Friday, April 19, 2013

Strawberry & Honey Oatmeal Muffins

The Mediterranean has lulled me into a state of tranquil bliss. After my two weeks of crazy travel, this is exactly what I needed. I am staying with the most wonderful hosts, taking dance classes again, going on mountain hikes, spending long afternoons lounging in the sun and reading, and trying to shake that feeling of "oh my god I am doing nothing productive I should feel so guilty let me think myself into a state of unnecessary stress." I've been told by the Cypriots that that is so American. I am finally learning the difficult lesson of how to relax.

I'll write more on the actual details of my adventures in Cyprus later this week- there are people who only know it as this random tiny island where the economy isn't doing so hot right now, when obviously there is so much more to it. But for now let's talk about food.

Muffins, more specifically.

I'm trying to rebalance my eating habits while I'm here. I feel like all I consume while traveling is bread, bread, chocolate, wine and more bread. Okay that's an exaggeration, but when you're eating on a budget and a hostel offers free rolls for breakfast, why not stash a bunch in your purse for lunch and an afternoon snack?

Needless to say, I was starved for fresh fruits and veggies. So now while I'm settled in for a few weeks, I'm back to happily eating a lot of salad, smoothies and stir fries.

However, I also really missed baking. Hence the birth of these fairly healthy, fruit-filled sunny morning muffins. Enjoy with a mug of green tea and feel renewed.

Strawberry & Honey Oatmeal Muffins

¾ cup spelt flour
½ cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 eggs
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup honey
½ tsp vanilla
2 tbsp rice milk (or whatever milk you want)
1 cup chopped strawberries

Preheat your oven to 350º F (175º C) and spray a muffin tin with cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the flour, oats, baking powder and salt. In a medium bowl whisk together the eggs, oil, honey, vanilla and milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir just until combined. Fold in the strawberries and pour the batter into your prepared pan, ¾ of the way full in each cup. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mamma Mia

Where in the world have I been in these past few weeks, you might ask?

Where in the world haven't I been.

I have been so caught up in traveling with my constantly expanding backpack, eating the best food I have ever put in my mouth, meeting wonderful friends- old and new, and drowning myself in coffee and sangria that I haven't had a spare moment to write.

Let me do a little recap, for now, to get everyone up to speed. And as this blog continues, the fun little stories will pop up when the occasion calls for it.

On March 15th, with a heavy heart, I left the ever-inspiring city of Tangier, but my spirits were lifted as soon as I landed in Rome to spend the week in Italy one of my best friends from college. She is a huge Greek and Roman history geek, so we nerded out together while strolling through the city and seeing all of the ruins and monuments.

I could have spent weeks exploring Rome, but Melissa had to get back to studying in Siena, so I followed her there and spent the rest of the week wandering along tiny streets and sun-speckled pathways, gawking at the beauty Tuscany has to offer and eating a lot of pasta. Italy was quickly living up to and exceeding my expectations.

Because I had fallen so hard for Siena (and my friend and I couldn't bear to say goodbye quite yet), I extended my stay there a bit and ended up giving myself just one night in Florence. Yeah, that was insane, but now I have another reason to go back to Italy.

I saw the sights, passed out in my hostel for 4 hours of sleep and woke up early to catch a flight to Sevilla, where I was meeting yet another college friend. It's fun when all of your friends are studying abroad :)

My friend Lena and I were welcomed to Sevilla by walking directly into the middle of a huge procession filled with candles, glittering golden float-like things called pasos carried by at least 30 men, and people wearing multi-colored hooded cloaks. Welcome to Semana Santa. We had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The city was in a state of beautiful, traditional chaos. Everyone was drinking on the streets, eating tapas all day, staying up all night to walk in 7 hour long processions, and the air constantly smelled like orange blossoms and incense.

That week was a hard act to follow, which is probably why once we reached Madrid for the weekend, we were slightly unimpressed by the grey, imperialistic buildings and cold big-city attitude. We enjoyed the Prado, paella, some churros con chocolate, and went to bed early (very un-Spanish of us).

Luckily I felt much better after we finally landed back in my favorite city for one more visit. Lying on the beach in sunny sunny Barcelona restored and recharged me. It was weird- even though I had only spent 5 days there in January, it felt so familiar. I knew some of the streets, I recognized the buildings, and even though I barely speak any Spanish, I could make my way around without getting too lost or confused.

All of that? That was just 2 weeks.

And now...
I'm in a lovely little paradise. A remote part of the world where even when there is crisis and visible economic turmoil, the sun still shines, the sea is still the most stunning shade of blue you will ever see in your life, and the people still smile at you. Hello, Cyprus. 

Monday, March 18, 2013

Hear & There: Morocco

I am introducing a new music section to this blog today- Hear & There.

Yeah, I know, it's kind of cutesy, but just go with it.

Whenever I go to a new city, I almost always make a playlist to go with the atmosphere. The feeling I get when I sit and people watch in the early mornings, walk around in the afternoons, and go out with friends at night. It always varies completely from city to city and what I love is that I can then listen to each playlist I made and it transports me back to the different places that I have been.

I left Morocco last Friday and I already miss it more than anywhere else. I met some of the most beautiful people I've ever met in my life there. Artists, musicians, dancers, fruit vendors and chefs. I wish I could sing the praises of every single person who impacted me, but that would probably be equivalent to a full-length novel so let me just assure you, I have been truly touched by the spirits and inspiration of so many people in Tangier. Now all I am left with are memories, photos, this music, and the promise that one day I will return.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Dancing Through Morocco

I don’t need to preach to you guys how traveling will change you and show you new things about yourself and blah blah blah. You probably know this and are sick of hearing it. But I’ve been thinking about what exactly I’ve learned about myself from each place and came up with the 5 major things that Tangier has taught me. It's time to get personal.

1. I am incapable of settling. This is something traveling in general has shown me. No matter how much I love a place, after a little while there I am always ready to move on to something and somewhere new. There's too much to see in this world and I want to take in as much as I possibly can until I explode. Oh, and this realization doesn't just apply to places, either. It has been a very long time since my last real relationship. Not that this is a problem, but sometimes I end up feeling like I left behind some wonderful possibilities in various cities...

2. To be taken seriously, you just have to act like you know what you’re doing. Even if you don’t have a clue. People I meet are generally impressed that I'm doing everything I'm doing with so much confidence and I'm only 20 years old. Here's the thing. Sometimes I'm terrified. Sometimes I am incredibly insecure. Sometimes I wonder what the hell I'm doing with my life. But when I start to feel like that, I just put on a smile and my power boots and tell myself "You will be fine. You can do this." And usually I can. I had no idea what I was doing in Morocco. Now I do.

3. Sometimes showing vulnerability is a really good thing. This one was harder for me to learn than the one above. When I came to Morocco I tried to act super confident and like I wasn't afraid of anything. Culture shock? Psh, never heard of it. The truth is I was falling apart on the inside. I felt totally lost and alone in a place where the language and culture is so different from everything I'm used to. When I finally opened up and confessed this to a couple people here, my life became so much easier. They were sympathetic and helpful and I ended up making some amazing friends, just by letting my guard down.

4. A language barrier is not the end of the world. Smiles and hand gestures go a long way. So does learning the basics in any language. I can now say "hello," "thank you," "goodbye," and count to 7 in arabic which has helped tremendously. Oh and I can say "half a kilo of mint, please." How else would I make my tea every day?

5. It is actually possible to create a 45 minute long dance performance in 3 weeks with 7 dancers, 4 of whom don’t speak English and most of them with little to no background in contemporary dance.  That is what I did here. Seriously. I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I could do something like this, especially with no degree and only 3 years of choreography experience. But I was so bored with doing French-to-English translations at my internship here that I put together a proposal, the directors of the Cinematheque agreed, I found 7 young performers in the community here, we had 7 rehearsals and by the end we had a contemporary dance show complete with music, lights, and projections. I know for a fact it wasn't the best thing I have ever choreographed, technically, but considering the time limit I think it ended up pretty amazing. The piece was about personal vs. group identity and was followed by an audience discussion, which can be terrifying if nobody has anything to ask. Luckily that was not the case. My dancers were such hard workers. They really embraced the new style of movement and even if not everyone in the audience really "got" modern dance, it introduced a new art form to a lot of people in Tangier and sparked discussions and thought. You'll never know what you are capable of until you try. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to inspire and create something in this beautiful city.

Photo credits: Abdel-Mochine Nakari

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Date, Caramel and Coconut Mess

Part of the reason I have launched Wanderment as my new blog is so that I can reorganize my life and thoughts a little bit amid the chaos of traveling. I am someone who likes structure. I like making lists and diagrams, organizing the shelves in my fridge, and color-coding my closet.

What can I say, I’m kind of a freak.

However, I think it’s important for everyone to try something that goes against their nature once in a while. Which is probably why I am in Tangier. This city is colorful, beautiful chaos. And part of me is driven completely crazy by it all and another part of me is in love. I love that people sing to themselves when they walk down the street. I love that no conversation is capable of sticking to just one language at a time. I love eating with a piece of bread in the place of a fork. I love that if I don’t have enough money with me, the shop keepers just say “That’s okay, take your food and pay me another day.” I love that cats eat the rest of your french fries  right off of your plate as soon as you’re full.

Basically, what I’m saying is Tangier has made me appreciate the beauty of mess more than ever. My new favorite dessert will stand as an homage to that. I cannot resist the mountains of dates in the markets here and there seem to be endless possibilities for their use. For this recipe, you just whip together the simplest of simple ingredients, grab some glasses, plop cream on top of caramel and voila, you have the perfect messy dessert for two.

Date, Caramel and Coconut Mess

makes two servings

For the coconut whipped cream:
2 cans of full-fat coconut milk, chilled in the fridge overnight
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

Open your cans of coconut milk- the milk should be separated into a thick cream on top and liquid on the bottom. Scoop out just the cream into a bowl and add sugar and vanilla. Whip with a whisk or a hand mixer until it is the fluffy consistency of whipped cream. I swear it's like magic.

For the date caramel compote:
1/3 cup water
400 g dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp butter or vegan margarine

In a small saucepan, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a boil over low heat. Simmer, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick, for about 10 minutes or until the dates fall apart and you have a caramel-y compote.

To assemble:
Layer large spoonfuls of coconut cream and compote into two glasses. Serve topped with chopped nuts and a sprinkling of cinnamon.

Friday, March 1, 2013

You Are Here

To anyone who knows me, this will not come as a surprise. Ta-da! I have changed places. Wanderment will now take over everything I shared on That's So Vegan, but bigger and better than ever. My blog is freakishly like a metaphor for my life. I have trouble sticking to one thing for a long period of time.

That’s So Vegan was great for while I was in my first two years of college, but my life has expanded into something completely different from vegan food and university-life anecdotes. My tiny college kitchen isn't my playground anymore- instead my kitchen changes on a weekly basis. I’m traveling the world, writing daily, listening to more music, meeting incredible people, eating drizzles of honey, fresh eggs and fish (not so vegan any longer)… I am wandering. But I am most definitely not lost.

Up until now I’ve been using Wanderment simply as a travel diary, but now I want to transform it into a place of inspiration. A place to share stories, little bits of wisdom I pick up here and there, art and photography, and don’t worry- recipes are a given. I am not an expert at any of this and I will never pretend to be. I love to experiment. I love to create. I love to cook and dance and eat and tell stories and share all of it with my family, friends and anyone who cares to listen.

So, if you feel inclined to dive into a hefty slice of my adventures, come and wander with me.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Mint Tea by the Sea

I have started and restarted this post so many times, because despite the fact that every conversation here uses at least 2-4 different languages at once, I can't manage to find the words to describe this city. Every time I try, it comes out in the form of abstract, obscure poetry.

One of my housemates, a girl from Paris, said to me in my first week "Tangier is not a city that anyone just comes to visit. Everyone has a reason or a purpose for being here."And I think it's true. This is a place full of artists, eccentrics, intellectuals and wanderers. No one normal comes to Tangier.

I am still trying to figure out where I belong in all of this- what is my purpose for being here? Yes, I have an internship at the Cinematheque de Tanger, which has proved to be an incredible way to meet the most inspiring people and join a wonderful community.

I've been helping them implement a new menu at the café, which means a lot of baking, cooking and testing. Finally my longing to get back to making cookies and cakes has been fulfilled.

But something tells me that cooking all day is not the only reason I'm here. I'm feeling creative again. Like I want to paint, dance, write a book, whatever. The sounds, tastes, smells and air of this city is seeping into my pores and fueling my inner artist.

See? I told you all I can write here is abstract and obscure.

Like always, it's the moments that make up a place.
This seems to be the only way I can accurately describe anywhere I go...

The intoxicating smell of fresh baked pastries wafting up from the chimneys below my terrace in the morning.

The markets full of overflowing, beautiful fresh fruits and greens, burlap sacks of flour and grains and slabs of dead animals hanging by their feet (don't worry, I plan of having a whole post dedicated to just the food here).

Pinks, yellows, blues and greens everywhere you go that make you realize why Matisse spent so much time here.

Drinking a dangerously sugar-filled mint tea at Café Hafa, looking out over the gorgeous blue that meets the Mediterranean sea with the Atlantic.

Waking up almost every early morning at 5am to the haunting sound of monks singing or chanting through speakers spread out all over the city.

I am completely humbled by Tangier. However, it is starting to feel a little more familiar. It's actually starting to feel a little more like home.