Archive for the 'Eating' category

Focus on Nauseating Holiday Craft, Ignore Holiday Craft Disasters…


The theme for last Christmas was hand crafting with love. Some things worked out fantastically, and others…well…lets just say they were made with lots of love but not so much craft!

Let’s go back to the beginning; namely, our first decision as Krafty Kris Kringles. We had to choose a gift for Mom & Dad and Ian & Deborah that we could actually make from scratch. After some perusing of the Interwebs, we settled upon shrubs, also known as drinking vinegars. Of course, as often happens in life, one decision begets even more decisions, and in this case, those decisions had to do with figuring out what flavor combinations to pursue. We ultimately settled on three:

  • Blood Orange & Basil with Champagne Vinegar
  • Raspberry with Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Kiwi, Lemon & Rosemary with champagne Vinegar


We used fresh fruit for the first and third, while the middle beverage was created with frozen Oregon berries.

There are two general methods for shrub making: cold and hot. We chose the former, which involves macerating the fruit with sugar for a few days in the fridge, straining it, and then mixing the resulting liquid with the right amount of vinegar. Then you return them to the icebox (or not) to meld for a bit. (The hot method involves cooking the fruits to make a syrup. Surprisingly, the cold method is supposed to yield stronger fruit flavors.)

In reality, for us, that was the easy part. The difficult part had to do with bottling, which completely took over our kitchen — from the boiling of bottles, to the drying of bottles in our dishwasher, to star san-ing the bottles so no one would die after sampling our wares. The two biggest items we had that I hadn’t considered before we began: a) We had a giant stock/canning pot, uber handy; and b) We had a dishwasher, which was maybe the most important thing for staging the bottles upside down at various points of the process. Most handy tip we read.


After bottling, we ginned up these cute (if we may say so) little booklets for each flavor that included information on the concoction and a recipe/cocktail suggestion. With marketing collateral complete, we packed the shrubs with paired beverages (like Prosecco, sparkling water, and some mixologist elixirs) in a wine box and put them under the tree.

What was our favorite? I would have to say the blood orange poured into a little agua con gas. Tres refreshing!

Lessons Learned:


  1. We were doing this in winter, so citrus was in season, which isn’t typical for shrub making, but we were very happy with the results.
  2. If you are going to infuse with an herb, take it out after the first day, or maybe submerge it in the fruit mixture with a cheesecloth so it doesn’t get icky.
  3. Straining the raspberries took a lot of work, and a lot of cheesecloth.
  4. We started with the basic recipe proportions of 1 part sugar to 1 part fruit to 1 part vinegar. However, when it came time to add the vinegar, we adjusted the amount based on the strength of the flavors in the fruit base.
  5. Everyone had their own preference for how much shrub they liked when creating a drink. The citrus flavors were definitely more delicate and I used a higher concentration of those when mixing them.

Tea, Timers, Starfish & Coffee

Sometimes, the old fashioned way just feels better.

Tom and I have developed a bit of a tea habit. We like white teas, and green teas, and black teas, and ginger teas. (Although I am lazy about loose leaf. I tend to buy high quality bagged tea, such as Mighty Leaf and Tea Forte.)

We like tea pots too. The small Japanese tea pot. The smaller Chinese tea pot. The big dragon-themed tea pot that I inherited from my Grandmother (which has the faces in the cups, I posted about earlier).

What we don’t like is boiling our water, steeping our tea…and then forgetting about it. For some reason, we just don’t use our watch timers, or our electronic kitchen timer that sits right by the stove.

I’m not sure why, but digital just doesn’t seem to jibe with the process of making and sipping and appreciating tea.

So there we were, middle-aged farts with the short-term memory of fruit flies (we like to blame this on the children) who were letting their tea over steep…sometimes for half an hour!

What to do?

Tom found the perfect solution in my Christmas present last year: an old-fashioned, totally retro, bright yellow mechanical timer. We all love it, and somehow, it seems to fit perfectly with the ceremony that is tea drinking.

As an added bonus, the sound of the timer reminds us all of the bell that rings at the beginning of Starfish and Coffee, by Prince.

Perfect, since it’s one of our favorite family songs!

Gentlemen, Pick Your Cereal!

One of the Offermann/Reeves favorite vacation rituals is to go on a carb and sugar binge upon the occasion of our first trip to the grocery store in a new town. On this inaugural shopping expedition, we each get to choose our own “special” cereal. This was the case a few days ago, when the family found itself standing in front of a huge American wall o’cereal in Sandpoint, ID.

The amazing variety of choices not usually open to the Zs completely paralyzed them. They totally panicked.

Zoe and Zelda couldn’t decide whether or not to try something new and risk hating it, or to go with something they had eaten before and enjoyed. In the end, they chose to strike out in a bold, new direction, which I admired. Zoe got Captain Crunch, and Zelda, the Cookie Crisp.

The results? Disastrous.

Zelda found the artificial cookie flavor of her choice to be awful and Zoe hated the way the Captain Crunch made her milk taste. (By the way, I can attest that Captain Crunch still chews up the roof of your mouth the same way it did when you were a kid!) They quickly abandoned their selections and were soon begging for some of our Corn Pops and Honey Smacks!

Mmm Hmmm, who knows how to pick some cereal?

The Great Oregon Cookie Map

We seem to be averaging an edible family homework project each grade. (Last year, it was the Broadway Bridge that we made out of licorice.)

As if we didn’t have enough to do this winter, Zelda’s elementary school teacher piled on with an assignment to create an edible map of Oregon. (Click to enlarge photos.) We needed to represent and label all bordering states, major rivers, major mountains and mountain ranges, cities, regions, Crater Lake, and the Pacific Ocean. And, with the exception of the labels, everything needed to be consumable.

Zelda and I put our heads together and decided to build from sugar cookie and glaze.

First task was a shopping trip for the wee-est blonde daughter and myself. Armed with her list of topographical necessities, Zelda and I trolled the candy aisles muttering about mountains and cities, drawing our fair share of strange looks. We decided on Hershey’s Hugs for major mountains, Kisses for major mountain chains, and chocolate chips for smaller mountain chains. For cities, we opted to use Dots to anchor the toothpick flags. Cut up giant Tootsie Roll planks anchored labels for mountain chains. And, of course, we bought all manner of wretched artificially colored frosting…and food coloring…and sugar sprinkles…and cake decorations.

Day 1: Zelda selected five sheets of cardstock and we came up with a color coding system for labels. She then cut out zillions of little triangles, labeled them, and glued them to color coded toothpicks. (Picture 1 below.) This was followed by the creation of a paper stencil of the state and its four regions.

Day 2: We baked the giant butter cookie. (Picture 2 below.)

Day 3: This sucker came together fast, and we needed all hands on deck to get everything situated before the glaze set. We began by placing the stencil on the cookie and frosting Oregon, which was followed by a quick sugaring of each region with its own unique color using our regional stencils. As I glazed the states around Oregon, Zelda and Tom madly placed labels in Dots and Tootsie Roll bases, which were located on the map along with the chocolate mountain ranges. We topped off the topography with unnatural neon blue frosted water features, and a neon blue sugared Pacific Ocean. The final step was laying down borders and drawing the compass rose. (Zelda working on a border in Picture 3 below.)

I am happy to report that our map was not only great looking with lots of extra credit features, but it tasted freaking amazing. A big family argument over who got to eat the Cascade Mountain range ensued!!

Early, Healthy Din Din — You Can Do It!


As I’ve oft discussed, one of the biggest challenges for us living in Baires with kids is trying to get them to bed on time, which, of course, requires that they eat an early dinner.

But, if you want to dine out sometime before 8:30 pm, while still consuming an edible and healthy meal that does not involve pounds of melted cheese and “Close Encounters of Third Kind” mountains of carbs…well, let’s just say that you have your work cut out for you!

In the spirit of sharing, we thought we’d let you know about two of our favorite light & early dinner options: Natural Deli and Le Blé.

The Natural Deli (there are two) that we frequent is in Las Cañitas. It is a health food store/bakery/restaurant that is open all day and well into the evening, serving interesting sandwiches, homemade breads, pastas, and fruit smoothies. Their sandwich options can be had with yummy greens on the side, and if you opt for papas, they try to make them better for the bod with oven-roasting instead of deep frying! They also carry vegetarian options and do some vegan baking as well.

Another favorite option for a late lunch/early dinner is Le Blé in Colegiales. This is a French bakery/cafe that has amazing salads at lunch and very good sandwiches available during merienda (which they serve with a generous side of fresh greens). I wish we could get the salads during tea time, but we can’t, so instead, we go for the delish sandwiches and turn them into a 5:00/6:00 pm dinner. The portions are HUGE, so feel free to split between kids, or adults that aren’t ravenous.

My favorite tea at Le Blé is a red blend called Pu-er Fresh. Also, at lunch, their breaded chicken strips are tender and delicious as well.


A note about service — it seems the healthier the food, the more crunchy the service (in other words, the waitstaff can be more laid back than your typical Argentine cafe)! In both of these restaurants, but particularly at Le Blé, we have had to almost throw a body block to get a server’s attention. What we Americans will do to get some salad greens at 5:00 pm!

Cooking ‘Merican Style


When we have a yen for something American in Buenos Aires, here are some of our standbys:

American Breakfast. First, go to a butcher or a deli and ask for panceta, it will cook up reasonably close to what we would consider to be bacon. Next, a trip to the Jumbo is in order so that you can spend an absolute fortune on some real maple syrup. (When Tom purchased it there, the check out clerk scanned it, looked at the price and then studied the bottle closely, trying to figure out why the stupid gringo was willing to pay a zillion dollars for the small bottle of mysterious liquid!) Stop at the frutería and buy some tropical fruit, pictured here we have mango and pineapple! Lastly, cook up some eggs and french toast/pancakes and stuff yourself silly.

Pork Chops and Apple Sauce. You can get Granny Smith Apples throughout the year here. Buy a bunch, peel and core them, and then pop ’em in a big pot. Since the manzanas are often pretty bland, be willing to throw in some lemon juice, a smidge of sugar, and some cinnamon to liven them up a bit. Pork chops are almost always available at the Avicar chain of butcher shops.


Chicken Pot Pie and Beef Stew. Comfort food, baby. Pretty much anything you need to make these dishes is available at the grocery store. The weather is getting a tad warm for beef stew, but when it cools off again, keep it in your back pocket. Add some frozen peas for a little green! Also, the cut you want for the stew meat is from the aguja roast. In terms of the pot pie, we’ve found that even without any measuring cups, the biscuit dough is pretty forgiving. Just go for it! (Read a previous post on chicken pot pie.)

Chinese Dumplings. Okay, not exactly American, but we like to make big batches of these from scratch and put a bunch in the freezer for later when we’re craving a little ethnic food for lunch. (These are so amazing when you make them yourself.) You can buy the wrappers, Napa cabbage, and items for the dipping sauce in Barrio Chino. The hurdle here can be finding ground pork. We’ve discovered that many butchers only have one grinder in house, which they generally reserve for carne exclusively. To make your own chicken or pork picada, we recommend buying a small food processor, or an immersion blender with the food processor attachment. (I wrote about how important the blender and attachments have been in our lives here. If you are going to be living in Argentina for a while, buy one!) Pictured above are some pot stickers ready for freezing!


Chocolate Cream Pie. One of the beautiful features of this yummy dessert is that all of the ingredients are easy to find; in fact, you could probably find them all at a maxikiosco or a chino. The crust for this classic North American confection is literally just mashed Oreos and melted butter. (We put the Oreos in a Ziploc and let the kids beat the crap out of them until they are crumbs.) After that, you only need make a simple chocolate custard. Lastly, whip up a few cups of the delicious heavy cream available in Baires. The total ingredient list is butter, cornstarch, eggs, milk/cream, sugar, chocolate, vanilla, Oreos and a pinch of salt. Also, we were able to find a glass tart (pie) pan at the Coto grocery store.


Chocolate Cookies. Do you notice a theme here? Dulce de leche reins supreme in Argentina, and it’s good, don’t get me wrong. But, sometimes, we crave rich chocolate, which is harder to find. Aside from the aforementioned incredibly rich chocloate cream pie, we like making these uber chocolate cookies when the mood strikes. (We bought our cocoa powder at the spice and condiment store, El Viejo Molino on Soldado de la Independencia 1193.) You can also get parchment paper at the Coto (you can tell we spend a lot of time there)! The biggest challenge with these gems is not eating them all in one day. (Does it count against you if you just eat cookies and milk but nothing else for a 24 hour period?)

Falls, What Falls? Let’s Talk Buffet!


If you asked Zelda what her favorite thing about traveling to Iguazú Falls was, you might be surprised by her answer.

Was it the boat trip into the falls? NO.

Was it the jeep ride through the jungle? NO.

Was it the vista from our hotel balcony overlooking the falls themselves? NO.

I am willing to bet that the most-liked feature of our trip for the smallest member of the Offermann/Reeves clan was the buffet at the Sheraton. The evening repast featured a cornucopia of eating option, spread across multiple stations in two separate rooms. She was in heaven, and announced to one and all, “this is my first buffet.” (I think the 4-tiered chocolate fondue fountain really put it over the top for her.)

We realized that although she had previously been to a few all-you-can-eat fests, she was too young to remember them. So this dining experience, complete with live harpist shilling his CDs, was one to remember.

That’s not to say she didn’t really enjoy everything else! The rushing waters were a blast to motor through. (Because of the high water levels, only the tour with the big boats was running.) Zelda also explored the labyrinth of trails with enthusiasm. And, she managed to avoid being attacked by a coati scavenging for food. (A coati is a member of the raccoon family and are also known as Brazilian aardvarks, hog-nosed coons and snookum bears. They roam around taking food from tourists, but there are warnings everywhere that they can attack for vittles.)

Unfortunately, due to the pretty extreme weather, not a lot of toucans and monkeys were hanging about, but we were happy to exchange the fauna for such a spectacularly dramatic falls experience!



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.)

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.