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Leaving on a Jet Plane

22 Jun

It has been 17 days since my last blog post – WOW!

I’m dropping by to tell you, dear readers, that the next time you read a new post by me, I will be debuting my brand spankin’ new website! A huge thank you to Melissa from Jelly Design Studio for helping me put the vision in my head on paper…er, blog.

I decided that I am just going to start fresh with a brand new design, site, and content. Yep, a blank slate. I will tell you when my new website is available, but after it comes up, I will no longer be blogging at this page. It has been a fabulous year with Magia e Pasta and blogging consistently has helped me develop and discover what I am truly interested in writing about.

For now, I am getting ready to head to the airport in just a few hours! I am off on a glorious two week vacation – one week catching up with family and friends in Seattle and the next in Hood River, Oregon for Stefano’s brother’s wedding. I absolutely cannot wait to be back in the Pacific Northwest.

Thanks for sticking with me, I promise it will be worth it!

Sending big hugs to all of you and happy summer!!!

Does anyone else absolutely love this song? John Denver’s the best.

Boston Bound

25 May

Stefano and I are Boston-bound for the long weekend! Wishing everybody a wonderful Memorial Day weekend and I’ll check in with you next week!

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Passport DC

7 May

Hey all! Sorry for falling off the radar the past couple of days – I have been so busy living life that I haven’t had time to document it! I think that’s the best way to do it. I did get up to some pretty great things this weekend, the highlight being Passport DC’s Embassy Tours. The embassies of over 40 countries opened their doors to the general public and I spent most of Saturday going on my very own world tour without even leaving the city! It was very cultural, very informative, very D.C. 

My roommate and I started out pretty early in the morning and spent almost the full six hours (it was from 10 AM – 4 PM) touring various embassies around the city. By the end of the day we were totally wiped! We came home with quite a haul, though – a straw fan from Nicaragua, a guide book from Kazakhstan, an apron and some wooden spoons from Mexico, and Nando’s Peri Peri sauce from South Africa! Having no idea that we were going to be given free stuff, we ended up lugging a lot of stuff around from embassy to embassy which made us look pretty put together, I’m sure.

Some highlights from the embassy tours:

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The beautiful Embassy of Mexico – each state was represented in tile mosaic along the ceiling.

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A carnival costume from Trinidad & Tobago – this thing was MASSIVE!

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The most charismatic woman I’ve ever met! Her name is Tebelelo Seretse and she is the ambassador to the US from Botswana. After a wonderful speech about what makes her country a great place to live (and visit), I went to thank her and shake her hand. In reply she said, “I do huggies” and gave me a massive hug. She just exuded joy and listening to her talk put the biggest smile on my face.

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Traditional Botswanan food – I tried a mopane worm (top right)! Apparently it’s hugely nutritious (full of protein) and a delicious among African bushmen. It was sort of chewy and crunchy, but I’ve tried worse 😉

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I was reunited with my beloved guava juice when we reached the Embassy of South Africa. If there is anywhere to buy fresh guavas in the United States, please let me know! I always eat a kilo of them as soon as I go back to Egypt.

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Stopped by the Embassy of Ghana to say hi – Stefano spent a summer there and really enjoyed the people and culture.

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Taking a much needed trip to visit my people. I’m a dual-citizen, but this was my first time in the Egyptian embassy!

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One of my food purchases was roz bil laban, Egyptian rice pudding. It tasted almost exactly like what my grandma makes. I will have to find a way to replicate it and post the recipe on the blog! This milk-based, creamy dessert is best when topped with cinnamon, raisins, and a healthy sprinkle of shredded coconut.

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Egypt being very stereotypically Egyptian. One of the activities was teaching kids how to write their names in hieroglyphics.

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An absolutely MONSTROUS woven rug that was hanging on the wall in the embassy – it must have been at least 25 feet tall! It shows all of the major cities in Egypt – I’m from Alexandria, the city at the very tippy top that’s right along the Mediterranean Sea.

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This was a painted rickshaw on display at the Embassy of Pakistan. I know the history between Pakistan and India, but it’s amazing how much of an Indian feel goes along with Pakistani music and food. I loved all the bright colors and the message on this display 🙂

There were several other embassies, but we only made it to about half before we ran out of time! Next May, I want to make sure and visit all the countries we missed this time around. I’m really looking forward to next weekend when the EU Open House occurs and all the European embassies are open to visit. I’ve been to the French embassy before, but I’d love to visit Italy’s!

The Passport DC event was really one of those times where I gave thanks for the city I live in. Free cultural events happen all the time and for a jet-setter like me who is not doing any traveling anytime soon (this will be my first summer since high school that I won’t be traveling abroad), it is nice to ease my wanderlust a bit by having these activities available. Thank you, DC!

Food For Thought: Have you ever been to any of these countries? What’s the strangest food you’ve ever tried?

Roman Lentil Soup [Recipe]

5 Feb

Around this time last year, most of Europe went into a deep freeze. I was living in Rome, Italy at the time and the whole city freaked out about the sudden drop in temperature. While cities across the continent were covered in thick layers of ice (even Mallorca saw snow!), Rome was busy throwing a fit over its two inches of snow.

romesnowSchools and government offices were shut down and the mayor declared the city in a state of emergency. The buses were unable to navigate the slippery cobblestones, so Mayor Alemanno tried to alleviate the road problem with salt. Table salt.

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Needless to say, the salt didn’t do a very good job and most of the city was unnavigable by car or bus for a few days. That same week, my friend Grace came to visit me from Geneva. Sure, the weather was cold in Rome, but it was nothing like the city she left behind.

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Yes, that is an actual picture taken this time last year in Geneva. If you follow the source link, you can see some pretty amazing photos of different cities turned frozen tundras across the continent.

Still, it was cold by my standards, so I decided to make her my staple winter meal in Rome: lentil soup. Lentils are dirt cheap here in America, but they’re practically free in Italy. I used to make this soup in huge batches, where it would take up my whole mini-fridge in my studio apartment, but last me all week.

romesoupA side of bruschetta never hurt anyone, either.

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Lentil Soup

Makes 4 generous servings
  • 8 oz. dried lentils
  • 32 oz. vegetable broth
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 2 tblsp. olive oil
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 4  Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
  • 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1 14 oz. can tomato sauce
  • water (use 1 empty tomato can)
  • 1 tsp. pepper (Feel free to play around with spices, as well! What I love about soup is you can add whatever you want to the pot)
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Add garlic and chopped onion to olive oil and sautee in large pot until onions are transluscent.
  2. Add broth and turn heat up until broth begins to boil lightly.
  3. Add onions, carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, and tomato sauce and return to simmer.
  4. Stir in pepper and bay leaf.
  5. Cover and cook for one hour, stirring occasionally (Note: If the soup beginning to look like it’s losing too much liquid and begins to stick to the bottom, add the can of water. I prefer my soups to be thicker and more stew-like, so add more water as needed).
  6. Once the potatoes and lentils are tender, turn off heat.

IMG_1987[1]Now comes my favorite part: the immersion blender. If you don’t have one, you could blend this in a blender or with a hand mixer or even just leave it, as is. However, I think it’s the blending of all the different vegetables and lentils that gives this soup a creamy, rich texture.

Immersion blenders are just such a handy tool to have in general. They’re great for smoothies, soups, frostings, this list goes on. They run anywhere from $20 to $50, but pay for themselves in the long run.

Anyway, take your immersion blender (or other mixing device) and blend away! I don’t like to blend it too much, because I like having bites of potato and carrots in my bowl, but it’s all a matter of preference.

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Looks like sludge, tastes like heaven.

This soup is pretty hearty and when I say four generous servings, I mean really generous. Just for grins and giggles, I put all the ingredients into My Fitness Pal to get the nutrition facts and boy, are they easy on the eye. Each serving contains:

  • 257 calories
  • .4 g fat
  • 18.4 g fiber
  • 14.5 g protein
  • 200% of daily Vitamin A
  • 112% of daily Vitamin C
  • 34% of daily Iron

I used low sodium vegetable broth from Trader Joe’s and didn’t salt the soup. My intention was to add salt in my own bowl, but didn’t need to after giving it a taste – it was plenty flavorful enough!

This soup is perfect for the winter and keeps in the fridge just wonderfully. I would argue that it tastes even better the next day and the day after that! Make a big batch and keep it for those days when you want a dinner that will warm your stomach and your soul.

IMG_1989[1]If you want to have ice cream afterwards, I won’t judge. It’s exactly what we did.

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Adventure in Old Town

15 Jan

For our anniversary, Stef and I wanted to go somewhere we hadn’t visited before. We were originally thinking about going to Mount Vernon and picnicking, but the weather really wasn’t so great for that. Instead, we decided to head over to Old Town Alexandria to do some walking around.

IMG_1845[1]Old Town Alexandria is the eastern/southeastern area of Alexandria on the Potomac river and is one of the last remaining “colonial-style” towns in America and there’s so much history to it! Not only did Robert E. Lee grow up there, there is also a church that used to be attended by him, as well as George Washington (not at the same time, obviously)!

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The market square in town is one of the oldest continuously operating markets in the U.S. – it has been in use since 1753. It used to serve as one of the largest slave markets in America, but now it’s home to the Saturday farmer’s market in town.

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The town itself is very quaint and has a very colonial feel. Having grown up on the West coast, this was all very new and exciting to me and makes me want to travel to Boston even more than I already did! Near the end of King Street (the main drag), there was a busker who was playing Bach with water glasses! It was incredible – he managed to get such rich tones from the glasses.

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Behind him was the stop for the Old Town Trolley – a free bus that goes up towards the King St. metro stop and then back down to the waterfront. We ended up walking all over town, but it was nice that complimentary transportation was available for people who needed it.

IMG_1850[1]We arrived in town around 1:30 and hadn’t eaten lunch yet. Since he knows I turn into a majorly cranky girl when I’m hungry, Stef suggested that we grab some lunch before we started exploring in earnest. The restaurants in Old Town can be on the pricey side so, because we already had fancy dinner plans for the evening, we decided on a pretty simple lunch at a sports tavern called Bugsy’s. The restaurant is owned and operated by former NHL player Bryan Watson and his wife Lindy and the space is definitely set up for prime sports viewing.

I ordered the roasted veggie sandwich on focaccia bread and it came with roasted peppers, onions, mushrooms, Provolone cheese with tarragon mayonnaise. I asked them to hold the mayo because, for whatever reason, I can’t stand the taste/sight/smell of it.

IMG_1849[1]It came with a side of sliced Kalamata olives, which I wasn’t expecting, but I put them inside my sandwich and they added a nice, salty kick to it.

After lunch, we spent the afternoon walking all the way up King Street and then back down to our car. The street is so cute and I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful homes and storefronts.

IMG_1851[1]I was tempted to go into the candy store, but I refrained. I couldn’t stop myself from walking into the used bookstore, however. I ended up picking up Ask Me Why I Hurt, Ciao America, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and a James Patterson novel – all for $20! I don’t think I have ever left a used bookstore empty handed.

We had a great time walking through town, window shopping (mostly), and enjoying the change of scenery. We didn’t do any of the historical tours, though my inner Civil War buff is dying to see Robert E. Lee’s house, so we’ve saved that for another trip. Apparently, the town has a big parade and celebration in honor of George Washington’s birthday next month, so hopefully we can make it out there for the festivities.

Though we drove to Alexandria (it was a probably a 20-minute drive from DC), the town is Metro accessible, which makes it even more convenient for a fun day trip. It’s amazing how different the vibe is from DC, even though it is only a few miles away.

One of the things Stef and I are hoping to do during our time in DC is take advantage of its proximity to other cities and explore. Washington State (and the whole West coast, really) is so spread out that it is difficult to travel to other cities with ease. Because the East coast is so much more compact, I hope that means that some trips to Philadelphia, New York, and other places are on the horizon.

Speaking of Washington State, I woke up to some very Seattle weather this morning – lots of grey and mist. The weather hasn’t become too cold yet, though I’ve got my new jacket to keep me warm!

Stay dry and have a happy Tuesday, everybody.

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