2013 Highlights

I hate to be that person, but I’m going to say it: I can’t believe 2013 is coming to a close.  Seriously, where did the year go?

I remember when I was in college, my friend Hazel would laugh at me because I recounted my days through my meals.  So in traditional Karla (Foodologie) fashion, let me recount my year by favorite things I made/ate.

In January, I was all sorts of awesome (modest, right?).  I made two of my favorite things:

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Bourbon Banana Pie

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Orange-Pistachio Biscotti

Seriously, those are probably my two favorite sweets I made all year.  So much so that I made them for Christmas.  After January, I had clearly eaten too much pie and biscotti so I felt the need to do a crazy thing: a 30 day paleo challenge.

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It was a shit storm, for lack of better words.  If you want to relive that (I don’t, but that’s cool), check out these posts:

Paleo Challenge: Day 1
Paleo Challenge:
Day 2
Paleo Challenge: Day 3 & 4
Paleo Challenge: Day  5, 6, & 7
Paleo Challenge: Day 8 (Plus 1 Week Thoughts)
Paleo Challenge: Day 9 & 10
Paleo Challenge: Day 11
Paleo Challenge: Day 13 (apparently 12 doesn’t exist?)
Paleo Challenge: Ending Early  <— spoiler I quit!
Life After the Paleo Challenge

But after Paleo, I became a semi-normal person again.  I tried to make healthy things

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Like Buffalo Chicken Spaghetti Squash

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and Eggplant Rolls to balance out my ridiculous desire to ALWAYS eat cake

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This year, I also made awesome blogger friends.  Now I can say Allison from Sweet Potato Bites and Samantha from Little Ferraro Kitchen are real life friends, which is cool!  Who wants to be real life friends next year?

(photo stolen from Sweet Potato Bites)

This year I also decided food parties were a good idea. So I started with a Fried Chicken and Waffles party.

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Because I had never fried chicken and that seemed like a good idea.  It was.

Then Allison and I teamed up with Peanut Butter & Co and threw a Peanut Butter Party.

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That was all sorts of fun.  Next year, I’d like to do a pancake party, a cocktail party and, if we get crazy, a tamale making party, because why not?

Then let’s not forget how in 2013 I became obsessed with protein powders.  And it continues because I keep putting protein powder in everything, like these pancakes

pumpkinproteinpancakes4But the highlight of the year for me was our trip to Peru

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We hiked, we ate guinea pig, saw llamas, walked everywhere and had a great time.  It was amazing.  I only wish it could have been longer.

Now that 2013 is almost over, I’m excited for 2014.  I hope you’ll follow me along next year as I continue to make sweets and healthy things to cut the guilt.  I promise I’ll keep the crossfit talk to a minimum and I’ll keep taking pictures of myself in dressing rooms and sharing those, like this shirt I bought yesterday…shirt

Just kidding! Well, actually, no I’ll probably still do that, but I promise one day I’ll get over that habit.

Have a wonderful New Year’s Eve filled with Champagne, goodies, friends and family! I wish you the best in the New Year and thank you for following my blog in 2013!

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Arugula Salad with Lentils and Spiced Butternut Squash

Hi everyone!  I hope you all had a very happy Christmas, ate lots delicious food and spent time with family.

With my family, our holidays revolve around food and this Christmas was no different. We ate tons of tamales

and the only times we weren’t eating were the short walks we took to hang out with the neighbor’s llamas, ponies and donkeys.

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No, I’m not back in Peru.  People in LA County have pet llamas.   But other than llama sighting.  We mostly ate.

I don’t know about you, but after Christmas eating, I need vegetables.  Well really, I just think I need to eat normal, so that’s what I’m trying to do, but adding a few extra vegetables in there for good measure.

This morning, I finally tried Kodiak Cakes.  If you follow me on Twitter, Instagram or Like Foodologie on Facebook, you’ll remember that I won a few boxes of Kodiak Cakes through their 12 days of giveaways.  I decided to make some this morning

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Along with their red raspberry syrup.  Overall, they’re super tasty! What I especially love is that they use all natural ingredients (and not to mention easy! You just add water!).

Then for lunch, I had this amazing salad.

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It might not look that magical, but I promise it is.  It’s light but hearty enough to be a meal on its own. The mint makes it taste fresh and clean.  I’ve been making this salad for years so to be perfectly honestly, I can’t remember where I discovered it.  Someone deserves credit, I just can’t remember who.

Arugula Salad with Lentils and Spiced Butternut Squash

adapted from somewhere I can’t remember…

1/2 butternut squash, diced
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp cumin
1 tbsp olive oil
3/4 to 1 cup lentils, dry
6 cups arugula1/4 cup fresh chopped mint
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt and pepper
4 oz (or more) goat cheese

Pre-heat oven to 375F.  Toss diced butternut squash with paprika, cumin, 1 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet at bake for 15 minutes. Toss and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until crispy and cooked through. Please note: this cooking time may vary depending how how big you diced the butternut squash and how intense your oven is, so check it every so often and toss to make sure it doesn’t burn.

While the butternut squash roasts, cook the lentils.  Cover in water and boil about 20 minutes (or until tender).  Once cooked through, rinse and set aside.

Once the lentils and squash are ready, assemble the salad.  In a large bowl, toss together arugula, mint, 2 tbsp olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Scoop some of the salad on a plate, top with goat cheese, lentils and butternut squash. Serve and enjoy!

Feel free to made adjustments. I love mint so I’m a fan of tons of mint.  Don’t love mint? Omit it.  Out of goat cheese or hate its guts? Replace it with manchego! If you don’t like manchego, then we just can’t be friends.  But if you want to make it vegan and omit the cheese, I’m a-okay with that.

I have a feeling this is going to be salad week for me.  Be on the look out for some healthy eats and New Years resolutions in the days to come!

How was your Christmas?  What was the best thing you ate?

Salted Almond Joy Bark

With Christmas and the New Year on the horizon, I have two goals for today:

1. Clean out my closet/dresser of unwanted garments

I have too much stuff.  I have clothing I don’t wear and even more that doesn’t fit.  One of the fantastic things about lifting weights is that my body shrank.  It’s great! But it means that I don’t own any pants that fit me.  So I want to clear out the stuff that doesn’t fit me any more, because there’s no room in my shoebox of an apartment for clothing that is too big or old.
2. Bake Christmas Cookies for gifts

I love baking and Christmas is the perfect time to bake treats and give them away.  So today and tomorrow will consist of Christmas baking.  I had my recipes all planned out, but then yesterday when I arrived to Crossfit, Allison told me she had something for me.  She handed me a lovely tin filled with homemade salted chocolate coconut almond bark.

At this point it was nearly 6am and not an appropriate time to eat chocolate.  So I put it in my car, got my butt kicked during the WOD and went to work.  I have this rule during the holidays (since there are so many treats floating around) that I’m allowed to have a sweet treat AFTER lunch.

This means waiting til I have a nutritious (or semi-nutritious because yesterday my boss took us to Umami Burger for lunch and that’s clearly NOT nutritious) before enjoying goodies and also cutting down on how much I eat.  I have a hard time stopping once I start, so I found it’s better for me to just start later.  But anyway…

So I waited until after lunch and had a piece of Allison’s delicious bark.

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It was awesome.  Let me just tell you, I gave some to co-workers and to Jesse, but the reality is I ate it mostly myself.  Today, as of 2pm… the bark is gone.  As in, I finished it all after lunch today.

Because this bark was so amazing I wanted to try to make it on my own and give it to my loved ones.  I’ve decided to rename it Salted Almond Joy Bark, because that’s sort of what it reminded me of.

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Salted Almond Joy Bark

from Sweet Potato Bites

10 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips  (or chocolate chunks)
1/2 cup roasted, unsalted almonds
1/2 cup Roasted Coconut Chips*
Coarse Sea Salt

First, prepare your pan by lining a cookie sheet with parchment.  Set aside.

Next, pour chocolate into a microwave safe bowl.

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Microwave 30 seconds then stir.  Microwave another 30 seconds and stir, repeat until chocolate is melted and smooth. You can also do this in a pan or double boiler, but I’ll be honest, the microwave is a million times easier.  It’s also idiot-proof.  I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had my chocolate seize when using a double boiler, because water in chocolate (steam included!) might cause it to seize.

Because of this, I take the easy route and use the microwave.  Once your chocolate is melted and smooth, pour about 3/4 of the chocolate into the parchment paper-lined baking sheet.  Using a spatula, smooth until it’s a tiny bit thick (if you like your bark thicker, leave it thicker, if you want it thinner, spread it more).  It doesn’t have to be perfect because you’re going to cover it with stuff anyway…

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Sprinkle chocolate with coconut and almonds.  Take the remaining chocolate and drizzle it overs the coconut and almonds.

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Sprinkle with sea salt (be generous! That’s seriously the best part!) and refrigerate or freeze until firm.

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Once the chocolate is completely hardened (it took about an hour for me, if not it’ll start to melt when you touch it), break the bark into pieces.

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Store in an air tight container in a cool spot for up to a week.

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*I used Trader Joe’s Roasted Coconut Chips, but if there’s no Trader Joe’s near you, you can just use toasted coconut.

This stuff was seriously amazing.  The salt really takes this from normal tasty chocolate bark to something out of this world.  Everyone that tried it loved it.  I’m really excited to share this with others along with Orange-Pistachio Biscotti, Molasses Cookies, Chocolate Mint Cookies and maybe another cookie or two.  Any suggestions?

Are you giving Christmas Cookies this season?  If so, what are your top cookies or treats to gift?

My Ideal Christmas Dinner

We’ve reached a critical time in the year.  Christmas is one week away and Christmas dinner needs to be planned.

For us Latinos, we’re in an even bigger pickle because we do Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) dinner.  So that means we have 6 days left to plan a feast.

This time of year is always particularly frustrating for me, because my family doesn’t like anything.  No really, they don’t. An hour ago, I was walking around Sprouts talking to my sister about how I wanted to give up on Christmas dinner.  She pumped me up a bit about it.

We decided on some random menu:

-Chicken with Lemon-Caper sauce
-Ham
-Spinach Salad

-Yucca
-Mashed Potatoes
-Roasted Brussels Sprouts

We’ll see how that goes.  I always have grand plans for Christmas dinner, but it never happens because the things I like are 1. too expensive to make for a crowd or 2. generally disliked by my family. Last year, I got close.  I made awesome short ribs braised in red wine (they were a hit) served with mashed potatoes, as well as coq au vin.  Guys, I got fancy.  This year… it’s not looking that way…

So today, in the spirit of dreaming, I’m going to plan my ideal Christmas Dinner.  I’ll probably never make it but let’s just pretend.

Of course, in my ideal world, I would have a beautiful, hipster-chic table setting

Photo Source: Style-Files

Because of course, I’ll have enough logs for everyone to sit on!

We’d start the evening with appetizers and drinks.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Persimmons

Photo Source: Food and Wine

Along with Cheese, Crackers, Nuts and Dried Fruit.  To drink, wine, beer and a fun Prosecco cocktail for those who are so inclined:

Photo Source: Rue Mag

Then for dinner:

Roast Leg of Lamb on a Bed of Potatoes and Wilted Greens

Photo Source: Epicurious

Served with Roasted Maple Bacon Brussels Sprouts

Photo Source: Henry Happened

and Mashed Potatoes

Photo Source: Foodista

And for dessert… My favorite Bourbon Banana Pie

BourbonBananaPie3(which I’m actually planning to make for Christmas!)

and because you can never have enough dessert…

Photo Source: Smitten Kitchen

Gingerbread Apple Upside-down Cake

That’s it.  Pretty much my perfect Christmas dinner.  Mine won’t be that perfect, but it’ll still be great.

I’m being totally dramatic about Christmas Dinner.  I’ll be honest, I really don’t care what we eat.   I’m more excited to spend time with my family than anything else.  We could eat KFC or Chinese Takeout, and I’d be happy.  That said, day dreaming about fancy dinners is what foodies do.

What’s on your Christmas menu?  Share your menus so I can get more inspiration!

Gingerbread Cookies

Let’s let the cookie obsession continue with Gingerbread Cookies!

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As a kid, Christmas cookies weren’t really a tradition during the holidays for us. I think I remember my sister setting out cookies for Santa with me once, but I might be making that up in my head. I know Christmas cookie decorating is a normal thing in most households, but it didn’t really happen in mine. That’s what happens when you have immigrant parents, I guess?

But this year, since cookies are all the rage in my world, I decided to go all out and make Gingerbread cookies.

Allison from Sweet Potato Bites had a cookie party at her house, so I thought that would be the perfect opportunity to make them for.

I baked them in advance and made royal icing at her house for decorating.

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I spent a long time researching Gingerbread recipes, but I found this one from All Recipes to be best.  As usual, I made a few changes to the recipe, so here’s my version:

Gingerbread Cookies

adapted from All Recipes

3 1/4 cup flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup almond milk (or water)

In a medium bowl, combine flour, spices, baking soda and salt.  In a large bowl (or in a stand mixer bowl), cream together butter and brown sugar until fluffy.  Beat in some of the dry ingredients and then some molasses, maple syrup and almond milk, alternating wet and dry ingredients until all combined.   Chill the dough for a few hours (I made this a day in advance and chilled the dough over night).

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Once you’re ready to make cookies, pre-heat oven to 350F.  On a lightly floured surface roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.  Using your cookie butters of choice, cut out desired shape and place on a parchment paper lined baking dish.  Place a few inches apart on the sheet as they cookies expand a tiny bit when they bake.

Bake 8-10 minutes (this will vary depending on the type of cookie cutter you use and the size.)  Once they’re golden on the edges, they’re ready.  Don’t overbake them or they’ll be hard.  Allow to cool completely, then decorate with royal icing.

Gingerbreadmen1I had never decorated cookies with Royal Icing before.  I’m going to try it a few more times, really perfect it then do a blog post on it.

That means I’ll be making these cookies again.  I really liked these cookies because they weren’t hard.  The ones in an air tight container stayed soft for over 5 days.  However, if you like crunch gingerbread cookies, just leave these out a little longer to harden and you’ll get crunch cookies!

I have some ideas for the next Christmas cookies to make, but if you have a great recipe to share, please share it in the comments!

Molasses Cranberry Cookies

Christmas season is in full swing!  Normally, I’m not that into holidays. But I’m not sure what’s wrong with me this year, all I want is a living room with a Christmas tree.   If you remember back when I told you about where Foodologie happens, you’ll remember that I live in a studio that is teeny-tiny.  That means I have zero room for a Christmas tree.   So because I can’t be festive in my living space, I have to find other ways to make the most of the holiday season.

First, I bought a Christmas dress. A new dress for Christmas is a tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.     Anyone else do that?

I’m thoroughly excited about it.  I also bought myself another dress, because… well…

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Christmas present to myself?  (P.S. When will I get over sending my friends pics of outfits I’m thinking of buying?)

In addition to my Christmas dress, I’ve also been thoroughly excited about cookies.  So cookie making has been happening, starting with these:

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I don’t know about you, but I love chewy molasses cookies with lots of ginger.  They’re pretty much the best, as are these cookies.

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Molasses Cranberry Cookies

adapted from Blue Ribbon Cookies

1 stick of butter + 2 tbsp (10 tbsp total)1 cup sugar (plus extra for rolling)
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 1/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace
1 cup dried cranberries

Cream together butter and sugar until fluffy.  Beat in molasses and egg until fluffy.  In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, salt and spices.  Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients.  Just before ingredients are combine, fold in cranberries.

Chill dough for a few hours.

Once you’re ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350F.

Form dough into 1 inch balls and roll in granulated sugar.  Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Bake 8-10 minutes.  Allow to cool  and serve!  Makes about 4 dozen cookies.

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I took these to work, shared with friends and a boyfriend. They were gone pretty quickly.  I’ll definitely be including these in my Christmas Cookie Gift Tins.   I have a few other awesome cookie recipes coming up, because seriously… I’m obsessed with cookies right now.

What about you?  How are you preparing for Christmas?  Do you have a Christmas dress yet?

The Time We Went to a Monastery Where Nuns Never Leave, and Then Saw Some Condors and Vicuñas…

After our guinea pig lunch, we got our stuff ready and headed to Arequipa (our final destination on our trip).  We went to Arequipa, not knowing too much about it.  Because we’re geniuses, we forgot our guidebook at home in California.  So we got to Arequipa, which is the second largest city in Peru (population-wise) after Lima. We stayed almost entirely in the colonial center which was beautiful. IMG_1753Our hotel, La Hosteria, was adorable.  We decided to splurge on this hotel (a whole $70 per night! haha) since we “roughed it” on the Inca Trail…

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and located right across from the Santa Catalina Monastery, a monastery of nuns of the Dominican Second Order.  Once the nuns entered the monastery, they NEVER left.  It’s hard to fathom, but today there are about 20 nuns still living in the monastery.

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The monastery was beautiful.

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And seeing the aspects of daily life over the centuries was interesting.  After hanging around the monastery for a few hours…

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We made our way to a market for some food.  The good thing about traveling with Jesse is that he loves street food as much as I do.  Peru didn’t have a whole lot of street food, but what they did have was a lot of markets that served awesome prepared meals.  It was all super tasty and cheap, double win!

Jesse was dying to try ceviche the whole trip, but I was worried about sickness so I requested we wait to have it til the end of the trip just in case… raw fish after all… But now it was time to give it a whirl.

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That day we tried ceviche and had some Chicha de Jora (a homemade corn beer).  We spent the rest of the day wandering and asking about how to make our way to the Colca Canyon, which we heard was great.  We booked a last minute day trip to the Colca Canyon to see Condors and Volcanos.

We were picked up at 3am for the 4 hour drive to the Colca Canyon.  The Colca Canyon is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon!  After driving we stopped at a small town to see a church…

IMG_6725Outside the church there was a woman hanging out with her llama and falcon for people to take pictures with…

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Just another day in Peru…

After that, we made it to the lookout point to see condors.  We waited a LONG time to see Condors.

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We saw a few from far away.  It was less exciting than I would have hoped.  On our way back, we stopped at various lookout points

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There were some amazing views! Also on our way back, we saw lots of wild life…

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Err not wild… But we did see wild Vicuñas! They were too far to photograph (the pics I have are of them looking tiny).  Vicuñas are like smaller, less furry llamas.

When we got back to Arequipa, we cleaned up and went to dinner.  For our one fancy dinner, we went to a restaurant called ZigZag, that everyone told us was amazing.

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I’ll be honest.  After the awesome food we ate at our cooking class, ZigZag was an overpriced let down. Oh well…

For our last day in Peru, we wandered, went to the Cathedral (no photos allowed), visited some museums (and saw a mummy!) and ate in the market again (because that was our favorite).  I tried a Peruvian empanada, a Peruvian tamale (Arequipa style) and Jesse drank two enormous glasses of Chicha.

Finally, to kill a few hours before our flight we had some drinks and potatoes!

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Then we took a flight back to Lima in time to catch our next flight back to Los Angeles.

Overall our trip to Peru was awesome! I was sad to leave.  I wish I could have stayed longer to explore more areas, try more food and meet more people.  I definitely recommend it as a vacation spot for anyone!

Just for a quick recap… I’ll tell you about my favorites…

Highlight of the Trip:  Machu Picchu

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Low Point of the Trip: Day two of the Inca Trail where I got altitude sickness

IMG_1549Lesson Learned: Peruvian sun WILL burn you.  I got massively sun burnt throughout the trip.  By the last day, my face and head was peeling like woah.  Gross.

Best Meal:  This is pretty much impossible for me to answer.  I loved Aji de Gallina

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But pretty  much every meal I ate (except guinea pig) was awesome!

That’s it for the Peru trip recap!  Next I’ll tell you about cookies but before that…

Where should we go on vacation next? What’s the best vacation you’ve taken?  Tell me about it!

Previous Peru Posts:

The Time We Cooked Alpaca and Ate Guinea Pig in Peru

The Time We Hiked Through the Andes to Machu Picchu

Back from Peru

Hello from Peru

The Time We Cooked Alpaca and Ate Guinea Pig in Peru

After the Inca Trail, we decided to take it easy the remainder of the trip.  Before we left, I booked a cooking class in Cusco with Erick from Marcelo Batata (one of the best restaurants in Cusco).  I was looking forward to it the whole trip, because obviously I love food.

The class was small it was just me, Jesse and a woman from the US who worked for a travel agency in Lima.  The class was awesome.  We learned about all the different native plants, grains, fruits and vegetables, and fun facts like how Peru has about 3,800 different varieties of potato.

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Can you guess what these are?

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Dehydrated potatoes! Crazy right?

Throughout the whole class (which went from 1pm-7pm) we were given small little amuse bouche.

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The first was a mahi mahi ceviche, which was divine.

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Then there was a smoked octopus olive bite,

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And some delicious bruschetta-like goodie with pork ragu and scrambled egg.  All the amuse bouche were what we would call “New Peruvian,” modern twists on traditional dishes.   It was seriously some of the most amazing food I’ve eaten.  The flavor combos were out of this world.  There were a bunch more (probably 3 or 4 more) but I won’t bore you with that.

After talking about native foods of Peru, we got to try a bunch of them!

IMG_6651We tried a passionfruit (a different variety from what we’re used to), a pepino (my favorite, it tasted like a combination of cucumber and cantaloupe), lucuma (super tasty! I brought lucuma jam home!), cherimoya, mango, aguaymanto (Jesse’s favorite, they look like little tomatoes but are sweet and a little tart) and grapes.

After sampling the fruits, we got to the kitchen…

IMG_6657We were preparing two dishes: Causa and Alpaca Saltado

Causa is a traditional Peruvian dish, served cold.  It involves potatoes mashed with aji cream sauce, avocado, black olives, spicy mayonnaise, shredded chicken and hard boiled egg all layered into a wonderful masterpiece.

Here was my causa:

IMG_6668I’m definitely going to try to make this again, because it was delightful and pretty easy!  After we sat down to enjoy our causa, we had a lesson on Pisco along with pisco tasting and cocktail-making.

IMG_6676With out cocktails in hand, we were ready to make alpaca saltado.  So before I tell you about that, I should tell you that Lomo Saltado is pretty much the most common Peruvian dish you can find.  If you go to any Peruvian restaurant, they’re almost guaranteed to have lomo saltado.  It’s a beef stir fry dish (influenced by the large number of Chinese immigrants), it’s served with fried potatoes and rice.

Traditionally, it’s made with beef (lomo=beef), but in this class we made it with alpaca meat.  Honestly, the alpaca meat pretty much tasted like beef.  But back to the cooking… We were ready to go!

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So the chef explained that the reason Lomo Saltado is called such is that Peruvians saw Chinese immigrants flipping beef in their pans and the verb saltar in Spanish means to jump, and thus jumping beef… lomo saltado. Ta-da!

But what that meant for us is that the whole time, we had to flip the veggies and meat around in the pan.  So I started in deep concentration….

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But pretty soon, half my alpaca and vegetables were on the floor…

IMG_6701But oh well, it still turned out great!  It’s a surprisingly easy dish to make.  The only part we didn’t get a photo of is the flambe part!  You pour some pisco in the pan and light it on fire!  That was super fun.

IMG_6713After assembling our dishes, we sat down for dinner.  I was so full from all the appetizers that I didn’t finish the dish, but it was great.  Despite fullness, there’s always room for dessert, right? So the chef brought over a platter of chocolate treats for us to try.

Amazing. Amazing. Amazing.  (But blurry photo womp) Peruvians have a big sweet tooth so we got along well.

The cooking class was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.  It was a lot of fun, and totally worth it.

The next day was our last day in Cusco.  We knew what we HAD to have for lunch: cuy (aka Guinea Pig).  Cuy is another one of those traditional Peruvian things that we just had to try.  So that morning we went to the coca museum, and while I was chatting with the museum attendant (one of the perks of knowing the language), I asked her where we should try cuy.  She recommended a place, which was great because 1. it wasn’t full of tourists and 2. it was cheaper.

There we also got our first taste (of many) of chicha, a local homemade corn beer.  At this place they mixed it with strawberry puree.  It was delicious…

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and also enormous.  So with our delicious beverages (we also got a local beer, Cusqueña) we ordered one portion of cuy, not really knowing what to expect.  But this is what arrived at the table:

IMG_1707Claws, face, teeth and all.  Yup.

IMG_1708I think we sat there for a few minutes sort of unsure what to do with it.  The skin was really tough and there was really little meat on the whole thing.  The little paws and teeth were really off-putting.  IMG_1709We picked at it for a bit and decided that cuy wasn’t really for us.  The meat didn’t taste bad, it was a bit rubbery, but not bad.  I think we both decided that we don’t need to eat it again.  But we tried it so mission accomplished!

We spent the next few hours wandering and sitting in the Plaza de Armas people watching.  Then we headed to the airport for our final destination in Peru: Arequipa!

Coming up… the time we went to a monastery where nuns never leave, and then saw some condors and vicuñas…

Ok so tell me what you think…. are you totally grossed out? Would you try cuy (guinea pig)?

 

Previous Peru Posts:

The Time We Hiked Through the Andes to Machu Picchu

Back from Peru

Hello from Peru

The Time We Hiked Through the Andes to Machu Picchu…

I’m not really what you would call the “outdoorsy” type.  But from the moment I landed in Peru, I was really looking forward to the 4-day Inca Trail hike.  Honestly, I think half of it was just anxiety and a desire to get it over with.  The other half was the desire to see Machu Picchu.  But desire aside, I was nervous about the altitude and the bathrooms.

My biggest dilemma with camping is the bathroom situation.  I’ve told Jesse repeatedly that I refuse to poop in the woods, but after this trip I think pooping in the woods might be nicer than some of the bathrooms I smelled saw.

So we started the Inca Trail on a Monday morning.  At 5am, we were picked up from hotel and after a few hours made it to the starting point with our group.

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Sadly, one of our group members got sick and had to quit the first day. So that left 14 of us doing the trek.  We had 21 porters and 2 guides.   The first day of the hike was great.  It was sunny and nice and relatively flat.

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All was well in the world.  Everyone kept talking about day 2 and how terrible it was going to be.  We were told it was a 5 hour hike and then a 2-3 hour descent.  I wasn’t concerned about the hike, but I was concerned about the altitude.  You see, there’s something I have to tell you about myself: if there is an opportunity for me to get sick or injure myself, I generally do.  My family knows it.  My sister gave me iron pills months before the trip as a preventative measure.

So after camping and coming across the smelliest bathroom ever, we started day 2 around 7am after a huge breakfast.

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I knew that day was going to be hard so I hired a local porter to carry my stuff and honestly that was the best 100 soles I spent the whole trip.  I don’t know how I would have made it up the mountain carrying a backpack with all my stuff.

I should explain that the Inca Trail isn’t exactly roughing it.  The 21 porters our group had carried our tents, and all the cooking equipment and food (and we’re talking amazing 3 course meals, not sandwiches).  All we had to carry was a sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes, toiletries and water.  Jesse was nice enough to carry my sleeping pad for me.

So back to day two.  It started off fine.  It was a steep hike, but manageable with some breaks.

IMG_1545But them as we hit our meeting spot for a morning snack at 11, I started to feel sick. IMG_1547The next two hours were the worst of the whole trip, for me that is.  Jesse was cool as a cucumber. Taking selfies and all…

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Me on the other hand.  I thought I was going to throw up then faint.  Luckily I did neither.

IMG_1549But I did take a break pretty much every minute or two.  I feel like such a wimp saying it but it was tough.  I can get through any crossfit WOD but this altitude was killer.

Then finally after hours of climbing, we made to the top!

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Being at the top was awesome.  To give you an idea of how much we climbed, that point was 4,200m (about 13,700ft).  We started day 1 at 3,000m (about 9,800 ft).  So it was a pretty steep climb in a few miles.

And of course after all the climbing we had to go back down.

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And the climbing continued to day 3.  Day 3 was the longest (16k about 10 hrs) and was almost entirely down hill.

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Aside from the slippery rocks that made me go grandpa slow (because I’m prone to falling and didn’t want to slip), day 3 wasn’t so bad.  There were cool ruins along the way

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and awesome views!

IMG_1677Not to mention, day 3 had the best lunch! Mushroom ceviche as a starter, a delicious soup, rocote relleno (a chili stuffed with beef and vegetables), tallarin al horno (spaghetti baked with cheese, eggs and olives) and probably some other protein and carbohydrate dish that I can’t recall… That wasn’t all that special.  Lunch and dinner were always massive and always included a soup and an array of main dishes.  The cook was seriously awesome.

After a super long 3rd day, we got the campsite just before sunset.  I was looking forward to this campsite because it was rumored to have warm showers.  Well, the rumors were just rumors, because the water was freezing.  But after no bathing for the previous two days and a lot of sweating, that was the best freezing (in the dark) shower of my life.

That night, it poured and the next morning we were up at 3:40am for breakfast at 4am.  The final check point to Machu Picchu opened at 5:30 so we rushed to get in line to be one of the first groups to go through.  The idea was to stay ahead of other groups so we could get to the Sun Gate around sun rise to see an amazing view of Machu Picchu, or so we were told.

We were 4th in line and we rushed for about an hour to get to the Sun Gate.  By the time we got there, we were all pooped and hot.

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Then we look over to see Machu Picchu and it was completely hidden by fog.

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That was the amazing view.  Great, right?

4 days of hiking and no Machu Picchu view.  We were all disappointed, but nothing we could do. So we rested a bit then hiked the rest of the way to Machu Picchu.  And finally we made our way in

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I was super excited that there ACTUALLY are llamas in Machu Picchu!

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I kept talking about how I hoped there were llamas (ridiculous I know), but every photo I see of Machu Picchu always has llamas in there.  When we got there, it was still pretty cloudy.  We took a photo at the traditional photo spot, but it was pretty cloudy…

IMG_6518So we went out of the park, under real/clean restrooms and relaxed for a minute.  After a bit, we went back in, got a tour and wandered.  After a few hours the fog cleared and the view way amazing.

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Machu Picchu is pretty breath-taking.  Even though we joked and took silly tourist pictures…

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The place really was astounding.  The stones are massive and perfectly-shaped.  I don’t think any description could really do it justice.  It was a great way to end a 4 Day Trek.  Toward the end of our time there (as the fog was really clearing) it started to get REALLY crowded, which really detracted from the enjoyment (same happened with the Great Wall of China, womp).

I would definitely say Machu Picchu was the highlight of the trip for me.  As miserable as I was on the second day of the trek, overall it was a great experience.

If you’re interested in doing the Inca Trail, just FYI we went with Peru Treks. The experience with them was great.  The porters are seriously amazing!

So that was the Inca Trail and Machu Picchu! It was awesome.

Up next… I’ll tell you about the rest of the trip and the time we ate a guinea pig and cooked alpaca…