Saturday, October 26, 2013

{travel} waltzin' around amsterdam

Amsterdam is fabulous. The canals, the architecture, the art, the culture, the restaurants, the shops, the bikes, the fashion, the people. I just can't even do it justice with words. I'll let these photos do all the talking.

I'll be back some day, Amsterdam.

Check out my other posts on Amsterdam: the sights and the food.

xx, Jen

Friday, October 25, 2013

{travel} amsterdam, the food

The strangest thing happened when we were in Amsterdam. We didn't really have any appetites. This does not EVER happen to me. I don't know if it was because it was such a short trip and we were trying to see as much as possible, or what... but all I know is I definitely didn't get to eat as much of the food in Amsterdam as I wanted to. Like.. we ate fries for two meals. It's fine. Luckily for us, we chose some awesome places to test out during our limited eating moments. They were all so good that I knew I needed to document them and share with you if you ever find yourself in Amsterdam! Enjoy. :)

We went to this fry shop because a bunch of people raved about it on TripAdvisor, claiming that they sold the best fries in all of Amsterdam! They definitely didn't disappoint! They were fresh out of the fryer, all crispy and delicious. One tip though - even if you think you are a sauce fiend, just stick with the single serving of sauce. My roomie and I can never get enough sauce usually, but wooooof that double portion was intense.

This was my favorite meal the entire trip! Everything was so lovely - from the decor, the fooood (my goodness, the food), the plates, and the sweet couple who run the restaurant. We walked past Gartine during the lunch hour the first day we arrived and decided to pop in to make a reservation for brunch the next day. It's a good thing we did! While we were eating, multiple groups of people attempted to walk in and score a table but were promptly turned away because all of the tables were already booked for the rest of the day.

Here's a run down of what my table ordered: Yogurt & marscapone with cranberries, coconut, and museli, sourdough toast with four year old farmers Gouda and rhubarb jam, and sourdough toast with scrambled eggs and herbs from the garden. I tried all of it and was 100% in culinary heaven. I just ordered a coffee for my drink, but my friends got a little crazier with a grapefruit orange juice, syrup of raspberries with frozen raspberries and mineral water, and berry ice cream with Sprite. Um. Just do it y'all.

We all seriously wanted to go back so that we could sample the lunch menu, but we didn't end up having enough time. I still dream of you, Gartine!

Blue -
Our friend Helena heard about this place from her friend who is in graduate school in Amsterdam. This restaurant/cafe is one of the only places with a view in the city. We stopped in on a particularly chilly, rainy day during our trip to warm up a bit. I decided to order a fresh mint tea, while my friends all went with cold pints of Amstel. The view was incredible from the restaurant, and the food that kept coming out of the kitchen looked really good too!

Lombardo's -
One thing that I severely miss in Spain are goooooood sandwiches. A traditional Spanish bocadillo is good every one in a while, but I love my sandwiches junked up with a thousand ingredients like goat cheese, avocado, grilled veggies, etc. We stumbled upon Lombardo's after wandering around the museums near the big I AMsterdam sign. We were starving after touring the Heineken factory, so we decided to take a chance on a random sandwich shop on our way home. It was an absolutely wonderful idea because everything we ordered was delicious! My roommate's brother went with a burger, while us girls chose to go with some fancy sandwiches. I ordered the grilled zucchini and goat cheese sandwich. SO GOOD.

Only 40 days until I can eat a similar sandwich in America! Weeeeeee!

Pannenkoekenhuis Upstairs Amsterdam -
I couldn't leave Amsterdam without trying a Dutch pancake. I wasn't sure what to expect. I thought that they would be closer to an American pancake texture, but they were in between that and a French crepe. I'm sure the sweet pancakes are really good, but I decided to go with a savory ham, cheese, and tomato one. I quite liked it, but I think I liked the atmosphere of the quaint restaurant more. There are only a few tables, but my friend and I lucked out by getting there right when they opened. If we would have come 10 minutes later, they probably would have turned us away because they were also completely reserved for the rest of the day.

The scary stairs we had to use to access the restaurant, typical to the old houses in Amsterdam.

I so thoroughly enjoyed my time in Amsterdam! Look out for a post tomorrow with some fun photos my friend, Helena, and I took while wandering around the city on our last day.

Check out my first post on the sights in Amsterdam if you missed it!

xx, Jen

Thursday, October 10, 2013

{life} day in the life of an expat in madrid

Since I blog so sporadically, I typically just post about really exciting things happening in my life. Trips, special occasions, a realllly good recipe that I just have to share, etc. I realized that I don't often post about day-to-day things. This needs to change.

I so often walk around this beautiful city with my heart practically bursting with happiness. Is there anything special happening on these days? Nope. I am just constantly falling more and more in love with Madrid simply by walking around and taking advantage of all the things it has to offer.

On a typical work day, I wake up between 7 and 8:30, depending on what time I have to go to work. I make some breakfast, and coffee if I have time, and then head out the door. I walk to the bus station and then take the bus to the secondary school I work for. I have yet to actually participate in any classes at my new school, but last year I would get to school, chat with the English teachers for a bit, and then head off to class. Once in class, we would usually chat a bit to get into that English groove, and then start with the lesson of the day. I repeat this for 4-5 class periods, and then it is off to commute back home, between 12:30 and 2:30 This is where the fun begins.

On a beautiful day, you will find me wandering the streets right after work. Now that I have a pretty good sense of direction in Madrid, I allow myself to wander down streets I've never been before. One thing I've noticed about Madrid, is that it is not realllly a big tourist attraction. Most of my friends from home hit up the usual suspects while traveling in Europe; Paris, Rome, London, Florence, Athens, etc. Madrid might not have the Eiffel Tower, Coliseum, or Big Ben, but it is one of the most wonderful places I've ever been to just get lost and wander. This text photo says it best --

"Because Madrid in reality is nothing special. It doesn't have a great river. Nor does it have many skyscrapers. Or canals or lakes. Or glorious ruins. Or the sea. Madrid lacks a lot of things. But it has people in the streets. The unexpected street corners. The variety. Constant busyness. And its customs. It is worth getting up early, just once, to live the Madrid life."

I swear I see something new pop up in Madrid every week. Whether it is a cute new cafe, tempting restaurant, fashionable boutique, or cool vintage store, it is always something. My roommate and I constantly walk around and write down names and addresses for places we have to try ASAP! And the people. People are everywhere, always. I love people watching here! What's really cool about Madrid is how laid back everyone is, especially since we all live in a huge city. People are always dressed (no tennis shoes and huge workout clothes in the streets here), but it is casual chic. Give me skinny jeans, flats, a soft fitted tee, and a pretty scarf, and I fit right in with the Spaniards.

Enjoying a chocolate croissant and some fresh air at Parque del Oeste after work.

Metro life, typically fast and efficient.

One of my favorite things to do while walking in the city is to look up and drink in the beautiful blue sky and gorgeous architecture.

Window seats are the best.

I will never get tired of this view in Parque del Retiro.

It is a well-known fact that drinking a tinto de verano at a rooftop bar solves all problems. ;)

I love the little fruterias here. All of this for under 3 euros. Get with it, America.

Now, don't get me wrong. Not every day is filled with sunshine and butterflies and smiles. Sometimes, I show up to work at 8:30, and am not needed until 12:30. Sometimes, I have an off-day with my Spanish and can't communicate what I need. Sometimes, I have to deal with a Spanish bank, or the Spanish government (Extranjeros office.. I'm looking at you.) Sometimes, the metro workers are on strike and it takes foreverrrrr to get somewhere, and on top of it, I am forced to be a sardine. Sometimes, I really miss home; the food, my friends, family, boyfriend, the culture. Sometimes, the internet in my piso threatens to ruin my sanity. Sometimes, I just want to tailgate and watch FSU play in person, instead of on a little laptop screen. Sometimes, I feel like I don't have enough money to do much of anything at all. Sometimes, things seem really hard in Spain.

Sardine life on the metro.

My job - lots of pros, but lotsssss of cons, too.

But just as easily as you can get sucked into homesickness, you get out of the house and realize things are actually a-okay. Whether it is a picnic in the park, a cold cerveza or glass of wine on a patio with friends, a cafe con leche in a window seat, participating in an intercambio (language exchange) with a super awesome Spaniard, a delicious menu del dia for 10 euros, or discovering a really cool temporary art exhibit down the street from your piso, living in Madrid is nothing short of wonderful.

I need to always remember the following:

Here's to you, Madrid. I'll love ya forever.

xx, Jen

Monday, October 7, 2013

{recipe} spiced lentil vegan burgers + weekend shenans

Hellllllo beautiful people. I'm back with another veggie burger. Surprise, surprise.

But first, weekend shenanigans!

I so wish that weekends never had to end... Especially weekends with absolutely perfect weather. In Madrid, we are currently in the paradise temperatures in between summer and fall. We're talking low 70s during the day and low 60s at night. Absolutely delightful. We decided to spend this weekend exploring our neighborhood a bit. Once my roommate and I find a place we reallllly love, we tend to go there... again, and again, and again. There are so many great restaurants and bars nearby that we just kind of skip on by every weekend. We decided to make up a little tapas crawl of our own based on blog recommendations written by Spaniards. Fun was had. :) Even if we had to eat anchovies.... yuck.

Poor little anchovy's spine.

On Saturday, my roommate and I went to the modern art museum, Museo Reina Sofia, with a new friend. We spent a few hours in there cracking up at all of the "art." Don't get me wrong, I appreciate a good artistic effort, but some of the pieces on display were so wacky. We also got to see some... interesting... performance art take place. Um. We were giggling uncontrollably. 

Onion... on a wine bottle. Typical Reina Sofia display. :)

It was such a wonderful weekend! Unfortunately on Sunday I woke up with a throbbing in my mouth. My wisdom tooth decided to break through and is now causing some issues. I'm terrified to go to the dentist here but it definitely has to happen. Accepting all positive thoughts for that situation... eek!

Okay, back to the yummmmmy burger. Since I was feeling a bit too under the weather to get out and enjoy the beautiful day yesterday, I decided to cook. I was going to make lentil soup, but then I discovered this recipe and that idea went right out the window. These burgers are super filling and delicious. I definitely recommend you smother them with some sriracha aioli. nommmmmm.

And just because you are really great and actually read this entire post, you get a bonus recipe for baked steak fries! Woooo, go you! PS. Don't freak out if you don't have all of the right spices for this recipe, I adapted the spices from the original recipe to use what I had in my kitchen. Play around with your spices!

Spiced Lentil Vegan Burgers
recipe adapted from
Makes 6 regular sized burgers

  • 1 cup dry lentils
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • splash of water
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Mrs. Dash seasoning (or favorite seasoning)
  • 1 pinch black pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons olive oil
  1. Before you chop everything up, start to cook the lentils. Gently boil them in enough water to cover them by 2 inches, with no salt. They will take about 30 minutes to cook. Make sure you can mash them up a bit before you take them off of the heat. I had to add a little bit more water during the process until they got to the right consistency.
  2. While lentils are cooking, dice the onion and grate the carrot into a big bowl.
  3. Drain the cooked lentils and pour them into the bowl with the onion and carrot. Mash them a bit, but not too much, and add enough flour to the point where the three ingredients will stick together. I added the flour 1/4 cup at a time, and mixed it thoroughly. Add a splash of water if the flour isn't getting it to the right consistency.
  4. Season the mix with the spices, salt, and pepper.
  5. With your hands, form the burgers. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to a heated pan, then add the burgers. Leave them on for about 10 minutes on one side, then flip to cook for 5-7 minutes more on the other side.
  6. Serve smothered with sriracha aioli (mayonnaise and sriracha mixed well), spinach, and tomatoes.

Baked Steak Fries:
One serving of fries

  • One small potato, rinsed and scrubbed, and cut into wedges
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 450*F
  2. Coat potato wedges with a bit of olive oil, salt, and paprika.
  3. Put in oven for about 35 minutes or until at the right crispiness.
  4. Serve with some mooooooore sriracha aioli... duh.

Bon appetite my lovely readers!

xx, Jen