27 March, 2011

conocer a una ciudad

I really love the way the spanish talk about knowing a city. One evening in Valencia we told our Spanish host family of plans to visit Barcelona. They asked, "¿Conoces a Barcelona?" Ian began to reply by saying that of course we know of Barcelona. But that was not the question. The question was whether of not we know Barcelona, like you know a person. I really love using this form of the verb to know (conocer rather than saber) when talking about cities. I also love the idea that you have to spend some time in a place to really know it. German is similar (kennen rather than wissen). I imagine many languages are.

I really love getting to know a city, and when I travel I would much rather get a feel for a single city than see many places scattered throughout a larger region. The memories that really stick with me of previous trips are  little things that really gave me a feeling for the culture - hours spent drinking sangria and talking in a smokey Madrid piano bar, the smell of jasmine growing on old stone walls, getting a single scoop of gelato at the same place every day, strolling aimlessly through winding streets...

Over spring break (isn't it nice that they still give us spring break in medical school?) I did a lot of building on my relationship with Chicago. That fact that I had an amazing friend to share it all with made it so much better. We spent each day in a different neighborhood, appreciating how each was so different from the next and how they all interdigitated. This is something I really like about Chicago: you can walk two blocks and feel like you are in a totally different city, if not another country. Like the night when we met some friends for Latin jazz and Cuban tapas, and shortly thereafter found ourselves debating whether or not to penetrate a crowd of hipsters to listen to an Israeli band at the Empty Bottle. Or when we watched the U.S. premiere of a breath-taking Hungarian film, or spoke to Spaniards on the street and drank sangria and ate calamares, or visited the Mexican Fine Arts Museum... My favorite area of the week was probably Lincoln Park, with its great resale shops, quirky boutiques, and sandwich/coffee houses with names like The Bourgeois Pig. It was a delight to find a Frenche creperie with two middle-aged, flannel-wearing men sharing a bottle of white wine with their weekday lunch.

Here are a few more pictures of our week. All courtesy of MJ.

Baha'i Temple in Evanston

Pilsen - pink line

Flat Iron Arts Building - be prepared for a trip down the rabbit hole

Us in front of the Cloud Gate

20 March, 2011

vegetarian chipotle chili

Lately, I have been encouraging my parents to eat better, but the truth is we can all use some encouragement, whether it's because of bad habits, lack of time, or lack of ideas. So I am attempting to post more healthy recipe ideas, most of which will probably be meat-free. I don't expect my parents to become vegetarians by any means, but there are many benefits to cutting back on meat. According to a Cambridge study, "Compared with non-vegetarians, Western vegetarians have a lower mean BMI, a lower mean plasma total cholesterol concentration, and a lower mortality from IHD (by about 25 %). They may also have a lower risk for some other diseases such as constipation, diverticular disease, gallstones and appendicitis." IHD is the abbreviation for ischemic heart disease, which basically translates as heart attack. Decreasing animal protein can also help with symptoms of inflammatory diseases like arthritis and gout.

As I post each of these recipes, I am going to highlight the health benefits of one of the main ingredients. I will also attempt to assure you that you will be getting enough protein, even if you go a whole day without eating meat (gasp!). The following recipe (inspired by this one) uses black and pinto beans, both of which are high in fiber. Fiber helps to stabilize your blood sugar, keeping you full longer and preventing Type II Diabetes (meat, on the other hand, has no fiber at all). Black beans also have something called anthocyanins, which are the same antioxidants found in red grapes and wine, which we are constantly hearing of as cancer-fighting agents. 

In terms of protein, one cup of cooked beans will give you about 14g of protein, at least for black and pinto beans. What exactly does that mean? Well, your average-sized chicken thigh will have 10g. The recommended daily protein intake depends on your age, weight, level of activity and total caloric intake, and can be anywhere from 40-100g per day. In the coming weeks, I hope to share with you some great non-meat protein sources, including the usual nuts, eggs and dairy, but also some that you might not be aware of, like grains and even vegetables like kale.

Vegetarian Chipotle Chili Recipe:
The following recipe calls for cooking for several hours in a crock pot. If you don't have a crock pot, or don't have all day you can experiment with cooking it on the stove, just adjust the time for the way you would usually cook beans. You can really speed it up by using canned beans, but increase the amount. Finally, if you don't want to cook the onion in the olive oil, you can just throw it all into the crock pot in the morning and go. I have done this before and it is still very good, but loses a bit of sweetness that plays really nicely with the other flavors.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp sea salt (or 2 tsp celery salt)
One 28-oz can of diced tomatoes
1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, chopped, plus about 1tsp of the sauce
1 Tbsp cocoa/dark unsweetened chocolate

1 1/2 cups dry black beans, soaked over night
1 1/2 cups dry pinto beans, soaked over night
2 cups frozen kernal corn

In a large, deep pan, heat the olive oil and then add the onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to sweat. Cover with a lid and keep cooking over medium-low heat for another 5 minutes, add the minced garlic, and cook for another few minutes. Add all the spices and toss to coat. Add the tomatoes, the cocoa, and chipotle.
Put the beans in the crock pot, pour the tomato/spice/onion mixture over top & stir. Add enough water to cover. Cook on high for about 6 hours, until the beans are soft. Add the corn in 30min before you want to eat.
Serve topped with chopped Italian parsley and white cheddar cheese.

14 March, 2011


Do you see that? It's holds potential!
I plucked it from a bush as a reminder.
Promises of spring.
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