Friday, February 28, 2014

Homemade: Chicken Noodle Soup

Hey guys!

Lately I've been in a bit of a cooking mood. I'm not the best cook in the world and I like to follow recipes; I'm not one of those clever people who can whip up a delicious meal from memory, or out of the blue. I wouldn't say my cooking is bad, I just don't have a ton of experience with it.
 My boyfriend made some roasted chicken breast the other night and when he was packing away the leftovers I could just hear my Grammy saying, "Don't you throw those bones out, you could make a whole other meal out of them!" She's a very budget-friendly lady. So I put the bones in the fridge as well and Googled how to make chicken noodle soup! 
After reading a couple recipes on how to do it from scratch, I decided on this recipe here, with a couple adjustments of my own, to suit what I had in my cupboards. It had all the instructions as well as a handy, helpful video (I also texted my sister with a couple of questions). The whole process was actually pretty easy, just a bit time consuming as you first have to make the broth, from the bones, some veggies and spices, before making the actual soup (total time was about 3 hours). But it's well worth the time and effort because the soup turned out really well! And you can get loads of other work done while it's simmering away. You can rest easy, knowing exactly what ingredients are in it. No preservatives, much less salt and no weird chemical sounding ingredients that you might get with store bought soup, or even store bought broth.

Homemade chicken broth, leftover roast chicken, egg noodles, carrot, celery, onion, pepper,salt and thyme = Yum!

I'm quite proud of my soup, I know that probably sounds strange, but for me it was a real accomplishment.

Gettin' all them angles in haha.

Making food from scratch makes me feel very grown up and clever. 
What's your favourite dish to make at home? Or that your parents/grandparents make? I'm always calling my Grammy to steal some of her recipes!
Do you have any suggestions to make my soup tastier next thyme? .. Get it? Hah..haha.. 

Happy cooking!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cuba 2014 - Part 3

Back again! Here's the last installment of photos from my trip to Varadero, Cuba. 

The second to last day we spent on the beach. Feeling the impending doom of returning to cold, snowy Canada, we wanted to soak up as much sun, heat and loveliness as possible, and I think we were all a bit tired from the previous days' action.. It was also Valentines Day! We figured the trip was present enough though, so no huge romantic gestures or events for the boyfriend and myself ;)

Just the boyfriend and I at breakfast. It was a low-key morning :)

The waves were huge this day and really fun to jump in!
We relaxed on the beach all afternoon. It was "Cuba Day" at the resort and they had a yummy barbeque by the beach, which we enjoyed. 
Our plan for the evening was to go into downtown Varadero, to a restaurant recommended to us by one of the resort staff. She said they have the best lobster in Varadero. 
 Again, no pictures of this unfortunately.. Too busy living life I suppose ;) We took taxis into downtown, and shopped at the large market square they have there. We bought some souvenirs for ourselves and friends/family.

I love these salad tongs, for my sister and her husband.

And a little t-shirt for my soon to be niece or nephew! (excitement!!)

A car made out of Coca Cola cans! I thought this was awesome haha. For my little cousin.
After the market we made our way to the restaurant, which was small, but you could tell the food was going to be amazing. If you're ever in Varadero, it's called La Rampa Restaurant on 43rd Street. We all ordered the 2 lobster tails (15 pesos) and some beers. We all scarfed it down pretty fast and it was really delicious. The lobster was cooked in tons of garlic, and it came with sticky rice and some vegetables. We all enjoyed it so much, I wish I had a picture to show you!
After dinner we decided we didn't want to pay for taxis back, and we knew there was a double decker bus that takes you back to all the resorts for 5 pesos a person (6 of us), as opposed to 40 pesos for two taxis, we'd seen it dropping people off outside the market, so we were going to walk back that way. But then one of our friends saw one of the charter type buses parked on the road and there were no passengers, only the driver. So he went and asked if he would take us back to our resort and the driver said yes! And only 3 pesos a person. I don't think he's normally supposed to do that sort of thing, but he made a few extra pesos for himself. It was one of those funny, spontaneous things that happen when you're on vacation..but I definitely wouldn't always recommend getting into a strange vehicle in a foreign country. We recognized the company of the bus he was driving though, so we felt safe enough. 

We spent our final night in Cuba on the beach after dark, (drinking of course) and we built a shelter out of the stacked beach chairs because it was a really windy, kind of chilly night. 
Two security guards came by and we all had a really nice chat with them, they hung out with us all night until we left. It was interesting to talk to them about their lives, and if they enjoy their work, etc. They said resort jobs are pretty good jobs to get in Cuba, if you can. The language barrier was kind of funny, lots of miming and hand gestures. The security guards were very friendly, and both had families, so we gave a lot of the clothes and things we'd brought, to them to take home. They were very grateful and gave one of our friends a nice bottle of rum! 
It was a great way to spend our last night. Chatting and drinking with friends, old and new, reminiscing about the trip, and life in general. 

The beach after dark. No one around but us!
The next day was our final one in Cuba. Our bus to the airport didn't leave until 6pm, so after breakfast and checking out, we stored our luggage at reception and spent the last hours by the Rock Pool. We were all a bit hungover, and just wanted to relax before our flight. We discovered a giant checker board outside by the Rock Pool, so a couple of us played while the others watched from the shady benches. We were all pretty tired from the last couple days, so we actually napped by the pool, under a small hut/umbrella, it was actually really nice. 

Goodbye Cuba!

Eventually it was time to get changed, and hop on the bus to the airport. Our flight was a little bit delayed, and we got back to Canada around 2am. Needless to say, we did not accomplish much the next day haha. 

It really was a great trip. It was my first time traveling with friends as opposed to family or significant other, and I really enjoyed it; lots of memories made. We've already been talking about where we'd want to go next year! Any suggestions?

All photo cred. goes to my boyfriend and myself.

Cuba 2014 - Part 2

Here's Part 2 of my trip to Cuba!

Starting where we left off; Day 5 - the Jeep Safari (cue dramatic, action movie music)

This was the day we were all most excited for, we booked this excursion through our travel rep at the resort and none of us were entirely sure what to expect, or which activities we were going to be doing. We had a rough idea, but there were lots of surprises! It turned out to be everyone's favourite day. 

Wake up time was 6:30 am, which on a vacation seems blasphemous, but our bus was picking us up at 7:45 and we had to get breakfast beforehand. Our double-decker bus picked us up and took us to the Jeep depot, I guess you'd call it, where there were TONS of jeeps all lined up, for different tour groups. Along the way we had to pick up people from different resorts; it was cool to see some of the other resorts in Varadero, as well as some of the cities,towns and countryside.

There were these funny little taxi buggies everywhere!

Cuba is full of beautiful old fashioned cars.

A bus similar to ours and some horses!
And finally we got in the Jeeps!
You got to drive your own Jeep and follow a guide. I think there were 7 or 8 Jeeps total. We first drove through some small villages and saw lots of children and families. It was at this point that you saw how poor the country is, but everyone seemed very happy. All of us had brought toiletries, and clothes to give away to people, but we didn't know we were going to be driving through these villages on the excursion and unfortunately left most of it at the resort. We made do though, giving away spare hats, sunglasses, tshirts, cuc pesos, that we did have with us to some of the kids and mothers who would stand by the side of the roads. Some of the kids would come running from their houses or playing fields when they heard/saw the Jeeps coming. It makes you realize how fortunate you are and some of the things we take for granted. 

The first activity on the agenda was snorkeling! I'd never done it before and was a little nervous. I don't have many pictures from this because obviously I didn't want to get my camera wet. But it was really fun and I'd love to do it again! There was a touristy type area with a bar and market near the place we went to snorkel, so afterwards we got a beer.

After snorkeling we got back in the Jeeps and headed to a cave with a fresh water pool. It was really cool and one of the best parts of the day, one of the nest parts of the trip even! You first had to walk down a big winding staircase, into the cave and then when you jumped into the water, it was SO refreshing. I found out when I got home that my mother had gone to the same cave when her and my grandmother went to Cuba years ago, which I thought was very cool.

The pool was small, but so very, very awesome :)

After the cave we drove to a farm. Lots of gorgeous landscapes along the way. And once we got there, there was another small market stall selling fruits. We all bought some of this delicious peanut dessert bar that tasted like sweet peanut butter, and I also tried some starfruit for the first time. I liked it, it was kind of citrus-y. The farm had a restaurant on it, and you could tell it was a tourist destination, but it was much more authentic than the food at the resort. We had lunch at the restaurant and it was by far the best meal we'd had so far (and of course I forgot to take pictures of it; we were so excited for real food). It started with a delicious soup. I don't even know what was in it but it was so flavourful, we finished the entire large bowl they set on our table. We were also given a kind of squash and delicious fresh pineapple. Next a salad of lettuce and shaved carrot, some really yummy beef, rice and black beans and for dessert some sugared guava and cheese. 
After lunch, the others went into the farmers house and had Cuban coffee with him (they said it was really good). I don't drink coffee so I had a peak around the farm. There were lots of birds, goats, a donkey, some cows, a man with a bull you could ride and horses you could ride (which I did).

Some old farm equipment and a chicken.

The landscape was beautiful.
The clouds looked so ominous, it rained a little after we got back in the jeeps, but only for a few minutes.

My first time on a horse! They were tied together and you just go around the farm, still fun!
A pretty bird

The farm was fantastic!
The last activity of the excursion was taking a ride down the river on a boat. We had to drive about 45 minutes in the Jeeps to get there and saw lots of sights on the way. 

A cool mural on a wall in the city.

A bit of an inside joke..

Passing another boat just like ours.

After the boat ride we drove the Jeeps back to the depot, got back on a new bus and headed back to the resort. We got back around 7pm, it was a long day but so great! We napped, showered, ate and then saw one of the shows the resort puts on. It was kind of Lion King themed..but with no animals. Lots of fire and cool/scary lifts and jumps performed by the dancers. Needless to say we all slept really well that night. The day really was amazing.

Next up in part 3, the last 2 days in Cuba, very bittersweet. 
Stay tuned :)!

All photo cred. goes to my boyfriend and myself.

Cuba 2014 - Part 1

Hey guys!

So a couple weeks ago I went on a trip to Varadero, Cuba with my boyfriend and some of our friends. It was my first time in Cuba and I was really excited to experience it. We arrived around 10pm on a Friday; two of our friends had already arrived and they brought us drinks while we waited in line to check in (talk about friendship). After check in we all dropped off our bags, had showers and got some more drinks; ready to start our vacation off right!

 We spent the first day at the beach.
The beach was beautiful!

 And the second day at the pool!
So was the pool.
Unfortunately on the second morning I woke up feeling like I was getting a bit of a cold. I think from the climate change, but thankfully relaxing by the pool isn't too strenuous ;)
The next morning I woke up feeling even worse! A mixture of a night of partying, and a suspicious ham and cheese sandwich, shared by the boyfriend and I. Let's call it a poor tummy day and leave it at that. Cuba isn't known for having the best food.. After a nap I eventually felt better and joined my friends on the beach!
Two stray dogs came along to visit with us; they were so cute! 
I've imagined this doggy fairytale, where the two of them met, fell in love and live on the beach happily ever after :)
We also saw a wedding on the beach! Lots of odd spectators but romantic nonetheless. 
Next day we took it easy on the food and drink, and we spent half the day on the beach and half by another pool at the resort, which we dubbed "The Rock Pool," due to the massive rock structure you can walk through!

This was more of a family pool; less rowdy and party hardy than the first.

After our day in the sun we cleaned up and went to dinner. We had reservations at one of the à la carte restaurants on the resort. The food here was better than in the buffets, and we all had a good time. I got the fish while everyone else had chicken. Unfortunately I don't have any photos of this night, (bad blogger! But hey, I'm new.) though sometimes you just have to experience life, instead of documenting it, right? I think a friend might have snapped some shots. We all called an early night, we had to be up early the next day..

I'll end part one here, because next up is the most exciting day: the Jeep Safari!

All photo cred. goes to my boyfriend and myself