Andes Plane

HI! I hope everyone had a wonderful 4th of July! Peru and Ecuador were so amazing. My best friend Megan and I almost ripped up our return tickets back to California so we could stay longer! I’m going to share the details of the trip with you so please bear with me as there will be about 6 posts related to the trip coming up in the next two weeks. Normal posts will be resume after!  :) 

Piriwana Hostel CuscoPiriwana, our Hostel in Cusco

Our first destination in Peru was Cusco. We shared 6-person room in our hostel that consisted of 3 bunk beds and a private bathroom. Our room opened into the courtyard (pictured above) which was fun because there were always people hanging out there. Megan I ate the hostel’s complimentary breakfast in the morning which included unlimited bread with margarine and jam, cereal, coffee and mate de coca. Mate de coca, or coca tea, is awesome! It helps with altitude sickness and gives you energy so we drank this almost everyday in Peru. Cusco is just a little over 11,000 ft. in elevation so I immediately noticed the thinner air but didn’t feel any altitude sickness except for shortness of breath (quite possibly just due to my lack of exercise).

We were fortunate to be in Cusco the week before Inti Raymi, Cusco’s huge celebration of the Winter Solstice, so that we could see all of the pre-festival parades and events. Locals prepare for this festival throughout the year, so when it happens, it’s huge!! During our stay in Cusco, we saw parades that went all day, big events in Plaza de Armas (the city’s main square), and it was the first topic of conversation when we talked to anyone in the city. There were performances and parades everyday so it was really exciting to see so much of Cusco’s cultural festivities when we walked around.

Performance in the city's main square, Plaza de Armas

Performance in the city’s main square, Plaza de Armas

Kids dancing in the parade

Kids dancing in the parade

The crowds during the parade

The crowds during the parade

While in Cusco, we also checked out the Mercado de San Pedro, a local market in Cusco. It basically has everything you’d ever need. There are isles of textiles, rows upon rows of little stalls that serve as restaurant stands, fresh meats, veggies, grains in bulk, and more. There were a lot of locals here eating at the food stalls, sitting on stools elbow to elbow while they enjoyed their hot soups (caldo), freshly made juices (jugo), and meat dishes.

I think my favorite part of the Mercado de San Pedro might have been the meat/butcher section. It wasn’t like anything I’ve ever seen before! There were organs laid out on display, animal heads, and even brain–we had to brace ourselves! It’s fascinating though.

Mercado de San Pedro Cusco

octopus

In terms of textiles and souveniers, this market was a little more expensive than the others we visited so Megan and I went back to a market that was closer to our hostel to buy a few gifts. Ummm, we ended up buying WAY more than we intended. Oops.

san francisco mercado

After we dropped off our new finds at the hostel, we headed to Los Toldos, a rotisserie restaurant that serves amazing pollo a la brasa (roasted chicken). The moment you walk in, you can see all of the chickens that were previously roasted, and a new batch on the spit with the juices and fats dripping into the fire. I ordered the 1/4 pollo a la brasa which came with fries and a few types of dipping sauces, and Megan ordered chicken soup. Both of our dishes came with an unlimited salad bar too!

polllo a la brasa

The pollo a la brasa was incredible! So juicy and tender. Plus, the portion was huge. The 1/4 pollo dish cost 14 soles (about $5 USD) and I couldn’t even finish it.

After lunch, we made our way to the San Blas area so we could make a dinner reservation at Pachapapa, a place that we heard served delicious “cuy” aka guinea pig! Yep, guinea pig is a delicacy in Peru so we figured we had to try it. We made a reservation for later that night and put a 50% deposit down for the guinea pig. When we got to the restaurant for dinner, we were seated on an outdoor patio with heat lamps. You could also see where the chefs were cooking the cuy over the fire which was kind of neat. We ordered causa rellena (a potato dish) as an appetizer, our first pisco sours of the trip, and a chicha morada (a traditional, non-alcoholic drink made out of purple corn).

Pancha Papa in Cusco

Pancha Papa. Can you see the oven in the back?

cuy

Dinner was fantastic! The cuy was tasty but I wouldn’t exactly say we could see ourselves craving it in the future. They bring it out to you on a platter so you can take pictures and then they cut it into smaller pieces so it’s easier to eat. I can’t really compare it to anything I’ve eaten before but I guess you could say that it subtly resembles the taste of duck or quail. This was one of 2 meal splurges during our trip, and we were not disappointed. After we ate, we rolled ourselves back to our hostel to pack our day packs, leave our backpacks at the hostel’s storage room (because you can’t bring them on the train), and get ready to head to Aguas Calientes around 5am in the morning.

Meg Steph Cuy

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Then the 12 Hour Panic!

After we got on the bus that takes you to Peru Rail (the train that takes you to Aguas Calientes) in the morning, the bus was stopped after about 45 minutes of driving and we were told that all of the buses had to turn around due to a mudslide that happened the night before. The train is the only possible way to get to Aguas Calientes, which is the entrance town to Machu Picchu so we…sort of freaked out!!

Panicked from the fact that there was a chance we wouldn’t be able to see Machu Picchu during our trip, we tried to figure out alternative routes with the help of a wonderful woman from Australia that spoke better Spanish than us (I hope she made it to Machu Picchu the next day!). We asked the Peru Rail employees if we could walk past the mudslide or take a taxi all the way to Aguas Calientes but were told that the train was the only way in and out of the city–unless we wanted to cab 4 hours and then treck through the jungle for another 3 hours. And that was not going to happen so we went back to Cusco and were forced to frantically taxi around the city trying to change our hostel reservations, bus tickets, and Machu Picchu entrance tickets. Luckily, everything worked out and we were able to put Machu Picchu off for a few days and head down to Puno/Lake Titicaca instead! We had already planned on heading to Puno but not until after Machu Picchu so we were happy it all worked out.

Our overnight bus to Puno didn’t depart until 10pm that night, so we were able to check out some more areas of Cusco. We went to the cacao factory and bought/sampled a ton of delicious chocolate. We also got to visit the coca museum and learn about the history/importance of coca leaves in Peruvian culture!

Next stop…Puno and Lake Titicaca! :)

[Normal blog posts will resume in 2 weeks but I have a few recipes for you next week as well!]

Beer Can Chicken on the Grill

You guys you guys you guys, I’m leaving for South America on Sunday! THIS SUNDAY! If anyone has any last minute tips about Peru or Ecuador, please let me know! I’m really excited about this trip but getting vaccines and everything has kind of been a pain–literally. I might have had an allergic reaction but won’t find out until I get an allergy test done tomorrow morning. Eek!

Anyway, beer can chicken! Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Chicken…on a beer can…on a grill. And it’s delicious.

Two weekends ago, some friends and I drove up to Willits (about 2.5 hours north of San Francisco) and stayed the weekend at a quaint little cabin nestled between giant trees on a 380 acre plot of land. No service (at least for us AT&T folks), no computers, and no city noise. I love weekends like these!

We had three cars drive up so each car was assigned to cook one meal that weekend. Our car got Saturday night dinner so after an intense game of 20 questions during the drive, we decided to make grilled beer can chickens for our main entree. My friends have made this dish in the past during our annual Tahoe trips but this is the first time Nicole and I got to experience this cooking method first hand. It’s so easy!! And the chicken always comes out moist and delicious.

You basically just get whole chickens, rub the skin with a good amount of butter, salt, and pepper, and then let it sit on a beer can (that’s about 3/4 full) for an hour and a half with the lid closed. Like so…

How to Make Beer Can Chicken

While the chicken is cooking, you can prep the rest of your meal. We also made roasted veggies, pesto pasta, fruit salad, and beer bread! The beer bread was a big hit, and the best part about the chicken and bread recipes is that you can use cheap beer to make them. I’ve used IPAs for the beer bread in the past and it really does add a great flavor. However, if a strong beer taste isn’t what you’re after, stick to the light, cheap beers to steam your chicken. You won’t regret it!

They come out looking awesome…

Beer Can Chicken

We even threw on some corn on the cob (also rubbed with butter, salt, and pepper) about 20 minutes before the chicken was done. Highly recommended–grilled corn is really tasty!

This recipe is very minimal and easy to make. The prep time is pretty quick and then you can just sit and relax while it cooks. Plus you can easily add your favorite fresh herbs or spice rub to it if you’d like. If you’re planning to grill soon (maybe 4th of July weekend?), this is a great recipe that feeds a good number of people. For even larger groups, double the recipe (like we did) and make it a party by adding some Spicy Jalapeño IPA burgers and a few hearty loaves of beer bread.

Now, what should I pack for my South America trip?? Happy grilling!

P.S. This blog was in the “Top 10 Food Bloggers of June” list made by The Huffington Post yesterday! Woo hoo!

Beer Can Chicken on the Grill
 
Prep time

Cook time

Total time

 

Serves: 4-6

Ingredients
  • 1 Whole medium-sized chicken, with the giblets removed
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of butter (depending on how big your chicken is)
  • 1 Can of beer
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Optional: Things to stuff it with such as sprigs of rosemary or thyme.

Instructions
  1. Heat the gas grill on medium heat.
  2. Rinse the entire chicken with cold water, inside and out, and then pat it dry with paper towels.
  3. Spread the butter generously over the entire outside (skin) of the chicken.
  4. Then season it with salt and pepper (or any other spices/rubs you like!).
  5. Open the beer can, pour about 1/4 of the liquid out, and then with a sharp knife, puncture a few more holes at the top. This will allow more steam to get through to the chicken.
  6. Optional: you can stuff the chicken with fresh herbs at this time.
  7. Place the beer can on the grill and then gently lower the chicken onto the can so that it can sit by itself. You may have to cut the chicken a little so that the can fits properly.
  8. Once the chicken is stable, close the grill lid and let it cook for about 1.5 hours (check around 1 hour though because the amount of heat can vary on different grills).
  9. When the chicken is cooked all the way through and the juices run clear, removed the whole thing (chicken and beer can) from the grill.
  10. Let the chicken sit for about 10-15 minutes to preserve the juices.
  11. Then cut up the chicken and serve!!

Notes
PRO TIP #1: You can also add a little bit of the spices/rubs into the beer can so that more flavor steams into your chicken. PRO TIP #2: Don’t place the chicken directly over a hot flame (especially if you’re using a charcoal grill) as this will burn the bottom of the chicken too quickly.

 

This past weekend was awesome. And blueberry season has officially begun!

Blueberries Morning Light

What started as Girls Night In (proof here) became such a fun adventure in helping out at the Sierra Cascade Blueberry Farm stand at the SF Ferry Plaza Farmers Market last Saturday! Some of you may remember that I also helped Armen at the Berkeley Farmers Market last year. Armen is Will’s (my good friend and college roommate’s) mom.  And this year, we joined Will’s dad, John, at the Ferry Building.

As much as I missed Armen’s wonderful personality and natural ease when chatting with her devout blueberry fans this time around, the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market was such a fun experience!

Ferry Building Farmers Market

I’ve gone here on the weekends before but have never been on the selling side of the stand. We go to our spot and started setting up at 7:30am on Saturday morning. We couldn’t have asked for a more gorgeous day. The morning light…was ah-mazzzz-ingggggg.

Amanda Nicole Carolyn Blueberries

 Amanda, Carolyn, and Nicole pictured above.
John (the farmer!) below.

John

Of course, Nicole and I had to show off the goods….

Nicole Steph Blueberries

Blueberries

These blueberries taste amazing too. And they’ve been certified organic for over 20 years! (See blueberry mojitos and blueberry pie recipe if you’re in the blueberry mood.)

As I mentioned last year, helping this family sell their blueberries is truly incredible. Customers come up left and right asking for John and Armen…wondering how their sons are doing, what’s new on the farm, and just being genuinely happy that the Sierra Cascade blueberries are back at the market. The blueberries were 3 weeks early this season too, something John and Armen haven’t seen in previous seasons before.

Amanda, Carolyn, Nicole, and I had a blast dishing out these blueberries to everyone. So much so that we sold out half an hour before the farmers market closed! Even though it’s blurry, I couldn’t help but post the picture of all of us below.

Blueberry Stand Group

The rest of the market was fantastic as well. As a vendor, it’s really exciting to trade your produce with the other vendors. We walked away with delicious cheese, fresh veggies, and some killer lox sandwiches.

Cherries and Bread

There was also an awesome stand, EatWell Farm, that came by our table and chatted with us for a while. The sweet gal then came back with homemade naturally-fermented probiotic drinks for all of us (pictured below)! So nice of her and so glad I got to taste the Cherry Lavendar flavor they make. Seriously, that’s the true spirit of a local farmer and sustainable friend right there. Plus, I’m keeping the cool glass bottles to put flowers in at home :)

Cherry Lavender EatWell

We also got to see a lot of the chefs and kitchen staff of all the local restaurants get to the market early so they could get first pick of the best produce. It was really cool to ask what restaurant they were from. flour + water even stopped by and bought a flat of blueberries! I almost fainted. That gives you an idea of the quality of these blueberries :) Here are some more photos from the Farmers Market:

Carrots

eggs

Open Faced Lox Sandwiches
Group Photo Ferry Building
After we left the Ferry Building, we went and ate dinner at Bask in North Beach with even more college friends (one who flew in from Wisconsin!), and then my parents came to the city on Monday so I got to spend some time with them. Lots of food, sun, and great times this weekend.

How was everyone else’s long weekend?

New Year’s resolutions schmesolutions. Football season is in full swing! If you want to have the most memorable Super Bowl party ever, this snackadium is the key to success. The best part is that it’s so much fun to make! Get a group together before the big game and have some fun with it. The sky’s the limit…

Materials: 

  • 1 foam board (or big piece of cardboard) for the bottom
  • Large pieces of cardboard to construct the walls/stands
  • 2 small disposable bread loaf pans
  • 1 large disposable cake pan
  • 4 tall glasses
  • Packing tape or masking tape
  • Scissors (an exacto knife would be handy too if you have one)
  • Construction paper
  • Toothpicks
  • Aluminum Foil
  • FOOD! (See below)

My original vision of this snackadium was a lot simpler and smaller but thanks to a great group of friends, we were able to create something even more amazing! So…here are the steps to achieve this awesome snackadium:

READY? Here we go!

Step 1: Recruit a group of friends. Mix it up. Grab some that like to help in the kitchen and some that like to put their engineering skills to use by constructing a base for the snackadium. [Tip: Offering beer helps.]

Step 2: Figure out what foods you’d like to buy to fill your snackadium and then go buy the food. I got a bunch of small items (cheeses, bread, dips, veggies, etc.) and then made three main items to make sure no one went hungry: pigs in a blanket, pizza, and 7 layer dip.

Step 3: On a wide surface, lay the foam board down and then tape the disposable tins down to make the field and end zones.

Step 4: Cut 4 long pieces of cardboard out and place them in a square surrounding the aluminum tins. Leave a few inches between the tin and the pieces of cardboard. On two of the pieces (opposite sides) cut a slits about half way down and slide the other two pieces in, locking all of the cardboard pieces in place.

Step 5: Cut two larger pieces of cardboard for the wall of your stadium. Cut slits in the pieces from Step 4 where you want the walls of your stadium to sit. Then slide the pieces for the wall into the base and tape the walls together.

Step 6: To make the stands, take a big piece of cardboard, fold one edge in about 3 inches and then tape the folded edge to the base and the other end to the top of the stadium wall. Repeat for the rest of the three sides. [We also cut one of the walls a little bit so there was an opening into the stadium and lined the stands with construction paper so the food wasn't just sitting on the cardboard. It's totally up to you if you want to do this as well!]

Step 7: Place a tall glass in each corner of the stadium. [Break for a beer. The structure for your stadium is done!] And then start preparing the food! [Note: If you have enough people, some should start preparing the food at the beginning of the project while others are building the stadium.] Fun fact: The 7 layer dip was made with Papalote salsa from San Francisco. DELICIOUS and highly recommended.

Pigs in a blanket: Using 2 cans of Pillsbury crescent rolls, cut each crescent roll in half and then roll up half of a hot dog in it. Bake according to the package.

Brie and Jam Pockets: Place a slice of brie cheese and a dollop of jam (any flavor) on a piece of Pillsbury crescent roll. Fold the dough over and then pinch the edges together with a fork. Bake according to package.

Make fun little cheese flags for each cheese out of construction paper, toothpicks, and tape so your guests know which cheeses are being served.

Pizza: Using your favorite Pillsbury pizza dough (I chose the artisan crust with whole grain), add pizza sauce, cheese, and your favorite toppings. We’re going to use the pizza as walls for the stadium so for this particular project, I would go light on the toppings so the pizza has an easier time standing straight up (to form a wall).

Dont’ forget the football players! Cheese (body), olive (head), and salami jerseys for half of the players.

And if you want to go really big…this bacon lattice (aka “retractable dome”) should do the trick. Call it the cherry on top of the stadium, if you will. Weave bacon together and drape over an oven-safe bowl that has been turned upside down on a baking sheet. Bake until the bacon is crispy and holds its shape.

Then cut up the cheeses, veggies, and heat up/bake any remaining snacks you’d like to put in your stadium.

Step 8: Assemble the snackadium! Make the two end zones dips that are different colors and create goal posts out of slim jims. Add everything to the snackadium but leave the players, goal posts, and bacon lattice for last. To make goal lines, scoop a few spoonfuls of sour cream into a ziplock bag and then snip off a little bit of the corner using scissors. Squeeze out the sour cream slowly to create the field lines. Bonus points if you make 10 yard markers out of  baby carrots and toothpicks!

Step 9: DROP IN THE BLIMP!!!!! Had to… :)

Step 10: Eat and enjoy. Below is the awesome crew that helped construct the snackadium! After about 4 hours of work…we were so excited to eat it! Thanks to each of them for all of their help!!

And there you have it. The ultimate football feast. Cheers to football season (and eating!)!!

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I have partnered with Pillsbury through DailyBuzz to help promote their Crescent Roll and Pizza Crust products. I have been compensated for my time commitment to work with this product. However, my opinions are entirely my own and I have not been paid to publish positive comments. Thank you Pillsbury for this awesome opportunity to create a Snackadium!

New Years in Tahoe – One Year Ago (Photo Credit: My good friend Willie)

Another year has come and gone even though it feels like January 1, 2012 was just yesterday! But my oh my so much has happened this year. As I launch this post, I’m in tahoe again for the fourth year in a row! Last year there was no snow at all and we went on hikes instead of to the ski resorts but this year has proved to be quite the opposite. Snow everywhere! YAYYY!

This is probably my favorite part of the year. Hiding out in a cabin, surrounded by a group of fantastic friends, ending 2012 and welcoming 2013 all at the same time. It’s crazy to think that it’s been a full 2 years since I started this blog! And I’m so glad I did. It’s a place for me to release my thoughts, post fun recipes, and share a little bit of me with you. :)

Thank you for reading along, all of your wonderful comments, and the encouragement to keep on blogging! This year has been an exciting one!!

Here are some 2012 highlights (woot woot!):

I discovered this spicy chipotle pesto, and it goes so well on pizza, bread, pasta, and so much more. It’s also nice and spicy!

I made sushi in Santa Barbara for my best friend Megan’s birthday.

I hosted a hot pot dinner for my entire family (aunts, uncles, cousins, and all!).

My love for blueberries has grown even more after helping out at the local farmers market. And also after making these blueberry mojitos below. And then a blueberry pie after that.

There were many weekend getaways and “camping” trips this year! :)

I’ve found my go-to cookie recipe and have made dozens of these salted dark chocolate chip hazelnut cookies throughout the year.

backpacked Big Sur with great friends and it. was. so. beautiful.

I switched jobs…TWICE this year! You knew about the first one, but I never mentioned the second job change. It was very sudden but exciting! So now I’m currently at another startup in SF called Get Satisfaction. And I LOVE IT! I love the people, the atmosphere, and what I do so it’s quite perfect. Below is a picture of part of my team and me on a team building off-site. Yep, we went sailing…

This baked pumpkin mac and cheese with sage is one of my new favorite mac and cheese recipes. It’s such wonderful comfort food with a touch of fall in each bite.

And my favorite highlight of 2012 was this year’s Holiday Project/Auction. I just love holiday spirit and I felt so much of it this year. So many individuals from all over the country came together for a good cause and a fun online holiday food auction. I’m so thankful to everyone who participated and contributed to this event! It truly made my year. Together, we raised over $3,000 for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and Lori (pictured below).

2012 was an awesome year but I have a feeling 2013 will be even better! :) I’ve got some fun recipes up my sleeve and can’t wait to share them with you.

Happy New Year, friends!!! Let’s make this year a great one!

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