About Me

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Hello! Welcome to my online travel-food-life journal/virtual scrapbook. I am a poet, playwright, journalist, editor and basic jack-of-all-trades writer. I was born in El Salvador and raised in Minnesota. I have just returned home from a year and a half in South Africa.

31 January 2012

Recipe: Lamb and Bean Curry (Potjiekos)

So this was my favorite of the 3 pochis that Anton made:

It's a lamb and bean curry.  I had never had a curry with beans in it, and it was a glorious discovery!  As a Mesoamerican, you know I love my beans, and this was a fantastic new way of enjoying them!

Now, the recipe I'm about to give was scribbled on a scrap of paper as dictated by Anton.  I've never made it before and I can't give you exact measurements (except for the spices, he did give me some of those measurements.)  I also didn't see Anton make it (most of it was done by the time we got there) so I'm putting the method together with what I saw him do with the other pochis.  With all that said, I say it's still worth experimenting with this recipe, because if you get even kind of close to what I ate, it will be spectacular!

  • Vegetable oil, a few tablespoons
  • Finely chopped onions, I'd say at least 3 large ones
  • Finely chopped green pepper, at least 2
  • Finely chopped tomatoes, at least 3-4 large
  • Finely chopped garlic, at least 4 cloves
  • Bone-in lamb chunks, I'd guesstimate at least 1 kilo (2 pounds)
  • Beans (in SA use Sugar Speckled Beans, in the States use Pinto Beans), cooked till tender
  • Bay leaves (a couple?)
  • Cinnamon sticks (one or two?)
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds (known in SA as Barishap)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander seeds (known in SA as Koljander)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Roasted Masala *
  • 4 tablespoons Rajah medium curry powder *
  • 2 tablespoons Rajah mild curry powder *

* If you're not in SA, I'd say just use a blend of different curry powders.  Experiment with ones that are hotter, milder, etc.

In your well-heated potjiekos (or heavy dutch oven) add the oil.  Once hot, add the onions and let them sweat.  Add peppers and garlic and cook till soft, stirring to make sure nothing sticks.  Add the spices and cook till fragrant.  Add the lamb.  Once the lamb is no longer raw, add the tomatoes and beans.  Add a little water to help make the gravy (maybe about 1 cup).  Let the curry cook and cook and cook till the lamb is tender.

Serve on top of white rice and try not to have third helpings!

¡Buen provecho!

PS:  Anton (or any one from Noel's family who knows how to make this) if you read this, PLEASE let me know if I've made any mistakes!!!

30 January 2012

The Night of the Great Pochi!

Double, double, toil and trouble. Fire burn and cauldron bubble!

What be brewing there my pretties?  Eye of newt and boomslang skin?

Well, of course not silly, it's just a lovely pochi!  Or, more correctly, potjiekos.  But as Noel told us, in the Cape Coloured community, it's pronounced POH-CHEE instead of POYT-KEE.

Let me back back up.  Remember last week I posted my post-post modern riff on all things Kalk Bay?  Well, that same weekend, Noel's nephew Anton hosted a massive pochi-a-thon at his house.

Let me back up even further.  So, ever since my very first potjiekos, I have been enamored and in lurve!  I knew, I KNEW I was not leaving South Africa without my very own, 3-legged cast iron beauty.  So Aaron informed Santa of the deepest desire of my heart and I must have been a good girl this year because Santa brought me my very own potjiekos!

Actually, maybe I was a little naughty, because my potjiekos was a few days late ... in fact, I composed a little tune in honor of the event: ♫ On the third day after Christmas, my true love gave to me ... A three legged, cast-iron pochi! ♪

Santa also forgot to wrap it ... Oh Santa!

Have I digressed?  I've digressed.

Ahem.  So, when we celebrated New Year's with Noel and his family, we all got to talking about Christmas and I mentioned that I got a potjiekos.  And being the fabulous people-who-understand-a-girl-with-culinary-curiosity that they are, they instantly offered to give me a whole potjiekos (pochi!) lesson!

Come over next week they said, and bring your pochi!   So that we did ... and that brings us here:

They had already started on 2 other pochis!

And since my pochi had legs (Anton's didn't and could sit on the braai), she had to have her own, improvised hearth set up:

It's a three-pochi kind of a party!

While we waited for my pochi to warm up, we had some delicious, DEEElicious homemade koeksisters:

They are a typical South African pastry, but the kind I had had before were quite different:  soaked in syrup and no coconut.  Charmaine, Noel's sister who make the koeksisters explained to me that the Cape Coloured community has their own way of making them.

We also snacked on some sausages:

It was a beautiful evening:

And finally my pochi was warm enough to start cooking:

In the meantime, the other pochis were bubbling away:

Here's mine, in progress:

And here she is all done!:

All of the pochis were SO good.

They were all lamb, but each was spiced differently, had different vegetables, etc.  I did manage to get Anton's recipe for my favorite pochi of the night, which I'll be typing up and sharing this week.

Here we are in all our cheesy, blissed-out, pochi-happy glory!:

Thank you once again to Anton and his family and all of Noel's family for welcoming us -- once again -- into their homes and for sharing their wonderful food and traditions with us ... BAIE DANKIE!

26 January 2012

Kalk Bay: From Apartheid Exclusion to Olé Barnacle Take Aways ...

This post has a little of the sacred and the profane about it; sprinkled with pretty pictures, a beautiful family and kooky signage.  Indulge me, yes?

A couple of weekends ago, our good friends Noel and Karen (with whom we spent New Year's) invited us over to their home for the weekend.  We spent a lovely 2 days once again with their amazing extended family ... 

And they took us to Kalk Bay.  Isn't it gorgeous?

It was a very windy day, so the long pier was closed (so that people wouldn't, you know, get blown in) but people were still fishing off the dock:

They have a fish cleaning station set up right there; also: "Olé Barnacle Take Aways." 

That is, without a doubt, my favorite restaurant name.  EVER.  Also, take a look at that center picture.  That girl does not look too happy about eating that sausage.  And let's leave it at that, shall we?  Onwards ...

The beach sits opposite the dock:

During apartheid, this (quite small) beach was a designated "non-whites" beach.  Noel and Karen told us of how incredibly crowded it used to get ... and the good times they had there.  That is what I find amazing about people in South Africa, that they can be talking about something like a "non-whites" beach and remember the good times instead of focusing on the bitterness that would otherwise consume them.  Of course not everyone is like that (I've met some pretty bitter people here as well) but Noel and Karen seem to me to be an amazing example of not allowing horrible things to mark you for life and instead, of making you appreciate the good things all the more.

There were dozens of bright little nautical jewels:

Look, we found the Titanic!

Noel insisted on a picture of him & Karen in front of the "Titanic" ... How adorable are these two?


On our way home we stopped at this overlook and spoke with the "Shark Spotter" guy:

At this beach, ladies and gentlemen, 6-8 Great White Sharks are spotted a day (in the high season.) Most are too far out to be a threat, but STILL!  You can't tell by this picture, but the beach was packed!  You wouldn't get me on that beach for a million dollars.  Nope.

Then afterwards it was off to Terrance and Petula's house.  I meant to take a bunch of pictures ... but then they started plying me with drinks, observe:

Double fisting it, oh yeah!

So I didn't get any pics of the amazing food, or most of the family!  Though I did manage to get a couple of shots of their pack of GORGEOUS pups:

Wanted to sneak one of 'em in my bag they were so cute!

There was much food, some intense quiz show playing and plenty of libations ...

But right before we left, I did manage to get most of the boys together for a shot:

Ladies, it's our turn next time!

25 January 2012

Weight Loss: Sample Menus/Menu Plans

Oh my word!  I promised y’all some sample menus didn’t I?

I told you the heat melted my brain!

Look, there is nothing spectacular about this, but hey, if it helps anyone with the whole portion control thing and all, then I’m glad to help.  Speaking of portions, sometimes I’ve noted the portions in grams; that’s just how portions are measured here in SA, but they’re pretty much the same as U.S. cup/ounce portions.

Also, I always have a small banana before I work out, that's not noted on here, but just so ya' know.

And one more note, I vary things quite a bit, for example, if I had a bigger breakfast, I’ll try to have a smaller snack and vice versa – it’s all just a guide.

Oh, and here’s a link to some sample menus from one of my aforementioned favorite websites, The Gracious Pantry.

Breakfast (generally around 8-9am):

Coffee w/ rice milk plus:
  • 2 pieces whole wheat toast (no butter) with 1 tblsp. (15-16 grams) natural peanut butter, 1 tblsp. jam/jelly
  • 2 pieces whole wheat toast (no butter) with 1 tblsp. (15-16 grams) natural peanut butter, ½ sliced banana
  • 2 pieces whole wheat toast (no butter) with 2 tblsps. cream cheese or ½ to 1 ounce regular cheese
  • 2 pieces whole wheat toast (no butter) with ½ avocado
  • 2 pieces whole wheat toast (no butter) with 1 egg (I scramble mine in the microwave!  Works great and makes less of a mess!)
  • Bowl of fruit w/ 100 grams of low fat yogurt and a little granola or nuts
  • Small banana , 40 grams muesli/granola/ whole grain cereal and 1 cup rice milk (I’d do regular cow’s milk, but it really messes with my IBS, which is sad, because I love it!)
  • 2 whole wheat rusks (Rusks are a SA biscotti-type biscuit/scone.  They can be very fattening, full of fat and sugar, but I’ve found some healthier ones.)

 Snack #1 (about 10-11am):
  • Fruit
  • Small handful of nuts
  • One piece whole wheat bread w/ any of the aforementioned toppings
  • Carrot sticks (though is no such thing as carrot sticks in SA, can you believe it?  They do have little, adorable carrot balls though!) w/ lime.  I’ve loved raw carrots w/ lime or lemon ever since I was a little girl :o)
  • 1 whole wheat rusk dunked in coffee 
  • A teeny piece of chocolate :o)

Lunch (around 1-2 pm):

Piece of fruit or small salad/carrot sticks/other veggies or low fat snack (pretzels, rice crackers, etc.) plus:
  • Sandwich made with whole wheat bread and filled with low fat cold cuts and/or cheese
  • Rice/couscous salad
  • Big salad with feta cheese or avocado or chicken breast
  • Leftovers from the night before

Snack #2 (about 3pm):
  • Fruit
  • Small handful of nuts
  • One piece whole wheat bread w/ any of the aforementioned toppings
  • Carrot balls :o)
  • 100 grams low fat yogurt w/ a little fruit 

    Dinner (usually around 6:30 – 7:30 pm):

    This is the meal that varies the most, so it’s hard to make a comprehensive list.  So I’ll just give you a few examples of what I’ve eaten in the past few weeks.

    • 2 Small fillets of fish, feta & broccoli salad (by the way, this turned out AWESOME, so I’ll write up the recipe next week.)
    • 1 Barbequed chicken breast, 1 portion rice, big salad
    • Big ole’ taco salad made with ground/minced ostrich (lower in fat than beef) and homemade salsa (easy on the cheese and greek yogurt instead of sour cream)
    • Small pork steak with roasted butternut squash (very light on the butter.)
    • Small steak with corn on the cob and salad

    Snack #3 (Only if I’m really hungry before bed!):

    Always something very light, since I’m about to go to bed, I don’t want anything too heavy.
    • A nice coffee or low sugar hot chocolate
    • A small piece of fruit
    • A teeny piece of chocolate :o)

    24 January 2012

    Road Trip!: Ceres

    So as I promised yesterday, here are some pictures of our trip to Ceres.  Of course we went there to go ziplining, but as I always say, the journey IS the destination!

    You may think you've never heard of this tiny place, but I bet you have ... you know those white boxes of delicious juices sold at your local supermarket ... called "Ceres" ... Yup!  This is the one and only best-fruit-grown-here Ceres. 

    The drive there was stunning:

    Once we got there, we spent about 3 hours total doing the zip lining.  When we were done, we were sweaty, wind-ruffled, parched and starving, so on the recommendation of the zip line company owner, we went down the road to Waverly Hills, an organic winery and restaurant:

    Lunch started with mussels in a creamy-cheesy sauce:

    I had a chicken panini:

    And Aaron had cheesecake with chocolate cake wedged in between:

    Here are the views from the restaurant:

    And then, tummies full, we were ♪ On the road again ♫

    As I've discussed before, South Africa's signage and map-making can make for some fun adventures.  That is, if you call getting hopelessly lost "fun."  Which we do of course, weirdos that we are!  We ended up at 3 separate end-of-the-road situations, including this one, where tarmacked road turned into original cobblestone road:

    As long as it's daylight and we've got plenty of fuel in the tank, we love getting lost in little back roads.  You see the most amazing things, discover adorable little towns, or find yourself in the middle of one of Ceres' famed orchards:

    End-of-the-road number 2:

    End-of-the-road number 3; this one ended extremely abruptly in a train station!:

    But never fear, we found our way out and we were soon on our way home ...

    But don't ever get complacent on South African roads, cuz the monkeys will mess yo' sh*t up.  You think I'm kidding?

    These baboons were nutty!  We pulled over for a bit to watch them and as soon as one car passed, the whole lot of them would rush back onto the road ... for all of 15 seconds before the next car came rushing past.  Adrenaline-junkie baboons?


    Once we got out of the mountains though, there were no more monkeys ... just lots and lots of beautiful fields.  Being from the Midwest, we felt very at home:

    And finally, as we were nearing home, I finally got a picture of my favorite road sign ever.  I've mentioned it before, but here it is, finally, in all its glory:


    Smooches to you my lovelies!