food · international

Trying My Hand At Portuguese Food – Vegan Caldo Verde

I’m still studying the Portuguese language (more on that in a future post) but I know that part of learning about a culture includes exploring the cuisine. And, as a self-proclaimed foodie, I find that immersing myself into the culinary aspects of a culture does wonders for my overall excitement. So, I tried my hand at preparing a traditional Portuguese dish. Here’s my story about it.

I looked through various online sources to find out what makes up the bulk of the typical Portuguese diet. What I found was a lot of seafood and vegetable dishes, and a wide array of pastries. Fortunately, I love ALL of these, so I was excited. I wanted to start with something simple, so I decided to try making caldo verde, a traditional Portuguese soup that gets its signature green color from its sole green ingredient, kale.

Only one problem with caldo verde – it normally contains chourico (chorizo), a type of pork sausage. I don’t eat any pork, so I had to adjust the recipe. I tried making it twice, and both times turned out well, though my second attempt (using a combinations of Trader Joe’s soy chorizo and Field Roast Italian Sausage, though next time I’ll replace the Italian sausage with Field Roast Mexican Chipotle Sausage) was more of a success.

First try: caldo verde with Field Roast Italian Sausage only

I also used a blender, as opposed to mashing the potatoes by hand. It’s much easier for me to get the consistency I desire by using the blender. It also made the food prep portion easier – I could chop the potatoes and onions coarsely because the blender would take care of the rest of the work for me.

The soup is luscious, filling and very easy to make. It’s also pretty inexpensive: it contains a lot of common ingredients and can easily be tweaked for your taste. I’m going to share my recipe below, as well as the recipes I reviewed while coming up with my own version of caldo verde.

Second try – even tastier since I added the Trader Joe’s soy chorizo along with the Field Roast Italian Sausage slices

Caldo Verde (serves 6)

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped into large pieces
  • 1 tsp minced garlic (approximately 2-3 cloves)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 gold potatoes, chopped into large pieces
  • 3 cups water
  • 3 cups veggie broth
  • 4 cups kale, chopped into bite-sized or smaller pieces
  • 1/2 pack Trader Joe’s soy chorizo, sliced to the size that you prefer (it’ll crumble up so the sizing doesn’t matter)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 pack Field Roast Sausage of your choice
  • salt and pepper
  • Add oil to a large pot, and warm over a medium heat. Add onions and garlic, and stir. Cook until translucent (about 4-6 minutes).
  1. Add potatoes, water and veggie broth to the pot. Stir to combine, cook until potatoes are soft (about 15-20 minutes).
  2. Turn off heat, and scoop out potatoes and onions, using a slotted spoon or straining spoon. Place potatoes and onions into a blender, along with some of the broth. Blend until smooth.
  3. Return blended ingredients to the pot, and stir well with the remaining broth. Add chopped kale, and cook over a low heat. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes, or until kale softens. Season with salt and pepper
  4. Add chopped sausage, and stir well. Warm for an additional 5 – 10 minutes (make sure the the sausage is heated thoroughly).
  5. Serve while hot.

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Close up of the finished product, second time around

I used AllRecipes, Olivia’s Cuisine and Leite’s Culinaria to create my recipe. Many thanks to them for such clear directions! I couldn’t have done it without their recipes as templates. Muito obrigada!

 

fitness

Days 1 – 7 of My Fitness Challenge

fitness

Can I get a do-over?

Seriously though, this first week of my fitness challenge has been eye-opening. I think it’s important to remain flexible while challenging ourselves. A constant “push” energy isn’t good when accomplishing a goal, especially if we aren’t enjoying the “push”.

So I worked out just once this week. I was supposed to work out 5 times over the past 7 days (let’s all sigh together). However, it’s been an unusually busy week and the stress was much higher than normal. I was also supposed to eat fewer calories, and after two days, I was back to eating what I wanted. So both the diet and exercise portions of this week were failures (so to speak).

What happened during the past week was worth noting, and I made some mental notes. I believe in adjusting my routine to correct any issues that I’m seeing. Here are some of the things I noticed during the week.

  • I need more rest in order to undertake any physical challenge. My sleep is too sporadic for me to be effective at a fitness routine. I also notice that my eating habits are poorer when I’m tired.
  • I have no problem eating balanced breakfasts during the week, but things go downhill during the day, especially during the period between lunch and dinner. I need better snack options to satisfy my cravings but not sabotage my healthy eating goals.
  • I could stand to drink more water. I’m already “good” at it but I’d like to improve.
  • I need more accountability when it comes to working out. I’ve made an agreement with one of my friends, who will help “keep me honest” when it comes to working out.

Those are my week 1 observations. I’ll adjust, regroup, and start anew. Here’s hoping that week 2 will have more “wins” that I can report to you all!

food

NuVegan is Coming to RVA!

I am beyond excited to share this news with you all! One of my favorite vegan restaurant, NuVegan Cafe (formerly Woodlands Vegan Bistro) of Washington, D.C., is opening a restaurant in my hometown of Richmond, VA! I spend a lot of time bouncing around in the Midatlantic region but when I’m home, I am always eager to try new vegetarian options. This technically isn’t new to me – I’ve been enjoying NuVegan for at least 4 years – but I’ve always had to be in either D.C. or Maryland if I wanted their food. Having the restaurant so close to home is going to really have me spoiled!

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The Richmond location will be opening on June 30, 2018. Part of me wants to attend the grand opening . . . The other part of me is pure introvert and would rather avoid any potential crowds! We’ll see how I’m feeling on June 30th and if I’m feeling up to it, I’ll make a special stop to check out the restaurant.

vegetables

Plant-based foods are awesome!

If you want more information about NuVegan Cafe in Richmond, VA, be sure to follow the NuVegan Cafe Richmond Twitter page @NuVeganRichmond.

Have any of you eaten at NuVegan yet? Let me know what you thought about it in the comments below!

food · travel

Remembering Anthony Bourdain

I remember first watching Anthony Bourdain several years ago, and I found myself hypnotized by his storytelling, humored by his authenticity, and delighted by his respectful observations of different cultures. He was the real deal, and his diplomacy via gastronomy was a sight to behold.

headoutblog

(photo courtesy of Headout blog)

Bourdain passed on June 8, 2018, and I know that this day will never be the same for me. Many of us will never know what goes through the mind of someone contemplating suicide, but I know, for sure, that our world is a less-beautiful place without souls like Anthony Bourdain. May he rest.

azquotes

(Photo courtesy AZ Quotes)

food

Review: Horace & Dickies Food Truck

Several weeks back, I visited a food truck I’d never tried before. I didn’t have a taste for anything in particular, but I decided to do seafood for lunch because, generally speaking, seafood never lets me down.

My lunchtime adventures led me to Horace & Dickies, a restaurant that expanded its enterprise to include a food truck that serves lunch at different popular locations within Washington, DC.

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At the truck, I ordered the crabcake and fries, a simple meal that I thought wouldn’t take very long to prepare. I wasn’t disappointed: the crabcake was prepared quickly. I was handed a bag and I returned to my desk where I ate my meal.

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An abbreviated but adequate menu

My short explanation is this: I liked the fries more than the crabcake. Don’t get me wrong: the crabcake was good. But I wasn’t blown away by the flavor of it. I’ve eaten many crabcakes and have a good basis for comparison (not to mention, I’ve made some incredible crabcakes from scratch, as well), so I know when a crabcake is “good” and when it’s “awesome”. And this one was “good”: not the best I’ve ever had, but definitely worth the money and a solid effort.

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My meal

To be fair, I probably would have enjoyed it more with remoulade sauce (I asked for some, but it wasn’t in my bag). Also, the sandwich cooled a bit on my walk back to the office: everyone knows that piping hot food is better than when it’s cooled down.

Would I eat here again? Absolutely. The food was good and I suspect that, if eaten immediately, the sandwich would be outstanding instead of just “good”. I’m really looking forward to trying Horace & Dickies again so that I can give a followup review for the crabcake!

 

food · international

Review: La Tasca Restaurant

So, for a few weeks, I was craving tapas. Tapas – those small, flavorful plates of Spanish cuisine – are light but satisfying: they are perfect dishes for hot summer days. Eventually, my craving got the best of me, and I started researching local Spanish restaurants.

My search ended when I landed on La Tasca Restaurant. It’s been years since I’ve dined there, so I was overdue for a trip. This Chinatown restaurant has become something of a DC standard, especially since there isn’t an abundance of Spanish restaurants in the District. I decided to stop in for lunch and I was eager to see what delights the restaurant had to offer.

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I ordered a lunch special, complete with four tapas. My server was friendly and made sure that I had a table with a great view. As I sipped my iced tea, I watched the hustle and bustle of people milling around in Chinatown. Soon, my first order arrived- except it wasn’t what I actually ordered. The pan con tomate (bread with tomatoes) that arrived at my table looked appealing, but I knew I hadn’t ordered it. When my server returned, I let him know that I’d gotten the wrong dish. But he then let me know that the dish was no mistake: it was complimentary. I was surprised and delighted to get an additional tapas plate at no cost.

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My complimentary appetizer: pan con tomate

Then, my actual order started to arrive. My gazpacho was a chilled, creamy delight, bursting with freshness and flavor. Every mouthful was a gourmand’s dream.

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Gazpacho

Next I enjoyed fried manchego cheese bites, manchego frito. These crisp and lightly salted morsels were perfectly complimented by the honey orange marmalade dipping sauce that came with it.

Yummy manchego frito

Then I had the fresh tomato and lettuce salad, the tomatina. It’s been years since I’ve had sweet, fresh tomatoes (most of what’s available in stores is tart). The dressing enhanced the sweetness. I really enjoyed this!

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Tomatina salad

I ended my tapas experience by eating gambas al ajillo, the garlic shrimp. I love garlic and, when I’m not doing the vegetarian/vegan thing, seafood is always on my list. The garlic was subtle but undeniable. And the shrimp were cooked perfectly. This was accented nicely by the red pepper flakes: they added a little heat but weren’t overwhelming.

Gambas!

Overall, my meal at La Tasca was superb! It was a great value and experience. I can’t wait to return for lunch sometime in the near future!

 

food · travel

Review: Wiz Kid Restaurant

Happy, happy Monday, friends!

After the auction I attended a few days ago (you can read about it here and here), I was famished. I didn’t know how hungry I would be, but I think I underestimated how long my breakfast would stave off hunger (something about travel throws off my ability to correctly gauge when and how much I need to eat, but I digress). In any case, I figured I could probably grab something suitable close by. I looked up nearby restaurants and learned that a vegan restaurant was just around the corner from the auction house. So of course I had to check it out.

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(from the Wiz Kid website)

I stepped into Wiz Kid and was instantly charmed by the intimate size and hits from bygone years playing in the background. The restaurant boasts a small but flavorful vegan menu. I was greeted by a friendly cashier as I looked over the menu. I decided to try the Yucatan chopped salad and rhubarb-ade.

My tasty Yucatan chopped salad

The salad was large and filling. This was a delicious vegan take on the southwestern-style salads that can be found at many popular restaurants. According to the website, the salad features, “black beans, grilled zucchini, pico, poblano, cauliflower, tortilla crumble, cilantro goddess”. I can confirm that all of those ingredients were in my salad, and it came together beautifully.

I really liked the crunch that came from the tortilla crumbles: that variance in texture went a long way in making this salad more interesting. The cilantro goddess dressing was creamy and delicious. I was really impressed with this hearty salad.

The rhubarb-ade was also a hit! Tart, sweet and unique: it was the kind of original take on lemonade that I’m always looking for when I go out. Rhubarb is such an unusual choice: I liked it a lot!

Photo taken from outside of Wiz Kid

Overall, I really enjoyed Wiz Kid. My only wish is that they expand the menu, but I can also appreciate the carefully curated selection. Why mess with a good thing, y’know? So, on that note, I must recommend Wiz Kid in Philadelphia, PA. It’s located at 124 S 19th Street. Make sure you check it out when you’re in the area!