Simply Breakfast

October 31, 2012 Comments Off on Simply Breakfast

While traveling, I was spoiled when it came to breakfast. I miss farm-fresh milk, eggs, and butter; substantial loaves of homemade bread; and jams made with local, seasonal fruits.

I especially miss Europe’s abundance of stellar bakeries.

Though there’s one thing I don’t miss at all: having to milk a cow or several goats before I can eat my breakfast.

Since I’ve come home, I’ve enjoyed some equally satisfying breakfasts. I may not be on a farm or in a sprawling metropolis, but I have a kitchen to play in and lovely people who appreciate (and tolerate) my culinary experiments.

Lately, I’ve been making a lot of grains for breakfast. First granola, then porridge, and now muslei.

There are many reasons why people still praise Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain two years since its initial release. It’s brilliantly organized (each chapter focuses on a specific grain) and beautifully photographed, and the recipes strike the balance between nourishing, feel-good fare and honest-to-goodness comfort food.

This recipe for muslei is one of my favorites in the book. Most muslei is simply a combination of toasted oats, dried fruits and nuts, and a bit of wheat or oat bran. This version, on the other hand, calls for rye and quinoa flakes. The contrast in flavors and textures works to great effect here. Rye flakes are hearty and have a distinct, slightly malty taste. Quinoa flakes are delicate in flavor and texture. Together, the two cereals balance each other out.

Definitely seek out rye and quinoa flakes. I managed to find them in the bulk section of Whole Foods. Otherwise, old-fashioned, thick-rolled oats will do.

The toasted hazelnuts add richness and warmth. Like most nuts and seeds, hazelnuts need to be toasted in order to maximize their flavor. I tossed the hazelnuts in extra-virgin coconut oil before toasting. I tend to favor extra-virgin coconut oil for cooking these days for its high smoke point, nutritional benefits, and decadent taste.

I added some pumpkin and sunflower seeds for extra protein and, of course, crunch. Free to experiment with different kinds of nuts and seeds. On that note, the original recipe also calls for dried cherries and dried cranberries, but I substituted prunes and dried zante currants. I imagine you could use whichever dried fruits you like best.

Eat muslei as you would a bowl of cereal, with the yogurt or milk of your choice. My favorite way? A bit of goat’s milk yogurt, chunks of fresh pear, and a sprinkling of smoked salt to enhance the already wonderful flavors.

Toasted Rye, Quinoa, and Hazelnut Muslei (adapted from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain)

Yields 4 cups

–1 cup whole, raw hazelnuts

–1 cup mixed raw sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds

–1 heaping knob of extra-virgin coconut oil

–Sea salt to taste

–2 cups rye flakes

–1/4 cup wheat bran + 1 tablespoon

–1/2 cup quinoa flakes

–1/3 cup prunes

–1/3 cup dried zante currants

–Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread out hazelnuts on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Use your hands to coat the hazelnuts with extra virgin coconut oil. Sprinkle with salt and place in the oven, until the nuts are a few shades darker and smell fragrant. About 10-15 minutes.

–Once the hazelnuts are toasted, remove from the oven to cool. Spread the rye flakes into a single layer on another parchment-lined baking sheet. Place in the oven to toast for 10 minutes.

–Toast the sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds briefly in the oven, no more than 10 minutes. It’s optional to coat them in extra-virgin coconut oil beforehand.

–Don’t worry about removing the all of the hazelnuts’ papery skins after toasting. Leave most of them on for a rustic touch. I like to remove some of the skins by gathering about half of the hazelnuts in a dish towel, folding the towel into a parcel, and rubbing the sides of the parcel back and forth. The skins will slip off this way.

–Roughly chop the hazelnuts. Leave some whole.

–Chop the prunes into quarters and place in a small bowl with the currants and the extra tablespoon of wheat bran. Toss until all pieces of dried fruit are coated with bran. This prevents the dried fruit from clumping together.

–Place the hazelnuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, dried fruit, quinoa flakes, remaining quarter-cup of wheat bran, and rye flakes into a large bowl. Mix until all ingredients are combined. Store in an airtight container for seven to ten days.

Because I Want It to Work

October 28, 2012 Comments Off on Because I Want It to Work

I’m moving to Portland, Oregon on January 12.

I actually came to this decision about a week ago. It didn’t feel quite real then. I booked a non-refundable, one-way flight today. Now it feels a little more real.

Although I stopped traveling so I could begin taking the steps I need to take in order to move out of my parents’ house, it took more than a few weeks for me to decide whether or not to go through with this. I’ve wanted to move out West since my college days. I knew that this is what I wanted. I also knew that if I stayed home (the Midwest) any longer, I’d be profoundly unhappy.

There was one question that haunted me: what if what you know will make you happy is impractical?

Perhaps moving to a place where I have few contacts and doing so without ample funds is unwise. Then I realized that I was letting logistics get in the way of a potentially satisfying future.

I’ll sort these things out soon enough. As my mother likes to tell me, I’ll make it work because I want it to work.

I took a lot of initiative while I was abroad. I had no choice. I handled a lot of strange situations and came out a bit stronger for it. Or I like to think I did.

In other words, I can handle this.

And why Portland and not Seattle or San Francisco? Nothing’s fixed. I could easily wind up in either of these cities one day, perhaps sooner than I expect. Or I could move somewhere completely different. But I figure Portland’s a good place to start. That and I hear there’s good food there. Lots of it.

 

 

The Only Constant

October 21, 2012 Comments Off on The Only Constant

Notice anything different?

I decided this blog could use some sprucing up. I wanted to make it easier to navigate and, more important, visually engaging. I reorganized my posts and revamped the layout, making my pictures more visible. I also included links to some of my favorite sites.

Then there was the matter of content. I thought long and hard about this. And I decided that I’ll continue to share travel stories. This will include my recent adventures in Europe, as well as future trips I take.

Food played a huge roll in my experiences abroad. That hasn’t changed since I came home. Then I had a thought. Why not explore the relationship between two of my biggest passions, food and travel, and while I’m at it, document my adventures in the kitchen?

So this blog has morphed into a food-travel blog hybrid. I certainly didn’t plan this, but I couldn’t be more excited.

Enjoy.

Unstuck

October 16, 2012 § 1 Comment

I came home a little more than a week ago. It’s been lovely. Cool, crisp autumn weather has set in. I’m catching up with my family. I have a room of my own, a well-equipped kitchen to cook in, and plenty of English-language books to read.

But I have to face the truth. I’m unemployed, relatively poor, and I still live with my parents. I have no friends left in my hometown. I don’t even like my hometown.

I need to get my act together. I need to get out.

I was stuck in one place prior to traveling, immobilized by my own indecisiveness and anxieties. I became unstuck while I was in Europe. As my time abroad wore on, I finally began to make some important decisions about the direction of my life post-graduation.

I’m researching career opportunities and attempting to network. I’m slowly making progress. On some days, however, I feel as though I never left. These are the days when I do exactly what I did before traveling. The sorts of things I did in order to avoid thinking about my future.  I take walks to the library. I cook. I read. I waste time on the internet. That’s it.

It’s on those sorts of days I wonder if my resolve to strike out on my own will disappear. Then I remember that being unmotivated no longer an option for me. Unless I really want to stay in a nondescript suburb indefinitely.

I don’t know what to do with this blog anymore. I started it so I could share my experiences with family and friends (and online creepers) in real time. I’ve still got stories to share. But the urgency and immediacy that made my previous posts intriguing is gone now that I’ve stopped traveling.

I don’t want this blog to become some contrived manifesto of post-grad life, a pathetic documentation of all my first-world problems.

There’s a lot of uncertainty in my life. Strangely, I’m OK with this.

I acknowledge that uncertainty in this context is a positive thing. Uncertainty implies decisions to be made. By me, of course. I get to decide what happens next.

I’m in control.

Foolish, I know

October 9, 2012 § 2 Comments

I’ve been told a few times that I was brave for doing what I did.

I remember the first time someone called me brave. That was in France, in the Alps. I was cleaning the kitchen windows for my hosts while they had company over. One of their friends walked by and struck up a conversation as I worked. I explained to him what I was doing and why. He used the word “brave” to describe me, a young white American female traveling alone for an unfixed stretch of time. Although his intonation suggested I was audacious, bordering on absurd.

The same thing happened in Dublin. A Brazilian traveler and I conversed late in the evening in the hostel dorm we shared. When I told him my reasons for coming to Europe, he called me brave. I took it as a compliment that time.

There was also the time when my mother told me via Skype that my grandfather thought I was “gutsy.” That made me smile.

I could see why people thought my travels were a “brave” thing to do, but all I did was travel. I don’t see how that’s exceptional.

I’m not even sure what it means to be “brave.”

Can you be brave and still worry? I still worry. Does it have anything to do with one’s inhibitions? There’s plenty I haven’t or won’t do for any number of reasons.

I feel more confident in myself than I did before I left the States. But brave? I can’t say.

I think in a lot ways, I haven’t changed at all. This disappoints me. I traveled partly escape myself. I wanted go wild.

I didn’t go wild. I’m still the same rational, level-headed individual I was two months ago. I guess that’s all right. Those are useful traits to have.

It was foolish of me to think I would undergo a dramatic personality shift in a few weeks.

Then again, I never could’ve predicted I would do something like this. Some might call that brave. Or completely crazy.

Was what I did brave or just completely crazy? I ask myself this question often.

Ode to St. Stephen’s

October 8, 2012 Comments Off on Ode to St. Stephen’s

My favorite spot in all of Dublin. A pocket of calm in the chaotic city center.

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Make It Yours

October 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

I remember the morning of my first full day in Dublin. I awoke at 3am to the sound of a couple of hard-partying roommates stumbling into my hostel dorm. Then I couldn’t fall back to sleep because the man in the bunk adjacent to mine wouldn’t stop snoring.

A set of commuter train tracks was parked right outside the window of the dorm. I heard every train that passed.

This gave me ample time to think about what I might do that day. I didn’t want to go to any dead author’s house. I didn’t want to go on a tour of the Jameson Distillery or the Guinness Storehouse. I didn’t care about cathedrals, museums, or the Book of Kells. I like to go out for drinks, but a pint of beer costs around five Euros in most Dublin pubs.

I was unmotivated at that point in my travels to see the sites others say I should. And I wanted to come home. I missed my loved ones. I was fed up with traveling solo.

I began to feel out of sorts. I didn’t know what I wanted to get out of my short stay. I came to Ireland because the only affordable flight I could find back to the States on such short notice departed from Dublin. I’d also been in France for a month and needed a change of scenery.

Then I asked myself a question.

What makes a city?

I sense there’s more to Dublin than leprechauns, booze, and James Joyce.  I don’t think it’s fair to reduce a city to a select handful of icons. (But whatever brings in the Euros, right?)

It’s the people. People are the reason all those icons, the ones people come out in droves to see, exist. It’s the people who build up those icons and imbue them with significance.

What people am I talking about? I’m talking about the people who live in cities, but I’m also talking about the people who visit. Residents and visitors exert equal influence here. Both need to make sure that cities don’t begin and end with the sights.

People need to make cities theirs.

Dublin isn’t the city for me, but I like to think I made it mine temporarily.

Things improved. I ate. I found plenty of unlikely culinary inspiration in a city where pubs are on every street corner: traditional Irish brown bread and scones, rhubarb yogurt, sea salt ice cream, and excellent vegetarian and vegan foods. I went for walks in the crisp fall weather and watched the leaves begin to turn in St. Stephen’s Green. I witnessed many impromptu musical performances on Grafton Street and in Temple Bar. I perused the shelves at this place. I savored pints of properly poured Guinness.

I borrowed the title for this post from a tagline printed on the free street maps that the Dublin Tourism Office offers visitors. The Dublin Tourism Office seems to have picked out the version Dublin they want people to experience. Figuring out how to work around these kinds of arbitrary expectations, I’ve come to learn, is an essential part of travel. For me, it’s where most of the joy in travel lies.

Where Am I?

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