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A weekend with the J-Man

20 Jul

My family came up to visit a few weeks ago! I was so happy to see them. We didn’t do anything spectacular but I had a great time just hanging out with them. They stayed at the home of a family friend, and so it was nice to reconnect with her and her family as well. On Saturday we went to take one of my brothers, my sister and my cousin to a camp at UVA. This left just my mother and littlest brother to celebrate my first 4th of July in the US with me.


One of my favourite parts of that day was this dessert we created from these foodstore-bought mini-cakes, strawberries and whipped cream. It wasn’t my idea, but I was in charge of assembling them. First I had to prep the strawberries, I cleaned and sliced them, then left them covered in sugar while we ate dinner.

my brother, the whipped cream monster!

Later, when were ready for something sweet, I put the strawberries in the  depression in the middle of the cakes and artfully sprayed whipped cream on top. They were so delicious! The cake was just a plain vanilla flavour but it was nice and spongy. The strawberries were really fresh and then you add the whipped cream you get an interesting mix of flavours and textures in your mouth :)

The next day I tagged along on the mothers-and-their-youngest sons trip to the national zoo. You would think that seeing as how I live within walking distance from said zoo I would have visited already, but I’m (only somewhat) ashamed to report that that wasn’t the case. It was so hot. :| oh my goodness.

so cute!

And we wandered in search of animals for 4 hours! By the end we were all beat. My brother was such a trooper though! I could tell he was tired but he didn’t let this affect his attitude.

I never asked him which, of all the animals we saw, was his favourite…but I think mine was the elephant! There was only one baby one, and we saw it on our way out of the zoo. We were all a bit disappointed because we didn’t get to see any cheetahs or pandas, nor could we find the elephants, but, how fortuitous, they had moved them (or maybe just that one) to an area we passed as we were leaving.

hahaha :)

There were a crowd of people and I went to go check out what they were watching and wow! Hahaha. I’ve never seen a live elephant before, despite the semester I spent in Ghana last year and the visit my group made to Mole National Park…whose symbol is an elephant lol. I’ve always wanted to get close to one of those huge creatures. Truthfully, I want to ride one! I think they’re fascinating, the way they are so intelligent, and have some sort of family system and an emotional connection with their loved ones. Hopefully while I’m in  India or Thailand I’ll find  a way to have my wish fulfilled. I can’t wait! And oh the food! I’m sure I’ll be rendered speechless by both experiences. Indian and Thai cuisine are among my absolute favourites :) Of course, I still have to get all the details out of the way first…pesky matters of financing, dates and purpose, but don’t worry, they’ll soon be all sorted!


Contentment from Scratch

13 Jul

Making sweet things was my first kitchen love, and I’ve tried not to neglect my relationship with sugar since I’ve been here. Apart from rice pudding, I’ve made two batches of pancakes.

The first was from the crate of produce from my landlord. We had no time to eat them because the frozen fish was on top of them and they turned immediately.The second batch was because I bought some organic bananas, and I learned that they ripen a lot faster than regular ones, I guess because they’re not pumped with chemicals. I love banana pancakes even more than regular ones, especially the way my grandmother makes them – with crispy edges and lots of sugar so you don’t need syrup (I think she started making them that way because my granddad doesn’t like syrup, but I’m not sure).  Well I found out from an aunt a while ago that you can get the crispy effect by frying the pancakes in butter rather than oil. But another characteristic of my grandmother’s pancakes is that they’re very flat.

I had no idea how they came out like that until I was looking up recipes to get the ratios right and realised that I had no kind of leavener (baking soda or powder) I was like well, I guess I’m going to have to go without!  And voila, came out just like my grandmother’s! hahaha. I don’t know if the lack of leavener was a result of her not having any / not thinking it was necessary / absentmindedness, but I really like it.  People might find it strange that I prefer my pancakes sweet, doughy and cold (!), but hey, to each his own right? Plus, can you think of a better way for a poor college student to stretch her pocket and be as satisfied with the results? These pancakes right here are a twofer,  sentimental value and singing tastebuds :)

Something I did make normally was a batch of cookies. I went to visit a friend of mine in Northern VA, and it was quite an ordeal to get there.

fun times :)

I was supposed to meet her for an early breakfast but ended up getting there at lunch time :| We had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with watermelon and raspberries at her poolside though, which was lovely. To help kill time and put me in an even better mood, I suggested we make cookies. From scratch? My friend wondered. Of course! This is me we’re talking about. We ended up creating the oatmeal, coconut and pecan cookie, which is delicious if I may say so.

Speaking of cookies, just last night my apartment-mate made a batch of her own, with a delicious secret ingredient that I won’t reveal here because I’m going to steal it! Muahahahaha! Anyways, they were chocolate chip with almonds on top.

chocolate almond cookies

She made about 4 batches (they were to take to her office) and had a little problem with some of them regarding consistency (some were a little softer than she would have liked) appearance (a couple batches spread more than she would have liked) and one batch had a taste glitch. But even though she was frustrated that they weren’t perfect little plump and round cookies, I found them quite yummy.

Baking just makes me so happy; I don’t even have to eat whatever it is I’ve made. In fact, half of the fun is in giving the results away! It doesn’t matter what mood I’m in to begin with, I cream, fold, whip and knead all my frustration away, and watch as right before my eyes powdery, fatty and liquid substances come together to make something altogether unexpected. The final product never fails to make me smile, even if it’s an epic fail, I can laugh about it. From start to finish, the exercise brings me contentment :)

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Bread, Bread and More Bread

17 Jun

I have so much bread! Since the weekend of my boss’ wedding, the number of loaves I have really hasn’t decreased. It’s partially my fault, since I’ve been seduced by bread deals at the foodstore. The week after the wedding I was in the foodstore and it was buy one loaf and get the second free, how could I pass that up? A chance to try out a loaf for free? And today, another brand was selling 2 for $5, which seems pretty good to me. Despite the fact that I had 3 loaves of bread in my pantry already, most of it was the kind I don’t eat, a cheapo brand I bought for the bread pudding I had intended to make. Which is why I had to buy more for me to eat…except for 2 weeks now I’ve bought 2 loaves instead of just one.

Anyway, in an attempt to use up the loaves, I’ve been trying to find recipes that help you get rid of leftover bread. The first and most obvious thing that I made was bread pudding, since it’s what I intended to do in the first place. I made this great big pan that I shared with my apartment-mate and one of the repairmen here at the house, but it was still a lot. Plus, I only used up one loaf and a tiny bit from a second! What in the world was I thinking?

Next, I discovered bread salad. It was delicious! And so easy. Tear up the bread, chop up tomatoes, onions and cucumber, and pour vinaigrette over it. Let it sit for a few minutes to let the flavours marry, and then serve it up! I made the vinaigrette too: garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, orange zest (since I didn’t have any lemon) and a few teaspoons of fresh squeezed orange juice, with salt and pepper to taste. Mmm! It was so yummy, and it looked so inviting with all the different colours.

Even after these two bread-intensive dishes, I still had a lot of bread. It helped that I ran out of milk and cereal, so I was toasting for breakfast and sandwiching for lunch…needless to say I was getting quite tired of all the bread. I wanted to make another bread pudding but I as I said, no milk. Last night I did have the brilliant idea of making grilled cheese sandwiches, which is yes still a sandwich but a little more exciting than just ham or turkey …although the first one didn’t come out the way I would have liked. As in, one side of the bread was completely black because I forgot about it :| So here I am with still a loaf of cheapo bread and the 2 new loaves I came back with. I’ll probably end up making another bread pudding, and eating more sandwiches. I’m really not into croutons. Making breadcrumbs is an option, then I could use them for hamburgers or something, but I’m not sure I have a grater. Well, we’ll see. Let me know if you have any ideas/suggestions!

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The Rice Series: Take #3 – Finally, A Sweet Success

12 Jun

A few evenings ago I was feeling restless. I had work to do, but I didn’t want to start just yet. So I did what I always seem to do in those situations…I looked for something to bake :) Now…what do I have in my cupboards? Sugar – *gasp* both white and brown! – butter, milk, vanilla extract, even eggs! (I’m not very fond of them) Wow, I might actually be able to whip something together. But wait…no flour. DARN! This really restricts my options :s I was searching the internet for recipes when I remembered, hey, I have rice, I can make rice pudding! Before this past semester, I only ever had it once, in grade 2, and I hated it. I don’t remember anything about the texture, taste or temeperature, just that I could only eat one spoonful. But then I had it served hot at an international dinner thing I went to and I liked it, despite the fact that it was terribly burnt :s A few weeks later a friend of mine shared some of hers with me, a delicious but plain version courtesy of her dad. This time, it was cold, straight out of the fridge. After these two encounters, I was confused – how is it supposed to be served? Does it depend on countries’ respective cultures?

Well anyway,  I looked up a couple recipes and decided on the simplest. You won’t even believe how easy it was. I think it’s going to be a staple in my house from now on! Ok so you cook the rice in a tiny bit of water, just long enough for the water to be absorbed and for the rice to get a little fluffy. Then you add sugar and a ton of milk and boil away until the mixture turns kind of porridge-y. Finally, you stir in vanilla extract and let it cool. I was eating it as soon as it was finished and it was so good!! Then I had some the next day cold, and that was good too. I don’t know which way I prefer. Oh, I also added cinnamon and  a tad bit of nutmeg to the milk, so mine wasn’t plain. It took a little over an hour to prepare, from getting the ingredients out of the cupboard straight to covering the pudding with saran wrap (because I didn’t want a skin). The pictures don’t make it look appetizing, but it definitely was delicious. I would proudly serve this to anyone, unlike my last rice attempt, which I would dish up with hesitation, and explanations about the ‘real’ Bahamian rice. Trust my first sincere accomplishment to be a sweet rather than a savoury dish! I’m not at all surprised.

This is after adding the milk and sugar

and this is after it's all done


6 Jun

Just for clarification, smh = shake my head. It’s used pretty intuitively, whenever you would shake your head at anything that has been said or done. I said it just the other day on the metro; I was sitting there thinking about whether or not I should break the law and start eating this brownie I had just bought, when something transpired that made me slowly say “s…m…h…”.

Hmm, why would I be breaking the law? Well that question was to be answered in my original purpose for this post. Earlier that day, I had gone to a vegan bakery, I wanted to see if it were possible to make anything that tastes good without eggs or dairy. My intention was to buy a cupcake, but the chocolatey call of a brownie with nuts (my favourite kind) begged to be answered instead. It was delicious! I ate as I walked towards the metro, but then had to put it away because it’s illegal to eat/drink on DC public transportation.

So, now the stage is set. I was sitting in the car, debating whether or not I should bring it out and resume munching (I’ve never even considered breaking the rules before) and wondering how I would explain this brownie trip to you all. I was distracted by what I sensed to be a hostile exchange between a young man (in his late 20s) and an old woman. The guy had his feet up on the seats of the car, and I assume the woman told him to take them down. When I looked up he had just asked why he should move his feet, and she explained to him that because people sit on the seats, their clothes would get dirty. Sounds like common sense right? Well, the guy’s response was “I hate to break it to you ma’am, but the majority of people’s asses on this train are dirtier than the bottom of my feet. So you need to fuck off”. WHAAAATTT?!!! I could not believe what I heard. One because his reaction was completely uncalled for and two because he was speaking to an old woman, someone who could have been his grandmother. It was so disrespectful!! Wow. I’m still not over it. I felt terrible for the old woman and I was really angry at the guy. His foolishness is the reason why many people are so frustrated with young people…punk. Hahaha that’s probably how the woman would have described him. “Arthur, you wouldn’t believe what this young punk said to me today…”

I thought about saying something, but I wasn’t sure if I should, plus I had no idea what would have been appropriate. I imagined someone saying that to my grandmother and that made me even more angry. How dare he? And honestly, his feet shouldn’t have been on the chairs. He’s a grown man. He knows that. Plus, dirtier than the bottom of his shoes? Really? He was in these ugly black boots that, although they weren’t badly worn, were far from being new. I think it’s safe to say my skirt-clad bottom was and will continue to be a lot cleaner than the soles of those shoes. And if he’s talking about STDs, I hope he knows that they don’t travel through clothing :| If he’s clearly wrong, why make a big deal out of it? Argh.

The fact that he cursed her out calls to mind something that happened to me just a few hours earlier that day. Again, I was underground. I was walking along the edge of the platform, right on top of the lights, and a seated lady called out to me and said “isn’t there enough room here?”. I was surprised when I realised she was talking to me and told her something lame like “I’m stepping on each light”; she scolded me about possibly falling. I kind of shrugged off what she was saying, why was she concerning herself with my wellbeing? It’s my own business if I want  to risk injury right? But I just said ok, moved in a little closer and kept walking; she yelled to my back, “thanks for not cursing me out”. I was surprised. Admittedly I was irritated, but not nearly enough to curse her out. That never even occurred to me. I wondered, is she used to things being that bad? Although I’ve been living in the ‘big city’ a month, I’d never witnessed any rudeness. Till that guy came along. Clearly, some people don’t have any broughtupcy. You never speak to elders that way. And he needs to get his priorities in order, even if he was upset, some things aren’t worth getting that angry over.

Muffins in Disguise

3 Jun

I spent this past weekend in Philly visiting a friend of mine from school. It was quite the adventure, from the Chinatown bus I took to get there to running after the ice cream truck on her block to get a vanilla cone. I only had one thing on my To Do list, and that was to try a philly cheesesteak. I’d only ever had one before, in NY a while back, and it was terrible! I remember being surprised that that little dry sandwich was what the fuss was all about. When I described it to my friend and her sister  earlier this semester, they assured me that I had been jipped and that when I tasted the real thing I would be able to truly understand. With this promise in mind, the first thing we set out to do when I arrived was find a good cheesesteak place. It was hilarious listening to my friend, her sister and their mum argue over where to go – Jim’s, Larry’s or find a corner store in the ghetto somewhere? Well we ended up at Larry’s and I ordered my sandwich with ketchup, mustard, mayo and sweet peppers. It was delicious!! Piping hot, the bread was crispy and the filling was moist and flavourful. Yum =) Just the memory of that sandwich makes me want another, and I’ve already brushed my teeth for the night! Haha. So the cheesesteak was definitely a success. While I was there I also had a pretzel. That was…ehhh…I can’t really say I liked it. I did get to try water ice, and that too was yummy. For those of you who don’t know, water ice is kind of what it sounds like, flavoured icey water. It reminds me of sorbet but it isn’t as smooth or as firm. Well Philly, 2/3 I don’t think that’s too bad.

And oh yea!! I made these muffins on my last day there. My friend was working on an essay and so to amuse myself I did what I usually do in people’s houses lol, I rummaged around the kitchen to see what I could make with what was there. They aren’t really bakers, so I had to do a lot of digging. I found a cupcake tin and that pretty much dictated what I could make. We bought a pineapple which I had just tried my hand at chopping up – my first time! – and so I decided to use it to make muffins. I found a recipe that called for crushed pineapple, but I didn’t let that deter me. I just cut up the fruit into smaller pieces and dropped them into the blender till I got the requisite amount. It worked out ok, but it’s not anything I’d recommend doing. I don’t think it’s worth the effort. Anyway, I made a basic muffin batter and then stirred in about half the pineapple. I used the remainder to spoon on top of the muffins along with a brown sugar topping that the recipe had me make too. I was a little sceptical about that since my friend only had Splenda brown sugar (did you guys even know they made that? I didn’t), but it came out ok. I was pleased with the final product, but I’d like to try them again and make the actual batter sweeter and moister.

Other things I did on my trip include a visit to the Jersey shore – a place called Wildwood to be exact – having a cookout on Memorial Day and getting to see a ‘real’ block party (again something I didn’t know still happened/happened in real life, I’d only ever seen them on music videos before) and wandering around the Reading Market to look at all the foods on offer. Below you’ll find pictures of the muffins after they came out of the oven. Although they look like aliens, I promise they didn’t taste too bad at all!