Monthly Archives: October 2011

Thanks to my lovely best friend, Aurora Zosel, I am now addicted to

I’ve had pumkin on the mind lately with all of my dreams of Minnesota Fall, so instead of picking pumpkins this year, I am picking my favorite pumpkin recipes.

My top 3 choices for the perfect pumpkin recipe:

1.) Pumpkin caramel cheesecake

Find the recipe here:


2.) Pumpkin bread pudding with bourbon vanilla sauce

Find the recipe here:


3.) Whole wheat pumpkin pancakes

Find the recipe here:


Happy fall, cooking, and pumpkin picking!




Mpls.St.Paul Magazine Restaurant Week!

October 23 – 28, 2011

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Two-course lunches and three-course dinners? Yum.

I’m sad that I’ll be missing the “fabulous food & exclusive wine pairings,” but I’m sure that my parents will enjoy them for me! I counted 38 Minneapolis and St. Paul restaraunts on the list, offering food from around the globe.

I think I’m most disappointed about missing La Chaya’s organic Mexican and Mediterranean $30 dinners (

…and definitely El Meson’s delicious latin food – $10 lunches and $30 dinners (


And just in case you’re curious…here’s a sneak peek at El Meson’s Restaurant Week Menu:

First Course

A choice of
Caribbean style ceviche, shrimp, scallops, calamari, and fish, marinated in a spicy lime/habanero/cilantro sauce, served with Tostones and topped with fresh avocado.
Mixed greens and baby spinach topped with strawberries, cucumbers, pineapple, and spicy pecans, tossed in an blood orange vinaigrette

Second Course

A choice of
Jambalaya A Choice of Chicken or Shrimp Jambalaya, served with sautéed peppers and onions, andouille sausage, in a Creole sauce over white rice.
Blackened grouper served with sour cream mashed potatoes, sautéed spinach, in a saffron butter sauce, topped with a pineapple salsa

Third Course

A Choice Of
Classic Caramel Flan with fresh strawberries
Homemade Tres Leches Cake in a Strawberries and cream sauce

*Note to self: remain in the country next fall so as not to miss restaurant week.

A landscape saturated with color.

Vivid blue sky, green mountain earth and a blue-green sea.

The mounds of mountain that surround me are like enormous dinosaur feet

Standing tall, strong and silent, covered in lush greenery, patiently containing the restless waves.

And I see all of this through squinted eyes

A translucent mist is flying through the wind

Salt-water pearls clinging to my eyelashes.

“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.”

El Páramo – Mérida, Venezuela

South Beach – Miami, Florida

Café Croacia – Mérida, Venezuela

Las Aguas Termales – Caja Seca, Venezuela

Playa Grande – Choroní, Venezuela

La Playa – Cepe, Venezuela


With every single step, I fall deeper in love.

8 weeks down and 6 to go, Venezuela.

That’s 6 weeks to leave my footprints in as many places as possible in this beautiful country!

I’ve had an empty spot in my heart knowing that I’m missing Minnesota’s most beautiful season…fall. I love everything about fall. The colorful leaves, the cozy sweaters, pumpkin soup and pulling out my to-go coffee mug. So you can imagine my surprise when I took a walk through a nearby neighborhood and saw these crispy fallen leaves! Pure happiness, and a wonderful reminder of home.

Journal entry #3:

There was a sunshower on the beach today. I wasn’t able to take a photo because I forgot to charge my camera last night, but just picture it. The sky and water were so blue, and the sand was so white in the sun. When the drops started falling, everything sparkled. Most people returned to their umbrellas, but I put my book down, wrapped it safely in my towel to stay dry, and walk out to put my feet in the water. It felt like beating sun, hot sand, warm rain, and cool seawater.

There was a blind man wandering around the beach today with a hand-carved walking stick seeking out people to talk to. He must have recognized my voice from the day before, because he walked straight towards me as he neared our chairs and asked to talk to me. He was dark, too thin, and wrinkled from spending his life wandering the beach under the sweltering sun. He told me that I had a pretty voice, very familiar, and that he could tell I was a good woman. He had about a dozen hand-carved wooden kitchen utensils hanging from a leather strap around his waist and he explained each one to me. What type of wood it was made of, and exactly what to use it for. They were nice, but rather than buying a hand-crafted butter and marmelade spreader, I gave him the change I had in my wallet – enough to buy him an empanada for lunch. He seemed ever more greatful than I’d hoped he would…everyone in Venezuela likes empanadas.

We also met another man today. He was fifty years old, he told us that, and he had a kind smile. You know how sometimes you get a feeling from someone, just by seeing them, that they are a really good person? Through and through down to the core? I think it’s universal, a feeling that occurs when you meet exceptional people everywhere. You could be any place on earth and when you met one of those people, you’d get the same exact feeling. That’s the feeling that overwhelmed me when he approached our small group of three girls walking down to the beach today. We were carrying our cooler and towels like usual when he must have seen us from the window of his tiny restaraunt on the side of the road. He walked outside and down the road toward us and asked if we were on our way to the beach. We said yes and he said that he was too. He asked if he could carry our cooler for us (it was heavy) since we were headed the same place as he was. When he insisted, we said sure. He carried it the whole way for us, about a 15 minute walk in the burning sun with bare feet and carefully set it down in our favorite sandy spot under a big blue umbrella. I thanked him and when I asked him what brought him to the beach today, he smiled and said “Nothing. I just thought you looked like you could use a hand.” He told us to be safe and to enjoy our time in Choroní before he waved goodbye and started the hot and sandy treck back to his restaraunt.

I’m pretty sure that these kinds of people do exist all over the globe, and even though I don’t know his name, I think he was one of them.

Tonight my friend Alex and I decided to spend a relaxing girls night together after our long day at the beach, so we went out to dinner at a little restaurant next to the river. We shared a delicious caprese salad – fresh tomatoes, mozzerella, and pesto. Nothing like eating a fresh dinner at a rooftop table that overlooks the river, filled with boats like the canals. It almost looked like Venice.

After dinner, I went back to my posada, opened the window next to my bed, turned on the fan, and finally finished reading Julie and Julia.

The moral of the story is that good books, good people and good food all make for a very successful vacation =)

Delicious caprese salad.

River boats.

Morning routine: wake up, wash face, walk 10 steps out the door to the posada’s café, immediately order a café con leche.






The walls of our posada, and also my view as I sip my morning coffee.







Ham and cheese omelet. Venezuela’s food groups = ham, cheese, bread…and rice.







Love, Janis, Ishmael, and The Lucky One. These are the books that we’ve been rotating among my group of friends for long days on the beach, study breaks and morning coffee dates. Love, Janis is a biography of Janis Joplin written by her sister describing the details of her wild life as a young singer. Ishmael is an inspiring novel by Daniel Quinn about saving our planet, and The Lucky One is a feel-good love story written by Nicholas Sparks. A nice variety if I do say so myself 🙂


Pancakes with…Surprise! Ham and cheese! Why? Don’t ask me.






One side of toast…they definitely don’t skimp on the bread! And the peach marmelade was absolutely delicious.






My personal favorite. This is a photo taken from the restaraunt’s menu, which very thoughtfully includes English translations of all of the dishes originally written in Spanish. “I’ll have the corncakes with white sheese please.”

Journal entry number two:

Today we set off on the sunny twenty-minute walk past colorful little shops and restaraunts towards the ocean. I could smell the air and feel the ocean breeze before I could actually see the water, but when I did see it for the first time, I felt like I was standing in front of a larger-than-life postcard. The beating sun that I felt on my shoulders and the heat of the sand on my bare feet were the only reasons that I finally snapped out of my trance and moved toward a patch of shade underneath a gigant palm tree.

Playa Grande, Choroní’s largest beach resting on the Caribbean sea, is an incredible place. It is cradeled in a nook by the green mountains and the sand feels like velvet under your toes. We all sat down under an umbrella just steps from the edge of the sea, and I read for hours. I think I just needed some time to realize that it was real – that I was really there, so I could appreciate it before jumping in to swim.

And I’m glad I did – feeling weightless in the middle of a translucent body of the bluest seawater you’ve ever seen, with waves rushing beneath you, mountains towering over you, and the sun soaking into your skin from every angle is overwhelming. It deserves preparing for, and even then it’s impossible to take it all in.

The beach is so lively here. There are people everywhere, many who are selling things like food and necklaces. One man was even crouching on the sand cracking open oysteres and squirting them with fresh lime for people to eat! Another man selling jewelry was walking down the beach and started heading in my direction. He approached me while I was reading and asked to give me a gift. When I said “okay” he told me to hold out my wrist and he tied a delicate bracelet with a fancy knot made of blue string to it. As he was tying it on, he instructed me to think of three wishes, and as he secured three knots, he told me that he hoped each wish would come true for me.

These were my three wishes:

1. That I would never forget how exhilerating it feels to be in a place you never thought you’d be lucky enough to see.

2. That I’ll be able to retain some of the amazing qualities of the people I’ve met here and hopefully incorporate their positive attitudes, energy, and willingness to lend a hand into my daily life in Minnesota.

3. To achieve the two main goals I set for myself for this trip: to drastically improve my Spanish and to form lasting friendships with people I’ve met over the course of my time in Venezuela.

My wishes are well on their way to coming true – I’ve established a very close friendship with my roommate, my Spanish is improving every day, I’m continually being inspired by the positivity of the people around me, and I can’t imagine forgetting the feeling that consumed me when I first laid eyes on the Caribbean Sea.

I mean, it is pretty unforgettable…take a look for yourself.

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Today I arrived “home” in Mérida after a 15 hour busride from Choroní, where I spent my semester break vacation. I had an amazing time there and came back with some great new experiences and a lot of beautiful photos to prove it! Since I didn’t bring my laptop along, I decided to bring a journal instead so I’d be able to add some of my writing to my blog when I got home.

Here is my first journal entry:

We arrived in Choroní this morning around 11 am. The busride from Maracay (12 hours from Mérida) was about 3 hours long through the jungle along winding mountain passes. There were bamboo stalks nearly scraping the sides of the bus – some of them were as tall as 3 story buildings and as wide around as telephone polls. The jungle was dense and full of plants and thick foliage in a variety of rich green colors, and lots of the leaves were bigger than I was! There were vines too. They hung from cliffs and overhangs somewhere above me and draped over tree branches, dangling down as far as I could see over the mountain’s edge. If the music on the bus hadn’t been so loud, I’m sure I could have heard noises coming from the jungle…the sounds of the flowing streams hidden somewhere off of the mountain roads, the birds which I’m sure hid camouflaged amongst the plants…and whatever else was out there. The busride overall was scary though, fast and jerky, but worth it. I got to see the Venezuelan jungle, and it was nothing short of magical.

And this is what I saw.

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I thought it couldn’t get much more mysterious and beautiful, but shortly after arriving in Choroní, we walked to the edge of the Caribbean Sea…

which is journal entry number two (and will be a part of my next post).

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