Friday, May 22, 2015

It’s been ages since I actually posted a recipe, especially one for Turkish mezes.

Well, with spring here, it finally means my favorite market, Hala Mirowska, is bursting with local green and white asparagus, rhubarb, strawberries, herbs, baby potatoes and beets. That means I’ve been in the kitchen taking advantage of all this fantastic produce and making some simple dishes like baby potatoes with butter and dill and steamed asparagus with lemon.

But the latest dish is the one I want to share with you. Last week, I roasted some baby beets with olive oil and sea salt. Since the beet greens looked so vibrant and fresh, I decided to treat them exactly the same way I did with my Turkish spinach roots. In the Turkish kitchen, you never throw any veggie scrap away. Something can always be reused or repurposed into something else like soup, Turkish börek or gözleme
Lots of lovely beets at my local markets right now here in Warsaw!
Imagine – fushia and green-colored tender beet greens sautéed with Turkish olive oil and lots of garlic, seasoned with a generous pinch of Turkish pul biber. So delicious and healthy!

I served up my beet greens meze alongside those baby potatoes, roasted beets and grilled steaks. A perfect spring dinner at home for two.

Smacznego or Afiyet olsun since this dish is almost Turkish!
Beet Greens Meze
1-2       Tablespoons    olive oil
6-8       ea.        cloves of garlic, roughly chopped (You can never have too much garlic!)
220      g.         beet stems, trimmed to 1-2 inches in length
300      g.         beet leaves
Generous spoonful of pul biber (red pepper flakes), if you like it spicy like we do
To taste           salt and freshly ground black pepper

(Note:              The amount of beet stems and leaves will vary depending on the beets you buy where you live. My amounts are from 2 bunches of beets here in Warsaw. This recipe can easily be adapted to your own taste and the amount of beets that you have.)

In a large pan, heat the olive oil. Sauté  the garlic for a few minutes until softened.

Then add the beet stems with just a little water to help them cook. Cover the pot with a lid. Cook for 3-4 minutes or until tender. Add the beet leaves. Replace the lid. The leaves will wilt and cook down just like spinach. Cook briefly until everything seems tender.

Season the beet greens and leaves with pul biber, salt and pepper.

This meze can be served hot or at room temperature.
Separate the beet stems from the leaves since the stems will need to cook 
a few minutes longer than the tender leaves.

My Traveling Joys

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Having not set foot in the U.S. for exactly 18 months, I felt extremely out of place and overwhelmed during my recent trip.

An 18-month stint is the longest I’ve ever been away from “home” during the past 5 years that we’ve been living abroad as expats, currently residing in Poland. In April, I spent about 3 weeks in the U.S. visiting family and friends and spending time with my dad who has been ill. Although I don’t really miss “home,” the trip was much needed to catch up with our loved ones. Skype conversations and email are wonderful tools to keep in touch, but they can’t replace face to face time in the same place.

So while I was in the U.S. I experienced what I’ll call 7 culture shocks in this new post. I guess after being away for an extended period of time my eyes were re-opened to how different life IS or can be in America. My trip took me through NYC, New Jersey, the Detroit airport and  Nebraska, where I grew up, so my revelations are based on those locations. I’m interested in hearing if you’ve ever experienced culture shock especially in your native country.

As soon as I walked through the JFK airport, I was surrounded by people of all colors and races. The languages swirled around me and hearing so much English being spoken made my ears buzz. The same experience continued during the couple days I wandered around the melting pot of NYC, took the subway and simply enjoyed being back in one of my favorite cities. In contrast, Poland is really, really white with a few Asians (mainly Koreans and Vietnamese) thrown in the mix. According to the Polish Central Statistical Office (Główny Urząd Statystyczny; GUS) 96.7% of the 38 million people are Polish, making the country very homogeneous indeed.
I don't have a really good photo to show the diversity in NYC. However, eating dim sum is definitely culturally different and not common in Poland.
Americans are so Friendly!
A few months ago, a German acquaintance said that Americans are fake and too friendly. I disagree. After living in a country where people often ignore my “dzien dobry” replies in my own apartment building, cut me off in lines or never say thank you if I hold the door open especially for elderly people, I was thrilled beyond words to be greeted by my fellow friendly Americans. Everyone was so nice! Restaurant staff were super friendly. Store clerks were helpful. Every day people held doors open for me and told me to have a good day.

I think being friendly is a normal part of our American culture, and I for one relished my recent American experience!

Free water with Ice!
As I’ve mentioned before in this post, I have a thing for ice and so do most American expats I’ve ever met. I loved being served unlimited and FREE, tall glasses of ice water at every café or restaurant I frequented during my trip! I want my cocktails served with ice. I want my white wine served cold and my water not to be room temperature, especially on a hot day. Sure, I’ve adjusted and I don’t normally complain in Europe, but next time can someone please serve me some ice?
Expat joys - free ice water and icy cocktails in America!
So far, Scotland wins for being the best European country at serving ice water!

One of the things that drives me crazy about Poland is having to wait at street corners until the pedestrian light turns green. Technically, you can get fined by the police for crossing the street on a red light. I understand having this rule in place on busy street corners, but on quiet side streets or when it’s like 0C outside, I refuse to stand and wait. So when I was in NYC, I jaywalked whenever I could like all the other New Yorkers out there.
 No jaywalking allowed in Poland!
Wide, Open Spaces
Having lived only in big cities for the last 10 years, I sometimes forget about all the wide open spaces there are in the world. My native Nebraska is full of gigantic fields, wide rivers and long, open stretches along the highway. I was thrilled to have a change of scenery and enjoy feeling quite small in this big world!
Wide, open highways are perfect for listening to favorite high school songs and singing as loud as you want in the car!
We have lots of cows in Nebraska!
Doing Laundry in an Hour!
Have you ever done laundry in Europe or Turkey? If you answered yes, then you know how dreadful it is. An average load will take at least 3 hours to wash and dry. Luckily, we own a washer and a dryer, but the latter basically “steams” our clothes and takes an average of two hours to dry a load of laundry. It’s often easier to hang out the clothes on a rack near a sunny or open window to air dry!

However, when I was at my parents’ house, I used their mega-sized, American washer and dryer and completed a load in just an hour! What a time saver!
Note: no dogs were injured in the taking of this photo. In fact, Sandy (my parents’ dog) seemed quite content to pose for my photo.
American Variety
Shopping in the U.S. is overwhelming! I spent over an hour each time just walking around Target or Wal-mart even though I had a list. I think Americans take a lot for granted, and I think this is just one of them. American stores offer so much variety and so much stuff you don’t even need. Being abroad, I’ve learned I don’t really need as much stuff as I once thought I did. However, it was nice being able to read all the hair products labels in English and buy stuff that I actually did need!
At our local Wal-mart, I think there were like six aisles just for greeting cards, wrapping and tissue paper and birthday supplies. Amazing!
Have you ever experienced culture shock in your own country?

My Traveling Joys

Monday, May 11, 2015

New York City is always a good idea and visiting in the spring is an even better idea!

I recently spent about three days back in NYC, my first time back on American soil in more than 18 months. I honestly experienced some culture shock this time because everyone spoke English and the city is filled with so many different colors of people. This is such a different scene than Poland where we currently live.

Besides meeting up with family and friends, I love simply wandering around NYC with my camera. I love her iconic buildings such as the Empire State, Flatiron and other skyscrapers. I love the old metal fire escapes, the large windows and brownstone buildings. There’s so much I want to capture an image of – little things perhaps I didn’t take notice of as much when I actually lived here.

And then there’s the city’s rebirth during spring. Pink and white blossomed trees line the streets. People are out enjoying the sunshine and relaxing in the parks. Planters are filled with colorful daffodils and tulips. I loved being back in the city!
And just to share my love of NYC, here’s a photo post featuring some of my favorite springtime images I took during this trip. Enjoy!

Where do you like to enjoy spring?
NYC's skyscrapers surrounding Bryant Park. Did you know that Bryant Park is built over an entire structure that houses the New York Public Library’s archives?
Bryant Park is a lovely patch of green located in Midtown Manhattan, between 5th and 6th Avenues and 40th to 42nd Streets.
Springtime blossoms at the Church of the Holy Trinity, built in 1917, located on the Upper East Side.

I also love the water towers that dot the city’s skyline! Most buildings in the city taller than six stories actually need some sort of water tower and pumping system to provide water pressure to their tenants.
 If you're in the mood for shopping, head to Macy's on 34th Street. But remember to look up and look for the Empire State Building too!
 NYC's Flatiron building and spring flowers - what a wonderful sight!
My Traveling Joys

Monday, May 4, 2015

Even though I was still jetlagged, yesterday we went out to see what was happening in Warsaw in honor of the 224th Anniversary of National Constitution Day.

May 3rd is a national holiday in Poland that commemorates the adoption of the first democratic constitution in Europe and the second in the world only to the United States Constitution. On May 3, 1791, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s constitution was adopted, which was considered a great achievement of that time. The holiday was suspended for many years due to the country’s partitioning in the 1800s, but was re-instituted after Poland regained its freedom in 1918, and then banned during Communist years. However, since 1990, May 3rd has again been celebrated as an official Polish holiday. You can read the full text of the Constitution here on Inside Poland.
Nearly every street was lined with red and white Polish flags. I’m not sure if the flags were just for the May 3rd holiday or also leftover from May 1st (Labour Day) or May 2nd Flag Day (Majówka). As you can see, early May is a busy holiday time in Poland. (I arrived from my American holidays on May 1st and have been in a catch up/jetlagged phase since then.)

We missed the early holiday gatherings, but was able to snap a couple photos along Nowy Swiat where Poles were carrying flags and enjoying the warm, spring weather. What a festive sight and a beautiful day! I'm so happy to return "home" to good weather!

Welcome to May!
The lovely spring gardens at Saski Park in Warsaw.
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Warsaw. We missed the ceremonies that happened here, but it was still a busy place yesterday.
The Polish National Constitution Day Parade in Chicago, USA.
 Source: Choose Chicago

Monday, April 13, 2015

Despite the numerous trips we’ve made to London, I had never visited the well-known Camden Market.

This time, I visited twice and was inundated by the 700+ stalls that make up Camden Market and the funky, quirky, retro stores that line Camden High Street. Wow! The storefronts are like giant, in-your-face billboards screaming their particular product – a lot of shoes. I couldn’t resist buying a new pair of Vans with neon pink shoe laces!

Hubby and I playing along Camden High Street and stopping in one of the local pubs for a pint.
Warning: on the weekend, this street and the markets were absolutely mobbed with tourists and potentially some locals as well when we first visited. However, stop by on a Monday like I did or another weekday and you’ll find the markets much less crowded.

Continue walking up the street and you’ll find the lively Camden Market, which is actually made up of three separate markets – Union Street, The Lock and The Stables. The Stables Market gets its name from its previous incarnation as a horse hospital because, in Victorian times, the stables were where horses injured pulling barges down the canals were treated.
Today, you’ll find a catacombs of stalls selling everything from Turkish lamps and kilims to military jackets, cheap T-shirts and homemade clothes, belts and more.
The Camden Market is enormous! I spent about five hours wandering around the tiny lanes on a Monday afternoon; I still didn’t even cover all the stalls because there’s just too much to see and photograph! Every turn yields a new discovery in the numerous nooks and crannies here.
I love these old doors in the Stables Market!
The view along Regent's Canal in Camden.
After I wandered through the markets and ate a delicious gluten-free falafel lunch, I strolled through some of the neighboring side streets and found colorful houses like I did in Notting Hill as well as come cool street art.
Every time I visit London, I discover something new and I love photographing those little discovery moments. That’s the joy of big cities – they are constantly morphing and changing – meaning there are always reasons to visit.

Have you visited Camden Market?

My Traveling Joys