The Twelve Commandments of Spanish Food

DSCN5356After a surprise weight gain due to stress at the start of last summer, I’m finally taking the initiative to get back in shape. I’m going to a great gym and I’m eating great food. As I try to discipline myself to cook wholesome and healthy meals for our family every night and to plan ahead so that we can pack healthy lunches for work, my thoughts inexplicably travel back to Spain.

I’ve heard it said that the Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest in the world. I don’t know about that (I mean, look at number 1 on the list below), but I do know that we have never had more delicious food than what we ate in Spain, we have never eaten larger quantities of food that what we ate in Spain, and we have never weighed less as adults than we did in Spain. I can’t figure it out.

DSCN5300 DSCN2034 DSCN1663 DSCN1583 DSCN1648I have therefore set out to dissect some of the secrets I have learned about standard Spanish eating habits.

The food moves in mysterious ways.

  1. Thou shalt cook everything in gratuitous amounts of olive oil goddess nectar, as I like to call it.
  2. Thou shalt eat an “introductory” dish, then a meat or fish, then a dessert. In that exact order. Or else you’re weird. And we will laugh at you.
  3. Thou shalt eat fish. Lots of fish.
  4. Thou shalt not forget the power of garlic. Feel the power . . .
  5. Thou shalt pack as much protein as possible into one dish–beans, eggs, cheese, fish, didst I mention fish?
  6. Thou shalt glorify potatoes, especially in fried form.
  7. Thou shalt recall that animals like ducks and rabbits have meat on them, too. What’s so great about chicken and beef, anyway?
  8. Though shalt eat a sissy breakfast of one meager miniature donut or something like that. The coffee is the important thing.
  9. Thou shalt eat bread with everything. One loaf per meal is a good way to start.
  10. Thou shalt not touch thy food with thy hands while eating, rather with thy bread. Seriously, dip that bread up in there!
  11. Thou shalt not bother to remove bones, skin, shells, pits, etc. from thy food before cooking. Thou wasteth time if thou does so.
  12. Thou shalt drink wine and/or beer whenever the heck thou wants.

BONUS: Thou shalt not get fat no matter how much thou eateth!

DSCN1673 DSCN5899 DSCN5357 DSCN1619 DSCN1631 DSCN5754 DSCN5755Okay, so I’m just being silly. A lot of traditional Spanish eating habits like loading up on starchy potatoes & bread and eating an eensy-teensy sugary breakfast are probably not good life choices.

On the other hand, they definitely have some things right:

1) High-protein, 2) low-fat, 3) whole foods.

These principles have actually been sort of the guiding light in my healthy eating journey. You’d be surprised how many opportunities you have throughout the day to swap out unhealthy snacks and meals for high-protein, low-fat, less-processed alternatives.

For example, I just enjoyed a delicious loaded shells and white cheddar mac n’ cheese dinner made with cottage cheese and Greek yogurt instead of butter and milk. I also piled on grilled chicken and chopped kale greens. It tasted way better than if I had just whipped up the boxed macaroni and cheese on its own, and it was full of nutritional content.

IMG_0259If the Muse moves you, these three tips (and not the 12 goofy ones above) have the potentially to help you burn fat and gain muscle. Why not give them a whirl?

How to Live Like a Tourist Everyday – Part 2

This post and its predecessor were written for ROC U’s blog about being a college student in the Rochester, NY area.

In case you missed Part 1, it’s here.

Now that we’ve gotten the terminology down, here are three tips to help you start your illustrious career as a citizen tourist right now.

1. Eat out.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “You acknowledge we’re broke college students, and now you want us to eat out more?”

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The truth is, to know a community is to know how its people live. To know how people live is to know how they eat. Restaurants, cafes, pubs, farmers markets, and locally specialized grocery stores (hello, Wegmans?) can give you this insight.

Stop some people on the street. Ask them where they like to eat. It’s so simple it even rhymes.

Also, if you haven’t already, it’s time to fall in love with Urbanspoon. This amazing website (and now app) sorts restaurants by customer rating, geographic location, price range, and more.

This is the “Cheap Eats” page for Urbanspoon Rochester. Go wild!

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Click here to read on at ROC U’s tumblr.

How to Live Like a Tourist Everyday – Part 1

Today I am blogging over at ROC U blog, a tumblr populated by a group of journalism students at Roberts Wesleyan College. My post is about the best lesson I learned while studying abroad in Europe.

We hear the word “tourist” and immediately think of money-sucking “tourist traps.” We do our best to master prior to our vacations the walk and talk that will make us “not look like tourists.” We brag upon our return that the quaint places we frequented in our travels weren’t the least bit “touristy.”

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But if we turn to our good friends Merriam and Webster, tourism is simply defined as :

noun \ˈtu̇r-ˌi-zəm\ 1. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure

How nice. Who wouldn’t want to do that? So why should pleasurable travel have such a bad rap?

Well, probably because the very next (and increasingly more common) definition is :

2. the business of providing hotels, restaurants, entertainment, etc., for people who are traveling

The problem with tourism, as with many modern art forms, is that it has been turned into an industry.

Click here to read on at ROC U’s tumblr.

Akward and Awesome Thursday: Seaweed Salad

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After the Marriage Adventures retreat, Josh and I were encouraged to go on a date to put into practice some of the communication and romance tips we had gleaned from the conference. We opted to go out for unlimited Japanese food at Osaka Sushi!

Awkward:

  • I asked to have my pickled salad over rice, and the little Asian waitress literally raised her eyebrow at me and said “Really? Over rice?” I wanted to be all like, “Well, you guys are the ones who pickle your salads . . . and squid . . . and probably cats and stuff!”
  • My mom keeps trying to give me her old clothes. I hate to tell her this . . . but I’m not quite that old yet . . .
  • Okay, so the polka-dot shirt I’m wearing in the above pics used to be hers, and I’ve worn it three times this week . . . but that’s the only thing!
  • Except for a nice tan polka-dot skirt . . . but that’s it . . .
  • The table across from us was full of kids who seemed to be from Japan. They kept ordering their “favorite” foods . . . like bright orange fish eggs.
  • I tried the bright orange fish eggs.
  • At Marriage Adventures, the oldest and most . . . ahem . . . experienced couple there were also the most recently wed. So much sex talk, lol . . .
  • This picture that Josh loves:

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Awesome:

  • I have literally been trying to figure out what the above fluorescent green substance was ever since tasting (and loving) it at an international business dinner at Messiah in 2010. Thanks to Osaka Sushi, I have found you, seaweed salad! So good!
  • Sushi. Just sushi. All sushi.
  • The only flavors of ice cream Osaka has for dessert are vanilla, chocolate, red bean, and green tea. The two weird ones are absolutely to die for.
  • One of the kids at the table across from us hid some bright green wasabi in his friend’s green tea ice cream while the guy was in the bathroom. It was hilarious.
  • I love dating my best friend 🙂
  • Oh, hey! I’m married to my best friend!

“In a Cabin in the Woods” (Naples, NY)

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Josh and I were blessed beyond belief by a graduation present in the form of staying for four days in a rustic cabin owned by our pastor’s family. The property is in Naples, NY overlooking Canandaigua Lake–an area that I have loved as I’ve grown up because it is near my grandparents’ beautiful home. The above photo depicts the view from our front room during our stay.

That’s not even the best part. Josh and I left the laptops at home and only brought one of our two phones along (with internet capabilities turned off.) We wanted to get away from everything during this first week of freedom from college life.

And, boy, did we.

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Took this picture by accident while trying to take one out of the bedroom window . . . and Josh loves it

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We talked for long hours, wrote poetry, photographed and sketched pictures of nature, cooked and ate great food, chopped wood, drove down winding roads around the lake, and cuddled. There was a lot of cuddling. It didn’t get above forty degrees while we were out there! Thank God for wood stoves . . . both for warmth and for making my husband feel like a dashing woodsman.

So yeah . . . that’s where we have been 🙂

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The best woodsy little brunch I have ever had

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The view out of the window of the best cafe Josh and I have ever had the privilege to enjoy . . . and it’s in the middle of nowhere

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Awkward and Awesome Thursday: Party Empanadas

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Awkward:

  • Kristen, Neme, Josh, and I spent St. Patrick’s Day last weekend with just the four of us, some snacks, and one Guinness each. After experiencing (and in Neme’s case, growing up in) the party culture of Spain and spending last St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin, nothing we could do this year seemed incredibly exciting. What we lacked in booze we made up for in food!
  • Those savory pastries in the picture at the top of the post are bacon-date empanadas. Bacon. And date. In an empanada. Sweet and salty paradise.
  • This picture of Neme where he is obviously wiping away tears of joy because my empanadas are so beautifully delicious. Not really . . . but he was close.

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Awesome

  • Okay, so seriously, I completely winged the empanada recipe based on something that Kristen’s host mom Ale (who owned a bakery) had made us in Spain. I was really nervous for Neme to try them because 1) he knew how good the originals were and 2) he is a cook. He had one bite and said the only thing in his limited English that I really wanted to hear . . . “Oh yeah.” Major win!
  • Spanish cheese on baguettes with cranberries and candied nuts. To die for.
  • And they sell them at Aldis. Whaaaaat?
  • A friend offered me a puff on a cigarette one chilly night, and for a split second I was like “Thanks! Wait, what? No!”