Gustatory Delights

Wanderlust

Does anyone else besides me think “wanderlust” is a strange word? For some reason, I really don’t care for it.

Regardless of how I feel about the word, I definitely have the condition. I love traveling. (But let’s be honest, who doesn’t?)

I’ve been very blessed over the course of my life thus far with amazing travel opportunities. I jaunted around Europe for three weeks in 2007 with the Kansas Ambassadors of Music (being a band nerd has its benefits!), spent several weeks in Guatemala in 2010 shooting a documentary photography assignment, and I lived in southern Spain for almost two months in 2011 for my college internship. I’ve also traveled around quite a bit in the States.

And I’ve found that no matter where I go, I always enjoy myself. Seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place I didn’t like. There is always beautiful new scenery to see and photograph and fun adventures to be had.

Just typing this out is stirring up the wanderlust in my soul. (For real though, somebody needs to coin a new term for that awful word.)

I was talking with a coworker several months back who also has the *ahem* wanderlust, and he told me about his goal to visit three new places per year. They don’t have to be far off lands, just a place he has never been to before.

I thought that was such a great idea, I adopted the goal myself.

So where did I go this year?

Let me tell you. It will be like a digital field trip!

1 – Shreveport, LA
One of my best friends and I were alone in town over Memorial Day weekend this year. All of our other friends had abandoned us for their own holiday travels and we decided that they couldn’t have all the fun. So on a spur of the moment decision, we packed our bags and drove six hours to Shreveport to take in the annual Mudbug Festival. We listened to cajun/zydeco music, walked around some neat art vendor booths and ate both our weights in crawfish, boiled taters and corn on the cob. It was wonderful. I’m all about any trip that involves tasty local food!

Crawfish at the Mudbug Festival

Yes, I ate all of this at the Mudbug Festival. It was so much food but so delicious!

2 – Chicago, IL
I spent the night on the floor in O’Hare once because of a flight cancellation, but I don’t count that as having visited Chicago at all, so this summer was my first official time in the city. I went for a work trip and got to attend BlogHer ’13 (so cool!). Most of my time was spent at the conference, but a coworker and I got in one morning sightseeing. We went to Navy Pier, Millennium Park, The Bean (of course) and listened to an orchestra’s rehearsal at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Grant Park. There are so many things I wanted to do and see that I didn’t have a chance to this time (like the skydeck at Willis Tower) that I have a big list of adventures for my next visit.

Navy Pier, Chicago

A view of Chicago’s skyline from Navy Pier.

The Bean, Chicago

The Bean!

The food on this trip was out of this world phenomenal! Of course we had to have true Chicago-style deep dish pizza. We went to Lou Malnati’s and I gorged myself on the famous local fare. I can tell you that deep dish pizza is definitely as good as everyone says it is. Put it on your bucket list if you haven’t tried it yet!

My favorite meal by far, though, was in the restaurant adjoining our hotel. It’s called Mercat a la Planxa and it specializes in Catalan-inspired tapas. I hadn’t had tapas since I was in Spain and I was so extremely excited to have them again (maybe a little too excited. I think I may have freaked my coworkers out with my enthusiasm.). We ordered a ton of food to share and I loved everything. From the arroz a la cazuela (saffron scented broth with Maine lobster, chicken, chorizo, rabbit, shaved artichoke salad and piquillo aioli) to the datiles con almendras (bacon wrapped dates stuffed with almonds), I was in gustatory heaven. I need to go back to this place. Soon. Like tomorrow.

3 – Taos, NM
I hadn’t taken a vacation from work at all this year until Labor Day weekend. My mom had been asking me to go with her to Taos, New Mexico, and while I thought that New Mexico sounded like a strange place for a vacation, I agreed to join her. And boy were my preconceived notions incorrect! New Mexico is amazing. The scenery is mind-blowingly gorgeous and there were plenty of fun things to do. We saw some neat art shops downtown but spent most of our time hiking the mountains.

Taos, New Mexico scenery

A few snapshots from my trip to Taos, NM. They don’t even begin to do justice to the beautiful scenery.

My favorite meal was at a pizza joint called Pizaños. The restaurant had a back deck overlooking the mountains, so of course, my mom and I ate outside despite the chilly breeze. I chose a pizza that was popular with the locals called, The Taoseño. It was covered in Italian Sausage, mushrooms and green chile and it was divine.

Pizaños, Taos, New Mexico

Dinner with a view!

I don’t know where I’ll go next year. haven’t planned anything yet, but this is a goal I definitely want to keep up with. If you have any suggestions of places to go and/or things to eat, I would love to hear them! What are some of your favorite places?

Highs, lows, and chocolate cake

It’s been a bit of a rough week. I didn’t expect it to be the kind of week that it’s been, either, which makes everything a little more draining.

But despite my struggles, this week has also been very good.

I had my last class ever. Forever. I’ll be done with school forever on Tuesday after my final final, and by this time next Saturday, I’ll be a full-fledged college graduate.

I’m excited!

I had a second job interview. It went well.

I’m hopeful!

One of my lovely housemates turned 22 on Thursday and brought home this lovely cake.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the house who’s eating this. But hey, I’m not complaining! This cake is seriously yummy.

And after the week I’ve had, I’ll take all the fattening, sugary comfort food I can get.

(Un)appetizing apps

“How did I ever live without the iPhone?”

I’m kind of embarrassed to admit how many times I’ve asked myself that since getting an iPhone last September.

I never thought I would be one of those techie people who hugged and loved their electronic devices and called them George, if you know what I mean. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I really love my iPhone.

One of my favorite things to do is look up new apps. I’m kind of embarrassed to admit how much time I’ve wasted browsing through the App Store.

Now y’all know (or if you don’t, you should) that I love cooking. Love it, love it, love it. Sometimes I secretly dream of going to culinary school. I guess that ain’t a secret no more, but whatever. Anyway, I’m all into the foodie apps in the App Store. I downloaded one last week that was particularly enjoyable.

But not for the reason you might think.

The app is called Allrecipes.com Dinner Spinner. One of its main features is that it lets your “spin” or shake your iPhone to get a random selection of dishes and ingredients. They target this feature to people who aren’t quite sure what they want to eat. I think they should target it to twenty-something female college students who love to cook more than they love to do homework.

Or maybe not. That advertising strategy might only work on me. Just a guess.

Still, I was thoroughly entertained the other night by the variety of combinations I got by shaking my iPhone. Some sounded good. Some were… well, interesting. See for yourself.

 

I can’t make fish dessert recipes in my slow cooker? Sad day! I really wanted that salmon peach cobbler.

 

There were also normal recipes for main dishes with fish like baked salmon and tilapia. (But still no salmon peach cobbler.)

 

These were the recipes that turned up for cookies with some sort of fruit ingredient. Here’s my question… what in tarnation is a hootycreek? Sounds like something we probably have in Arkansas.

 

Ask and ye shall receive. A hootycreek is a beautifully festive cookie in a jar recipe that makes a great gift. My life is better for knowing this.

 

The app has plenty of recipes for main dishes with chicken.

 

But none for chicken beverages.

 

Or chicken cookies.

I’m sad. I wanted all of those things. (I kid. I kid. It just makes the app more funny if I pretend to be hurt by its lack of ridiculous recipes. Ha.)

And on that note, I’m off to go concoct a recipe for salmon peach cobbler in the slow cooker!

Eggs.

Eggs.

Just the word makes my nose cringe and my esophagus constrict.

I hate eggs. I hate them. I have always told people that the only way I like my eggs is inside of a cake or brownies or something where I can’t taste them at all. It’s a problem.

But the even bigger problem is that I can’t accept my problem. I want to like eggs. I really, really, really do. I’m kind of desperate to like them, actually. Eggs are good for you. They’re cheap. They’ve got a lot of protein. (And I am all about protein. Just ask the girls I live with. They’ll tell ya that I don’t ever make a meal without some sort of meat. Unless, of course, I have a bowl of cereal for supper. But cereal’s “bachelor’s steak” and since I’m the female equivalent of a bachelor, that counts, right? Oh my word. Rabbit trail extreme. Sorry.)

Anyway, the point is that I have hated eggs for my whole life and it really bothers me. I mean, what kind of farm girl doesn’t like eggs? It’s like an unwritten requirement to be a legitimate country girl. You must like eggs. And meat. And fried chicken. And pie. And mashed taters.

I’m digressing again.

Despite my utter distaste for eggs (haha, distate… eggs… get it?!) I periodically force myself to eat them, hoping against all hope that maybe my taste buds died or rearranged themselves or something and I’ll magically like eggs all of a sudden.

I mean, come on. I just want an omelet. The sausage, the bacon, the onions, the peppers, the tomatoes, the cheese… they always look so delicious together. If only I could have the omelet without the egg, I would be one happy girl.

Well, while I was trying to decide what to fix myself for supper this evening, I realized I was craving a breakfast burrito. I kept rummaging in the cabinets and the fridge, hoping to find something more appealing, but I just couldn’t stop thinking about that dang breakfast burrito. I thought about making one with everything but the eggs, but then I told myself I wasn’t allowed to do that. The only way I was getting a breakfast burrito was with scrambled eggs. And I wanted a burrito.

Now, one teensy little drawback to not liking eggs is that you don’t ever learn how to cook them. I’ve never made an egg in my life. I don’t even watch people cook eggs because the smell usually makes me want to puke.

I had to Google how to scramble an egg.

It killed my cooking pride.

I chopped up onions and peppers. I browned sausage and grated cheese. I got everything ready except for the egg.

I almost chickened out. But I didn’t.

I cracked the egg into a bowl and whisked it all up and seasoned it with salt and pepper. I poured the liquified egg into the pan and freaked out.

What the heck do I do with this thing now? Do I let it set? Do I keep whisking? Is it possible to burn eggs?

I decided to keep whisking and was amazed to see how fast the eggs changed from liquid to well, normal looking eggs. I had no idea how long to let them cook, so I guessed and dumped them onto my burrito when they “looked” done.

Here’s the finished product!

It was huge. And messy. But good. For the most part.

The eggs weren’t awesome. I don’t know if that was because of my negative disposition toward them or because I cooked them wrong. Probably both.

But hey, they didn’t make me gag! It’s only taken me twenty-one years to get to this point, but I call that progress.

Maybe in another twenty-one years I will actually, genuinely like eggs.

But for now at least I satisfied my craving.

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