Archive for September, 2009

Race for the Taste Buds Trifecta


Concluding our three-part picantefest was a delicious and creamy bowl of chicken tikka masala, pictured here, served over basmati rice.

In terms of flavorings, such as ground coriander and cardamom, we visited El Viejo Molino — a spice, dried fruit, and international condiment store located on Soldado de la Independencia 1193. For the premixed garam masala blend and the chile peppers, we did have to go to Barrio Chino. The rest was readily available in our neighborhood: chicken breasts, whole milk yogurt, garlic, ginger, onions, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, cream, basmati rice, and cilantro.

I must say that we rocked the chicken tikka, although we did have a challenge with the broiler. We first set it to broil and it wasn’t quite hot enough, so then we set it to broil with convection and it was smokin’…I mean that literally. It was a bit of a balancing act, especially with chicken breasts, which go from perfect to way-overcooked in about a minute. We nailed it though!

(Small victories, celebrated large — that’s what we’re all about. We’ll be high-fiving over that chicken for weeks.)

Who Turned the Lights Out?


Electrical systems are often overloaded and somewhat finicky here in Buenos Aires, as evidenced by our recent candle-lit birthday party for Zelda!

We had another such incident today. While dining at a new Panadería/Confitería, I went upstairs to use the restroom. Unfortunately, said baño was not stocked with paper towels for the drying of the manos. Luckily (or so I thought at the time), there was an air drying unit, which was unplugged. Being the enterprising person that I am, I restored its connection to mother electricity and…well, let’s just say it was a bad idea.

The bathroom light went out, the dryer didn’t work, and I had to fumble around in the pitch black with wet hands to get out of there. When I repaired back downstairs, rejoining my darling husband, he jokingly asked, “Hey, it just went dark down here. Did you make the lights go out?” I winced and said, “Yah, I think I did.” He didn’t believe me at first, unable to come up with a connection between plumbing and electricity!

Needless to say, I felt horrible for blacking out the illumination in the main dining area! I suppose they still have a few “opening day” type kinks to mitigate at La Argentina.

Chinese Hot & Sour Soup


Pictured here was the next dish we made in honor of international spicy cuisine — hot and sour soup. Yummy. As I write about it on this blustery, cold Sunday, I still feel the residual warmth that we received from this Asian comfort food.

Difficult-to-find ingredients, which we were able to locate in Barrio Chino, included: bamboo shoots, tofu (firm), chile oil, Chinese black vinegar, and sesame oil. When we were making this dish, we couldn’t find fresh shiitake mushrooms; sadly, that meant that we had to substitute white button ‘shrooms, which caused a loss of richness to the soup, I am sure.


To the right, you can see Tom drizzling beaten egg into the hot liquid, the last cooking step just before serving. (He was rather unamused about my request that he drizzle backhanded so he wouldn’t block the edibles for my picture! Anything for the blog, right?)

The recipe also called for pork chops, which we obtained from the Avicar, our favorite chain of butchers.

As a complete aside, we’ve always been quite happy with the pork chops from the Avicar. Our standby American meal here in Buenos Aires is pan seared pork chops, fresh homemade applesauce using the Granny Smith variety (at least they have a little flavor), and a real Caesar salad (that means no mayonnaise in the dressing).

Spicy Spicy Food Week


The Argentine palate is known for being somewhat bland when it comes to spices…really, their cuisine shies away from any sort of bold flavor. This has led to us experiencing unnaturally high cravings for ethnic food after being in BA nigh on a year.

(In all fairness to Baires, there are definitely good ethnic restaurants in the city, but because all of these yummy dining options don’t serve the evening repast until quite late, they are not a realistic choice for us as a family if we want the kids to stay on schedule and get enough sleep…and we do, otherwise, Tom and I might go crazy!)

As a result of our being shut out of the evening meal scene (for the most part), we have dedicated this week’s cooking to our picante pining!


Our first dish was a Thai-inspired chicken soup, which is pictured above with the accompanying condiment tray. Unusual ingredients included lemongrass, fish sauce, coconut milk, and Thai red curry paste. We could find all of the above in Barrio Chino (Chinatown), with the exception of the Thai red curry paste, which we had to produce ourselves and required us to locate another hard-to-find ingredient, hot red peppers.

(Finding peppers of any variety that are truly hot is a challenge.)


While we were proud of making our own red curry paste, we did have a lot leftover, so we ended up shmooshing it into an ice cube tray to freeze for later use! (Pictured above.) Now, Tom and I are famous for putting things in the freezer for “later use” and having to throw them out when we move, like the giant leg of lamb bone we were storing with the express intent of boiling into a rich soup stock. Unfortunately, we had to toss it when we moved out of our house in Seattle. Come to think of it, our red curry paste cubes are currently nestled in next to the herbed butter in the freezer, yet another item we have not reused. *Sigh*

This last photo is Tom prepping the chicken with his fresh ingredients all perfectly mis en place on the counter.

Waxing Rhapsodic about Vinegar

This is a heartfelt ode to vinegar!

If I had to reduce my cleaning cabinet down to one substance, it would be vinegar. It cleanses like a charm, isn’t poisonous, and has medical benefits as well!

Just in the last week, I used it to remove smeary kid fingerprints from the underside of our dining room table, which is etched glass (horrible design) and to wash some shirts to remove odors.

On the medicinal front, it cured my toe fungus!

About 3 months before I I had knee surgery last year, I somehow managed to bruise my right big toe, which led to my nail bed being susceptible to fungus, which I figured I picked up at the pool. *sigh* After a zillion hours of online research and a visit to the podiatrist, I was told that none of the home remedies would get rid of said fungus. Instead, the doctor told me that the drug Lamisil was the answer.

(Just so you know, Lamisil is evil incarnate. After 4 days, I had to stop because it gave me a funny taste in my mouth, I literally couldn’t sleep, and my joints hurt, blah blah blah. Death in a pill.)

Stopping the drug brought me back to square one, at which time I recalled the podiatrist saying, “…maybe some of the home remedies would work, but they’ll take 6 months to a year, and I don’t think people really stick with them.” Right then and there, I swore I would be the one to see it through. I filed down the surface of my entire infiltrated nail so it was very thin and then I taped a white vinegar-soaked cotton ball to my big toe for 20 minutes every morning and every night for over a year. (This digit was dubbed “cider toe.”)

While I missed the occasional day, I really rocked my schedule, for the most part. Now, this was not easy during all of the traveling we did last Dec/Jan/Feb. For instance, while we were in Nono, Argentina in the middle of nowhere at an estancia, there was nary a place to buy more vinegar when I ran out. Ian, dear brother that he is, went to the kitchen and asked for a container of vinegar to take back to my room (he’s still mad about having to do it). Anything for the cider toe!

I am happy to report that my home remedy and stubbornness worked — I stopped the cider toe regimen about 14 months after starting, and my nail looks perfect!

All Hail Vinegar.

Birthday Party, Argentina Style


Our second party this last Friday was Zelda and Sofia’s joint celebration of birth, commemorated with the Hello Kitty and Pucca cakes that are pictured here.

Zelda’s portion of Party Friday began with a race across town from the wedding reception to a panadería to pick up the crustless (and tasteless, truth be told) miga sandwiches and the masa seca (shortbread cookies with chocolate, dulce de leche and fruit fillings). In the same cab, we left the bakery and drove toward the apartment, where the Zs and I disembarked. Tom continued on from there to the party room, where he dropped off the food and ran to the nearest Chino to get ten, 2 liter bottles of various sodas.

Meanwhile, at the apartment, I was having the girls change (Zelda into her Chinese dress, and Zoe into her more casual clothes), gathering together gift bags, gifts, receipts, money to pay for the festivities, and extras in case I needed to build more gift bags while I was at the party. We had to solve the crisis of Zelda’s underwear showing through her tights as the slits on the side of the dress ran a little high…apparently they don’t make them with sitting “criss cross apple sauce” in mind!

So, with a zillion tons of crap, the Zs and I tromped downstairs and headed for the salon de fiestas in a taxi during rush hour.

The salon was divided into two major rooms — one ostensibly for adults, and one for kids, the latter being the location for the birthday emcees, who had set up with their audio/visual equipment by the time I had arrived.

You can see the kids’ area in the first photo below, when it was still neat and the children were snorfing snacks while waiting for things to get going. By the time all of the munchkins arrived, it was a booming room with a master of ceremonies, multimedia quizzes, and dancing — the birthday entertainment industry is big business here and these guys occupy the little ones for about 2 1/2 hours.

You can see how rapt some of the attendees were in the 2nd photo below. The third shot captures Zelda’s momentary pause to pop something in her mouth!

The second row of images below are some of the party shots the birthday entertainers provided from the event. Both Zelda and Sofia were delighted with these cheesy visuals!

Lest you think everything went well, we did have a few mishaps. Something blew the circuit breaker and there was no lighting for much of the party (making photography difficult). Strangely (thank God, really), there was still enough juice to power the audio/visual though. The other monkey wrench was a student still waiting for their parents thirty minutes after the scheduled end of the party, and we had no way to reach said parents. It all ended happily; however, the mother arrived after some last minute gift shopping, and picked up her daughter!

And lastly, I have to make a small mention about our gift bags. I must say, they were awesome! We went to Chinatown and bought a bunch of crap. Why is that so awesome? Because we purchased different crap than the usual party bag goodies that everyone buys from the usual stores.

Of course, I couldn’t stop myself from negotiating. I always asked the Chinese vendors for a discount since we were buying 16 items at a whack. I figured they let me get away with it because I was speaking my rather rusty Mandarin. At one point, after a small purchase, Tom asked me, “you know you were negotiating over .60 cents there honey?”

I didn’t really get his question!



A Wedding Reception Featuring a Catfish Head and Pimped Model Cars!


Our first party this last Friday was the multi-cultural wedding reception for our friends Leah and Pablo!

Pablo’s family was in attendance from Chile, some of whom we sat by during lunch. It was fun talking to his cousin, who was a young woman who studied civil engineering…you know we had to have the female, engineering, girl power moment. His uncle, Ricardo, was very patient sitting across from the two blond Zs, believing they were cute even though Zoe managed to look like a lynx tearing out the throat of a fox while she ate her carne empanadas! (We’ve really got to work on table manners. *sigh*)

Leah’s mother and one brother made it from the States. Her mother is a fabulous woman who worked her fingers to the bone to elect Obama (in North Carolina, no less) and is now concerned about health care and finance reform getting passed. We bored all of the locals in attendance with our spirited political discussion.

The restaurant where the reception was held was called Almacén Secreto, and they weren’t kidding about the secreto part. When the cab pulled up to the sparsely populated, dead-end street in the Villa Crespo neighborhood, the driver looked at his American charges with an expression that said: “Really…?”

We left the cab and nervously shuttled across the street to ring the bell that corresponded to the address (there is no sign indicating that you are in the right place). We were let in and found ourselves entering a magical environment that two artists converted from a home into a restaurant. Needless to say, it has the coolest atmosphere.

Oh yah, and Leah says dinner on TH includes free wine, so check it out! Pictured here is some of the art housed within and without the space.


Laboring on the Clay Courts


There are times when you are living in Buenos Aires that you are reminded of the fact that labor is cheap…well, at least compared to the US. We experienced one such happening today at the tennis club where the girls take lessons.

It seems that they are refurbishing the surface of the courts, one by one, and in order to do it, they have to break up the clay, which they accomplish by hand with the work of 2 or 3 men pounding away with the tools pictured above.

There is a strange sort of beauty to the pattern that emerges in the clay; the newer wounds bleed a darker red. (Click on the photo to really see the richness.)

This process takes several days, and since I’m not the one out in the baking sun beating on the ground, I find the pace appealing in a contemplative sort of way. I know in the States there is probably a machine that can accomplish this task in a mere whisper of time, but not so handsomely, and not so I appreciate the labors of those doing it.

Reserva Ecológica de Buenos Aires


Yesterday, we spent a beautiful day at the ecological reserve located between Puerto Madero and the Río de la Plata, smack dab in the middle of Buenos Aires.

When you hear the words “ecological” and “reserve” you picture a pristine wilderness preserved for its unique ecostystem. This one has a bit more of a checkered past than its name would imply as it is essentially landfill from the castoffs on a road construction project that built up over time and became a haven for wild guinea pigs and a wide variety of birds along the brown shores of the River Plate. Born from heavy construction trash…

The reserve is apparently being threatened by people who feel it is very valuable for real estate development and believe it to be a waste to leave it as it is, which leads me to my mixed feelings about Puerto Madero, as a whole. In my opinion, the redeveloped port is a well-conceived and executed port reclamation project in terms of design. However, whenever I go there, it feels like a playground built by the oligarchy, for the oligarchy. One of the only redeeming characteristics of the area for me is the reserve, which allows ordinary Porteño citizens to interact with and enjoy their river front, instead of securing it for the exclusive enjoyment of the rich and the powerful.

It was very crowded yesterday because it was a beautiful spring day, but I hear it is nearly empty during the week. People from all walks of life and all ages were enjoying the many km of paths. A note, if you are going to rent a bike, they don’t have any attachments/trailers for kids who don’t ride.

Photo by jmpznz’s photostream, under this creative commons license

Brokeback Reeves, 3 Month Update


Let’s see, I broke my vertebrae nearly three months ago on June 16th…you guessed it, that means it’s time for another update.

I am fully healed in the sense that I can bend over and pick up stuff off the floor and/or flip around in bed without the pain waking me up. (I still have twinges when I sneeze, or twist funny, but it’s all manageable.)

The big issue at present is rehab, rehab, rehab. Not being able to activate most of the muscles in my torso without pain for the first few months after I cracked the spine resulted in terrible atrophy that I’m having to try and reverse now. Yes, that means I am ridiculously sore at the moment. After doing a solid couple of weeks of light CrossFit and some casual hitting of tennis balls with the hubby, my upper body is wracked with lactic acid. I had to have Tom take off my sweatshirt today because I couldn’t lift my arms over my head!

My back injury also set my knee recuperation back a bit as well, so my legs are crazy painful too.

Essentially, I waddle around the house waving my useless flipper arms asking everyone to help me. Recovering has made me almost as useless as when the injury first occurred!

Spinal Fracture Recovery Posts: Day 1 | Day 5 | Day 14 | Month 3 |