Zotter: Chocolate with a Conscience

Have you ever opened a Wonka Bar and hoped that just maybe the Golden Ticket inside would be real and you had actually won admittance to a chocolate factory? If you answered yes, today is the day your dream comes true. But either way, who wouldn’t want to tour a chocolate factory? During my semester abroad, one of the classes I taught went on a field trip to the Zotter Chocolate Factory. It is any chocolate lover’s paradise.

Zotter Schokoladen Manufaktur is located an hour east of Graz near Riegersburg in Austria’s beautiful southeastern state of Styria. Zotter is a family business that was started by Josef Zotter and his wife. They opened a confectionary in Graz selling unique creations in 1987.   It wasn’t until 1999 that the Zotter’s opened their factory in the barn of Josef’s parents’ farm.

 

Zotter is unique in that all of the cocoa beans used in their products are organic and Fairtrade quality. Fairtrade is a progressive social movement whose mission is to alleviate poverty and create sustainability for small farmers and plantation workers in developing countries. It allows the small farmers to sell their products at fair prices, creates better salaries for workers, improves working conditions, and invests in opportunities such as education, health and environmental projects. Zotter is a permanent license member of FAIRTRADE Austria, which is a non-partisan, non-denominational, non-profit association to promote free trade. It is an organization that attempts to meet the demand of Austrian manufacturers for quality products from developing countries. Their products are completely organic, which means there are no preservatives or artificial flavors. Some of their organic ingredients in their chocolate products include wine, fruits, and nuts. There is even some uncommon pairings including chili and ketchup. Zotter makes their products to meet dietary needs. They make chocolate for those who need gluten and lactose free, as well as vegan chocolate.

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The factory is open for tours, along with its Edible Zoo directly behind the factory. Visitors can see the entire process of how cocoa beans are transformed into chocolate and learn more about the cocoa farmers that Zotter buys their beans from in India, Latin America and Africa. You can taste the cocoa beans in their different stages of production from raw to final product. As you are walking through the factory, you can sample as much chocolate as you can possibly eat and or drink.

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It’s no secret that I have a giant sweet tooth, so walking through the factory was amazing. They have all of their products out for sampling on every floor and in every stairway. They even have a floor that has a drink bar where you are given a warm glass of milk to mix in their drinking chocolate. There is flavor and type of chocolate to meet everyone’s taste. The hand-scooped filled chocolate bars have layers piled on the inside of a delicious filling that include cognac and coffee, bacon bits, pumpkin seeds with marzipan or sacramental wine and frankincense that is coated in chocolate. Labooko is a pure solid chocolate bar that comes in a variety of types including milk, dark, fruit, nut and coffee chocolate.  You can find the rest of Zotter’s products in their online Choco-Shop.

It takes real creativity to combine sustainability, Fairtrade, and organic products with decadent chocolate.  Zotter shares this with you when you visit the factory, they truly have the innovative edge in chocolate.

 

Kimchijeon: Korean Kimchi Pancakes

Kimchi, pronounced kim-chee, is a traditional fermented Korean vegetable side dish. It is served at almost every Korean restaurant and made in almost every Korean household. There are hundreds of varieties of kimchi but it is most commonly made using cabbage, radish, scallion, or cucumber as the main ingredient. Cabbage is the most popular kind of kimchi. People may use kimchi as just a side dish to eat with rice or they may incorporate it into other main dishes like kimchi jjigae (kimchi soup) or the dish I am writing about today, kimchijeon (kimchi pancakes).

In Korea they have different types of pajeon, or Korean pancakes. I’m writing about kimchi pancakes but they have other pancakes that are more popular like vegetable pancakes or seafood pancakes. The pancake shops are busiest on rainy days as Koreans love to eat pajeon and drink makgoulli (milky Korean rice wine) when it rains. Why is that? According to my dad who grew up in Korea, you have to look at the history of the poor farmers in Korea. He says that when it rained, farmers couldn’t work so they would spend the day inside. Making pajeon was cheap, easy, and everyone could eat it together. They paired it with makgoulli because it was also very cheap to make and everyone made their own and had some on hand. Nowadays, people like pajeon on rainy days because it’s comfort food and cheers them up on a gloomy day. Others may provide a more scientific explanation. No matter the explanation, it’s been raining a lot lately, I’m craving Korean pancakes, so let’s get to it!

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Kimchijeon

Makes 1 large pancake

1 cup finely chopped kimchi (you should be able to find kimchi at your local Asian grocery store)

3 Tbs kimchi juice

2 Tbs chopped onions

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup water

Vegetable oil

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This recipe is pretty simple. Just put everything listed above, minus the vegetable oil, into a medium sized bowl and mix well.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a large skillet, I used a 12 inch skillet, over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, pour all the contents of the bowl onto the skillet and spread evenly into a nice, big circle. Let it cook for 2-3 minutes, or until the bottom turns crispy, and then flip it to the other side.

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Reduce the heat to medium and cook this side for about 2 minutes. You’ll also want to use your spatula and press down on the pancake every now and then. If you don’t think the other side is getting crunchy and you notice that there isn’t any oil left, you might want to add another tablespoon to help get that crunchy texture. Flip it back to the other side for another minute and then it’s done!

IMG_0738IMG_0739Cut it up and now it’s ready to be shared! Enjoy!

French Immersion: My Happy Place

Sometimes when my anxiety is a little too much to handle, I take a moment to close my eyes and go back to my happy place. A place of sweet grass, mosquito spray, and deep blue waters. A place of growth, frustration, and empathy. A place of culture, education, and silliness. A place of tears from laughter, singing, and always dancing. A place of being free. A place of being 100% myself. A place of finding the sun in the hearts of children. A place I never ever want to leave. Lac du Bois.

The main building of Lac du Bois, "Paris", photo by Jean François

The main building of Lac du Bois, “Paris”, photo by Jean François

Lac du Bois is a summer camp in Bemidji, Minnesota. It’s part of Concordia Language Villages, which is a larger program that has 15 villages (campsites) set up around the lakes of Minnesota. Each village has its own language and the buildings within each site are designed with authentic architecture from countries that predominantly speak that language.

Concordia Language Villages sign, photo from google.com

Concordia Language Villages sign, photo from google.com

The goal of these camps is to teach language through immersion as well as prepare young people for responsible citizenship in global communities.

Each summer, all of the camps come together to interact at an event called “International Day.” At International Day, each camp sets up a booth serving foods from countries of their language or has games set up for others to play that are native to countries that speak their language. They even have a “World Cup,” where each camp forms a soccer team and they all compete.

International Day 2014, photo by Julia Schaller

International Day 2014, photo by Julia Schaller

Lac du Bois is the French language village, and is one of the greatest places on Earth.

I first went to Lac du Bois when I was 11 years old. My family heard about the camp through friends of my parents, and my parents both decided it would be a good opportunity for my sister and I. My parents enrolled my sister and I up for a two week, overnight session. We all drove up to Minnesota together and when we pulled our car up to the camp, a counselor greeted us at the window of the car and spoke exclusively in French.

It was terrifying! My dad had taught me some french when I was really young, and my parents put my sister and I in French classes when we were growing up, but I was not ready for complete sentences or even answering questions.

After my parents left, I was hopeless. I had nothing to hide behind and there was no longer someone to speak to the counselors for me. I felt naked and embarrassed. The first night was rough.

Throughout the second day, I bonded with girls in my cabin and from around camp and from then on, I was in my happy place. I learned more about french language and culture in those two weeks than I had ever before in my life. I made lasting friendships. I laughed until I cried, and I cried on the last night with my cabin-mates wrapped in my arms.

Extremely embarrassing photo of my cabin, Lac du Bois 2008

Extremely embarrassing photo of my cabin, Lac du Bois 2008

I then went back to camp for the next four summers. My fifth summer, I went to Lac du Bois for a month as part of their “Credit” program, which earned me high school French credit. They say that one will learn more French in one month at Lac du Bois than potentially a whole year in school (hence why they offer the credit program). They were right.

Language immersion is said to be the best way to learn a language and culture, and it is 100% true. I spoke more French at Lac du Bois than a full year of French class in public school. I was forced to use the language to communicate, since the camp was total immersion.

The counselors are only allowed to speak in the target language, and even the food is francophone authentic. Counselors and villagers come from all over the world. There are always counselors and villagers from the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Canada, and India, as well as other countries.

Villagers are put into classic summer camp activities like canoeing or soccer, but they are also put into language learning groups. These language learning groups focus on a francophone region or time period and are more education based (but always include crafting, dancing, and interactive games).

Activité Canoé, Lac du Bois 2012

Activité Canoé, Lac du Bois 2012

The entire camp is sort of one big simulation. The counselors put on a show for the villagers, and it’s the most fun show I’ve ever been a part of. There is continuous dancing, multiple skits every day, and songs about everything (even about baguettes at dinner!).

Last year I applied to be a counselor, and I got the job. I went back to my favorite place in the world for my 6th summer, and had the time of my life. This time, I was the one required to speak exclusively in French and I was the one teaching others about francophone cultures and about the language. I was the one helping villagers cope with their frustration and homesickness. I was the one teaching the songs and dances. And, the amount I learned about other countries and French language, was way more than I ever thought.

Journée Sénégal, Lac du Bois 2014

Journée Sénégal, Lac du Bois 2014

In an article posted in the New York Times, author Sindya N. Bhanoo discussed how language immersion is more beneficial than learning through a formal classroom setting. In a study in the journal PloS One, scientists tested the brain patterns of subjects who learned a language through immersion vs. in a classroom. The tests showed that the subjects who learned the language through immersion had the full brain patterns of a native speaker, while the subjects who learned the language in a formal classroom setting did not.

The camps of Concordia Language Villages are hands-down the best way to learn a language. Being fully immersed in anything is the best way to learn, empathize, and adapt to it. Even a two week program makes a difference.

The lake of Lac du Bois, photo by Alyson Kriz

The lake of Lac du Bois, photo by Alyson Kriz

In the middle of the woods by the lakes of Minnesota lies little villages that change the way people see the world. These programs really do cultivate global leaders, global thinkers, and peaceful communities.

Greek Comfort Food: Lahanodolmades me Avgolemono

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My mother will forever reign supreme in the culinary arts. She has the ability to recreate almost any dish, and if she isn’t satisfied enough, she will alter the recipe to fit her taste. Growing up in a Taiwanese family, where dinnertime is the main event to promote togetherness, my mother graced us with her talents, creating dishes from traditional Taiwanese food like dan bing to Chicago’s deep dish pizza.

One cold evening in 2012, my mother pulled out a trick she had been keeping since her trip to Europe earlier that year. She created a deliciously warm cabbage roll with egg-lemon sauce that I would later find out to be a dish called Lahanodolmades me Avgolemono (pronounced: la-hah-no-dole-ma-thes, ahv-goh-lem-uh-no).

For the longest time I (embarrassingly) believed that the dish was French because my mother’s French friend was the one who originally made it for her. I quickly found out this wasn’t the case, especially as I recalled the distinctly Mediterranean egg-lemon sauce. I consulted Google, and found a result almost immediately, even with my vague description.

Lahanodolmades me Avgolemono (Greek: λαχανοντολμαδες με αυγολεμονο) is actually a popular Greek comfort food that will warm you right up, perfect for some of Greece’s colder winter months. Lahanodolmades are cabbage (lahana = cabbage) pieces wrapped tightly around a meatball. Avgolemono is a combination of egg, lemon juice and broth that has roots extending back to the time of Alexander the Great.

Unfortunately, I did not inherit my mother’s superpower. I can’t do much with food other than follow exact directions. So, I am sharing my mother’s recipe, who has made a few alternations from the traditional Greek recipes you might find that have been passed down from generation to generation here or here.

Note: This recipe is not for those craving a quick meal. The bloggers at Lemon & Olives describes this dish as a “labor of love,” meaning that it does take some time. In the end, it took me three hours to make, but it was definitely worth it.

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Ingredients

This recipe yields 6 to 9 lahanodolmades

Lahanodolmades
• 1 pound of ground beef
• 1 pound of ground pork (substitute: veal or lamb)
• 6 to 9 leaves of cabbage
• ½ onion (substitute: 1 large shallot)
• 2 cloves of garlic
• ½ teaspoon of curry (substitute: cumin)
• ½ teaspoon of Sichuan pepper flakes
• 1 tablespoon of rice
• Salt and Pepper to taste (about 1 teaspoon each)

Avgolemono
• One egg yolk
• Lemon juice from one lemon
• Broth from the lahanodolmades to taste

Preparing the Lahanodolmades:

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First, we begin by preparing the cabbage. Boil a wide pot of water and add a pinch of salt. One by one add a leaf of cabbage into the water until soft enough to fold. Leave the cabbage to the side to cool while you make the meat mixture.
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Chop the onions until they are to your liking. They should be pretty small, and you can use a food processor for this step if you wish. Then chop up the garlic and mush them a bit.

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Unfortunately, I did not have any Sichuan pepper flakes on hand, and I only had the Sichuan peppercorn instead. No worries! Just grind down the peppercorn.

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Next, just dump everything for the lahanodolmades into a large bowl (except for the cabbage) and mix them together in one direction. This allows for a smoother texture. Do this until you are certain that the ingredients are fully incorporated.

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Now, section off the meat accordingly to how many cabbage leaves you have. Honestly, I just added however much meat would fit into each individual leaf. Then, fold each leaf tightly like the diagram above. I stress the “tightly” because the meat may fall out if you don’t. Don’t make my mistake.

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Once you’re finished folding your lahanodolmades, place them in a large pot and fill the pot with water until there is at least one inch of water above the rolls. Place a lid over the pot and cook it until boiled then reduce the heat to low. Cook for 45 minutes to an hour.

Preparing the Avgolemono Sauce:

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While the lahanodolmades are cooking, begin the sauce. (You can wait until you’re about halfway through the 45 minutes.)

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Separate the egg yolk from the egg white. Then beat the egg yolk. Squeeze in the lemon juice of one lemon. Mix until fully incorporated.

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About 15 minutes before your lahanodolmades have finished, open the pot and taste the broth. Add salt to taste and mix.

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Once the lahanodolmades have finally reached the 45-minute mark, take out about a cup of the broth. Using about a tablespoon of broth at a time, slowly pour into the egg-lemon mixture and mix. Do not let the soup cook up (curdle) the yolk. Do this to your taste (about a cup for me). The color should be a pale yellow.

Note: Villy of For the Love of Feeding said that Greek women often made kissing noises while pouring the broth into the lemon sauce to prevent the sauce from curdling. Ba-dum-tssh.

Preparing the Plate:

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Finally, add however many lahanodolmades to your plate as you wish. Pour the avgolemono on the top of the roll. Add as much as you like, but make sure there is a little bit of soup at the bottom.

And that’s it!

Qǐng màn yòng. Bon appétit. Kali Orexi.

All photos in this post were taken by me.

Hofbräuhaus: Food for Thought

My German study abroad experience ended with a bang at the Hofbräuhaus restaurant in Berlin. Six of us had made the journey from Columbia, Missouri to Germany, and after six action-packed weeks of learning and exploring, we wanted some traditional German food and beer for our final night together. The Hofbräuhaus, a brewery chain stemming from Munich, seemed like the perfect place to have one last dinner with the professor who had accompanied us on the trip. Little did I know, our experience could have been replicated back home in the U.S.

The Mizzou Crew at the Berlin Hofbräuhaus. Credit: Rachel Wittel

The Mizzou Crew at the Berlin Hofbräuhaus. Credit: Rachel Wittel

Our joy-filled final night at the Hofbräuhaus began with a delicious traditional meal. We all ordered the “Schweinehaxe mit Kartoffelknödel” (pork knuckle and potato dumplings) and a “Maβ” (liter of beer). We were served by women wearing “Dirndl” (a traditional German dress) and sat at long wooden tables.

Schweinehaxe mit Kartoffelknödel

Schweinehaxe mit Kartoffelknödel

Imagine my surprise when I see the Hofbräuhaus while walking down the street in New York City last week. Yes, there are Hofbräuhaus restaurants in the U.S. as well. Yes, our supposedly “special” last night in Germany wasn’t that special after all.

Hofbräuhaus NYC

Hofbräuhaus NYC

In 1589, the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V.’s, household decided that the beer brewed in Munich just wasn’t good enough. He recruited a master brewer to come up with a new formula and the Hofbräuhaus was eventually born. Yes, you read that right. The chain restaurant we enjoyed a Maβ at stems back to the 1500s.

Today there are Hofbräuhaus restaurants around the world, from Shanghai to Las Vegas. Where did the fascination begin? The atmosphere the restaurant provides doesn’t reflect modern Germany. It doesn’t even reflect modern Bavaria. It’s a journey back in time, specifically to southern Germany. It’s interesting that such a specific time and place in history continues to be romanticized, and not just in Germany, but around the world.

The German chain restaurant that has made it big around the world doesn’t simply offer German food – it offers the German “experience.” Dirndls, traditional music, the works. Anyone can go out and buy a piece of pizza without being slapped in the face with Italian history. Why isn’t it the same for German food? I may not have the answer, but it’s definitely food for thought.

Korean 1000: Soju, the Best Way to Enjoy Korean Culture.

somaek_koreana news

Have you ever drank Soju with Korean guys? Many Koreans loves drinking and dancing called Um-Joo-Ga-Mu(음주가무) in Korean word as old traditional saying since Korean ancestors enjoyed poem and music thousand-hundred year ago; moreover, Korean’s unique drinking cultures stand to tie Korean people together for fun and social relationship.

Some people from outside of Korea might say that drinking soju in Korean culture looks ritual or something like religious ceremony because Korean people have so many rules and ways for drinking Soju. In other words, if you know how to drink Soju in Korean way, it means you are already admitted to get into Korean culture. Soju is Korean traditional hard-liquor like Russian’s Vodka and Japanese’s Sake, but it is very cheap, costing approximately around $1 to $3 per bottle in Korea, so Soju is Korean’s best favorite alcohol, which gives perfect taste especially when you eat Korean BBQ. In the U.S. Soju price goes up high as an imported goods, but Korean people can’t get over from drinking Soju even in the U.S. (You can buy Soju (Jinro) in Columbia, Missouri at HyVee!)
Do you know why Korean people is addicted to drink Soju? Drinking culture is an important component in Korea society to have good relationship with people or to get close with new people, based on Confusion ideas. Korea has the unique tradition that young people should respect seniors or their parents by using specially designed honorific words and manners. This way of social code is shown in the drinking culture as well, which builds strong relationship. If you follow ways from below linked video or general instruction I wrote, I swear to god that all Korean people around you would like you so much immediately! This is basic step as an essential rule, respecting people older than you by using proper ways of drinking soju, showing them respects.

Here is general instruction:
1. Use both hands to hold a Soju glass to receive a shot from old people. (Using one hand in Korea looks rude)
2. Always check all glasses to not be empty. (Empty means you do not care so much)
3. Do not pour your shot. If you’re not youngest person among a group of people, your glass would not be dried up like Step 2. (Koreans do not drink Soju alone or pour soju for his/her self)
4. Do not refill other’s glasses until they finish their shot (Refilling unfinished glass is only allowed for dead people;;;)
5. Drinking starts by suggesting toast. Do not drink your shot before toast.
6. First shot must be “One Shot” (Finish the first shot at once, highly recommend)
7. If you’re younger than others, others will pay your bill. (It’s Korean culture~! Lucky!)
Moreover, Korean’s social values, such as hard-working and collectivism, play as active role for powerful social-drive, so drinking soju with many people is a usual scene after sunset or work. Drinking culture is very fun and active as social value does. “Work hard, play hard” is so true, applying for all around Korea peninsula.

Soju is strong liquor, containing 25% alcohol per bottle (Regular size: 360ml = 12oz) and should be stored in a refrigerator as cold as possible before drinking. This makes for smooth and happy drinking. If you go to Korea, you’ll see frozen Sojus and glasses in refrigerators.

icy cold soju
Because Soju is sometimes too strong to drink, Korean people also love to drink So-Maek, which is made up by mixing Soju + Maek-Joo (=beer). Putting a soju glass into a beer glass is a popular way to make So-Maek(소맥). For entertaining purpose, various ways to make So-Maek are used for better taste and fun.

Best So-Maek receipt
1. Prepare icy cold larger beer and Soju
2. Mix 1/3 amount of Soju based on Soju glass and ½ amount of beer based on beer glass
3. Stir So-Maek followed by your own way (This step is important part! If you have no idea, watch posted videos)
If you like to know Korean culture or plan to go to Korea or Korean town,
all you need to do is starting to drink “SOJU” and “So-Maek”!

Don’t forget Drink responsibly and legally (21+)!
Thank you for reading my posting.

Dan Bing: A Traditional Taiwanese Breakfast

When I was studying abroad in Taiwan, my favorite thing to eat for breakfast was dan bing (Chinese: 蛋餅). Dan bing is a traditional Taiwanese breakfast consisting of a crepe and egg as the base with the option of adding ingredients like ham, bacon, hot dog, tuna, corn, or cheese. Lots of small breakfast shops on the street sell dan bing and it’s very convenient to get on-the-go and very cheap. A basic egg dan bing costs about 20 TWD, which is about $0.63 USD, and to order one with an additional ingredient would cost about 30 TWD, which is about $0.95 USD.

It’s been nine months since I left Taiwan so I thought it was about time I attempted to make my favorite breakfast food. Remember when I said it was a quick, on-the-go breakfast? Yeah, not so much when you make it yourself. I failed my first two attempts and ripped many crepes that couldn’t be saved and had to be thrown out, but I’ll share what worked and what didn’t work so you can avoid making those same mistakes. So it may not have been quick but it was still cheap! Most of the ingredients were things I already had in my kitchen and the only ingredients I had to go out and buy were bread flour and scallions.

 _1460862These are the ingredients you will need.

Dan Bing

Makes 3

½ cup bread flour

2 tablespoons corn starch

Salt

1 cup of water

3 eggs

¾ tablespoon sesame oil

3 tablespoons chopped scallions

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Mix the bread flour, corn starch, a pinch of salt, and 1 cup of water in a small mixing bowl. Mix it well and let it sit for 10 minutes.

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For each dan bing, beat one egg with ¼ teaspoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon water, 1 tablespoon chopped scallions, and a pinch of salt.

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Heat a large pan on medium heat and spray generously with cooking spray. Pour about a half cup of the batter onto the pan (be sure to stir it a little first) and tilt the pan around to spread the mixture evenly into a nice big circle. Be sure to work quickly because the bottom of the mixture will start to solidify fast. Let it cook until the top has set and then flip it over.

Tips: Once you think the top has set, I would recommend waiting an extra minute before flipping. If you have difficulty flipping it over, try flipping it onto a greased up plate and then carefully sliding it back onto the pan, cooked side up, with the help of your greased up spatula. I would also re-spray the pan before sliding the crepe back on. After my first few failed attempts, I learned that cooking spray is your best friend for anything that comes in contact with the crepe otherwise the crepe will cling on and rip.

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Once you’ve flipped the crepe over, pour the egg mixture evenly onto the crepe. Try not to let the egg mixture spill over the edges but it’s no big deal if it happens. Let it cook until most of the egg has set and then flip it over to the other side to cook for an additional 10-20 seconds. The crepe should be sturdy enough to flip with a spatula this time. _1460950Now flip it egg side up onto a cutting board and roll it up and then cut into one inch pieces. The dan bing will be hot so I suggest dipping your fingers in a bowl of ice water right before handling.

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And there you have it! A delicious traditional Taiwanese breakfast. You’ll want to serve it with some sauce. You can use sweet chili sauce or make an amazing dipping sauce using 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce, 1 ½ teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons vinegar, 1 tablespoon honey, and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. I drizzled the dipping sauce I made on top of the dan bing and then dipped it in the sweet chili sauce and it tasted phenomenal!

_1460954 _1460955I also made tuna dan bing because that’s what I always ordered in Taiwan. I just mixed some canned tuna in with the egg mixture and it actually made the mixture more controllable when I poured it onto the crepe.

_1460956In this photo, I have the tuna dan bing on left and original dan bing on the right.

Big thanks to my sorority sister, Raisa Buenaventura, for taking these photos for me and being patient with me as I struggled to figure this out.

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Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the recipe!

Healthy Italian Ricotta Dessert

I am in a constant battle between satisfying my sweet tooth and maintaining a healthy diet to remain “in-shape”. It’s a struggle many people face on a daily basis because desserts are just so delicious, but having a healthy, toned body is both mentally and physically satisfying.

It seems to be about that time of year where people furiously exercise their bodies in the gym and cut down on beer and ordering pizza at 2 AM, because spring break is right around the corner… This is definitely hard for most of us to do, but the warped pressure society puts on men to be buff and women to be tiny is tremendous, so we do it.

Italy is a country I have been dreaming of traveling to at some point in my life. I am hoping to get the opportunity to study abroad there in the near future. Between the presentation of the food, the flavors and most of the ingredients being made from scratch, Italian food is unbelievable.  I’m lucky to get such an amazing taste of it in the North End of Downtown Boston. Here lies a “Little Italy” with the most incredible food and DESSERTS. Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry are two of the most famous Italian pastry stores in the nation. They make the most amazing cannolis and other desserts using ricotta cheese. The recipe I made satisfies the taste and texture of many traditional Italian sweets.

This dessert is truly one of my favorite healthy Italian recipes, but there’s one more reason why I love it SO much… its simplicity. The ingredients are minimal and the preparation time is short. As college students we don’t have too much time to make elaborate meals in the kitchen, so this Italian Ricotta Dessert becomes even more appealing because you can whip it up in 2 seconds!

So let’s get started!

Ingredients: Tub of low fat or fat free Ricotta Cheese, unsweetened cocoa powder, Stevia drops, Vanilla extract, and dark chocolate chips.

First, put the Ricotta (1  3/4 cup per tub) into a mixing bowl and add 4 teaspoons of cocoa powder.


Next, add one teaspoon of Vanilla extract.

After, squeeze three squirts of the Stevia drops into the bowl.

Finally, add as many dark chocolate chips as you’d like.

Mix together until all the ingredients are blended into a mousse-like texture.

Cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

And just like that you’re done and have a guilt-free Italian dessert to satisfy your sweet-tooth.

Nutrition Facts:

Servings per container: 3.5

One serving = 1/2 cup.

Calories: 130

Total Carbohydrate: 14g

Sugars: 7g

Total Fat: 2.25g

Bierocks, Vegetarian Style

bierocks on foil

As my possibly indefinite move to Germany is rapidly, almost scarily approaching, I’ve been mulling over all of the seemingly innumerable possibilities that living there will provide me with: an extremely central location within the European Union, with a rail system just begging me to travel every chance I get, a new language to (attempt to) master, all of the people I will meet….and all of the extremely cheap, extremely available beer I will drink. Thoughts of this, all too obviously, led me to thoughts of Oktoberfest.

Being a lover of beer, and a lover of large gatherings of all sorts, Oktoberfest is something I am extremely excited for; however, being that a vegetarian is also something that I am, the food, which is primarily meat-lover friendly, is something I am a bit leery of. But I am not the only one, it would seem: Der Spiegel did a post entirely on the issue, explaining that beer tent owners are aware of the issue, and some are going to great lengths to combat it. Looking through the vegetarian and vegan options now being offered got me thinking – if these people can put a spin on a mostly meat-centric ordeal, so can I!

And thus, the meatless Bierock was borne.

I’m sure I’m not the first to do it, as it’s a pretty simple process to make this dish meatless, but hey, I am the first one to blog on Eurokulture about it, so that counts for something, right?

A little background: The Bierock is a typically German dish, brought to the United States in the 1880s by German Mennonite immigrants consisting of a semi-sweet roll filled with pan-cooked and seasonsed beef, cabbage and onions. In my version, as you could have guessed, there is no meat, but there is added mushrooms and mozzarella cheese, because really, how can cheese be a bad thing in this situation? In any situation, really, but I digress.

Alright, here we go, let’s do it.

Ingredients, post use

Ingredients, post use

Ingredient List:

2 cups warm water

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

1/2 cups white sugar

1/4 cup margarine, softened

1 egg

2 teaspoons salt

7 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped onion

6 cups shredded cabbage

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup melted butter

(Added):

1 package of mushrooms of your choice

12 ounces mozzarella cheese

bierocks with yeast

Step One: Prepare the dough. Yup, that’s right, we’re gettin’ fancy and makin’ the dough ourselves. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy; about 10 minutes.

Milky...mmm.

Milky…mmm.

Mix in the sugar, margarine, egg, salt and 1/2 of the flour. Beat that baby until smooth. Add remaining flour until dough pulls together. Or, if you’re poor like me and don’t have an electric mixer/beater, you can get down and dirty and use your hands. Fair warning though: it gets sticky as all hell. My advice? Get over being socially awkward and ask that neighbor that you’ve never met despite living 5 feet away if they have a mixer and if you could pretty, pretty please use it for the smallest of time.

bierocks swirling the dough

Swirl that dough, giirl.

 

bierocks sticky dough with face

SO STICKY

bierocks doughh

 

 

My lovely assistant with the nearly baby-sized ball of dough.

My lovely assistant with the nearly baby-sized ball of dough.

Once you’ve done all of this (and maybe made a new friend? Eh? Eh?), place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover said bowl with foil and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, or let it rise for 1 hour. Can you guess which one I chose? Here’s a hint: it wasn’t the “refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight” option.

bierocks cabbagebierocks greased pan

Step Two: In a large heavy skillet, sauté onion, cabbage, mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to season and let simmer for 30 minutes. Cool until lukewarm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F in the meantime. Coat a cookie sheet with non-stick spray in the meantime as well.

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Step Three: Punch down dough – really get into it –  and divide into 20 pieces. Spread each piece of dough out on an un-floured surface and lay 2 pieces of cheese in each. The recipe I used states that you are to then fill each dough square with 2 tablespoons of the cabbage mix, but for me, 2 tablespoons was absolutely too much, so I ended up cutting it down to around 1 tablespoon. Once you manage to squish all of that vegetable and cheesegoodness into the dough, fold it over and seal edges. Place on prepared cookie sheet and let rise for 1 hour.

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Step Four: Nearly there! If you want to get classy with it, you can eggwash these pups; I did it on half of them and it was well worth the extra minute it took. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with butter – lots of butter, lots and lots of butter – and DEVOUR.

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Where to Watch the World Cup

If you couldn’t already tell, Jeremy Hart and I are just a tad excited about our upcoming trip to Leipzig. It’s unreal to think we’ll already be in Germany this time next month – our flight is actually in less than a month!

We’ve been preparing for the trip, specifically researching the sights and sounds of the city of music. While there are endless places to explore, I’m honestly still wondering where to watch the World Cup. Yes, I will be studying abroad during the World Cup. What else could a tourist ask for?! I hear the bar scene is out of control… so I had to investigate the hot spots.

Lost In Leipzig says Gottschedstrasse, named after Johann Christoph Gottsched, was the area to be when the city hosted the World Cup at Red Bull Arena in 2006. Gottschedstrasse, located in Zentrum-West, contains countless bars and restaurants. And, since Lost In Leipzig’s full post was written less than a year ago, I would assume it’s still worth hitting up. Check out a few places on the street:

Luise Cafe am Gottschedstrasse courtesty of Lost In Leipzig

An Nam Restaurant am Gottschedstrasse courtesy Lost In Leipzig

More outside seating in the “theatre district” around Gottschedstrasse courtesy of Lost In Leipzig

ESPN and Spiegel offered additional suggestions for game-watching – and other fun places to see while in Leipzig. Apparently I’ll have to look into Auerbach’s Keller in Madlerpassage off Grimmaische Strasse for traditional, historical restaurant experience, while still find time to adventure through Augustusplatz.

Oh, you want to  find out actual information about the World Cup? Here, BBC Sport‘s got you covered. Viel Glück und viel Spass!

Blini with Fried Potatoes: The Quintessential Russian Recipe

Growing up, my favorite food was homemade blini, especially blini with fried potatoes. Hey, my parents didn’t call me the Carb Queen for nothing. Today, I’m going to walk you through how to make the basic recipe for both.

If you aren’t familiar with Russian cuisine, I guess a little explanation is in order. In one of my older posts about the Russian festival Maslenitsa, I explained that blini are a thin fried crepe that is usually stuffed with an assortment of yummy foods–meats, cheeses, mushrooms, jams, honeys, or of course potatoes.

Let’s get started! Keep in mind that this recipe feeds 4 very hungry college kids.

Here is what you will need for the recipe:

  • 5 medium-sized Russet potatoes
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup water
  • 1.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tbs. sunflower oil (or vegetable oil if you don’t have sunflower)
  • 1 small-medium onion
  • 1 tbs. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Approximately 1/2 stick unsalted butter

 

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Here is a visual of what you will need, minus the milk and water

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The first thing you need to do is to fry the potatoes since they take quite some time to fully cook. Pour some sunflower oil into a pan and heat the stove to medium heat.

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Peel approximately 5 Russet potatoes.

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Cut the potatoes into small chunks and add them to the warmed skillet along with a chopped onion.

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Cover the skillet for approximately 15 minutes. I do this so that the potatoes can get softened and don’t get too browned. Stir and flip the potatoes occasionally.

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Meanwhile, mix the 1.5 cups of flour in a small bowl with 1 tbs. sugar and 1 tsp. salt.

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Whisk the dry ingredients until combined.

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Slowly add the 1 cup water into the dry ingredients until well combined. Whisk that batter into oblivion.

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In a separate mixing bowl, combine 1 cup milk with 3 eggs and 2 tbs. sunflower oil.

 

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Mix the wet ingredients with an electric mixer until combined. If you don’t have an electric mixer, it is okay to use a whisk. Just make sure it is well-mixed.

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Slowly begin to dollop the flour/water mixture into the bowl with the egg/milk mixture. Mix this really well to ensure everything is well-combined.

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By this time, your potatoes should start looking like this. This is around the time that I take the lid off of my skillet so that the potatoes can crisp up and brown properly. Make sure to salt and pepper these bad boys, too.

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Heat up your skillets for the blini. I’ve found that the best temperature is a medium heat. I also use two skillets at a time so that I can finish quicker.

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After buttering your pan, pour a thin layer of the blini mix unto your skillet. It should start bubbling up like this after about 30 seconds. Once the edges begin to brown, flip it.

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This is what the blin looks like once it’s flipped. Cook for another 20-30 seconds.

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After the blin is done cooking, stack them on top of each other on a plate. Also, don’t forget to butter them some more after you’ve stacked them. This keeps them thin and soft.

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Now, here comes the fun part. Spoon some of those fried potatoes onto your blin.

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Next, fold two of the sides inward.

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And now do the same with the other two sides and there you have it: a little Russian burrito.

Now, you devour. Dip these into some sour cream and you’ve got yourself a party.

A few important notes, though:

  1. Make sure you butter the pan in between each blin. Otherwise, the blin will stick to the pan and you’ll have a doughy clump.
  2. Eat them while they’re hot. They tend to get a bit rubbery if left out to sit.
  3. After stuffing the blins with your stuffing of choice, you can re-fry them so that the burrito-like shape stays and the outsides get super crispy.

If you are lost and need more guidance with this recipe, check this video out with step by step instructions!

Enjoy!

Down Home Cooking From the DDR

As I’ve been preparing to graduate college and move out of Columbia, I’ve been going through the standard move-out checklist: return library books, pack up clothes, so on and so forth. When I got to the point of cleaning out my fridge, however, I realized that I could put all my leftovers into one pot and cook it up in the name of Eurokulture.

So, what I’m attempting here is Solyanka, sort of the one-pot meal of the former East Germany, made with leftovers and whatever you happen to have on hand. Blogger Karo over at Persephone Magazine claims that Solyanka originally came out of Russia and Ukraine, but became extremely common and popular in East Germany because of the large amount of cultural imitation of the USSR. I guess the Soviet Union was sort of the cool older kid to East Germany, being the biggest, most successful socialist nation, and imitating Soviet foods and culture was sort of like the little brother getting the same haircut in an attempt to show that he’s also cool.

 

Ingredients:

 Ingredients

Here are your Vegetables/Fruits- I used three white onions, a large can of crushed tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, a whole sliced lemon, and eight small sweet gherkin pickles. Don’t use dill pickles, they’re too salty!

Picture 3You’ll need meat, too. Or a meat substitute? All the recipes I found used several types of meat, and pretty much anything seems to be acceptable. I saw versions with beef, hotdogs, pork, smoked cutlets, bacon, and many other meats. I just used what I happened to have lying around: From left to right, a leftover pork chop, roast lamb, and some pork jowl, which is really just like bacon.

Picture 5Lastly, you’ll need to gather all of your spices and garnishes. From left to right here, I’ve got red chili pepper, salt, thyme, allspice, black pepper, bay leaf, paprika, parsley and sour cream. The sour cream and parsley are mostly for garnishing to serve, but I added some parsley to my soup as it was cooking to add some freshness.

So, bringing it all together, your first move should be preheating the oven. I set mine to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re using a dutch oven, like I did, you’ll want to let that get nice and hot before adding any of your ingredients.

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While your oven is preheating, you’ll need to make your broth. Add your onions, gherkins, lemon, tomatoes and tomato paste to as much water as you wish to use. You could use a broth, but with all the meat, broth could make for a really heavy soup, and Solyanka isn’t supposed to be too thick.

Also, add all your herbs and spices, including some of the parsley, but save more parsley for serving later.

You also need to cook all your meat now, because it’s a bad idea to have raw meat swimming around with your vegetables. Just brown it.

Picture 9Next step is the last step, really. Put your browned meat in the pot with the broth, cover, and cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1.5 hours. If your kitchen is as small as mine, then it will be about at hot as your oven. Cooking is hard work, but we love it.

Picture 13After you’ve let your Solyanka finish cooking, serve it up immediately and enjoy! I added some sour cream and parsley, but if you’re making a more Russian-leaning version, you might want to use dill, as you would on any other Russian dish. I also had a bowl of Solyanka for breakfast the next morning, and I’m here to tell you that it’s really good as leftovers. You should probably take out the lemon slices before putting the soup in the fridge, because my batch got pretty sour overnight.

Solyanka, then, is basically a sweet and sour soup with meat and vegetables. Those are the only constant factors. I found so many variations on this basic recipe as I was preparing this meal that my own recipe basically ended up being a combination of all of them.

This site claims to present an East German recipe for Solyanka, but it uses dill and capers, which seems to be a more Russian version.

This one is also East German, but is almost completely different from the other East German recipe. This is getting confusing.

The Near Distant Ago, an English-language Cold War nostalgia blog, presents yet another very different recipe. Great.

Eventually I realized that if there are this many variations on the recipe, then the particulars must not be too important. So, I picked and chose my ingredients from the various recipes, ending up with my own recipe, which seems to be not only acceptable, but also the ideal way to make Solyanka.

How To Butcher a Black Forest Cake (And Still Make It Taste Delicious)

 
The Black Forest Cake in its natural habitat

The Black Forest Cake in its natural habitat

The Black Forest Cake wasn’t created in the Black Forest of Germany (obviously, you can’t bake a cake in a forest…) but was named after the cherries that grow there.

The Bollenhut

The Bollenhut

Now I have been making this cake for YEARS and nobody ever told me that there was a black forest cake hat. This hat is truly sensational, and combines two of my top 100 favorite things: cherries and hats.

 

At this point I feel that it is my civic duty as a global citizen to share with you the secrets behind this delicious cake.

Here is the first secret: I cheat.

They don’t sell Kirchwasser at Wal-Mart and I don’t have the patience to bake a chocolate cake from scratch. However they do sell cool whip, cherry pie filling and chocolate cake mix at Wal-Mart, and my short attention span can deal with all of those things!

So without further ado, here is the college kid’s version of a Black Forest Cake:

Make the chocolate cake according to the directions on the box. Put it in two circular pans.

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I know what you may be thinking: that is not a circle. I know. I know my shapes and I also know I don’t have enough money to buy circular pans. So I went with rectangles cut in half. Hopefully it’ll taste the same!

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Remove it from pan. I have never done such a perfect job. This cake flip is so good it should be on the cover of a magazine. Or win a blogging contest.

 

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Lather some Cool Whip and cherry pie filling on top of that baby.

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Now plop the other cake on top and repeat the last step. Feel free to make it fancy.

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Wow. That is one not aesthetically pleasing cake. But it tastes good, further proving that it is truly what’s on the inside that counts.

 

This German tradition that I have so cavalierly butchered holds its own amongst the dessert battle throughout Europe. In my expert opinion (I eat a lot of desserts) the Black Forest cake crushes the cannoli (figuratively and literally, it is a very dense cake), defeats flan and massacres macaroons. Black Forest cake is yet another example of German excellence, throughout not only Europe, but the world.

The Most Sociable of all Culinary Occassions

Paella is a well-known Spanish dish that has made it’s way around the globe. While it originated in Valencia, Spain and is still unique to the area, variations of the recipe are now created all over the world.  Since I will be traveling to Spain in 2 short months, I decided to learn how to prepare my own paella.

I started by reading several different recipes for the dish on various sites, both formal and informal. What I found was there is no definitive recipe for paella. Not only do the majority of the protein-rich ingredients depend on personal preference, but every style of preparation seems to vary from another.

I found Spanish blogs (in English), such as Taste of Sundays, proudly sharing detailed, personal family recipes. I found vague descriptions of variations of the traditional paella recipe on blogs such as this. I even found how-to video tutorials by Spanish chef’s specializing in paella, like the one seen below.

 

Large paella's are commonly served during Spanish fiestas. Photo credit: Chris Gray

Large paella’s are commonly served during Spanish fiestas. Photo credit: Chris Gray

I did come to find a few staple ingredients that continually make their way into the authentic dish. Paella rice -which I found out the hard way is not labeled in the local grocery store, as paella rice at all- is one of the staples to any variation of the recipe. Bomba and Arborio are the most commonly used rices. Saffron is another necessity when preparing anything close to the authentic styled paella.

Saffron offers a unique, valuable flavor to paella. Photo credit: Aidan Brooks

Saffron offers a unique, valuable flavor to paella.
Photo credit: Aidan Brooks

 

Paella was originally a farmers’ and farm laborers’ food. The workers cooked the dish over an open fire using rice and whatever ingredients were at hand around the fields and countryside. Tomatoes, onions, snails and beans were some common original ingredients. Since Valencia is on the coast, it’s no surprise that various kinds of seafood made their way into later recipes. “To this day a “true” Paella Valenciana has no seafood but a mixture of chicken, rabbit and snails with green and white beans” (The Paella Company). Visit The Paella Company’s site to learn more about the origins and developments of this dish. 

 

As shocking as it may seem, snail was not one of the ingredients I was ready to try so I figured I’d take a more common and widely spread approach to the recipe. Aside from a few modifications, I followed this recipe.

Here are the ingredients and measurements I decided to go with:

2 full chicken breasts
1/3 lb shrimp
4 large scallops cut in fourths

½ cup tomato sauce
4 cloves chopped garlic
1/3 chopped red onion
1 red bell pepper
½ cup green beans cut in 1” sections
½ tsp saffron
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cups paella rice
1 ½ cup chicken broth

I started by sautéing the chicken in olive oil until it was mostly cooked. Then I added tomato sauce, bell pepper, onion and garlic to the pan. After about 4-5 minutes, I added the rice, saffron, green beans and cayenne pepper. Once the combination started to boil, I tossed in the shrimp, scallops and broth. I let the ingredients simmer for roughly 15 minutes; stirring frequently to ensure the rice was evenly cooked. I garnished the completed dish with additional peppers and lemon wedges. True to Spanish tradition, it was served family style, in the center of the table for my roommates to gather around.

Here’s a glimpse at my first attempt:

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While there was definitely room for improvement and we had nothing to compare it to, my house was pretty impressed with the results!

Today, paella is commonly prepared as the centerpiece for many fiestas. It is a social dish, meant for sharing and often associated with celebration.  It is known for being eaten right out of the pan rather than on plates. Kitchenproject.com describes the typical style of eating the dish in Spain. “Each guest starts at the perimeter of the Paella and works toward the center.” Visit their site to view different variations of the dish. 

FreshLiving Magazine recently tweeted a variation of the recipe, using chicken, bacon, chorizo, mussels and prawns. Head over to their twitter page @Fresh_Living for more interesting recipe variations.

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I’m looking forward to tasting the real deal during my summer abroad in Spain. Maybe I’ll learn a thing or two before my next attempt at preparation.