Refrigerator Prepping: Mission “Eat These Groceries”

Since returning from Guatemala my eating habits have been horrendous.  Just plain gross.

I ate so healthy in Guatemala, the land of daily farmers markets and cheap produce-Hey, did you know that all the local goodness at the farmers market in Coban is not all grown by the farmers selling?  Did you know that some of the people selling aren’t farmers at all?  Shocking right (as I clench my chest struggling for air).  I looked back on photos taken while exploring the market and some of the bags of apples had PRODUCE TAGS ON THEM!  Like the tags they scan AT THE GROCERY STORE as you stand at the register!  Or could the vendors also sell to local grocers and whatever they don’t sell at market, they just send to the store?  Nope.  Doubt it. […]

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Hello!

If you’re one of my amazing followers/subscribers you are probably looking at the notification or email thinking wow, another post so soon from the infrequent blogger?  Why yes.  I’m on a roll.  For the time being.  A few months ago I fake committed to an overly ambitious challenge.  To blog every day for 30 days.  Stupid, right?  I blog when I feel motivated and have something I think is worth sharing.  

I initially started blogging with the thought that everyone was going to read my amazing bodies of work.  Companies and brands would fall out of blog heaven and send me free stuff.  Collaborate.  Pay me.  Love me.  I was gonna be in bloggy bliss and a fan favorite.  YouTube makes it look so easy (as I think of the video titles I’ve seen this week; “Look I bought a house, My first Range Rover, How I make $5000 a week on YouTube”).  

I’ve come to realize that I enjoy blogging.  A LOT.  My site is where I share my struggles, my life, my journey, and the quirky side of Ashley the world doesn’t get to see.  I’m a pretty awesome, brave, goofy girl on my blog!  

“Okay Ashley, great job and… CUT!  Roll to the next scene”

Since returning from Guatemala my eating habits have been horrendous.  Just plain gross.

I ate so healthy while in Guatemala, the land of daily farmers markets and cheap produce-Hey, did you know that all the local goodness at the farmers market in Coban is not all grown by the farmers selling?  Did you know that some of the people selling aren’t farmers at all?  Shocking right (as I clench my chest struggling for air).  I looked back on photos taken while exploring the market and some of the bags of apples had PRODUCE TAGS ON THEM!  Like the tags they scan AT THE GROCERY STORE as you stand at the register!  Or could the vendors also sell to local grocers and whatever they don’t sell at market, they just send to the store?  Nope.  Doubt it.

I have enjoyed many, many, many delicious Oreos-both the mint and original kind

Xtra Xtra hot Flamin’ Hot Cheetos (and several other variation of Frito Lay hot chips)

Sour Skittles-lots of sour Skittles

Fast food

Ramen Noodles-but I make them seem fancy with a homemade broth, savory veggies, sesame oil, and soy sauce

I also scarfed down plenty of other CRAP!

As a result, my stomach is upset with me

Very upset-like brown stew factory galore in the toilet, upset

I hear my intestines communicating with me.

We’ve come to the understanding that I need to get back to eating better before I implode

Deep down inside, I appreciate stomach bugs

I see the opportunity as a free detox, a jump-start to eating well. The kick in the butt I need to springboard me into action!

I went to the grocery store and as always, bought groceries like I was someone else-the person I long to be deep down inside

The health conscious woman

It fascinates me to fill up my cart with leafy greens, shiny-chemically glazed apples, organic grapes, avocado, real juice, and other pretty vegetables.

The looks on people’s faces when you stand in check-out with no meat and a cart full of skinny people heaven is priceless-especially if you are standing next to someone with an oxygen tank pushing a cart full of hot dogs, Pepsi, tv dinners, chips, and the “chef’s special” meat, looking super grody (translation: gross) is the white cellophane container it calls home.  Animal blood oozing through the plastic wrap used to contain it.

Makes me feel so accomplished.

The problem is, I get all this glorious food home and it sits.  And sits and rots.  This is a pattern.  Throwing the stuff out is a bi-weekly bingeing session

Well this week it won’t be!

I decided to prep my refrigerator!

And that is…..

I cleaned all the fruit, stored it in Tupperware

Washed and prepped all the vegetables

Stored everything is clear containers so that it is all easily identifiable

And stored them on shelves in the refrigerator in a way where I am able to visualize everything at a glance

I bought lots of food, so this took time

Here’s the list of what I did (because I am proud of my accomplishment-remember, I’m a millennial, praise me)

  1. Washed and cut collard greens-stored ‘em in the crisper.  To preserve them and keep them crisp I laid the greens on dampened paper towel
  2. Washed and cut all of the sweet, bell, and jalapeno peppers-stored them all in separate containers
  3. Washed and sliced mushrooms-stored those as well
  4. Washed and sliced onions-found a plastic temporary home for them too 
  5. Washed and cut carrots, stored ‘em
  6. Washed, chopped and stored green onions in a container
  7. Washed and stored grapes-even organic grapes need to be washed!  I just learned this yesterday, I was eating them straight out of the bag!  I have been doing this FOREVER! If there are no pesticides, why wash, right?
  8. Stored strawberries in a container-I learned NOT to wash them because they get mushy
  9. Chopped cantaloupe- you guessed it, put them in a container
  10. Sliced 2 WHOLE PINEAPPLES!  Store those too-after pratically eating half of one in the process
  11. Stored blueberries and cranberries
  12. Washed the cilantro and put it in the second crisper drawer
  13. Washed brussel sprouts, but put them back in the bag they came in because at this point, I was out of containers (I didn’t want to invest in buying more, knowing that commitment and I struggle to see eye-to-eye).

I left the grapefruit and mangoes in the produce bags and stored them in the fridge because they weren’t quite ripe yet and I wanted to speed up the process.  I would’ve also prepped the avocado, but they too need more time.

I stored coconut flakes and chia seeds in small containers that allow me to take what I need with ease.

Now this was no quick task.  It took me about 3-4 hours

But my refrigerator looks so organized!  All the food stored inside is un-intimidating (I don’t think that’s a real word).  Everything is inviting!  Open me, eat me, enjoy me!  Thank God it is all healthy and not just containers full of Flamin’ Hots and sour Skittles.

The prep time on the front end, relieves me of prepping when I am ready to prepare a meal.  Everything is basically already done, I just have to add ingredients to the skillet or pot!

Much of my cooking obstacle has been the lack of time.  With this method, I anticipate grabbing things that are already prepped and getting straight to the fun part

It was actually kind of therapeutic to be in my own little chopping world for an afternoon.  

We will see how effective this strategy is and hopefully it will become a part of my “you better eat those freaking groceries” routine.

Try it out, let me know how it works for you and your family!

So far so good, I ate pineapple and sautéed vegetables for breakfast and the time from refrigerator to table, was less than 10 minutes!

I think I’m onto something here (happy “Lord let me return to the land of skinny” dance)

May your refrigerator become more organized and you never lose precious food items in the belly of the “back of the refrigerator” monster.

26 hour journey to Atlanta: We ate at Old Lady Gang

In commemoration of the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta (no, I do not watch this show or any other show for that matter-we have a Firestick and internet only.  No, not a fully loaded, or even partially loaded one, just the basic one where you pay for add-ons and subscriptions.  Let me back track, I did pay for the last 3 seasons of being Mary Jane because I LOVE MARY JANE PAUL.  She is me, I am her, we are Pauletta (in my soul at least).  Okay, and I have paid for the past 2 sessions of How to get Away with Murder but haven’t committed to splurging on the current season).

Back to the matter at hand!  I didn’t blog about it, but I spent two weekends in a row in Atlanta this part September-can you believe that it’s already November?  Let’s hear it for Thanksgiving.

Euphoria rings through my food-loving flesh at the thought of dressing

With cranberry sauce

Collards

And cornbread baked to golden brown perfection in a cured, cast iron skillet […]

In commemoration of the new season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta (no, I do not watch this show or any other show for that matter-we have a Firestick and internet only.  No, not a fully loaded, or even partially loaded one, just the basic one where you pay for add-ons and subscriptions.  Let me back track, I did pay for the last 3 seasons of being Mary Jane because I LOVE MARY JANE PAUL.  She is me, I am her, we are Pauletta (in my soul at least).  Okay, and I have paid for the past 2 sessions of How to get Away with Murder but haven’t committed to splurging on the current season).

Back to the matter at hand!  I didn’t blog about it, but I spent two weekends in a row in Atlanta this part September-can you believe that it’s already November?  Let’s hear it for Thanksgiving.

Euphoria rings through my food-loving flesh at the thought of dressing

With cranberry sauce

Collards

And cornbread baked to golden brown perfection in a cured, cast iron skillet

Yams

Cooked to amazingness, and generously spiced with the perfect combination of sugar, nutmeg, vanilla extract, cinnamon and butter

Baked macaroni and cheese with crispy edges-although I am definitely lactose-intolerant and aware of the fact that my stomach will be bloated and I’ll be the one sneaking around letting off little stink bombs wherever I stand

Fried corn-like only my adorable dear (translation: grandmother-the matriarch of the Smith family) can prepare it

Lasagna-my mom makes this dish (she can’t really cook for real, so she has mastered this one thing)

Savory sweet potato pie with my secret ingredients-ginger and a hint of cayenne powder, only because I SUCK at keeping secrets

Of course there is turkey, ham and whatever other meats are prepared, but I love the sides and fill up on them, with several helpings, and have no room for meats

And a consolation prize for all of the random, “you should’ve left that at home” items people waste their time cooking and carrying to my grandmother’s, as if anyone except for them and their sad children will eat it when you have dears food as the alternative.  You get a heartfelt thank you

Back to Atlanta.  I accidentally drove 13 hours (one way) to Atlanta to attend a conference that wasn’t until… the following weekend.  So of course I had to return the next weekend for the originally intended trip.  During weekend one, to avoid it being an epic fail, I visited Old Lady Gang with my mother (who took the waste of a trip with me).  

Upon arrival, we joined the line of about 15 other people-we arrived about 15 minutes before they opened.  

It was a hot day in Atlanta, however being from Milwaukee (where it had started to cool) I didn’t complain about having to wait in the sun.  As my mom and I basked in the sun rays that caused sweat beads to trickle down my spine, we could hear others complain about how hot it was.  I personally tried to ignore the griping because a) I’m from Wiscansin, home of 8 month winters and b) I was trying to stay positive-Charlie Brown womp, womp discourage me NOT!

Finally we were inside and seated.  

I won’t waste time on decor because… it looked like a restaurant, it was clean, I didn’t go there for decorative inspiration-really it was hot outside and by the time we got in my vision was half blurred and I could barely make out where I was.  NO. JUST KIDDING about the last part.

We were sat by a friendly host and immediately my eyes were glued to the menu.  By this time, it was after 10:15 am.  I had not eaten breakfast.  My stomach was giving me verbal reminders that we needed nourishment to sustain.  

Seated next to us, two hilarious women who I’m assuming had just come from church.  How can you make that assumption?  They had on makeup and church clothes (translation: Sunday’s Best, they were suited and booted, looking rather fancy, dressed to impress, a step higher than job interview fashions) but again, I was in Atlanta and it almost seemed like Black people there only had closets full of Sunday’s Best.  Not a casual Fashion Nova Netflix & Chill set in sight.

It was Sunday. Late morning.  You know what that means…BRUNCH!  millennials and nay (they) mommas love brunch-Mimosa me please (requested through puckered, semi-sophisticated lips).  

Because we were in ATL I knew the brunch would be “southern inspired”.  No problem.

I ordered

Fried Chicken

Collard Greens

Macaroni & Cheese

And as an appetizer, the fried deviled eggs

Mom ordered

Chicken and Waffles

Along with Mimosas, we ordered sweet peach tea.

In the section we were seated in (closest to the bar) the seats are placed within close proximity to each other.  Unless you are a turtle, you are seated so closely, you’re almost forced to communicate with your neighbors.  I saw this as a plus.  As a little caterpillar still peering out of my cocoon that’s disintegrating because it’s time for me to come out, I saw it as a helpful nudge towards social engagement.  

I laughed and conversed with my neighbors and vuala!  The deviled eggs appeared.  

They were beautiful, golden, and hot!  It was clear that whichever chef was at that prep station was playing no (clap) games (claps)- I introduced this manner of speech in an earlier blog, feel free to hit the link to read it and acquaint yourself. Clap explanation

The problem is, I am a young foodie.  

I can cook.

I do cook.

I do cook well.

I go to restaurants, savor the flavor of dishes I enjoy, go home and recreate them, adding my own touches to take them to what I think is the next level, and keep practicing until the dish is incredible

Deviled eggs, I have already mastered.  The fried factor was something new to me and I was ready to experience it, then replicate its goodness at home

I tried my best to lay my preconceived notions aside and fall in love with the dish

It didn’t happen.

IN DEFENSE

I am Black

Black people, eat soul food

It’s a treat and a stable

Most Black people in Milwaukee are migrants of the south by way of the Great Migration

Our grandparents and great-grandparents moved to Milwaukee when it was booming with manufacturing jobs

With them they carried gleeful southern spirits, and the recipes that kept them close to Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee and other southern states.

When soul food is made at home with love, patience, a good story and a football game on TV, it is hard to top

While White people eat average (or just below) soul food and marvel, salivate and go on and on about it (we have a couple of basic soul food joints in Milwaukee in the suburbs, where the clientele doesn’t know better); Black people call bulls** and can only be got, that one time.  

Fool me one time, shame on you.  Fool me twice can’t put the blame on you – J. Cole

I wanted to be taken back to my dear’s circular, wood grain kitchen table

I wanted to rest my bum comfortably in the cushioned seat I always sat in just in front of the window

I waited to feel the gust of the breeze on my shins as I swung by little legs back and forth, in food heaven, excited about how good the deviled eggs were

It didn’t happen

While the yoke was whipped beautifully, the fried exterior added nothing to the dish.  It was bland. As if the egg was dipped in white, all-purpose flour and dropped in hot oil until it looked pretty.  For me, it added only a slight texture variation that compromised the addition of flavor and I could have done without it.  

Of course I shared it with my table mates to my right who agreed.

Next up

Hot corn muffins with honey

Corn muffins/bread

the staple of a soul food dinner

My dear is from Mississippi

She can cook in her sleep

Cornbread being a centerpiece that she’d perfected

The corn muffin at Old Lady Gang was again, gorgeous

It was apparent to me that they weren’t in the back setting off any smoke alarms

Not that it was a bad thing, but, the corn muffin was sweet

Jiffy sweet

It was discussed among my small crew (they were promoted from table mates, to my crew by this point) and the verdict was

The chefs simply doctored up a batch of Jiffy cornbread mix with cornmeal and plenty of sugar

Now for the record, I didn’t totally agree with that call

It could’ve been Glory Day’s (another brand of soul food fixin’s that can be purchased at a local grocer)

What I didn’t understand, was what I was supposed to do with honey

I was already eating cornbread cake, how much sweeter did it need to be?!

I ate one muffin and let my mom enjoy the rest

The main course was placed in front of me and again, I thought it was (you guess…) beautiful!  

All of the food was pretty, at least at my crew’s table.

I will admit ret now (right now), I do not like fried chicken

Why would you order it then?

I like the fried skin of fried chicken

YES, enough to order it!

So, being that the skin is the most important part to me, it was good.  It housed every ounce of the seasoning.  

This is a rookie mistake when frying chicken

Although I don’t enjoy chicken, I do know that you must season the chicken, as well as the batter used for the skin.  That’s chicken 101!  

Maybe the favorite ingredient of the chef was sugar, so other seasonings were pushed to the back row.

I bit into the chicken thigh that was juicy, tender and bland

On to the next item, the collard greens

I love collard greens

I eat them for breakfast

I have sautéed them and prepared them for lunch

And of course I can hook up a mean pot of them for dinner

The greens in my shiny white bowl smelled and looked amazing

Forest green with chunks of pork throughout

I anticipated the flavor marrying my tongue and went in to say I do…

The chef was two favorite ingredients

Salt & Sugar

My crew warned by that several reviews talked about how salty the greens were

At that moment I decided, that was the taste they were going for and moved on

But first a few sips of my intro to diabetes sweet tea (it was good though)

Next, macaroni and cheese!

I love baked macaroni and cheese!

My favorite part is the outer crust that forms along the edge where the cheese meets the baking pan.  That’s nirvana in a baking dish

This mac & cheese was cheesy

Yep and that’s that, that’s all I recall about it and I only had about 2-3 forkfuls of it

Old Lady Gang (possibly because of its newness) brings out and joins people from all over

It was great sitting next to women from Atlanta, talking to them about the city, the changes, the positive things that are happening and authentically showing pride for their home

It was great to smile and laugh with black women over a sub-par brunch

The restaurant was clean

The staff-were staffing the place (I personally wasn’t impressed with our server, the manager on duty or the other staff she stood in the corner gossiping loudly about)

Kandi Burruss is a several million dollar, millionaire

With that, my expectations for a restaurant she claims proudly as part of her brand

were high

My expectations for a staff hired to represent her brand

were high

Instead, I got Real Housewives of Atlanta messy

Staff that seemed to be competing with each other in a good ole’ crabs in a bucket fashion

It was sad to see the manager tearing down a staff who needed development and support.  It didn’t make her look better, as she must have perceived it did by the way her voice gradually grew louder and louder, showing no shame in her own ignorance as it relates to building a staff and maintaining a business (note taken for my little entrepreneurial self).

But I also am aware that the restaurant is still in its infancy stage and everyone is still learning

The best part was the socialization, laughs and warm fuzziness I felt while bonding with beautiful black women over a meal

Old Lady Gang,

Thank you

 

Food Series continues from Antigua: Pinche Restaurant

It’s lunchtime! So the food series continues!
What do you do in Antigua besides eat Ashley?
Walk around
Take pictures of my surrounding
Souvenir shop
Contemplate my purchases
Feel guilty about my duffel bag of purchases
Whip out my calculator to crunch numbers and decide if I can survive for the next 5 days with the money I have left after bingeing on souvenirs
Eat
Blog
Be happy!  I am really, really happy spending time alone! […]

It’s lunchtime! So the food series continues!
What do you do in Antigua besides eat, Ashley?
Walk around
Take pictures of my surroundings
Souvenir shop
Contemplate my purchases
Feel guilty about my duffel bag of purchases
Whip out my calculator to crunch numbers and decide if I can survive for the next 5 days with the money I have left after bingeing on souvenirs
Eat
Blog
Be happy!  I am really, really happy spending time alone!
I’m doing stuff-in my pouting child tone
Most of my time in Guatemala has been spent planning, working, taking on new work and reflecting.  Antigua is my equivalent to a “real vacation”.
Plus I’m simple.  I was telling the hard-working, always exhausted hun-bunz what my days consist of and he says that’s why he’s been with me for so long (because I’m predictable and it doesn’t take much).  I shared this with my ma (translation: mom) and she saw a comparison to a dog.  It was dead on.  Think about it for a sec-I enjoy a good meal & walking/wandering around.  That’s the life of the happiest pup if you ask me!
I sought out in search of an Asian Bowl restaurant but was unsuccessful.
On my search for this restaurant while bouncing down the narrow cobblestone streets of Antigua among other cheerful tourists; I noticed the bright and modern restaurant Pinche.
In American Spanish-slang, pinche is the “kitchen boy”.  He is the worker who cleans up the chef’s mess, scrubs pots and carries things around.  I’ve also heard it in a derogatory tone, thrown together with a slew of curse words to mean inferior and useless.
And to see it in Antigua, plastered on the front of a restaurant. Marketing and strategist genius if you ask me!  An urban taco and margarita restaurant with the name of your abuela’s go-to expletive when you’re not around.  I wished I was a child with my mom, walking past just so I could say, “Ma, can we go to Pinche?” or “Ma look, the pinche is open!”

That reminds me of the time my adorable little/big bro called my mother “estupido” while pouting in the backseat of the car as children.  He was pissed because my mom wouldn’t let him take candy to school for breakfast (how unfair could she be).  Just as quickly as she said “no” and gave him the eye that only my mother can deliver, “mi mama estupido” came out of his grinning lips.  His delivery was epic.  No hesitation, no doubt, pure confidence and adrenaline must’ve ran through his little body.  Somehow thinking that she couldn’t figure out what the words meant, he put on his seat belt and got comfortable in his window seat as my sister and I stared at him.  We knew in our souls that his understanding of life was about to change.  Spanish immersion programs have black kids thinkin’ they’re geniuses boy!  My brother didn’t learn too many other sentences after that stunt.  He never had a passion for the language after that exchange.
The restaurant decor is extremely modern with maplewood-colored planks on the border of the bar, grey stones lining the floor, and white, shiny tiled walls and matching wood table fixtures.  The style is comparable to Chipotle but in bright vibrant colors.  The chairs were my favorite. Great accents to the clean, fresh design.  The seats and backs were joined with thin, vibrantly colored, matte-finished twisted metal.  Very eye-catching and highly noticeable against the bright white background of the walls.  If you have ever been to Belair Cantina, this restaurant has the same quirky charm.  Okay, so in conclusion I would say that Belair Cantina and Chipotle had a Latina baby.  As I looked up, a unique feature was the open concept roofing at the center of the room.  There is a large square space between the ceiling and supporting frame where you can see the clear blue sky and feel the cool breeze.

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Spanglish quotes written in unique lettering in an array of brights, broke up the crisp walls adding even more flare.
The kitchen was open.  As the chefs prepare your menu selection, you are able to stare them down if your heart so desires.  Much like many of the other establishments I patronized, the music of choice was American Pop Hits 2016 with a few 2017 chart-toppers weaved throughout.  3 big screen TVs were in the large spacious room I chose to sit in and WWE was the main attraction on each.  I must say that wrestling is NOT what it was when I was a child.  It was so real, so raw, so fueled by emotion, so unpredictable, so sensational!  Oh the joys of being an impressionable kiddo.
This was no hole-in-the-wall joint.  This place easily seated about 100 comfortably.
While I sang along to Justin Bieber Sorry, I was automatically drawn to the soup section of the menu. I enjoy the savory flavor of a red tomato-based Guatemalan soup loaded with veggies, strips of tender chicken and ripe avocado.
They had exactly what I was craving.
The soup interestingly came in a crisp taco shell with condiments and sides galore!
Along with the sopa (soup) came
Onion
Matchstick tortilla chips
Lime
Cilantro
Pico de gallo
Mango
Avocado

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Since I was given enough goodies to make a separate meal, I decided to ball out and dump them all in the taco shelled bowl!  As I was dumping everything, my mind drifted to images of a guy experiencing his first trip to the strip club and throwing all of his singles at the first woman who pranced by, in glee.  I was in heaven!
I couldn’t go to a taco place called Pinche without getting a margarita!
This margarita.  This (clap) Margarita (clap).  THIS MARGARITA!  DIS HERE MARGARIDA!
I ordered the Jalapeno Margarita.

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I have made a similar concoction both for hun-bunz and for get-togethers. It’s always a hit!  This thing is so tasty!  If ever you are asked to bring food to a picnic, show up with this baby!
Nobody will be thinking about a slab or ribs,
your played out potato salad,
burnt hot-dogs,
your under-cooked brats,
medium, supposed to be well done, thawed, freezer burned burgers
your box of 10 cent unfrozen,
frozen Popsicles,
your dry, salty “girl what’s this” macaroni and cheese,
your soggy mush-mush fruit salad,
the one veggie burger you bring for yourself wrapped in aluminum foil, then sealed in a recycled Ziploc bag that you’d already reused more than once
your “famous” taco salad with, SURPRISE, the nacho cheese Doritos and if you’re fancy the spicy nacho bag,
or that cheap bag of Lays!
As I took my first sip, I was “back down memory lane”
It was just as I had remembered but with a hint more of the jalapeno.
The lime, Jose Cuervo, cognac, jalapeno, cilantro, triple sec and agave nectar blending together like they were fetuses in the womb, taking photos for the ultrasound.
The best part-it’s frozen!  I swear I slid down in my art-deco, red twisted metal, statement piece seat a tad bit as I enjoyed it!
The soup, it was tasty.  With my hodge-podge of add-ins, it still was delightful.  The tomato-based soup was smooth in consistency and the blend of the spices used with the few slithers of tender chicken was welcomed.  Simple, familiar tastes are always warming and bring me many smiles and memories.
The chunks of everything I added were nice surprises and added welcomed textures and taste variation.  I slowly enjoyed each spoonful and sporadically added bits of the crunchy shell as I enjoyed this warm blend.  I am typically a minimalist when it comes to extras on food.  I enjoy the taste of a dish as it stands alone but each addition added to the richness of this soup and every unique bite warmed my heart with memories of home, old and current friends and blends I put together in my own kitchen.
I ate and drank all that I had ordered and I probably sang a little louder with joy.

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#TheBpumEats and reminisces

The Bpum Eats food series continued: Samsara Cafe in Antigua, Guatemala

I’m seated at a quaint window seat in the tranquil Samsara cafe and restaurant.  Samsara is adored for their healthy vegetarian and vegan menu items and relaxing atmosphere.  Although it is located on a busy cross street with constant traffic whizzing by, the warm calming cafe is a great escape.  The restaurant is tastefully decorated.  The walls in the front room are warmed with a rich brown shade with grey undertones.  The painted walls are then accented with peaceful quotes written in Old English style. […]

I’m seated at a quaint window seat in the tranquil Samsara cafe and restaurant.  Samsara is adored for their healthy vegetarian and vegan menu items and relaxing atmosphere.  Although it is located on a busy cross street with constant traffic whizzing by, the warm calming cafe is a great escape.  The restaurant is tastefully decorated.  The walls in the front room are warmed with a rich brown shade with grey undertones.  The painted walls are then accented with peaceful quotes written in Old English style.

“Rest in natural great peace this exhausted mind.  Beaten helpless by karma and neurotic thoughts”

is one of many passages that can be found throughout the front of the restaurant where the walk-up cafe counter is located.
Portraits of the beautiful artifacts, ruins and skyline can also be found throughout. The floors are the accent and focal point of the space.  Tiles in hues of yellow, green, black and orange they are subtle and captivating.

The music, is both calming and upbeat.  The style of music can be heard in spas and upscale nails salons back home.  The one flat-screen TV found in the eatery plays scenes of nature, landscape, rushing water and beautiful skylines.  This place is the perfect distraction from the over-stimulation of the tourist filled streets outside of its doors.
The seating decor reminds me of the Middle East.  Wooden tables and benches of varying lengths to seat one to two people each, all stained dark line the walls.  Guatemalan tipico clothes lines the backs and bottoms of the cushions on each bench.  Clear glass vases are filled with 2 flowers on each table as well as a candle in a glass holder.  In this slightly larger seating area, dream catchers of varying styles line the wall adding pops of color and texture to the soft tan wall paint.  The back wall is home to a built-in wall fixture also stained, that is home to an impressive book collection for patrons to enjoy.  The front and back feel connected by the large, wood framed arch that opens up the space and allows the space to flow seamlessly.

The menu is full of tasty, unique (items which are hard to find in other places for those who are vegan).
On this day I chose the vegan french toast with strawberries and bananas topped with chia seeds and coconut flakes with warm agave nectar in the center for dipping.  As a beverage I chose the pineapple alkaline drink.  This is an interesting combination of pineapple juice, coriander, ginger and apple cider vinegar.

Vegan French Toast
The french toast is amazing.  As I bite into it I instantly reminisce on my childhood.  Enjoying Saturday morning breakfast with my mom and siblings.  Not sure how they pulled it off without egg, but the vegan toast was slightly browned, crunchy on the outside, warm and soft on the inside.  The chia seed adds the perfect amount of texture.  The fruit and coconut flakes add a light, sweet flavor.  As I get older, I don’t crave sweet flavors so I didn’t use any of the agave nectar to garnish the toast.  The texture of the banana was perfect.  Not super firm, and not mushy.  I am a “texture person”.  Mushy sends off signals in my mind that alert me to VOMIT!

The drink was unique and tasty.  It took several cautious sips for me to become acclimated to the flavor and I knew it was because of the apple cider vinegar that was added.  It gives the juice a tangy, unfamiliar taste that I can’t compare to anything I have tried before-well if you’ve drank apple cider vinegar with water, in tea, or alone it tastes exactly like that.  About half way through the 10 ounce drink, I got over the bitter taste and drank it because I figured it was healthy.

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I asked for water to wash down the meal. As quickly as the glass was given to me I started gulping.  I immediately noticed a musty smell and thought that perhaps my glass wasn’t washed properly.  After closer examination, I figured out that the water was infused with cucumber and lime.  Musty was the smell of the cucumber.  I personally am not a fan of infused water and enjoy the flavor of ice-cold water alone.

At checkout, I seized the opportunity to pick up souvenirs.  Samsara sells locally made jewelry to include bracelets and necklaces adorned with crystals at reasonable prices.  I snagged a few bracelets and left feeling satisfied, content and excited to return for breakfast tomorrow.

Breakfast the following morning

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Banana and strawberries garnished with chia seeds and coconut flakes Drink: Malasa Chai Coffee- chai tea, almond milk, espresso, cacao (pure chocolate), with a splash of coconut milk

Bien Provecho!

 

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My shiny face and I, that’s my favorite accessory here!

 

Food Series Continues: Pappy’s BBQ in Antigua, Guatemala

I am now in Antigua, soaking up the sun, enjoying the beautiful architecture, eating plenty of delicious food and taking it all in.  Antigua is a beautiful city.  While it is a tourist destination and many people and businesses communicate in English to cater to tourists, it’s still very charming and has a local feel (says the tourist).  The streets are all cobblestone.  Mainly one-way.  Lined with brightly-painted colonial style buildings, dark iron accents on doors and windows.  Cherry wood finishing, and workers anxious to greet you.  Antigua is a friendly place.  A welcomed change after living in Coban.  It’s also easy to navigate- I have NO SENSE OF DIRECTION!  […]

I am now in Antigua, soaking up the sun, enjoying the beautiful architecture, eating plenty of delicious food and taking it all in.  Antigua is a beautiful city.  While it is a tourist destination and many people and businesses communicate in English to cater to tourists, it’s still very charming and has a local feel (says the tourist).  The streets are all cobblestone.  Mainly one-way.  Lined with brightly-painted colonial style buildings, dark iron accents on doors and windows.  Cherry wood finishing, and workers anxious to greet you.  Antigua is a friendly place.  A welcomed change after living in Coban.  It’s also easy to navigate- I have NO SENSE OF DIRECTION!
I am in the last week of travels and am enjoying this last week alone.  Although I have met lots of beautiful & amazing Guatemalan people along the way, I have kept to myself.  I’d like to believe that I am highly social, enjoy meeting new people and sharing experiences with them-well, I do like meeting new people, however I tend not to make instant connections.  It takes me a little while to warm up.  I’m like a curious, cautious puppy.  I’ll come up to you, feel you out, sniff around a little, go do my own thing and maybe come back to you later.  Initially this is something I wanted to conquer.  Over these past few months I’ve accepted that this is a part of my character.  I feel comfortable and okay with this habit that may cost me opportunities to socialize, while protecting myself at the same time.  At this point in my journey of self, it’s best that I protect myself.  I’m still a babe when it comes to self-advocacy and making sure Ashley is okay without compromising self.
I plan to do some light souvenir shopping to fill family requests but nothing too insane.  Souvenir shopping can go from thoughtful to ridiculous.  When I have to think about it too much and my armpits start perspiring, I know it’s time to stop!  Plus I’ve got the perfect excuse, “you know I only had the one book bag” as I simultaneously raise my eyebrows, shoulders and arms while looking helpless.
The next few blog posts after this will not be in chronological order because I’ve got some catching up to do on happenings in Guatemala City and Coban.  I wasn’t feeling inspired last week.

Now on with the good stuff.  All I’ve done thus far is eat, and walk around a little.  So food will be the topic
Upon arrival to Antigua last night, it was already dark so I was all about heading straight to the hotel and showering after riding in a shuttle for 10 hours.
Traffic through Guatemala City is absolutely insane!  It reminds me of Chicago traffic, on a two lane expressway, for 5 hours straight!  Reading helped keep me sane.  Getting lost in a book during traffic has taught me patience-well I dunno if I’m teaching myself patience or just how to distract myself.  Either way problem solved.
When I arrived to the hotel and showered, I planned to hit the pillow, but my stomach and headache were reminders that I’d only had juice, a Twix ice-cream bar, a bomb chicken sandwich and 23 fries-I love fries so yes I count them.
Let’s talk about my shower for a few sentences.  One thing I dislike about travelling abroad is the electric shower head.  What this is, is a shower head that is plugged into an electrical current, that heats up water passing through it.  So the water itself is cold, but the electric shower head heats it.  I dislike these because if you touch it, even slightly you feel a tingling sensation throughout the area of the body that is meets.  I wonder if it’s a tiny electric shock that I’m feeling when I do this (thinking a-loud)?

At the recommendation of hotel staff I had dinner at Pappy’s BBQ.  I was thinking the same thing.  I’m all the way in Guatemala and have managed to find a BBQ joint owned by a guy from Austin, TX.
The decor was that of a classic BBQ joint.  Bar stools, wood finishes, both high top tables and family style seating on benches.  Huge, red, BBQ signs hung throughout and lit with small bulbs, Texas staples to include cow heads (and tons of other Texan stuff-google Texas cowboy decor if you need a visual), a huge TV on the spanish equivalent to Sports Center (of course discussing the upcoming Mayweather fight) and American pop hits from last year blaring on the crisp sound system.
After looking over the menu, it was clear that this place was all about classic Texas BBQ.
Even after driving through rural villages, seeing pigs pitifully tied to trees within the boundaries of property lines. Tugging for their lives trying to get loose.  Where I vowed to never be tempted by a piece of apple wood smoked bacon.  I ordered the smoked rib and beef brisket with corn and baked beans.
The highlight of the meal for me, was the corn!
The corn was beautiful, bright yellow, still slightly sweet.  It was tossed with herbs, possibly a hint of cheese, smoked meat, and jalapenos that delivered a slight punch of heat.
The baked beans were different from the sweet baked beans I have become accustomed to.  The beans were still slightly firm in texture and the flavor combination reminded me of pinto beans from the slow cooker.  The beans were in a slightly tangy, savory sauce.  It was evident that the house BBQ that dressed the table was added to the sauce.  The beans also had a smoky flavor.  While they were tasty, I didn’t particularly enjoy them and ate only a spoonful.
The pork rib was smoked.  The meat, tender and had the right amount of fat that blended perfectly with the meat. It seems like they used a dry rub on the meat prior to smoking in the electric smoker I saw in the open kitchen area.  I didn’t use BBQ sauce.  When I do enjoy a cut of meat, I like to savor the flavors without the distraction of sauce.
The beef brisket.  First, I’ve enjoyed several beef briskets smoked for hours with love.  My chef boyardee hun-bunz fed me smoked meat on our first unofficial date and I was so impressed watching him stand over the smoker with his serious face.  He timed everything perfectly making sure to periodically check on the meat to ensure it was cooked to perfection.  When I bit into that slice of tender meat, I tasted hard work, dedication and a labor of love on my sensitive, prepared for the gag-reflex at the hint of something gross, taste buds.  My mom had a crappy boo-thang in my youth who could cook like no other.  I watched him too start cooking brisket early in the morning after marinating it the night before.  I watched him meticulously time the meat, watch the meat, check on the meat.  When it was finally time to eat, his brisket was savory, delicious, mouth-watering, seasoned.  It was amazing-not better than bae’s though.
This brisket, was not that.  It was seasoned, it had a smoked flavor, it was aesthetically pleasing, it just wasn’t amazing.  It wasn’t even as good as Texas Roadhouse.
As I ate and looked around, I noticed several plaques and awards on the wall.  BBQ Master, Grill Master, Best BBQ.  But what did the judges know, had they been to Texas?  Or ate bae’s brisket?  Or moms crappy-ex brisket?  I didn’t think so!
I slept satisfied, full and with the smell of artificial, electric-smoker meat-smoke in my nostrils.

#TheBpumEats

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Coban Eats Series: Sedano’s Steakhouse

I already knew this, but I truly thought patient was an adjective I could use when people wanna play the ridiculous, “describe yourself in one word” game.  
Again today, I was out for work, rushing to complete last-minute requests.  The requests weren’t daunting, but that doesn’t change how much I didn’t want to fulfill them.  The part that drove me insane, was sitting in the air-conditioned (I hate air-conditioning) McDonald’s lobby waiting over an hour to deliver a box. […]

What yesterday was.  Today’s the opposite
Lesson of the day: waiting is my weakness
I already knew this, but I truly thought patient was an adjective I could use when people wanna play the ridiculous, “describe yourself in one word” game.
Again today, I was out for work, rushing to complete last-minute requests.  The requests weren’t daunting, but that doesn’t change how much I didn’t want to fulfill them.  The part that drove me insane, was sitting in the air-conditioned (I hate air-conditioning) McDonald’s lobby waiting over an hour to deliver a box.

The hour went by slower than a tortoise crossing a 20 lane freeway.  Slower than my thick head of locs air-drying on wash day.  Slower than the cashier at the drive-thru of Popeye’s who delivers the devastating news that they’re out of honey, hot sauce and chicken.  Slower than direct deposit hitting my account on payday (that’s something I don’t have to wait on anymore-smiley face).
I mindlessly scrolled Instagram, Facebook, even cracked open my vault of useless YouTube tutorials and was still waiting!  Did I tell you how much I hate waiting? I would rather… do laundry (and if you read my last posts, you would know that I would rather do anything except laundry).
Waiting makes me so crabby, tough to deal with, unpleasant.  An outright indecent human doing-note how dramatic I am just thinking about the idea of waiting!
After dropping off the package I was free to finally get on with Saturday was I imagined living it when I woke up that morning.
It was 4:00 pm.
I had eaten a bowl of oatmeal and drank 2 or 3 cups of black tea-this could have potentially fueled my fury with waiting.  My stomach and brain were in sync and ready to eat.
While exploring the printing company (check out my last post if you missed that) I saw what looked like a nice steak restaurant.  I qualify it as nice because they had a shiny, fresh sign with a succulent piece of steak on it in, plastered in front of the building.  We all know these signs.  It wasn’t a custom sign unique to the establishment.  It was a Heineken sponsored sign with a hunk of steak and company logo nestled behind a few sweaty, green bottles of beer.
This place was on my mind after doing a little digging on Trip Advisor and seeing it was consistently rated 5 stars.
Upon arrival, I was immediately impressed with the ambiance and atmosphere.  The name of the restaurant is Sedano’s.  The kind of swanky joint to take a woman for a first date, anniversary, birthday, proposal, or proposal, or proposal.
The kind waiter allowed me to choose my seat.  I was the only person there at the time so the place was mines for the taking.
Since the place is on Trip Advisor, I won’t go on and on about the menu, go check it out for yourself.
I originally ordered a Rib-eye, medium.
I haven’t ate a steak in at least a year and a half or more but frustrated, cleanse my soul Ashley craved a marbled chunk of amazingness.
Unfortunately, they didn’t have a Rib-eye (which almost drove me to tears)
so I settled on a bone-out cut that only had fat on the top rather than throughout, at the chefs recommendation.
With the steak I ordered shrimp, mashed potatoes, salad and a Sangria.
Over the span of my time away I have done an impressive job of eating a diet based of fruit, vegetables, eggs, a few sprinkles of beans and rice here and there, oh and hummus.  Hummus almost daily while living at the hotel for the first 3 weeks.
Essentially what I am doing here is justifying my date night/proposal dinner for one.
The appetizer they brought was a deliciously soft bread, coated in butter and garlic sauce then likely baked.  At the center of the ring-of-bread was a metal ramekin (sauce cup) of butter, infused with salt and herds.  The soft butter and warm bread were a great flavor combination.  Rich and savory but not overbearing.
The plate came out and I was cheerful and content!
It was exactly what I imagined and more!
The steak was beautiful!  Crusted with herbs and salt. The salad-crisp lettuce, onion, cucumber, carrot and a slightly sweetened balsamic vinaigrette sparingly drizzled atop.  The mashed potatoes, creamy yet slightly chunky.  Nestled inside each bite was a piece of what I think was bacon.  The shrimp, tossed in salt, pepper, grilled to perfection and resting on a bed a lettuce.  The meat inside each shrimp, tender and sweet.
I slowly cut the steak open and my soul smiled.  The juices greeted me and the meat willingly submitted, onto my fork-no tug of war or sawing needed.  I don’t eat steak often but when I do, I don’t use steak sauce.  I enjoy the flavor combination of a great piece of meat and rich, flavorful fat.
Everything was delicious.  The error I made, was enjoying too much bread.
I took about 7 bites of steak, 3 forkfuls of mashed potatoes, 3-4 forkfuls of salad, ate 2 shrimp and was tapping out.
When I feel full, I can’t keep going.
I’m sure that while being here I’ve shrunk the size of my stomach and I am NOT trying to inflate this balloon before my hun-bunz can see how bomb I look!

I am the queen of “no leftovers”.  I’ll break that rule have a steak dinner with the fixin’s for breakfast in the am!
Overall, the field trip was worth it!
Sedano’s gets a 5 out of 5 stars in my book-I am the pickiest, most observant, “I can cook this better at home myself” restaurateur I know.  My 5 is really saying something!
Thank you Sedano’s for your amazing service and the steak of my dreams!
#TheBpumEats, the leftovers too!

Food Series: The Bpum-Coban

Whenever I call friends and family back in the US, one of the first questions inquiring minds want an answer to is “What do you eat?”
This post is my attempt to start a mini series on the cuisine I enjoy while living in Coban.  I have struggled to pull this series together because I found the task daunting. […]

Whenever I call friends and family back in the US, one of the first questions inquiring minds want an answer to is

                                                                     “What do you eat?”
This post is my attempt to start a mini series on the cuisine I enjoy while living in Coban.  I have struggled to pull this series together because I found the task daunting.  People want to know more specifically, what food options are available (at least that’s what I assume).  That meant I had to explore the market, patronize local restaurants and comedors (small eateries where local people eat, the prices are typically significantly lower than those of restaurants that tourists flock to for “authentic” cuisine) and ask tons of questions of strangers when something caught my eye.  That has taken me some time because I initially thought I would roll-out tons of food options in one blog post.  I found that the idea of this huge, food cloud hanging over me, made me avoid blogging altogether. I dash when a task seems overwhelming.  Instead of an overly ambitious mega post, I will write about one food option at a time.  If you are guilty of thinking that my blog posts are too long, you’re in luck because I imagine the single-subject-food posts will be short and sweet.  Well maybe not this one because I have to ease you into it, introduce you to the new series, ya’ know, prep you for what’s to come!
The first thing I have decided to write about was something I ate today because… I ate it today and it’s fresh in my mind.
It was a plantain empanada.
Let’s talk about how I ended up with this semi-sweet treat.  I was working from the restaurant located in front of my hotel this morning.  I sat at my computer typing away, completing my daily tasks when an older, white-haired Guatemalan fella joined me.  He was a friend to the owner of the hotel.  He was making small talk as he enjoyed his coffee and prepared to head out.
Daily, a local woman dressed in ropa tipico4b621841972db8291794b0df7142ddaa--america-america-central-america walks up to the locked gate leading into the restaurant.  Atop her head she carries a wooden, woven circular basket covered in local hand-woven textile that protects the homemade delicacies, still warm to the touch, housed inside. She lowers the basket onto her hip as she props one foot up on the second of three rusted-brown colored, painted steps.  She announces the item of the day and one by one people file in line at the gate to peek in the corner of the vibrant fabric that she slightly opens to expose what’s inside.
I wasn’t interested in purchasing anything because I was still working on the breakfast that I’d cooked.  The older gentleman asked me, “how many empanadas would you like?” “None”, I responded with a grin.  At a price of 1 quetzal-the equivalent of $0.13, he insisted that I try one.  He purchased 5 and sat the goodie bag in front of me.  I removed one from the steam-filled plastic bag with a smile and a “thank you”.  He walked off and said “enjoy”, as the steam from the empanada filled my curious nostrils.
I am always skeptical of trying things I know nothing about.  Before you think I’m “closed-minded” allow me to explain.  While in Costa Rica in May, I got cryptosporidium and was extremely sick for other a month.  So sick that I recall lying on the cold, white, sterile emergency room floor because my stomach felt like it was wrestling with my intestines.  Every since then, I’ve been hyper-alert about where my food comes from, who prepared it, and whether bottled or filtered water was used in the preparation process while traveling in other countries.  Until you’ve experienced pains that replicate your stomach choking itself, I don’t want to hear it.
The empanada was still warm so I assumed it was freshly made and that whatever bacteria was lingering must’ve died.  Heat kills that sort of stuff right?
I took a bite and immediately was impressed.  The woman who prepared the treat was gone so I couldn’t ask her how she made it, or what was in it so I closed my eyes and used my incredible chef’s palate.
[clears throat]
Semi sweet, I definitely taste the plantain
Hints of nutmeg and cinnamon, maybe allspice as well
The consistency is smooth and firm not slimy and mushy
The inside is the color of a McDonald’s chicken nugget
I would guess that the snack is formed into a ball , flour may be used to bind the mixture together and deep-fried in oil
Then drained, it’s not greasy at all and doesn’t leave a greasy film in my mouth

Now I have absolutely NO IDEA how this plantain empanada was actually made. But I am a pretty darn good cook so I know the basics of how to prepare things.  The empanada reminds me of a dense donut made with some sort of spiced plantain mixture.
I ate one with my breakfast, and one for a snack with a piece of fruit and fresh fruit juice after the gym.  That leaves me with three as my mouth waters and I try to exercise will power.  I plan on reheating one in the morning with my breakfast, enjoying another with my post-gym snack and sharing the last one with someone else so I don’t feel like I’ve completely sabotaged my healthy eating habits.

More food stories to come!
#BpumEats