Back from my Staycation

That’s right, I’m back.  Back from a week visit from my MIL and her sister.  Notice anything about them?
That’s right…they are TWINS!  Ryan’s mom is the one on the right with the short hair.

Before I get in to the start of our staycation (ok, vacation for some, staycation for others) I wanted to say a few more things about our move to Japan since some of you had questions.  We are excited, but of course nervous.  At this time all moves there are on hold, so we don’t know for sure what is going on, but we are scheduled to go there July/August time.  The base has a voluntary evacuation now for military dependents.  We will wait and see how this plays out. 

Gina mentioned volunteering, and I hope I get to be part of these efforts to help out and rebuild in Japan.  I know Ryan would love to be able to help in such a meaningful way too.  Both Gina and Jessie asked if I will continue teaching.  The answer is yes.  I am lucky to have portable jobs.  My seminars with Kaplan are held live on the internet, so I will be teaching early morning hours instead of like midnight which I do now.  I also teach with the University of Maryland University College in the Asia division.  How cool is that?!?!?  I have been teaching in the Europe division too, and I may be able to continue with them also.  I hope that when I am in Japan I will get the chance to teach my online NUTR100 course in the classroom too.

Most importantly, once things settle down there and we settle in to our new lives there, I look forward to blogging about the food and culture and life living as an American in Japan.  Feel free to ask questions, and I will answer whatever I can.

Back to the staycation…
Olives and cheese are the perfect way to start off any island vacation.  We took them to one of our favorite restaurants because the location is perfect.  It looks back over the city of Angra.  At night it is just as beautiful because of all the lights.

They both ordered the boca negra.  I am a master when it comes to eating this fish.  Not that I would say that is the best thing to brag about, but it is tough work, and the servers are usually impressed that I order this and I am not bothered at all by the presentation.  I love the fish so I don’t mind working for it.  Plus, I have learned to embrace the way the island locals eat seafood, at least most of it.  I helped Ryan’s mom and Aunt debone the fish…and I guess you could say behead it as well!  For a vegetarian with years of not even eating fish, I have certainly developed a sense of humor with this.
Ryan ordered a fish that normally comes as a steak cut, but I guess in the winter the fish is smaller and it was served whole also.
I ordered squid.  Like I said, I have embraced island dining.  I couldn’t convince anyone to give these a try.  Oh well, I will wait for June when my sister plans to come for a visit.
As we finished the mean, stuffed as could be, we watched the table next to us break into song.  They were singing Happy Birthday in Portuguese.  Out came a beautiful cake.  If you are wondering why I love the island, this is why.
They had so much cake and were in such a joyous mood that they cut 4 generous slices of cake and brought them to our table.  I can’t remember the last time I saw anything like that in the US.  Maybe one piece in the US to be nice, but to bring 4 pieces over and then give some to the staff too, that is something you rarely see in the world anymore between strangers.  The cake was good too so we couldn’t resist eating it all.

The next day we hit some stores in Angra.
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I couldn’t resist stopping in to one of my favorite “health” food stores.  I love all the vegetarian things I can find here.
We walked around Angra.  the weather was perfect.
This is one of my favorite spots in the whole world.  I think I just really love the color of the pain on that church.
Can you believe how calm the Atlantic Ocean is right here?
Then we stopped in to another favorite for dinner.  This was a chance for our visitors to try more local foods.
Ryan’s mom had shrimp, but they wound up being more trouble than they were worth.  We couldn’t get them out of their skins.  I have never seen shrimp put up a fight like this before.
Ryan’s Aunt had a shrimp and pasta dish.
I ordered the boca negra.
Ryan had a steak that came with little clams on top.
On the way home from dinner we passed by another nicely painted church.  This is actually the big one in Angra.
After a night of rest, we headed out again Saturday morning.  The weather was awesome.  As we were heading up a hill in Praia to the statue, we noticed this little guy on the side of the road.  How funny is that?  I know it belongs to someone, and I assume he is used to pull a cart.  That is very common around here.  Horses and donkeys are still used for transportation, especially among the elderly farmers.
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There was a horse out there too.
We tried to visit a farm but they were closed for renovations, so we headed to Angra again.  Along the way we spotted a little trail down to the ocean.  Ryan’s mom and Aunt are very artistic and make jewelry, and his mom has made some with sea glass.  We went down here to search for some, but sadly we did not find any.
Lunch was quick and easy.  We went to Kono Pizza.  If you have never seen this on my blog before, it is the closest thing to franchise fast food on the island.  Keep in mind, food still takes some time to prepare, but the idea is similar, as in, convenience and not a full sit down meal, which is the norm here.
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Here they are enjoying their pizza in a cone.
Although regular pizza in a cone is good, I get one with cream cheese, smoked salmon, lettuce and tomato.  It’s the closest thing to a bagel with lox I can find around here.
After we left we passed by our favorite bakery, so we HAD to stop in for some little sweet treats.
After lunch, we headed over to Algar do Carvao, which is a magnificent piece of nature and the only one like it in the world that people can go in.  It is a hollow volcano.  This is not how volcanoes usually cool.  When this erupted the lava was expelled through the chimney (hole) and then the rest cooled all the way back to the bottom, where normally it remains inside the cone.  In the late 1800’s the first person climbed inside.  years later a way in for visitors was built.  This is an amazing experience, so I was glad we could take them inside.  This was on opening day (closed in winter).
As we were leaving we spotted these goats…sans owner/farmer/herder.
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After a long and busy day, we opted for dinner in.  I didn’t have to do any cooking at all.  I didn’t even have to do the dishes, which was awesome.  I just did some work and waited for dinner to be ready.
Welcome to From Scratch Weekends revisited.
Ryan and I made those pierogies from scratch a while back.  There were still tons in the freezer, not cooked.  We thought that would make an awesome dinner.
We set up the table and lit the candles.
They were delicious.  I was glad to know the raw pierogies froze so well AND cooked so well after freezing.
QUESTIONS:  Have you ever had people share their celebration cake with you while at a restaurant?  What is your favorite spot in the world?  What are your thoughts on “working” for your food?


That's right...we are moving to Japan.

Yes, things there are obviously crazier than we expected when we found out months ago.

I don't want to give too many details, but yes, we are headed to an area affected by the earthquake and the resulting issues.  We have not heard of any changes to our plans (which is a good thing).  We remain excited with our new adventure and look forward to our time there.

That means Congratulations are in order for Madeline, who correctly guessed Japan.  I don't have your contact information so make sure to email me.

Everyone else had great guesses and those were mostly places I would want to live.  Italy and Spain would be amazing, but Japan is another place we really wanted to see.  We are happy to be staying overseas.

I still have family in town which is keeping me busy.  I plan to get back to blogging and share with you their visit in a few days.  Don't forget about me!

Dinner with Friends

Have you ever had an "it's a small world" moment?  It can't get any smaller than being on a 18x12 mile Portuguese island in the middle of the Atlantic and finding out that a college friend of your cousins wife is moving to your tiny island too.  Actually, even weirder, before that the new doctor that got here is from my home town, and my mom knows his parents too (possibly lived in the same neighborhood when we were kids).  So that was weirdness number 1.  But then I found out my cousins wife's friends (did you follow that?) was moving to the island as her husband was being stationed here too.

She got here just as I headed back to the States, but as soon as I returned I made sure to show her around the island.  She is great and I am glad to have a new friend here.  We decided last weekend to all go out to dinner together.  Ryan and I thought Rocha was a good choice and we headed down to Porto Judeu for dinner.

We laughed when we got there because Alexandra's husband quickly realized everyone he works with was dining there too.  That's how you know it's a good restaurant.  It is busy, but also busy with Americans.  Then another one of his employees came in too.  It really is a good place and popular with Americans.

We started off with bread, cheese and these bread things, which seem to have onion and cheese with them.
Ryan ordered the steak, which he had before and it was the best ever.  Around here it is hit or miss, and this was miss.  No big deal.  That just means next time it will be a hit!
Alexandra and her husband tried the alcatra.  Ever heard of alcatra?  If you have been to the Azores, chances are you have.  This is a typical, traditional Azorean dish.  It is similar to a pot roast, cooked in it's own fat, in a clay pot.  If I had to pick one dish to represent the island, this would be it.  I have had the fish kind before, but most traditionally it is meat.
They ordered some potatoes to go with it because otherwise it is a lot of meat.
I ordered grouper.  Here it is known as cherne.  You can see it is served very traditionally.
For dessert we split a chocolate mousse.  It is hard to pass up homemade mousse.
It was a nice end to a nice dinner with (new) friends.

QUESTIONS:  Have you been to dinner with new friends recently?  How about just dinner with friends?  Do you often go out with other couples?

Don't forget to get your votes in for my giveaway.  Ryan and I are moving this summer.  Guess where we are going.  If you have not guessed already, list 3 states or countries below and if you guess correctly you will be entered to win a package of goodies from both the Azores and the future location.  Ends tonight 11:59 pm EST.

Food Carts in Praia and Steak on a Rock

Thursday Thoughts are on hold this week because we have visitors! So I am busy pretending I am on vacation.

Food trucks may be a big thing in the US now, but it seems even a tiny island in the Atlantic could have known this trend even before it was trendy.

The small beach town of Praia da Vitoria is home to a row of food trucks serving a variety of foods.  Too bad they are not as nice looking as some of those in the States.
Also, too bad they were not open at 6:30 when we were heading to dinner and I wanted to take pictures.  I think they tend to be open more on weekends and then nights during the summer months.  This one here sells cachorros, which scared me at first because that is the word for puppy.  I wondered why they served puppy and then discovered this means hot dog.  Makes sense, right?  Sometimes when I have the Food Network on I have the volume down but the subtitles are on (Portuguese since local TV) and I see cachorro and I gasp before remembering this is a hot dog.
Ryan has actually eaten here before.  It is by no means what you would consider a taco in the US, but this is their own version.
Hamburgers are popular too.
You can see there are few options, but these appear to be well liked and popular, especially when it is nice out.
Then we headed to dinner.  It was St. Patty's Day, and we spent all day on base, which meant we probably did not want to go back for their festivities.  I think this is always the case, so we never even consider those activities.

So we opted for dinner in Praia instead.
I was so glad I tried the seafood chowder.  Hard to believe, but this is their version.  It was really good.
Ryan had the steak on the rock, which is a meal from heaven if you are a steak lover (or just a guy...they rave about this).  It continues to cook even after they bring it to the table.  It is a popular way to serve steak around here, but I think it is done the best at this restaurant.
It came with a side salad and fries.
I had the half serving (seriously, this was a half serving) of the sauteed squid and shrimp.  It was awesome!
Then we had one of those moments where someone walks by with something that looks good and you just have to have one.  That happened with this ice cream.  It was 3 flavors, and the one on the bottom was unidentifiable, so Ryan asked me to try. 
 I had to laugh, because as soon as I tried it, I spit it out. It was mint. I am allergic to mint. He swears it was not mint, but unless there is something that tastes to me like mint and I am also allergic too, it was mint. I asked the server and she said caramel and I stared at her, then she quickly said, "but tastes like mente". I agreed. She said the label says caramelo, but the staff agrees it is not, and tastes like mint. I think some mint got in another flavor and that is why everyone was confused, except me because mint is mint not matter what when I am having an alergic reaction.

Good thing I had my own dessert to eat.  It is called a pudim, which I think of pudding, but it is more like a mousse.  Either way, it tastes like raw cookie dough.  I love this dessert.
Nearing your last chance to enter my guessing game giveaway.  I will even make it easy on you.  If you have not made your 3 guesses yet, you can do so by commenting here.  It could be anywhere in the world that the US has military bases.  Just the state or country name will do.  Ends Friday night.
Guest Bloggers Wanted: For posts in the month of May.  You have time.  They can be short too.  I will be traveling most of the month and don't want to leave my blog in limbo during that time.  Thanks!

Other news: I was on the radio this morning (local AFN) to talk about National Nutrition Month.  I always love doing radio, and really any form of media.  Hopefully I drummed up some interest in the cooking class I am doing next week.
QUESTIONS: Do you have food trucks near you?  Have you ever been served food that keeps cooking once served to you?  Ever had a food that was unidentifiable and you spent time "guessing" what it was.