Happy Birthday Dad: Chocolate Butter Cake, and Spinach & Ricotta Empanadas

It was my dad’s birthday a couple days after I got back from Argentina (strategically planned), and after a month without baking, I was itching to make something! I made a chocolate cake using the same recipe as Charlotte’s birthday cake from a few months back, making adjustments in the decorating. In addition to making chocolate buttercream, I also made strawberry buttercream. Here is what I did.

Ingredients
Strawberries (I used fresh, but you can use frozen), about half a cup
1/2 tsp lemon juice
A few drops of red food colouring

I boiled the strawberries on medium heat until they were very soft and looked like jam. I added the lemon juice, then strained the puree into a bowl to get rid of the seeds and big chunks of strawberry. I added this to a portion of the buttercream, and added a few drops of red food colouring, just to make the colour stand out on the cake.

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For supper I made empanadas, in addition to the roast beef and green beans my stepdad made. Empanadas are a commonly eaten snack or meal in Argentina, and I ate a lot of them while I was there. I had many different kinds, all involving meat: chicken, beef, and ham and cheese. My host mother let me copy some recipes from one of their cookbooks, so I can now make my own in Canada. I decided to make spinach and ricotta empanadas.

Ingredients for Dough
2 cups flour
salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup water
2 tbsp butter, melted

I combined the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another bowl, and then added the wet to the dry. I kneaded the dough for about 10 minutes, until it was very elastic. With a rolling pin I rolled out the dough, slathered some melted butter on top, rolled up the dough very tightly, then cut it into about 24 pieces. I rolled each piece into a disc about 3-4 inches round,

Ingredients for Filling
Oil or butter for frying
2 onions, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
2 cups spinach, packed
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated cheese (I used cheddar)
1 hard boiled egg, chopped
1 raw egg
salt and pepper to taste

In a frying pan I sauteed the onions and shallots in butter until they were clear-looking. I added the spinach and let it lightly cook so that it shrunk in size, then added the remaining ingredients.

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To assemble, I filled the dough discs with about 1 tsp filling. I brushed the edges of the disc with water and sealed them into a half-moon shape, then crimped the edges. Next time I would also brush the dough with the remaining butter. The empanadas were baked at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.

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They turned out well, and I will definitely be making more in the future. I just need to find a way to make them vegan, as I am about to embark on that journey this summer once I move to Calgary. I will definitely be vegetarian, but being vegan might be a bit more tricky (but that’s the goal!).

Adios Argentina!

Well, my time in Argentina is now coming to an end. I still have one more day of work, and then I leave for the long journey home.

My weekend was a good one, though it was sad to say good-bye to my roommate, Emilie, who left for Buenos Aires on Saturday morning. She should be in Uruguay right now, and is eventually making her way to Peru for her next placement with Projects Abroad. Friday night we had one last dinner together with my host family family. Even after only a month, this place has definitely become like a third home (after Ottawa and Lennoxville, of course).

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Saturday I met up with my friends Alicia and Anne, and we explored Parc Sarmiento downtown, and just strolled around in the nice weather. We stopped for a smoothie at one point, then went to a huge street market that happens on Saturday and Sunday evenings. where I bought a couple things. Here are some photos from our exploring.

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ImageSunday I met up with the same girls to go to La Cumbre, about 2 hours away from Cordoba. We explored the town via foot, and did a mini hike to a giant Jesus statue, and a pretty sweet view of the town and the mountains. We stopped for another smoothie, and then headed back home.

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I am pleased with the progress of my placement, especially over the past couple weeks. This week my supervisor Jean and I put the fence together and fixed it into the ground, then planted a bunch of seeds. Finally this garden is ready to be watered and cared for, and very soon there will be some vegetables! It is fall here (even though today reached 31 degrees), so we planted lettuce, beats, peas, parsley, and another kind of Argentine lettuce. It was very exciting to see the final product of the garden I have worked so hard to make. This used to be a sad-looking patch of grass.

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For the last couple days of my placement I am working at the other garden, Eva Peron, preparing it for the same plants as at La Boulevares. I am thankful that another volunteer, Evan (from Canada as well. There is something about Canadians and wanting to help the environment via gardening), who is doing some extra volunteering through helping with the garden, in addition to his sports project.

All in all, this has been a wonderful experience, and I have enjoyed every day of being here. I have learned a lot about gardening, about myself, and about the fascinating Argentine culture. I will miss the people I have met, and I do wish I could travel around this beautiful country some more, but I have another exciting chapter awaiting me in Canada! Upon my return, I am moving to Calgary for four months with my boyfriend Tom, where I will hopefully work at another bakery, and in my spare time will climb and hike as much as possible.

Ciao Argentina, it´s been a blast!

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My New Love: Tango

This has been a busy and exciting week, mainly due to the fact that my time here is coming to an end in just a week. At long last I took a tango class here in Córdoba, and I also took a yoga class, which were both instructed in Spanish. I also got the chance to take another tango class shortly after the first one, and I have fallen inlove with this passionate, sensual dance, and I would love to continue taking classes in Canada, if I can find some. This week, Emilie, myself, and a friend of ours named Anna, went to Museo de la MemoriaThis museum is about the people who were tortured and killed for rebelling against the dictatorship in the 1970s. The building it is held in was actually where many people were kept at that time. It was very shocking to see the cells people were kept in, and pictures that were taken of the people during their captivity, while standing in that exqct same room. Overall, a chilling experience, but Worth the visit.

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After the museum, we went to the tango class. Once the instructor figured out I did not speak Spanish, he brought me very close to him on the dance floor, and he payed special attention to my dancing. At first this was nerve wracking because I did not know what I was doing, but I learned a lot. Here is a picture of the river close to the dance studio.

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When I got home from the class, I had an email waiting about a social event with Projects Abroad to do a tango class, and see a milonga. A milonga is when people spontaniously dance tango, and it is very beautiful to watch. Here is a picture of the milonga, and the room that we had our class.

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I also went to an event called Espanol y Serveza, where people meet at a hostel to practice their Spanish together. I learned that I can say a lot more than I thought I could, but I still have a lot of difficulty understanding and speaking. It is always nice meeting new people, too. Yesterday I participated in a neighbourhood food collection in the neighbourhood near the PA office. The recent floods in La Plata and Buenos Aires have left a lot of people without homes, or with very dirty homes, so we collected cleaning suppies and food to help out. My project has made some enormous progress this week. After all the complaining that I did, they hired an expert gardener, and we are all ready to plant the seeds in the garden I made. I spent the last two days painting a fence, and all I have to do is hammer in the nails and stick it into the ground. I got a little artsy with the painting, making each prong of the fence different from one another.  Here are some photos from my placement, of the kids, the fence, an the garden.

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Ciao for now!

Las Sierras Chicas y Cuesta Blanca

Hola amigos!

This past weekend was incredible and went by way too fast. I went to another Projects Abroad social on Saturday, where we took a one hour bus ride to Cuesta Blanca, and chilled on a beach for a few hours. It was nice to get out of the city and spend some time with mother nature, but the water was too cold for my liking, so I did not swim. Others did, but I was happy to laze on the beach and chat with other volunteers. Here are some pics from that day.

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Saturday evening, I went out for a drink with some friends, but had to get to bed early because the next day I had to meet a group of people to leave for Las Sierras Chicas for a day of horseback riding! It was an incredible day that is definitely a highlight in my trip.

There were 10 of us volunteers who went, and we were picked up at 8:15 to drive 1 hour to a ranch. We followed a two-hour trail up into the small mountains on horseback, then hiked for a half an hour to a beautiful waterfall. There, we were fed a traditional Argentina meal: BBQ. The guide made a fire and roasted chicken, beef, chorizo sausage, and some veggies. We ate this meat with two different kinds of salads, and fresh bread. It was by far the best BBQ I have ever had, and maybe even one of the best meals I have ever had. We trekked back half an hour, then took a different trail with the horses for two hours, then were driven back to Cordoba. On the way home, the guide stopped to buy us some Argentine pastries filled with fruit. All the volunteers topped up this perfect day with a beer on a patio. I felt as if I had been at the spa all day – I felt totally relaxed and at peace with the world.

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Another weekend in Argentina well-spent!

On a side note, my project is going well. Hopefully this week I will be painting fences to go around the garden I made. As of now all the digging is done, and all the debris has been moved (I filled over 20 bags with the garbage I found in the earth).

Here is a picture of Ashley and I on our last day together at the garden. At least we will always be able to say that we started this garden, and hopefully it will produce many vegetables for the community in the years to come.

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Buenos Aires

I just got back from a fantastic Easter weekend in Buenos Aires. I left the city at midnight last night for an overnight trip back to Cordoba, and at 3am the city had a major flood. I am feeling quite thankful for having avoided that, and sad that the people of BsAs have to deal with the damage.

My travel companion was a fellow volunteer named Alicia. We left for BsAs Friday morning at 9am for the ten-hour trip. When we arrived, the first neighbourhood that we saw was full of shacks, houses without doors, and piled one on top of the other. We noticed grafity everywhere on our cab journey to our hostel, and then our first impression of our accommodations was that it ressembled a frat house; beer pong tournament going on, people never sleeping, and drinking all the time. Not wanting to go out in a city where we did not know anybody, and did not know our way around, we avoided the hostel for the first evening. We lucked out and found a really great restaurant called Rosalia. We ordered a traditional Argentinean meal, complete with two different cuts of beef, chicken, and I think lamb. I had a couple glasses of red wine, and then we were serenaded by a guitar player, who played traditional tango music. He was very friendly, and even though he did not speak much English, we were able to have a bit of a conversation in Spanish. He recommended tango musician Carlos Gardel to me. Anyway, he was a very talented musician, and played a show at the restaurant until 2am! Alicia and I also got invited to have a drink with a bunch of other men who were sitting at the table beside us. Turns our they were in their 40s and had kids, and were out celebrating that one of them was getting married the following weekend. Again, despite them not speaking English, we still managed to have a conversation with hand gestures, and my muddled up Spanglish French.

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The following day, Alicia and I covered a lot of ground, and by foot. We walked to an area called La Boca, which has multi-coloured buildings everywhere, vendors, restaurants, and tango dancers. We strolled around watching tango dancers dance spontaneously in the street, listened to the music being played by live musicians, and observed the beautiful art being sold along the street. We even saw someone painting with his mouth, and he was so good at it!

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On our way to our next destination, we took a break in a lovely park, where we watched people play chess on the outdoor chess tables. The thing that I loved about BsAs was that no matter where you are, there is something cool to look at. This was our view (an Orthodox church in the background).

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We then ventured to Plaza de Mayo, a square in the heart of BsAs. We engaged in conversation with a local, who told us that to see all of BsAs we would need an entire year. We told him we would have to settle with just three days. Below is Casa Rosada, which the presidential palace, and is at one end of the square, and then Piramide de Mayo.

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Alicia really wanted to have an icecream, and we found a delicious gelato place, where we both had dulche de leche flavoured gelato, accompanied by a scoop of chocolate gelato. mmmmmmm. I thought the shape was funny-looking.

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The shopping in BsAs is amazing. One of the malls had beautiful art on the ceiling, ressembling what you would see on the ceiling of a church. After this full day of walking, we returned to our hostel for a siesta, and later went out for dinner, and had homemade pasta. The waiter messed up three different times, but he was really charming, so we let it slide.

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By our second night in the hostel, we grew to really like it. We met a lot of really great people, and ended up playing Jenga with people on the terrace, and later having a beer with some others. It reminded me a lot of residence in university. It was interested to learn about the person and how they ended up at this hostel in BsAs. It´s too bad that I´ll never know about the rest of their journey; for example, our roommmate Jessie, who was only 18,  had just arrived from England, and was traveling alone for four months.

The next day, we went to the Sunday market in San Telmo, which spans about 20 blocks, and was the coolest market I have ever seen. We bought some freshly squeezed orange juice (watched the guy juice the oranges on the spot) and strolled down the street for about two hours, looking at everything, and listening to the live music. I bought some souvenires there too, including a mate mug (people drink mate here like Canadians drink coffee!).

In the afternoon we visited Recoleta, an area of town that has a huge cemetary. The tombs are as big as small houses, and were owned by rich families in Argentina. We even found Eva Perón´s tomb. It was a little creepy being able to see some of the caskets through the windows, but we got used to if after a while.

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That evening we ventured to another end of town called Palermo, and ate dinner there. Then, we returned to the hostel exhausted after another full day of walking.

The subway in BsAs is great, and only costs 50 cents Canadian per ride. I enjoyed the musicians that enter the subway cars and play; I saw a trio comprised of a clarinet, trumpet, and ukelele, and a piano-percussion duet. There are many buskers in this city who are very talented, and make walking through the streets very enjoyable. There is also beautiful grafity on almost all of the surfaces in the city, making all the walls look interesting. Here is a picture of Carlos Gardel.

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Unfortunately, there is a lot of poverty in BsAs. Also on the subway are many beggers, and people trying to sell you things (one woman was selling kleenex, and another man was selling pens). It was especially sad to see a little girl trying to do a high-five routine with passangers, and wanting money in return. The city also has a garbage problem – there was garbage and dog poop everywhere, and many garbage bins overflowing with waste. It was things like this that made the city seem a bit dangerous. Alicia had three different people try and get into her bag while we were walking around, with no success.

On our last day in BsAs we went to the Hypodromo, where the horse races happen, and I got to see my first horse race! We also walked through the botanical gardens. Image

After three jam-packed days in the capital of Argentina, we took the midnight bus home to Cordoba. The buses are quite comfortable, so I managed to get about 7 hours of sleep! Overall, it was a lovely weekened, and again, I am so thankful I left before the flood started.