Tuesday, June 25, 2013

{recipe} marinated cucumber salad

Soo..... my roommate and I ate this salad so quickly that I don't even have any evidence of it existing. You get a picture of a fruit and veggie stand I took in Pike Place Market in  Seattle instead. :)

I absolutely adore the prices of fruits and vegetables in Spain. You can get $20 worth of produce for about 8 euros. I swear! It is insane. I have always bought the majority of my groceries from the produce section of the store, but I do even more so now because of how cheap it is in Madrid. I had a few cucumbers, some chopped onion, and peppers left over in the fridge from when my roommate and I made pasta salad earlier in the week, so I decided to make a marinated cucumber salad. This recipe is perfect for the summer because it is super light and refreshing. You could definitely add fresh herbs and more veggies to this salad for a more hearty version.

Marinated Cucumber Salad:
Adapted from Not Without My Mom

2 cups cucumber, chopped
2 cups cherry tomatoes, sliced
1/2 small onion (red or white), chopped
1/2 medium-sized red pepper, chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 Tbsp. white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 tsp sugar
Optional: Sriracha

Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl. Let veggies soak up the liquid in the fridge for about 20-30 minutes (longer if you have time!) Serve with a squeeze of sriracha for a hint of spice.


PS. I've created a Facebook page for this blog. I'd love you if you would like it. :)

xx, Jen

Monday, June 24, 2013

{life} the red, white, and blue

One of the highlights of my job working as an assistant English teacher in Spanish secondary schools is being able to share the American culture with my students. Although the Spanish know a TON about America, they are still always intrigued to learn more than what they can gather from the news,  and popular movies, songs, and television shows that spread across Europe.

I've taught my students about the education system in the United States (sooooo different from the Spanish system!!), about American Football (and all of its differences from soccer), about a few of my favorite National Parks, and many more aspects of my culture.

My favorite lesson I did with my students was about summer in America. Our holidays. Our activities. Our customs. Our obsession with red, white, and blue. During my slides on Memorial Day and the 4th of July, I highlighted the love for the colors of our flag. My students were all laughing when I told them that we even like to theme our cook-out food to match the flag.

The funny thing about Spain is that they LOVE to wear the American flag & the British flag, but you will rarely see them wearing their own. One of my host teachers told me, that in her opinion, it is because red, white, & blue is just a pretty combination, and red & yellow is not. Fair enough Verónica, fair enough!

Sadly, I'll be working at a sleep away summer camp in Alicante during the 4th of July this year. I can't wait to recreate the holiday with my family when I get home. Here's to dreaming of my favorite patriotic holiday!

The perfect recipe for a great 4th of July:

A festive 4th of July wreath to hang on your front door!

The perfect 4th of July dress.

A good playlist.

An easy and healthy flag dish!

The perfect 4th of July menu: BBQ meat, corn on the cob, baked beans, & potato salad. Yum!

This American flag pie is sure to impress your guests.

Oh, and lots and lots of American beer. Duh.

PS. I've created a Facebook page for this blog. I'd love you if you would like it. :)

xx, Jen

Sunday, June 23, 2013

{life} good ol american food

Guess what?? I'm going home for a little over a month on July 25th. I am SOOOO EXCITED. I am already starting to plan what I want to do while I'm home. A trip to my college town, Tallahassee, is already in the works. As is a dinner with my wonderful extended family. I also happen to have a 3 1/2 hour layover in Charlotte, where my best friend lives, so she is going to come scoop me from the airport and take me to her apartment to meet her new kitten! All of these plans have me counting down the days until I step on the plane back to the States. Family, friends, college town... all ingredients for a perfect trip home.

Do you know what I'm like......... REALLY excited for though?

Stepping inside this beautiful company for the first time since December. I'm pretty sure that I will be crying happy tears when it happens. All my southern friends know just how great this grocery store is. I seriously miss it every single time I buy food in Madrid. 

While Spain definitely has better prices on fresh fruits and veggies, none of the grocery stores here have anything on Publix. Here are a few things that I've been missing since moving to Spain.

Greek yogurt: The greek yogurt in Spain is basically just plain yogurt.... full-fat, watery plain yogurt at that. I'm not sure how the yogurt manages to have 16 grams of fat per serving and can be watery at the same time. I can't wait for my creamy, low-fat Chobani!

The cracker aisle: I actually might fall down in front of these crackers and just admire them for a little while. Okay... that might be a little extreme, but I seriously miss proper crackers so much! The Spanish don't really have anything equivalent to Triscuits or Wheat Thins. I don't like to eat chips all of the time because they typically make my stomach hurt, and can only eat so many dried bread crisps. I can't wait for the perfect partner to sliced cheese and dipper for hummus to get back in my life!

Health food: If you take a look at my recipes round-up page, you will know that I like to cook with pretty healthy ingredients. I love to try new things with quinoa, chia seeds, flax seed, whole wheat, etc. It isn't impossible to find these ingredients in Madrid, but you certainly pay a premium! A tiny bag of quinoa can cost around 5-6 euros. It just isn't very practical to buy these kinds of ingredients on an English teacher's budget.

Claussen pickle spears: My refrigerator in college used to be stocked with these pickles. My roommates and I always went through intense cravings for them. They are so crunchy and garlicky and delicious. The only pickles I have found in Madrid so far are the tiny ones that come in olive jars. :(

Jalapenos (and spicy food in general): I would actually do anything to spice up my life here. My roommate and I go through copious amounts of hot sauce and sriracha, but it isn't quite the same as cooking a fresh pepper with your food. I can't wait for some spicy Mexican food when I get home!

Aidells Chicken Sausage: I don't eat very much meat in Spain (yes - I live in the jamon capital of the world and don't eat very much meat), but I still get cravings for these chicken sausages. They have a bunch of different flavors and are super easy to prepare for a quick meal. They are delicious grilled, but also really good mixed in with grits for breakfast.

Oats: There is nothing easier than making a bowl of oatmeal in the morning. While there is oatmeal in Madrid (avena), when cooked it pretty much just turns to goop. I miss the chewy yummy goodness that is rolled oats. Yum. 

Other food I am also excited for: blueberries, avocados, Chick-fil-a, American barbecue, a full spice rack, normal sized granola bars, cheap cereal, chili, cheesecake, grits, Mexican food, Cuban food, SUSHI, fresh grouper sandwiches, pretzels, Sabra hummus, smoked fish dip, and many, many more. 

32 days my friends, 32. 

PS. I've created a Facebook page for this blog. I'd love you if you would like it. :)

xx, Jen

Friday, June 21, 2013

{travel} favorite rooftop terraces in madrid

The weather in Madrid is wacky. One day it is 95 degrees, and the next 72. No matter what temperature it is, the best thing to do during the summer is to find solace on one of the city's gorgeous rooftop terraces. My friends and I have tried out a few. These are our favorites!

1. El ViajeroPlaza Cebada, 11 (La Latina)

El Viajero is situated right in the heart of La Latina. The rooftop is decorated beautifully, and the drinks are cheaper than what you'll find on top of one of the fancy hotels. This rooftop is extremely popular with 20 and 30 somethings. There is typically a wait on the weekends, but it goes quickly! Tip: Buy a drink downstairs and bring it up. It will save you a euro. Before or after you visit this fun rooftop, make sure to check out Taberna Almeria - my favorite tapas restaurant in Madrid. My friends and I are especially obsessed with their tostas. Order the queso de cabra con cebolla confitada. All of my friends who "don't like goat cheese" have been converted by this tostada at Taberna Almeria. Yum.

2. Atico de las Letras at Hotel de las LetrasGran Via, 11 (Gran Via)

This rooftop is probably our favorite.While the drinks are a little pricey, and the view is partially blocked by the walls, the atmosphere is fantastic. This rooftop is on top of a gorgeous hotel on the most famous street in Madrid, Gran Via. The terrace is covered with plants and beautiful flowers, and you can relax on white couches, or sit at a table and order a meal. I've never ordered food here before, but I always love the huge dish of olives you get with a drink. A glass or bottle of wine here is about a euro or two more expensive than most other places, but totally worth it for the atmosphere! Oh, and the gin and tonics are delicious. Just do it.

3. La Terraza de Oscar at Room Mate Oscar: Plaza Vazquez de Mella, 12 (Chueca/Gran Via)

This terrace feels very Miami Beach to me. There is a pool off to one of the sides of the rooftop, which definitely limits seating. However, the best part about this one is the view. We just stood to the side of the terrace and took in the gorgeous sunset. Expect to pay a lot more for drinks here. Cocktails are about 13 euros, and wine about 4-5 euros a glass.

Let me know if you are ever in Madrid and try out one of these terraces!

PS. I've created a Facebook page for this blog. I'd love you if you would like it. :)

xx, Jen

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

{travel} barcelona, catalonia, españa

1. view from our hostal [hostal oliva]. 2. old drinking fountains. 3. la boqueria market
4. painting from a balcony. 5. barcelona harbor. 6. magic fountains.
7. tapas at tapas 24. 8. sagrada familia. 9. sardana in front of the barcelona cathedral.
8. l'antic bocoi del gotic. 9. barcelona beach.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

{life} so beautiful, like a mannequin

Hola chicas!

I'm getting very excited because my very first visitor from America arrives tomorrow! Weeeeeee! Can't wait to have yet another excuse to try some new restaurants and bars on my ever-growing list of eats and drinks in Madrid. In fact, I was able to go to one last night!

I went to dinner with my roommate and her parents at a restaurant called Taberna Gastromaquia in the barrio Chueca. I discovered this restaurant due to glowing TripAdvisor reviews. It looks incredibly unassuming from the outside, with a chalkboard hanging by the door showcasing typical Spanish food like pulpo gallega and croquetas. Needless to say, I was a little bit skeptical and wondering if I was in the right place! We thankfully decided to try it out anyways.

If we hadn't we wouldn't have gotten our delicious guacamole with banana chips starter.

Or two absolutely delicious salads - queso de cabra a la plancha con miel and salmon ahumado:

I can't wait to go back! We also ordered a potato dish, asparagus dish, and pork skewers. For dessert we ordered the almond cake. The incredibly friendly waiter/owner brought us the mojito sorbet to try - topped off with a generous pour of Bacardi rum. Everything was absolutely delicious!

In other news, I chopped a lottttt of hair off.

I love it so much! If you live in Madrid, I recommend going to the stylist I went to. 

The school year is quickly wrapping up for my students. AKA, my job is wrapping up quickly. Eeeek! Need to find some summer work. 

How will I survive the summer without these conversations with my primero students?
S: "Profe, you look very beautiful today." 
Me: Thank you Roxana! That is very sweet.
S: Like a mannequin!


Gotta love the children of Spain!

xx, Jen

Sunday, June 2, 2013

{travel} hiking la pedriza

I love living in a big city. One of my joys in life this year has been wandering through the narrow streets of Madrid and stumbling upon a million beautiful cafes, restaurants, and shops. I love the energy of people all around, and obviously channeling my (not so) inner girly girl. 

But sometimes you just really need to escape the city, breathe some fresh air, and experience a different way of life in Spain.

I had been looking up places to hike near Madrid for a while. I finally decided that I really wanted to check out the hiking near a town called Manzanares el Real, just 45 minutes north by bus from Madrid. After researching the area a little bit more, I figured out that a local hiking group, Hiking Madrid, was headed out to the area as a group to hike the following weekend. I gathered a group of friends and signed us up.

I'm soooo glad that I did. It could not have been a more perfect day in the mountains.

We started in the small town Manzanares el Real, which has a medieval castle in it! We saw it when we were driving up to the town. We thought that we might have enough energy at the end of the day to go check out the castle before heading back into town. Yeah... we were wrong about that. ;)

The area we hiked in is called La Pedriza which is a part of the Guadarrama mountain range. The Manzanares river runs through much of La Pedriza's area. The river is absolutely gorgeous with crystal clear water.

There were tons of huge boulders and rocky cliffs throughout the hike. There were also tons of wildflowers and greeen trees, thanks to the rainy spring we had in Madrid.

The group of girls I went with - three TEFL friends, one friend from home, and one new friend!

Can I just wake up to this view every single day for the rest of my life please? PS. I chopped off a bunch of hair about two weeks ago. Surprise! 

If you ever get tired during the hike in La Pedriza - do not fear. There are little cafes and restaurants scattered throughout in the middle of nowhere. Cerveza anyone?

Look at that water. I can't wait to go back on a hot day and cool off in the river.

After following the river for a while, our hiking guide started to take us up, up, up the mountain. It was so peaceful in the middle of all of the trees. This is where the hike started to get difficult. I was huffing and puffing (since I haven't seen the inside of a gym since December... oops.)

The pain was all worth it in the end. Look at that VIEW. 

We weren't even all the way up yet.

View from our lunch spot, and the highest elevation we hit (about 820 feet). So beautiful.

On the way back down we saw a huge mountain goat and a herd of cows. I was a little concerned for my life walking through the cows. Thankfully they were just happily munching on grass in peace.

Cannot get enough of this river. 

The hike ended up being 10K, or 6.21 miles, round trip. I was bone tired by the end of it, but it was certainly worth it! It was so nice to get out of the city for a bit. 

I will definitely do another hike with Hiking Madrid!

If you'd like to go on your own, take bus number 724 from Plaza de Castilla to Manzanares el Real. Get off on the stop after the castle. It is a beautiful town to wander around. It took us about 35 minutes to walk to the river from the main square. The bus costs 8.40 euros round trip if you don't have an abono or have a Zone A I believe. My ticket only cost 4 euros round trip because I have a B3 abono.

xx, Jen