Saturday, June 28, 2014

What Geli Eats: Food in the Peace Corps

One of the most frequent questions I get asked is about what I eat, and I can see why.  When you live without electricity (so no kitchen appliances whatsoever) and it also takes you a 30 minute hike, 20 minute truck ride AND another hour long bus ride just to get to a decent grocery store, things can get complicated.  Though I've always loved to bake, I never really had the time or motivation to experiment with day to day meals, and that is one thing I certainly do have all alone in my hut- time.  

Over the past few months I've learned a lot about cooking in less than ideal situations and can proudly make anything from birthday cakes to pumpkin curry on my little gas stove.  So, I figured I'd share a few of the things I've been whipping up, and maybe even make this a more frequent post.  Because hey, delicious food is awesome, and if I can make it in the middle of nowhere, it's a near guaranteed success.  

Breakfast: Most days I just have coffee and some fruit, but sometimes I like to mix it up, especially if I have a big work day ahead.

Peanut Butter Banana Muffins 

Home-made wheat bread, toasted, with PB&J

Cinnamon Roll Sampler: PB&Chocolate, Original, Orange, and PB Banana. yummmmmm

Lunch & Dinner
Veggie Soup with a salad and homemade vinaigrette dressing

SO proud of this one- Black bean burgers on a home-made bun with hand cut fries

Chunky Hummus with almonds, veggies, and tortillas

Lentil Stew with home-made bread

Veggie Stir Fry

Another super delicious one- baked squash with curried quinoa and a spinach apple salad.  

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Knoxville: It Just Keeps Getting Better

To be fair, I haven’t lived in Knoxville for more than a month here and there since I moved to college in 2009, but each time I come back, I can’t help but be surprised at how awesome my hometown city is.  Every time I come home I’m taken aback by a delicious new restaurant, a cool yet budget friendly boutique, or a fun festival- Biscuit Festival, that was most definitely directed at you.  

 The only thing that makes coming home to Knoxville even better is getting to see it through new eyes with out-of-town friends.   In similar fashion to the Great Smoky Mountains, I made sure to hit downtown Knoxville with both Sadie and Natalie, because the repetition sure didn’t bother me.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

The International [Made for Me] Biscuit Festival

Though the Biscuit Festival is now several years old, for some crazy reason last year was my first chance to go, and let me tell you, I fell in love.  One of the first things I did when I found out I was coming home in May was to check the dates of the 2014 Festival.  Because life is grand and America is amazing, my visit coincided perfectly.   If you’ve been around me very long, you know that Biscuits and Gravy rank right up there will pickles and chocolate as one of my favorite foods, and ALL THREE of those things were to be found and eaten at the Biscuit Festival.  I was obviously in food heaven. 

My dad, Sadie, and I made sure to get to Biscuit Boulevard on Market Square early, but even then it was insanely crowded.  Apparently lots of people love biscuits.  So this is how it works: You buy a $10 ticket good for 5 samples and you have your choice of over 20 vendors.  The only thing that keeps you from buying more tickets is your rapidly expanding belly, because thankfully most of the vendors don’t take the term “sample” too seriously.  It was a tough choice, and certainly line length played into the biscuits I got (who can wait?! I WANT BISCUITS!) but here are the 6 I tried.  If you’re smart you’ll commit to teamwork, because then you can sample DOUBLE the biscuits.  Unfortunately it took until our last sample for Sadie and I to figure that little trick out…

1. The best came first.  This fried steak with tomato and arugula biscuit was southern with a twist, and I was a 100% fan.  It was one of those biscuits that as youj were eating you would hear people say, “Hey, where’d she get that one?!”

2. The Chocolate and Bacon Biscuit.  I’m a chocolate fan, but this one just didn’t do it for me.  It seemed like they just took a mediocre biscuit and drizzled some chocolate sauce on it, which was a little sad. 

3.  The Pickle Biscuit.  If you’re curious, you should check out Southern Living, because they were the providers of this delicious creation.  I only regret spending a sample on it because they were giving unlimited free biscuits later on.

4. Some-Fruity-Delicious-Thing-That-May-Have-Had-Pineapple.  Recommended by a friend, this one was a winner; I just wish I could remember the details. 

5. A decent but nothing special bacon biscuit with some delicious jams.  That pretty much says it all about this one.

6. Honey-Bourbon Ham Biscuit.  Yep, it was as good as it sounds. 

While reflecting on it, I just had the most terrible revelation that I’ll be missing the 2015 festival.  So, some may consider it to early to say, but I can pretty much guarantee I’ll be in attendance in 2016.  That’s only 22 months, right?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Great Smoky Mountains + A Bit of Gatlinburg

Panama is a beautiful, ecologically diverse country that I constantly feel blessed to live in, but man, there is just something about being home.  The Great Smoky Mountains, less than an hour from where I live, are both one of my favorite things about East Tennessee and one of the things I find myself loving even more with each passing year.  The Smokies are full of beautiful sights and activities, and while I was home I was lucky enough to visit not twice, but three times.  Each one was magical, seriously. 

Sadie and I were on our way to the Cades Cove Loop, Sonic milkshakes in hand, less than 24 hours after I arrived in the States.  We took in the crisp Spring weather and took many an instagram-worthy shot before calling my dad to place our orders for BBQ.

Next was touristy but necessary stop in the neighboring Gatlinburg, TN.  Though the town generally avoids the ridiculous getaway antics of Pigeon Forge, it still has some pretty interesting attractions.  If you visit Gatlinburg, you’ll need to visit one of several (legal) moonshine distilleries that line the main road.  Each one offers free tastings of some of their many flavors- Apple Pie may just be my favorite, but I might have to taste again to be sure. 

Since I obviously have a thing for free samples, I also make sure to visit the Old Smoky Mountain Candy Kitchen for some delicious taffy, fresh off the roller.  And because I just can’t let go of some of my childhood favorites, I’ve made a tradition out of their delicious candy apples.

True to form, Natalie and I headed straight for beautiful backdrops, still in our wedding attire from a few hours earlier.  Though it took us a little bit to get back into the photographer swing of things, before I knew it we were back to old ways.

And what would the Smokies be without a bike ride ‘round the 11 mile Cades Cove Loop?  Maybe a little more leisurely, but that didn’t stop Andrea and I from tackling it.  If you haven’t yet sensed the theme here, we also gallivanted around the beautiful fields for some fun pictures, but sadly I don't have any to post.  

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Coke Factory

It’s no secret that I’m addicted to Diet Coke.  The taste, the carbonation, the slight burn at the end of a satisfying gulp: I love it all. And no, Pepsi just doesn’t cut it. 

So I guess it’s also no surprise that I’ve managed to make a trip down to Atlanta specifically to visit Coca-Cola’s World of Coke almost every year since my first visit in 2009. 

Having had so many good times (and tastes) in years past, I made the day trip this year with my sister, Tiffany, and college roommate, Sadie.  I’m pretty sure Tiffany’s favorite part was the 4D Movie, while Sadie loved getting familiar with the history of advertising and branding.  In my opinion though, the tasting room can’t be beat.  For my third time, I tried ALL 65 flavors available for testing, plus a handful of make your own coke flavors.  Sadie and Tiffany might have suffered a slight Coca-Cola bellyache afterwards, but not me.  

And now that I’m several weeks and way too many miles removed from that delicious experience,  where can I get a Coke?