Daily Archives: December 29, 2012

Cooking In A Winter Wonderland

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I know I still haven’t finished re-capping from France, but I felt like doing some up-to-date stuff, plus now that I finally get to cook I wanted to share some of the nomnoms I’m making with you!

BrekkieThis one isn’t very exciting, but it was the first meal I made myself after coming home. There you see a bagel with with spicy hummus on one side, and an egg with cheese on the other, with a random siding of Mexican corn and Chinese lo-mien.

CRACKThis masterpiece, is what I like to call “crack”. Here’s the recipe I used; I totally encourage everyone to make this. Not only is it super easy, but it is absolutely delicious! Usually you use saltine crackers, but I wanted to use what I had in my pantry, so Ritz Buttery Crackers were the winners.
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Chocolate Saltine Toffee
30 to 40 saltine crackers
1 c butter (2 sticks)
1 c brown sugar, packed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1.5 to 2 c chocolate chips

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350F.  Line a 9 x 11 pan or similar with aluminum foil and spray it very well with cooking spray.  (Do not try to make this without using foil; you will hate yourself).  Place saltine crackers in a single layer on the bottom of the pan.

In a saucepan on the stovetop, combine butter and sugar and bring to a boil while stirring constantly.  Once a boil is reached, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 3 to 5 minutes or until mixture has thickened some.  Take care not that your simmer is not too fast/too high because it will be prone to bubbling over or scorching.  Stir mixture frequently while it simmers to avoid bubbling over or scorching.

After mixture has thickened a bit, remove it from the heat, wait 30 seconds, add the vanilla extract and stir.

Pour mixture over the prepared pan with the saltine crackers.  Bake this in the preheated 350F oven for 5- 7 minutes, or until toffee/liquid becomes bubbly.

After removing the pan from the oven, let it sit for 3-5 minutes.

Sprinkle on the chocolate chips and wait for 3-5 minutes, letting them soften and melt a bit, and then spread and smooth them into an even layer with a spatula.

Optional:  After smoothing the chocolate, add nuts, seeds, graham cracker crumbs, toffee bits, dried fruit, candy bits, or swirl in some peanut butter or other nut butter.

Optional: Use other types of chips, such as butterscotch, white, peanut butter, etc. either in addition to or in a half-and-half  combination with the dark chocolate chips for your top layer.

Let cool very well and if desired for expediting purposes, refrigerate or freeze until hardened.  Break into pieces the size of your choice.

Store in an airtight container on the counter-top.  Or, for longer term storage, freeze it.
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Mexican Hot ChocolateThis beauty, although it doesn’t look too dangerous, packs a punch. It’s called Mexican Hot Chocolate and I made way too much of it, but oh well. Here‘s where the recipe came from, and all the directions are below.
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Mexican Spiced Hot Chocolate

Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Yield: About 5 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup Dutch-processed unsweetened cocoa powder (or the cocoa powder of your choice)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp. cornstarch (optional thickener)
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1/4 tsp. chipotle powder or chili powder
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • pinch of cayenne
  • optional toppings: whipped cream, marshmallows, chocolate syrup, and/or chocolate shavings

Method

Add all ingredients to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat until simmering, stirring frequently. Remove from heat and serve with optional toppings.
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Bagel IssuesJust another bagel invention, this time with bacon, egg, provolone and American cheese, tomatoes, salsa and onions. Yumm.

Baked ZitiThis bad boy I made today when the storm starting brewing, it’s called Skillet Baked Ziti With Sausage and had a little bit of a bite to it, which I enjoyed.
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Skillet Baked Ziti with Sausage

1 (28-oz) can whole peeled tomatoes
1 lb Italian sausage (hot or sweet), casings removed
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cups water
12 oz ziti
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated
1/4 chopped fresh parsley
4 oz mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions:
Preheat oven to 475 F.

Add the tomatoes to the bowl of your food processor and pulse until there aren’t any large pieces left, about 12 pulses.

Set a 12-inch skillet over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook until the sausage is no longer pink, using a wooden spoon to break the sausage up and stir occasionally. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook just until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Stir in the tomatoes and the salt (if you’re not using a nonstick pan, now is a good time to scrape the bottom of the pan to release the browned bits). Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the mixture to simmer gently for about 10 minutes, or until the tomatoes don’t taste raw anymore.

Add the water and pasta to the pan (the pan will probably be quite full, just stir gently to prevent overflow). Cover the pan and turn the heat up to medium to medium-high (adjust as necessary to maintain a vigorous simmer). Cook, stirring frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan, for about 15 minutes, or until the pasta is tender. The pasta will not have absorbed all the liquid in the pan.

Add the heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and parsley to the pan. Stir to incorporate, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Top the pasta with the mozzarella cheese then transfer the pan to the oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and browned.
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Well, that’s all the fun things I’ve made so far. It looks like I’m stuck at home tonight due to the snow, so I’ll probably have more to share with y’all tomorrow. Enjoy this lovely white fluff!

Ho ho ho

Fly hat and glasses

“You Can’t Go Wrong With More Speed”

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Herro again. I just finished freezing my nips off in this snow storm we’re having over here in Rhode Island! I mean, in comparison to Vermont and other areas of the country I’m sure it’s child’s play; but it’s more than the 401 has seen all season I believe. My friend Aly interviewed me for her senior thesis, so I jut spent the passed two hours frolicking in the beautiful snow talking about horses. Whatever, I’m a nerd.

Street Decorations

Anyway, I said that I would try my best to re-cap my final days of studying abroad in Grenoble, France, so here it goes (oh, I’m also going to be weaving my pictures from the Lyon Festival of Lights into this post to add some pizazz):

Blocks

Tuesday, December 11th: Long day of classes, but the last one of the semester! Score. It was also my last literature and translation class (thank god, I HATED THAT CLASS), so I was partially okay with having to sit in that wretched course for two hours. I finished up around 16h45, which was earlier than usual, but I really didn’t have the energy/feel in the mood to party much. I’m pretty sure that after class, I just went home to read more 50 Shades Darker and start studying for the multiple finals I had coming up. If I did anything else of merit, I really don’t remember.

Archway

Wednesday, December 12th: Class from 8h30 to 10h20, which wasn’t too bad, especially considering we spent it watching a movie and learning French slang. After class I actually have no recollection of what I did. Considering I had finals coming up, I think I probably went to the coffee shop for at least a little bit to try and start studying. Honestly though, I could have done anything. Sorry for being so scatter-brained.

This Dragon >>HE WAS SOAWESOMEEE

Thursday, December 13th: Last day of classes for real!!! I had my final regular class on this day, which was actually quite sad. I had come to really enjoy the company of all my extremely diverse classmates (Germans, Americans, Japanese, Chinese, Russian, Australian and South Koreans), and our professor was just amazing. We wrapped up the final class by giving our professor gifts and pictures of our lovely faces, then we finished watching a movie about this guy whose job is to break up engaged couples by seduction.

Afterwards, I went to the post-office to pick up a box to ship home because quite frankly, I have too much shit. I somehow managed to shove 7kg worth of books, nail polish and sports clothing into a tiny box, gold star for me! Once that was over with, I went to the Christmas Market to see what they had to offer, since I still needed to find a few more Christmas presents for family and friends. I don’t think I did anything after dinner this night because I had an exam in the morning, so most likely I just finished up reading 50 Shades and did a minute amount of studying for my exam the next day.

Les Fleurs

Friday, December 14th: I had to wake up early in order to get to my exam on time. At my University, the program I was in was called the CUEF, and at the end of every semester you need to take a final called the DUEF, which basically makes sure that you learned enough French to move on to the next higher level. A lot of people seemed to stress out a bit about it, but quite honestly I wasn’t worried. We only had to get a 10/20 to pass, and my professor prepared us more than necessary for this exam. The only thing about it was that it was very annoying, and took forever! There were three parts to the exam: oral comprehension, written comprehension and actual writing. Between the first and second portion, we had a few hours break, so Hannah, Emily, Ellisa and I went in town to eat a decent lunch, then we spent some time at the Christmas Markets just enjoying the atmosphere and eating tasty treats. It was a good way to pass the time.

Finally, it came time to take the last exam of the day, and once it was over we were just about exhausted with school. Which meant… it was time to rage! I went home, had dinner with Madeleine and let the festivities begin. Hannah and I had plans to meet up with our classmates at Subway, so she came over and we each faced a wine bottle while just hanging out waiting for the time to come. Emily ended up meeting up with us an hour or so later, and then the three of us walked the short distance from my house to the bar. Now, Hannah and I were pretty drunk at this point, which made meeting up with our international friends that much more hilarious. We had to speak French the entire time, which was a lot of fun. The rest of the API group wound up at Subway at some point, but Hannah and I remained behind with our classmates for another hour, then we met up with the rest of our friends at London Pub. The workers at the bar were being douche-bags this particular night, so we didn’t stay for very long… just long enough to get free passes to Vieux Manoir. Finally, we ended the night at the Manoir, where we danced the night away, and I was eventually escorted home by two of the Chinese guys in my class. Night = success.

Moo

Saturday, December 15h: Somehow, I wasn’t hungover when I woke up, which was a mystery to me. Thank goodness though, because I had a lot of work to do prepping for exams. I pretty much spend the entire day at the Coffee Shop stuffing my brain with facts about History of Art, while at the same time trying to start studying for French Literature. I stayed studying and gossiping until it was time for dinner, then went home to spend the night cozy in bed. I figured my liver would enjoy a break, plus I had 35+ slides of Art to memorize, so I hunkered down, did the work I had to do, and had a good nights rest.

Van Gogh

Across The River

Sunday, December 16th: Same old study grind, I’m sad to say (well, not sad — but it’s incredibly dull to write about). I spent more countless hours cramming historical art facts into my mind until I just couldn’t do it anymore. As a break, Richard, Hannah, her host sister and I all went to Tacos de Lyon for some kebab nomnoms, then to “the best” bakery in Grenoble (whose name I forget) where I bought some cookie fruit thing. It was pretty good, but considering I still had a broken retainer in my mouth, it probably wasn’t my greatest purchase.

After our food break, I realized that I needed to go home and be away from the internet in order to make any sort of progress, so I bid adieu to my friends and went back to the apartment to be productive. I figured that since I had already finished 50 Shades Darker, I wouldn’t have as many distractions; I was wrong. I still had Game of Thrones to finish so of course that became my first priority, teehee. Eventually, I did get around to studying enough to feel confident, but I had an oral exam early the next morning, so I went to bed before 22h00. Fiestaaa.

HiSsSsSRAWR

C’est La France

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Wow. Okay everyone – first of all, I apologize for my lack of activity on this these last few weeks. I’ll try to recap all that I can, but it’s been a crazy time so I probably won’t recall all of it.

*Actually, I typed all of this up while I was still in Grenoble, but with the lack of internet I never got around to posting and finishing it. I’m still not caught up, but this seemed better than nothing for the time being. Also.. it’s my 100th post — I am appointing myself an honorary badge for that.*

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As I sit here typing this, it’s my last day in Grenoble (Friday, 21/12/12), and I can’t quite absorb that idea yet. I think I may be numb to it, but that’s probably for the best. These past four months have been some of the greatest thus far in my life, and this has been an experience that I will never forget. Not only did I learn so much more about myself and travel to some unreal places, but also I met some of the best people on this trip, which is really what made the whole thing so unparalleled. We were (ARE) a crazy bunch, that is for sure, but I became close with some of the most unique and genuine people ever, and some of which will definitely remain friends. I can’t believe I will be leaving them; it’s painful to think about, but at least with all this technology, communication won’t be limited. We gave Grenoble, France a run for it’s money, and it definitely showed us a great ass time. A piece of me will forever be resting somewhere in Victor Hugo, awaiting my return.

What have I been doing, you ask? I’ll try and fill in as many gaps as possible:

Monday, December 3rd: School, blech. It was my last day of Culture and Society though, so that was at least a morsel of niceness. It was wayyy to long ago for me to remember what I did in the evening, but being the day after Rome and a Monday, I can deduce that I probably just went home, ate dinner, did some homework slash read 50 Shades of Grey and went to bed.

Tuesday, December 4th: Today was Carl’s birthday! I had the usual full drudging day of classes, unfortunately. After school though, I went home, ate dinner with Madeleine and sipped on some vino while finishing up 50 Shades! After my lovely accomplishment, I met up with Maddie, Ian, Carl and Max to celebrate Carl’s birthday at the one and only Subway. I was already a little buzzed from my celebration wine (whatever, when in France), so I think I only nursed one drink the whole night, kudos to me. I also was given this semi-gross cherry chocolate candy that has a pretty large amount of alcohol inside. We hung out at Subway for a solid amount of time, but I had a 8h30 class the next day, so I called it a night after the bar and went to bed.

Wednesday, December 5th: Hah. So, I had every intention of going to class, but I just couldn’t force myself to get out of my cozy, warm bed at 7h00. C’etait trop tot, et j’avait seulement one class on Wednesdays, so I skipped. Turns out I picked the best day to skip though, because we did nothing in class. So much so that my professor bought everyone coffee and they just hung out in the cafeteria.

I’m pretty sure after I peeled myself out of bed, I went and met up with Hannah at the coffee shop to do whatever. Once again, it was a very long time ago, so I can’t quite remember the details anymore. I do know though that after dinner, I went to Max’s to hang out while he prepped all his stuff for Florence and Rome. That’s about it for this day, though.

Thursday, December 6th: Finished up school for the week at 12h30, yippee! Unfortunately, I had to spend the majority of my afternoon copying down all my Culture and Society notes, since my exam was on Monday. It was a fun time, let me tell you.

After we logged a bunch of studying hours, I went home to drop off my stuff, then grabbed dinner at La Salsita and met up with a bunch of kids from my program for our soiree theatre. We saw this French film, called Populaire (je pense), which was about this small town girl from France who ended up being the best speed typewriter in the world. It was a romantic comedy, and I actually really enjoyed it. I was also very pleased with the fact that it was entirely in French, and I understood all of it minus a few instances. Three cheers for improving!

Once the movie was finished, those who were still in Grenoble felt the need to let loose (when don’t we have that urge, though?), and we instated a girls night. If I remember correctly, it was Hannah, Emily, Maddie, Ellisa, Evelyn and myself. We speed drank some wine/champagne in the foyer of my apartment with pure class and then walked around the corner to Subway to get some more liquor in our bloodstream, duh. We were a rowdy bunch of individuals this night, and Hannah and I become even crazier when a few kids from our class wound up at the same bar for our friend Jascha’s birthday. It was a fun time, and we were probably there for almost two hours. When we exhausted Subway, we changed the scenery and made our way to Couche Tard and were equally crazy. Fun things ensued, and I got to practice my French, that’s all I’m going to say. 😉

Friday, December 7th: Let’s just not talk about how exhausted everyone was after our night full of extravaganzas. Unfortunately being lazy all day wasn’t an option since we had that stupid exam to study for… mer. I spent my day at the French Coffee Shop with Emily, Maddie, Natasha and Hannah prepping for finals and draining our brains. Multiple breaks were taken. I was too beat to even think about going out that night, so I simply went home for dinner then hunkered down for the night to read 50 Shades Darker; I’m pretty sure I read close to half of it. Great success.

Saturday, December 8th: After a full night’s sleep, I was back at the coffee shop squeezing a few hours in before I went with Natasha, Maddie and Hannah to the Lyon Festival of Lights!!!! We took the 16hish train into Lyon, and hung out and enjoyed the festival in all its beauty until 23h30.

 Peacock

I think the entire population of France was crammed into Lyon that night… too many people. Don’t get me wrong, it was a grand experience and the lights were unreal, but it was just too crowded for my liking. You also had to pay for toilets, which is outrageous; so we just snuck into Quik’s. Another thing that was irksome about the festival was how poorly the map correlated to the city itself. We got lost a bunch of times, and it was almost impossible to figure out where you were. One would think for such a popular festival they would be more organized. No matter though, I had fun and got to see some crazy lights. Don’t forget to watch the insane video that I will most at some point in the near future.

CrazinessThat's A Building

The train ride took foreverrrr, and I didn’t crawl into bed until passed 1h00. It was freezing that night, so my cozy covers were more than appreciated.

Do DaLook Closely

Sunday, December 9th: I bet you can guess what I did all this day… that’s right: study. My electives here in France were tricky business. On one hand, it was very nice that I didn’t have homework for the entire semester, but at the same time… our final exams were 100% of our grade. How insane is that?! That’s not how we do it over in America, so needless to say I was massively stressing out for this exam. It was also extra important because I needed to pass the class (and History of Art) in order to get credit for one of my necessary classes for the European Studies major. I don’t think I had ever studied for an exam so much in my life… literally all weekend, blah!

After once again posting up in the coffee shop for hours on end, I went home to eat dinner, de-stress with 50 Shades and get a good night’s sleep before my exam. Eep.

Monday, December 10th: Had the normal class protocol from 10h40 to 12h30, then it was exam time, ew. I didn’t think it was that difficult. The one good thing is that these grades don’t get factored into my GPA, so I only need to get a 10/20 (that’s a C in France) on the exam to get credit for it. I am pretty positive I passed… if I didn’t I will be really angry and shocked, especially after all that studying I did.

Normally after I take an exam I am much more relaxed and just hang out for a little afterwards, but sadly this was not the case this time around. Classes were still in session, so directly after the exam we had to sit in History of Art for an hour and a half. It was not my idea of a good time, but it was the last time that class met, so that was a positive aspect of it.

I got home after class to find out my host mom was gone, so I was able to eat dinner while reading 50 Shades, which was a nice way to unwind. Afterwards I just hung out and putzed around for the night; it was all I could manage.

~~~~~ So, that’s all I had written down in my draft box. Looks like that’s all you’ll be getting for the moment. I don’t have too much on my agenda tomorrow so hopefully I’ll make some strides. Happy Holidays, Everyone! I know I’m a little late, but the good times should always be in session. ❤