sauce: Cooking in the Corps 1

Welcome to my first post in the series called Cooking in the Corps. By the end of the series, there will be [hopefully] a collection of 27 [see what I did there] recipes that I personally cooked in my kitchen either on the gas stove or the imbabura.  A couple of these are of my own creation, but most are modified versions of dishes my fellow PCV Taylor taught me to cook.

Spaghetti with tomato sauce was my first meal at site.  We were installed on a Thursday and this was Thursday night’s dinner [and Friday’s lunch].  Once the gas stove was set-up and tested, and once Peace Corps’ left, the first order of business, even before unpacking suitcases, making my bed, or any other essential task, was to fetch water and set about making the spaghetti sauce. I’d planned this meal from Kigali and acquired the vegetables needed while there so that there would be no difficulty in finding what I need.  A hungry Michelle is not a happy Michelle and hungry Michelle makes snap decisions/judgments that a satiated Michelle would not make.

Tools Needed:

  • 2 cooking pots
  • Non-stick skillet [or frying pan]
  • A heat source [I used a gas stove]
  • A sharp knife
  • A cutting board [preferable]
  • A stirring spoon of some sort

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg of fresh tomatoes [diced]
  • 1 onion [diced]
  • 1 green pepper [diced]
  • 6 cloves of garlic [diced]
  • 1 small can of tomato paste
  • Spaghetti noodles [only what you can use at one time; noodles DO NOT keep well overnight]
  • Spices to taste [I used salt, pepper, oregano, and rosemary]
  • ½ L of water
  • Bread
  • Parmesan cheese [if you’ve got it]
  • Butter or margarine
  • Red wine [about ½ cup if you have it, but totally not necessary]
Tomatoes, onion, bell pepper, and tomato paste… Add seasoning to your liking and you’ve got homemade spaghetti sauce… much healthier than anything from a can or jar

Directions:

Turn gas on and pour water in pot.  Dice all vegetables and add to water. Add 2/3 of the garlic to vegetables. Add tomato paste to pot. Stir. Add about a tablespoon of salt and a teaspoon each of pepper, oregano, and rosemary. [Add more if the flavor isn’t to your liking]. Bring sauce to boil and reduce heat. Allow sauce to simmer for 15-20 minutes until water cooks out.

Bell peppers and onions cooking together before adding tomatoes

While sauce is simmering, add water to another pot. Break spaghetti in half and add to boiling water. Cook approximately 7-10 minutes until noodles are done. Drain water.

Pour noodles on plate.

Take one loaf of bread and cut lengthwise. Slather in butter and add garlic.

Melting butter

Put face down in fry

The deliciousness that is garlic bread

Super easy and super tasty.

February 19 2012

A castle, a conspiracy, and a love story

Here’s the thing about Tuscany: it’s so freaking beautiful and historic. And tasty. Wine, bread, olives, olive oil. I’m sure it’s beautiful… especially in spring/summer/fall. Winter is pretty awesome too.

After spending some time taking in some winter sports with the best athletes on the planet and searching for my soul against the tiny coastal villages nestled against the Mediterranean, it was time to get down of discovering what Italy is known for:  good food, good wine, and good art.

A Castle

But first a side trip to back in time.  Enter Trebbio Castle, built in 1184!  1184.  That was the dark ages for crying out loud.  Anyway back to the story…

trebbio 1

The castle was built in 1184 by the Pazzi Family, [Italian language lesson=‘pazzi’ means crazy]. In fact, the family was pretty crazy to even attempt such a thing, but these were different times.  Ever hear of the Medicis–you know the family that rules these parts back then? The Pazzis and Medicis were rivals.  Somewhere deep in the castle [IDK if this part is true, but it sounds good] Francesco and Salviati Pazzi, with the help of Pope Sixtus IV and his newphew Girolamo Riario concocted an plan against the Medicis. The Pope was upset that the Medici’s were attempting to thwart his Papal power over the North-central Romagna region. And if you’re wondering whether it was successful or not, just check to see whose balls are all over Florence… a little hint, they’re not the Pazzis.

trebbio 2

Here’s the thing about a time before photography or the internet.  You can use your imagination to picture how things happened.  It was April 26, 1478.  Easter morning.  The most sacred of sacred mornings.  It was beautiful–spring in full bloom–warm even.   All the Florentines were in the Duomo for High Mass.  The Pazzis snuck in to the Duomo and managed to get a seat near the Medicis.  Catholics being catholics the homily was probably eerily similar to Easter homilies today.  I like to think it happened right as the priest was offering communion to the Medicis. The Pazzis managed to fatally stab one of the Medici brothers, Giuliano, but Lorenzo ‘The Magnificent’ managed to escape. The Florentines side with the Medicis and killed the present Pazzis on the spot.  And all sins were immediately forgiven…

You might be wondering what happened to the castle after the demise of the Pazzis; it fell to disrepair. A caretaker lived there for 15 years [contractually], but as soon as he was able, he skedaddled off with a young missy in tow.

The love story

Fast forward 500 years or so…A young Austrian girl come to Italy to learn Italian.  Whilst on the train, she meets the the man who would become her husband.  They married and settled in Milan.  Never-mind the 40 year age difference [I’m all about the older men, but I don’t think I could do 40 years older].  She was 19; he was 59.  Six years of marriage = 5 children.

One day he came to her and said “A few years ago, I was a lonely man, so to thank you for all that you have given me, I bought you castle in Tuscany with over 800 acres.’  [Sidenote:  If ever a man wanted to buy me a castle in Tuscany, I’d let him].  I’m sure he didn’t quite expect the turn of events that set the castle’s restoration in motion.  You see, there’s no heat in that castle; I’m sure he expected that the Missus would only want to live in the castle in the summer, but oh no–give a girl a castle, she’ll want to live there for life.
SONY DSC

And so they did.  Restorations began in 1968. They started the wine and olive oil production. The castle is now in the hands of their daughter, Anna Baj Macario, who took over the estate with her husband Stefano Casadei, who is the winemaker. They live full time in the castle, which still doesn’t have heating, and is really quite cold, especially in February.

It takes over 100,000 euros a year to maintain this place so in addition to making wine and olive oil, they give tours, offer cooking classes, have apartments for rent and host events like weddings at the castle.

The moral of this story:  Life can start at any age usually when you least expect it. [Or how it applies to me; don’t give up on life just yet].

And a bonus:  A recipe for homemade pasta

Ingredients: EGGS ( 1 egg per person), FLOUR (*100 grams per person), EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL (1 teaspoon), SALT

trebbio 5

On a wooden board, put the flour in the shape of a volcano, and the eggs in the middle. Add the extra virgin olive oil and some salt. With a fork, start mixing the eggs, taking the flour from the side, little by little or it will result lumpy.

Then, start mixing the dough with the hands. Don’t work it too much, because the pasta must result porous, in order to better absorb the sauce.

Then, when the dough is homogeneous, leave it to rest for at least half an hour.

Then, roll out the dough: firstly by hand, after with the rolling pin. Put a handful of flour on the dough in order to roll it out better, or it will stick to your hand/to the rolling pin. Turn the dough once in a while in order to give it a round and not oval shape. When the dough is very flat (*1-2 mm), leave it again to rest half an hour.

Then, fold the dough. Now you can cut the dough to prepare the shape of the pasta that you prefer: tagliatelle are wide stripes, tagliolini are narrow stripes.

Open the stripes, and let them dry.

Handmade Tagliatelle with “Sausage” Sauce:

Put some onion, celery, thyme, and rosemary in a pan with extra virgin olive oil. Then add fresh sausage: when the meat gets a nice brown color, add peeled tomatoes. Let it boil for about 1 hour and 30 min.

Handmade Tagliolini with Vegetarian Sauce:

Put some shallot (kind of onion) and celery in a pan with extra virgin olive oil. Add grated carrots and zucchini, some thyme and some fresh basil. Add some fresh cream, and chili (if you’d like).

*Metric measurement  because, you know, Italy ain’t America.