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Hopes and Fears for my Birthday

19 Sep

Finally, one week from today, September 26th, I will land in Maputo, Mozambique.   Talk about the best Birthday present ever.  Talk about a true rebirth.  Yeah, September 26th happens to be my birthday!  When I first began blogging I was building up to this moment. Living Life With A Little Spice encompasses so many things, at first it was with the food of my culture, now it is with this new experience.  It’s about adding something to your life to leave a lasting memory.   The preparation for my departure has been memorable itself. The last few weeks have been spent trying to pack, practicing Portuguese, and trying to enjoy the people I love as much as possible.

As excited as I am for this journey, of course there are my things weighing on my mind.  I joined Peace Corps to really find myself, to help me define more clearly who I am meant to be. It’s so important to me to be a part of our world community, not just by existing but by truly impacting someone, somewhere.

Now I have a week left and I am freaking out! It starting with my packing, what do I bring, what do I leave behind.  What If I need this, or that? Am I bringing too much? Isn’t that the whole issue, in myself, what do I bring, what do I leave behind?  My hopes and fears are flooding my brain.  So as I tap my fingers and anxiously await the day of my birth. Here are my hopes and fears for the next two years.

Hopes:

Meeting wonderful people

Meeting people I can learn from

Gaining network of people with a like mindset

Immersing myself in a new culture

Learning a new language, not just words and phrases but becoming fluent

Feeling passionate about a specific project and being successful

Leaving a lasting impact and making a difference somehow

Feeling a part of a new community by making true connections and lasting friendships

Fears:

People looking at me like I am crazy when I can’t communicate in the native language

My introvert tendencies taking over

Not connecting with other volunteers

Not being able to “handle it”… Bugs, What am I doing with my natural hair?

Getting lazy and not living up to the expectations of my community, especially if I am following a previous volunteer

Not actually finding myself, and coming back from Mozambique with no direction

With all of that written, I think I just answered the question of hopes and fears.  What Do I bring? My hope.  What do I leave behind? My fear.  HHmm… writing this out is great. Questions answered. I’m packed and ready to go! Let’s see how this works out!

packing

 

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Getting Life in Order! *Working List*

10 Aug

In preparing for my departure, it has become clear that I have a million things to do! I thought that I would work for the month of July, just to earn some extra money before my departure. But now I am exhausted and I feel so unprepared and behind. I have loans to pay off, and things to buy and packing to do. I will start with my packing list, because I need somewhere to put it anyway.  Right now it is on my phone, but with my luck with phones I will lose it and have to start all over again. So hear we go. ..

Clothes:

  • Tanks for undershirts
  • Cotton shirts
  • Cotton long sleeve shirts/ button downs
  • Professional Skirts
  • Scarves (to spice up my outfits)
  • Cardigans
  • Comfortable/ professional heals
  • Professional Flats
  • Running Sneakers
  • Chacos
  • Comfortable Dresses
  • Underwear
  • Sports Bras
  • Leggings
  • Running shorts
  • Jeans/shorts
  • Bathing suit
  • Flip-flops
  • Poncho
  • Ankle Socks

Accessories

  • Nail polish?
  • Earrings

Electronics

  • Computer
  • Extra Battery
  • Phone?.
  • Adapter
  • Converter
  • Hard drive
  • USB’s
  • Headlamp
  • Batteries for head lamp
  • I pod and speakers
  • Cameras
  • Rechargeable Batteries

Toiletries

  • Powder
  • Toothbrush
  • Floss
  • Deodorant
  • Bug spray?
  • Lotion
  • Castor oil
  • Spray bottle
  • Vegetable Glycerin
  • Sanitary Napkins
  • Razors
  • Moisturizer
  • Brush/comb

Medication

  • A lot of Aleve
  • Vitamins
  • Bug spray
  • Allergy Meds

Other

  • Sleeping bag
  • Essence Magazines
  • Stamps
  • Pens/ sharpies
  • Present for families
  • Towel
  • Backpack
  • Seeds
  • Cooking knives
  • Zip lock bags
  • Water bottle

Documentation

  • ID
  • Yellow Fever Card
  • Loan Paperwork
  • House Paperwork

Now I would love any comments, suggestions or thoughts on my packing list.  Especially if there is a question mark next to something, it is because I have no idea whether I should bring it, or what types of the item to bring.  I am crazy worried about how everything is supposed to fit in my two suitcases.  But my friend told me to make sure I roll!! lol.

 

End of the Journey?!

22 May

My journey is over!! Not only did I cook some wonderful food but have cooked my way through almost the entire COOKBOOK. Thank you for those who followed the journey and cooked some wonderful food! I will admit, I still have to post the tripe recipe. LOL.. I cooked it.. buuutt..uugghh…I am also missing just a few baking recipes. No worries,  I will get them up soon.

Anyway, I received my official invitation on 4/18/2013.. In my car, while driving home from work, I got the email that changed everything. After having to pull over to the side of the road to call my BFF and mentor, I was able to read and discover that I HAVE BEEN INVITED TO SERVE IN PEACE CORPS MOZAMBIQUE!! My staging date will be September 24, 2013. I have been in a sort of denial for the last few days. Not sure if I should spread the word, out of fear of jinxing it!  Jamaican culture is to be somewhat humble about successes. I wasn’t even sure about how to move forward in these posts. So I have stayed quiet. But now it is time to share.  My happiness is overwhelming, my joy is overflowing, and yes I feel blessed!

You know when something just feels so good, so right and so perfect.  That is how it feels.  I stated in the beginning that the journey was over… HA! It has just begun!

Recipe #17: Ginger Bread

28 Apr

Right now I am trying to do anything to get away from cooking that tripe! So I decided to test my hand at baking.  There are quite a few recipes that call for baking in The COOKBOOK.  I have actually gone through almost all of the dinner dishes, so to avoid the tripe, it is only right to begin on a few desserts.  This was such a quick and easy recipe, me (who sucks at baking) completed it without barely a hitch!

Here is the Recipe from the book:

  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup hot water
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1 egg beaten

Heat the molasses, sugar and butter gently in a pan.  Pour in the hot water, mix well and set aside.

Sift together flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg, then add the grated ginger and the well beaten egg.  Combine the molasses liquid with the flour mixture, and pour the resulting batter into a shallow tin lined with greased paper.  Bake in a slow over at 300 – 350 degrees F. 150-160 degrees C, for an hour or until done.

OK Here is what I did:

I began with the molasses. I was very nervous about burning it, so I kept the heat on low as everything melded together.

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While that was working I grated the ginger.

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Once the molasses and butter mixture was melted, I added the water and let it sit. The consistency was runny, and smelled delicious. Image

I set that aside and sifted the flour, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg together.

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Once that was done I got the pan ready. I learned a trick that my aunt always uses when she is baking something so that the food doesn’t stick.  I took a slice of butter and placed it on a napkin.  I rubbed the butter all around the pan.  Then a took of pinch or two of flower and shifted it around in the pan until the entire pan and the sides were covered.  Then I discarded the excess flour. Image

Now my only hiccup was when I added the molasses mixture to the flour.  It became really clumpy.  I am not sure how to prevent that.  If you have any ideas, let me know! But I added all the ginger to that mixture and stirred it up. Then poured it into the pan.

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See.. a little clumpy.  But anyway, I baked that for the specified time.  The house smelled awesome! And wallah! Gingerbread!!

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My mom asked why i didn’t put it in a bread pan. LOL, I don’t know! But the test was whether it bread came out smoothly.  And Oh yes it did!!

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Look closely at the bottom of the pan! And yes I served it with ice cream. I know it is supposed to be a bread, but I thought ginger and ice cream.. and yes it was yummy.  I wonder if I could use that bread to make a bread pudding..hhmmm…LOL!!

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Everyone loved the bread. It was like eating a ginger bread cookie, just softer.  We all picked at pieces of the bread all day.  It didn’t last long! YUM!!

Recipe #16: Jamaican Beef and Okra

14 Apr

So, I took the Beef Tripe out of the fridge. I thawed it out, but I am still not ready to work with it.  I am promising myself that I will do it some time this week, but I am not ready yet!.  So instead of cooking the tripe I went back out to the store and just picked up some round of beef. In The Cookbook I found Beef and Okra, which is a dish I am much more willing to work with!

Here is the recipe from the book

  • 2lb shoulder steak, round of beef, sirloin or shin of beef
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1/3 cup of oil
  • 2 onions
  • 1 clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 2 tomatoes, chopped
  • 4 cups of water
  • 1lb of okras, tops removed

Cut the meat across the grain into thin slices, no more than 2×3 inches and season them with a little salt and pepper.

Brown the meat in the oil, then add the onions and garlic and stir until these take color.  Add the thyme and tomatoes, stir again, and add the water.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover and simmer until the meat is tender.  Add more water if it becomes necessary.

Add the okras, taste for salt, cover, and cook for a further 30 minutes.

Here is what I did:

My family isn’t really a beef eating family, so I knew my goal was to get them to enjoy this meal.  Also, I’ve cooked beef before and my personal challenge is trying to figure out how to get the beef tender.  When I said this out loud my father, my backseat cook, yelled that I need to “let da meat cook.” LOL! So that is what I did.

First I bought already cubed meat, and I seasoned them on both sides with salt and pepper.  I added them to a pot of hot oil and butter.

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While that was browning I chopped up my other ingredients, the tomatoes, onions, and garlic.

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Once the pieces were brown, I followed the rest of the instructions, adding in the onion and garlic.  Letting it brown, and then adding the tomatoes, thyme and water.  I added just enough water to cover the meat.

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I covered the pot and let this simmer. Like I said, my goal was to get the meat as tender as possible.  This pot of yummy goodness simmered for over an hour.

When I felt I could break apart the beef cubes easily with the knife I added in the Okra. I used frozen okra because my supermarket didn’t have fresh ones.  I also added in a few dashes of hot sauce.

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I covered the pot again and let it simmer for another hour.  At this point the meat was practically falling apart.

Then I served it up with rice and peas.  Made perfectly of course from the previous recipe!

Here is dads plate!

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Here is mine!

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Another success! This was so good, the beef literally melted in my mouth. My dad added a few more dashes of hot sauce, but I was good with my spiciness.

After rereading the recipe I noticed it said I should slice the meat into thin slices.  Next time I will make thinner slices, but regardless definitely a go to meal!

RECIPE #15: Jamaican Escoveitch Fish

9 Apr

My dad, the backseat cook (lol), has insisted that we are eating too much of the same meat.  So he decided that he would buy fish, tripe, beef kidneys, and other pieces of meat that I have never eaten…ummmm..I decided to start with the fish. Luckily the COOKBOOK has other fish recipes, and I found escoveitch fish! I’ve had this at Jamaican restaurants, and although the fish is delicious it’s the onions and carrots that I always go back for. I’ll worry about the other pieces of meat another time!

Here is the recipe from the book:

  • 2 lbs fresh fish
  • juice of 2 limes
  • salt
  • black pepper
  • oil
  • 1-2 cho cho or cucumbers
  • 2 onions
  • 2 hot peppers, scotch bonnet
  • 2 tablespoons pimento berries
  • 1 cup vineger

Clean and wash the fish, rub them with the lime juice, and dry them with a kitchen cloth or paper.  Sprinkle them on both sides and inside with salt and pepper.  heat plenty of oil in a frying pan until it is very hot and begins to smoke very slightly.  Place the fish in the hot oil one at a time, taking care that they do not overlap.  Reduce the heat a little and fry the fish on both sides.  If they are difficult to turn, then the oil was not hot enough.  Leave them for a couple minutes to allow the underside to brown, then turn.  When the fish are done, drain them and arrange them on a large platter or in a deep bowl.

In the meantime, peel the cho chos and cut them into halves and then into long strips.  Put them in a saucepan with the onions, hot peppers, pimento, vinegar and a little salt to taste.  Bring the mixture to a boil simmer for 2 minutes or so, then remove it from the heat.  Pour this hot pickle over the fish.  The fish can marinate for 1 hour to 3 days.  Can be served hot or cold.

O.K Here is what I did!

The best fish for this is the red snapper, I got pretty big snapper because I couldn’t find anything smaller.  If you can find smaller fish, then please use them, the big ones complicate things! Image

I cleaned and washed those babies, and then salted and peppered the inside and the outside. I couldn’t find a pan to fit them in tho.. LOL. I had to use my bridge burner and a long pan.  I heated the oil until it was smoking and then carefully placed the fish down…. do this carefully, i splashed the first time. I let them cook for 4-6 minutes and then flipped. Image

While that was cooking I sliced up my onions, cucumbers (cause I’m still not sure what cho cho’s are, lol), onions and hot peppers. I sliced these into thin strips.

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I placed my sliced pieces into a pot with vinegar, I used apple cider vinegar.  I let it boil and then simmer for a few minutes.

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Once the onions and carrots were more translucent, but not soft I wanted them to have some crunch, I poured my mixture over the fish.

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I let this sit over night.

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Then served!

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Notice I cut the fish in half, and had two pieces.  Don’t be intimidated by the fish head, you can also ask your butcher to cut the heads off and just do the tail end.  My mother happens to looooove the fish head. This was delicious. The onions and carrots tasted exactly how I wanted them to. Next time I will spice it up another notch!!

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Keep it Spicy!!

Recipe #14: Jamaican Corned beef and Cabbage

17 Mar

When I was growing up we always ate the quick and easy dish of corned beef and cabbage, but the corned beef we always ate was the corned beef in a can, the bulla(y) beef.  Mom would cook it down with some cabbage and white rice and that is what I knew as corned beef and cabbage. It wasn’t until I was with a friend on St. Patty’s Day, we were eating at this Irish Pub and I ordered corned beef and cabbage.  It looked completely different, I realized that the corned beef and cabbage I ate growing up was a completely the, “I am not a chef version.”  LOL. So I went searching in The Cookbook, I figure, if I ate it while growing up, it must be because it is a traditional recipe that my mom transformed….lol. And guess what I found? A recipe for corned beef! Just so happens it is also St. Patrick’s Day!

Here is the recipe from the book:

  • 12 Pimento berries
  • 2 stalks scallion
  • 3 slices hot pepper
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves
  • 3 table spoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon saltpetre
  • 3 lb leg, loin or silverside of beef

Pound the pimento berries in a mortar.  Add the scallion, hot pepper and garlic and pound these almost to a puree, then combine with the black pepper, thyme, salt and saltpetre and mix well.

With a sharp, long, narrow-bladed knife, make incisions all over the meat.  Place a little of the seasoning mixture in each incision, leaving some to rub over the outside of the meat.

Place the seasoned meat in a glass, china or earthenware container, cover with plastic wrap, and leave it for 2-3 days in the bottom of the ridge.

When the mean is to be cooked, transfer it to a large pot with plenty of water.  Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and gently cook until it is tender.  This should take about 2 hours.  the corned beef should be tender but not falling apart.

OK here is what did:

First, luckily it was St. Patrick’s Day week. I was able to find an already prepped beef loin, so I didn’t have to worry about the saltpetre.  Image

I took the pimento and the scallion and pounded them in a bowl.  Very similar to what I did for the jerk rub. But I made a much better mixture.

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I added a whole hot pepper, sliced, pepper, garlic, pepper and  less salt since the corned beef was already salted. Pounded everything all together and got a great smelling paste.

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Then I made the incisions in the beef and stuffed the mixture into each incision, I rubbed the remaining mixture all of the beef.  I covered the beef and let it sit in the fridge for 2 days.

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Once I was ready to cook, I placed the beef in a pot, and filled it about half way with water.

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I brought everything to a boil, lowered the heat and cooked this for about 2-3 hours.

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This is smelling delicious at this point.  My mother kept lifting the pot. After about 2 1/2 hours I removed the beef.

I let it rest for a few minutes, and then sliced it up.

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This is beautiful because you can see all the seasoning that you stuffed into each incision when you slice it.

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To make the cabbage, I simply added onions, and carrots to an oiled hot skillet and cooked that until the onions were translucent. I sliced up cabbage and added it to the onions and carrots.  Here is the kicker! I added the juice from the pot the beef was in and poured it over the cabbage.  I let that cook down until the cabbage was tender but still had a crunch.

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This was so delicious. I think my favorite recipe. Very flavorful beef. My mom even loved it and she actually is not a beef lover.  My dad was not a huge fan, only because corned beef has the red on the inside.  He kept asking if it was actually cooked.  I informed him that canned corned beef is also red on the inside.  My brother LOVED the cabbage, and he never compliments anything so I know that was a hit!

Happy St. Patty’s Day!