Monthly Archives: October 2011

Today was a good day. I spent most of the day alone, whimsically drifting in and out of my thoughts, busy making green tea and eating bowls of bananas with peanut butter. I was productive too – writing a research report, making corrections on my resume, and getting my back-up class schedule prepared for registration on November 11th. I did a blog post about oatmeal, looked up some new pumpkin recipes and watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy. And now I’m sitting on my bed listening to the rain hit the metal roof of the neighbor’s house, half wishing that it would stop so I could go on a cool after-rain run and half hoping that it doesn’t stop, but that it rains harder and harder so I have an excuse to remain right here on my bed, lounging in my yoga pants, writing. I’ve been exploring different kinds of therapy lately. You know, life enriching, stress reducing, feel-good activities. Running is one that I’ve always known makes me feel good. Running is for making me feel strong and unstoppable and competent. Yoga is for making me feel centered, relaxed, clear-headed and sophisticated. Music is for brightening my mood, and cooking is for making me feel comfortable, creative and domestic. Writing is the one I still haven’t figured out yet. My favorite time to write is early in the morning – really early when no one else is awake yet. It’s best when it’s still chilly outside and I leave my pajama pants on and wrap up in a sweater. It’s when I’m in a unique state of mind – clear, but still dreamy. I’m able to convey my thoughts well; it’s like they come right out, they just flow. No editing, no stumbling over words. Just clear, whole thoughts. That’s why early in the morning is when I think about the things that are hard to think about – why I write about Africa at 6 am and decide to apply for a new job before I’ve eaten breakfast. Maybe I can call it reflective therapy, when everything comes together so I can calmly peer at my life through some external lens, reflecting upon all things beautiful and all things messy about my life. It’s revitalizing really, satisfying. When I emerge from my pre-breakfast trance I feel grounded and accomplished. And that’s when I finally stand up, stretch, and throw some eggs in the pan for breakfast.


So I guess I’m stuck on avocados.

Today I made a Banana avocado smoothie.

I was inspired by the abundance of avocados and bananas that are sold in the little stores and outdoor markets around our neighborhood, and I usually have them around to eat with my breakfast or lunch. It was only today that I was brave enough to combine them.

This is a recipe that I stumbled across yesterday, and I knew I had to give it a try:


1 ripe avocado
1 frozen banana
sugar, according to desired sweetness
1 cup milk
3 ice cubes

1. Cut avocado in half then scrape the flesh using spoon and place in blender.
2. Add frozen banana, milk, sugar and blend until smooth.
3. Add ice cubes and blend some more until smooth.
4. transfer to glass/es and serve.

Easy right? I didn’t follow the recipe exactly, I skipped the ice cubes and the sugar and added half milk and half liquid vanilla yogurt for some sweetness. Oh, and I only used the end of an avocado as opposed to a whole one seeing as how the avocados here are 5 times the size of any I’ve ever seen.

And it was absolutely delicious! Don’t believe me? Make one yourself. Easy, healthy, filling, and very very tasty 🙂

Check out these two postings that showed up on my WordPress this morning:

Chocolate cream cheese ravioli

…and skinny onion rings.

Really? I appreciate healthy eating and being creative with food, but that’s taking it too far.

But…avocado for breakfast? That I can handle…I tried it this morning.

The avocados are huge (scratch that) HUGE here.

I told my parents they were the size of my head (over a Skype conversation) and they didn’t believe me until I ran to the kitchen to get one and literally held it up next to my head.

Amazing, huh?

This was my breakfast this morning: One half of a warm arepa (it has a touch of sweetness), a gigantic pile of shredded white cheese, and a chunk of avocado. Mmmmm.

This was my breakfast this morning: a big batch of “avena” which is a type of grain, like oats, that they use to make a hot breakfast cereal. They add milk and sugar, cooking it slowly so it thickens to the consistency of oatmeal.

Then they add a multigrain cracker and top it with cinnamon. It’s really delicious and got me thinking about all of the breakfast recipes I have saved to try when I get home…

one of which is for a baked peanut butter and apple oatmeal.

Baked Peanut Butter Apple Oatmeal

(by Reeni)

butter, for greasing pan or baking spray
2 cups rolled oats (long cooking) or steel-cut oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 cups milk
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup apple, peeled and diced small
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Grease with butter or baking spray: 6 small oven-proof ramekins and place so they are not touching on a large baking sheet. Or grease an 8×8 inch deep-sided baking pan.

2. In a large bowl mix oats, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder and salt together. Stir in milk. Microwave peanut butter 10 seconds and stir into mixture until well combined. Stir in apple cubes.

3. Measure a 1/2 cup of mix into each ramekin, if there’s anything left in the bowl distribute evenly amongst the ramekins. Bake ramekins 20 minutes, an 8×8 pan 30 minutes. Garnish with walnuts and/or a dollop of jam. Best eaten right away, leftovers can be stored in refrigerator tightly covered 3-4 days, you may need to add milk to them after reheating as the oats continue to suck up the liquid as they sit.

Makes 6 servings

I can’t wait to try this recipe. Anything with apples, cinnamon and walnuts is at the top of my list to eat when I get home!

Good dark chocolate = high cacao content, high fat, low-ish sugar stuff. Meaning…it’s actually not bad for you. Good news for all of the chocolate lovers out there!

A good dark chocolate review from Mark’s Daily Apple (shortened and modified a bit):

Valrhona Noir Extra Amer – 85% Cacao

lenoir extra 146x300

This bar looks fantastic: sleek, smooth, and dark, almost black, with a hint of red. A single square, if given sufficient mouth time, will slowly, smoothly melt, revealing floral, nutty, and coffee notes. If you try real hard, you may notice cinnamon, too.

The Noir Extra Amer goes well in a pot of spicy chili, right at the end just before serving.

(Trader Joe’s)

Chocolove XOXOX Extra Strong Dark – 77% Cacao

Picture4 3

If you’re trying to wean your significant other off of milk chocolate, go with the Chocolove XOXOX. You get the unmistakable flavor and light sugar content of a high-cacao bar with the creaminess and accessibility of a lesser-cacao bar. I keep these on hand for those times where I just want a bit of sweetness without the commitment required by the heavy darks. It tastes a bit like coconut.

(Whole Foods, Target)

Green and Black’s Dark – 85% Cacao

Picture5 2

Another brilliantly dark bar. It’s creamy, silky, smooth, and melts very well, but it’s not too bitter. Green and Black’s strikes an impressive balance between robustness and delicateness.

Dagoba Eclipse – 87% Cacao


Dagoba is full of complex flavors including fruit, clove, allspice, and other spice mixes. There’s even a bit of red wine in there.

(Whole Foods)

Scharffen Berger Extra Dark – 82% Cacao

Picture6 1

Figs and red wine, honey and spice(y). There’s even a bit of esperesso lurking in there. It’s not just the cacao that’s bitter; there’s a bite that lingers minutes after you’ve eaten it.

It is definitely a sweatshirt morning. It’s chilly out and I can see the sun starting to peek out from behind the mountains outside the kitchen window. I woke up on my own at 6:30, and I am the only one awake. I am sitting at the kitchen table sipping the coffee I just finished making. It was my attempt at a latte, actually. I made my instant coffee extra strong and steamed some real milk (not the powdered kind) in another pan on the stove. I poured the frothy milk over my make-shift espresso in a ceramic Christmas mug and it made that beautiful caramel and cream-colored swirl on the top like you see on the lattes that you order “for here” at coffee shops. I added about half a teaspoon of sugar and tasted it. I’m impressed, actually, because it tastes almost exactly like the skim latte I’d sip while doing my homework at Espresso Expose on campus last fall – the only difference is the tacky Christmas mug.

It always surprises me how much I enjoy waking up before everyone else and being the only one awake in a silent house. I like looking outside and seeing the first little bit of sunshine; There’s something satisfying about it. It’s quiet and peaceful here, and when I curl up on the couch of the deserted living room to read or flick on the lights in the kitchen before attempting to make an instant-coffee skim latte, I almost feel like I’m doing it in secret. Like I’m sneaking the pleasures of a relaxing morning read or a hot cup of coffee. It makes them more enjoyable somehow.

I get up to make another cup of coffee – a full teaspoon of sugar this time. I find myself working quietly, carefully transferring the small metal pan off of the burner and gently resting the spoon on the countertop. I think I’m unconsciously matching the silence of the house, as if one noise would give me away and put my morning adventure to an end.

I lift my coffee cup to my face and steam fills my glasses. Breathing it in wakes me up and when I step outside to get a feel for how cold it really is, the breeze reaches my neck and face and it makes me feel alive. It’s definitely a day for sweatshirts.

When I return to my abandoned kitchen haven I stop in the doorway. Everything is still quiet and still – my book is sitting patiently on the table top, waiting to be picked up again. A crooked hand-sewn bookmark made of brown and blue fabric peeks out from amongst its pages as if suggesting that something good is about to happen and I should keep reading. I love that bookmark. I bought it in Uganda at a women’s group where they displayed and sold hand-made crafts made by the women in the village. I remember now that the group also offered classes to the women, teaching them how to make woven baskets, drums, baby mobiles…and don’t forget bookmarks. We had spent the night at the women’s group – it was sort-of an eco-project where they would house guests overnight in mud huts and cook them breakfast in the morning in order to fund their projects – and before leaving in the morning I spent some time admiring their crafts. I chose a baby mobile with stuffed African animals made from colorful fabrics, a beautiful hand-woven basket in olive-green, and five bookmarks – one for me, three more for my mom, dad, and sister, and one for my grandma. They were all beautiful and unique, but I sought out the slightly imperfect ones with scribbly names handwritten on the small white price tags. I knew that those were the first attempts of the young girls in the village, some only 11 or 12 years old, and that they personally would receive the small amount that I paid for them. I also knew that they had been sitting there for some time, overlooked by other visitors, because there was a thin layer of dust accumulating on their crooked edges. I felt good picking out those five, knowing that my choice would bring far more excitement and pride than if I’d chosen the straight-stiched, unfaded bookmarks placed strategically at the front of the display table.

It feels good to write about Africa. Reliving just those few hours of my time there brings back a flood of memories. It’s a flood full of unforgettable faces and incredible stories of lives so different from my own – ones that I’ll never be able to completely retell, but that maybe I can slowly tease apart, one by one, and share with the world. But regardless of whether they end up in a journal, on my blog, or remain in my head, I’ll always hold onto them, and they’ll never stop being a part of me – of my memory, my conscience, and undoubtedly my passion for people.

I can’t believe I am sitting here, writing my 100th blog post! That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? I’ve really enjoyed writing about my experiences and travels, sharing recipes, and posting photos here. This blog was a goal of mine before I left for Uganda – to write frequently, to document my travels, to post photos of new places – and to share all of it with my family and friends. I soon learned that this blog not only allowed me to connect to everyone at home, but that it turned into a place where I could reflect on my experiences, as well as a great creative outlet.

Since my trip to Uganda, I’ve become more and more attached to my blog. I love waking up early in the morning and thinking about what I’m going to write about. It’s like a project to me. Maybe I love this blog so much because it allows me to justify looking up recipes when I should be looking up the political history of Venezuela…but I think it’s also because it is something that I’m doing for myself, and little by little I’ve become very proud of it.

It’s so cool to think that each of my most exciting experiences over the past 4 months is documented here. It’s like a travel archive, and I have been writing all along with the hopes that someday I’ll be able to look back, read my posts and essentially relive my experiences. That’s important to me, because most of them were way to incredible to forget!

And now, to remember today

Here’s a picture of me having a scrubby, cozy day (I’ve been coming down with a cold), plopped on my bed, blogging. I don’t know how I managed to get up and run this morning, but after a a run and a hot shower I haven’t managed to do much but homework, work on my Uganda research and drink Camomile tea all day…oh and watch an episode of Grey’s Anatomy =)

And usually while I’m writing I’m also listening to music, so here are some songs on the playlist that I’m listening to right now…

David Gray – Sail Away

Adele – I’ll Be Waiting

Train – Drops of Jupiter

Andy Grammer – The World Is Yours



Oh, and here is the recipe that I have pulled up that I’m dying to make when I get home 🙂

Maple-glazed olive oil pumpkin cake.

As for my blog, I’ll continue writing frequently for the rest of my time here in Venezuela (only about 5 weeks!) to document my travels, expose more beautiful places, and appreciate more small things.

In Spanish, the word for coconut is “coco” and “cacao” refers to the tropical “fruit” that is used to make chocolate.

I LOVE coconut and chocolate, so when I saw this recipe from Mark’s Daily Apple – a blog dedicated to living a healthy and natural lifestyle, I thought it was worth sharing.


Decadent Coconut Milk Whipped Cream with Berries and Dark Chocolate Coconut Mousse


mousse ingredients

  • One 15-ounce can of full-fat coconut milk
  • A handful of berries or 4 ounces of cooled, melted dark chocolate


Put the can of coconut milk in the refrigerator for several hours (or overnight).

When you open the can after it’s chilled, scrape off the solid top layer of creamy coconut, careful not to include any of the liquid on the bottom of the can. (Don’t waste the liquid left in the can – drink it or add it to a smoothie!)

canned coconutmilk

liquid left in can

before whipping

Whip the coconut cream with an electric mixer until it has the airy texture of whipped cream, about five minutes.

Layer the whipped cream in a glass with berries.


For a coconut milk chocolate mousse gently mix the melted chocolate into the whipped cream. Chilling the chocolate mousse before serving will give it a thicker texture, if desired.

adding chocolate


Pumpkins were covered yesterday. Now for the two other foods that instantly make me think of fall:

                    Squash and apples.

                                        Or better yet…

                        squash soup                     and                         apple crisp.

Squash soup:

What You Need 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
2 shallots 
1 pound butternut squash 
1 medium boiling potato 
1 bay leaf 
Kosher salt 
Fresh ground pepper (or white pepper, if you have it) 
Sour cream and fresh dill, to garnish

Click here for the recipe.

Apple crisp:

What You Need 
 2 Granny Smith apples
 2 McIntosh apples
 1 tsp. lemon juice
 1/4 c. sugar
 2 tbsp. brown sugar
 1 tbsp. all-purpose flour
 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
 dash of sea salt
 dash of nutmeg
 dash of cloves
 dash of ginger
 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
 1/2 c. packed brown sugar
 1/2 c. regular oats
 3/4 tsp. cinnamon
 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, diced
 dash of sea salt

Click here for the recipe.

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