Giant Empanadas, Quilting, and Day 3 of My Week Off

I can’t believe how quickly this week is about to be over! I knew it would fly by, but I wasn’t prepared for how quickly the moments would escape me.

I’d love to say that I spent the week eating and preparing amazing food. Honestly, I thought I would be doing a cleanse this week… but alas, getting everything together was a bit expensive. So I decided to wait to do the cleanse, and gather all that I need bit by bit.

What did I end up doing for the past 3 days?

Well, I stayed up late and slept late every night since I’ve been off. I haven’t hooped yet, even though I vowed to do so. All I’ve done so far was: slowly clean my room, do laundry, look for jobs, sign up for an online bartending & barista course, and make extravagant purchases on Amazon at 1 am. I’ve also managed to cause nearly all of my paycheck to evaporate into nothingness. My checking account laughs in my face, and I silently curse myself for not being more diligent to track my spending.

There are two days left in my week off. I haven’t been counting the weekends since I don’t work then anyway. I’m already feeling a sense of loss, even though I have two more days. Trying not to actively think about going back isn’t helping much. I’ve felt more alert and relaxed, and more at peace with things. It’s not that anything has gotten easier; I just think the r & r has done some good. I have been working on things, but it almost doesn’t feel like work, because I’m working towards something that matters to me. Plus, working at one’s own pace helps.

Speaking of which, I took today to go to Nana’s house and quilt for a couple of hours. I managed to prick my thumb shortly after starting, which caused me to use a thimble the rest of the time. I’m not accustomed to using a thimble, let alone one that was too small for my thumb. It worked out, though. In that moment, I felt peaceful and, dare I say, domestic? I had a moment where I wanted to hurry home and bake bread and clean house. Thank God that moment passed; quilting, cooking and baking is as domesticated as I dare to get.

After getting home from spending time with a friend, I did make a salad, and (finally) used up the rest of the empanada filling I had.

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It was a satisfying supper; though it was simple, I think part of the satisfaction came from it being something I made. I miss making meals; when I’m at work, I’m far too tired to do anything when I get home. I’m going to miss these things.

Although I know my time off isn’t over, I felt the need to reflect anyway:

Being at home for a week afforded me time to engage in things that I enjoy, and remember how much I love doing them. Letting something you enjoy consume you releases feelings of peace, tranquility, joy, and an overall sense of balance and satisfaction. I have to admit that some part of me enjoyed being a domestic goddess for a week. Usually, I spend no time at home when I don’t work. However, this was a week where I slowed down… in many ways. I wish I could do this all the time.

Tomorrow, I intend to go out. I’ll probably be out all weekend. I’m all right with that, though; I got all the rest that I needed. My intention is to go to the art museum, but we’ll see what really happens; I know how I am.

Three days down, two more two go, and then my last weekend before returning to work again.

*sigh*

P.S. I’m also going to miss not getting up by an alarm clock. Waking up slowly is more my speed.

Daily Prompt: To Sleep, Perchance To Dream

How funny is it that I saw this prompt shortly after having taken a nap? It was meant to be, I suppose.

I think of myself as being like a child when it comes to sleeping; I fight it with all I’ve got. I think it’s because I’m one that can always find something that needs doing. If I’m tired enough, however, it can wait until after I’ve napped. Or until tomorrow.

When I do finally settle myself, I revel in that process of getting ready to fall asleep. I turn in the bed a couple of times, and try to get my pillow to cradle my neck just so. I pull up the covers, whether just a sheet or more than one blanket. I snuggle up with one of my other pillows and start to drift off to sleep. I might shift position a couple of times, but I always get back to snuggling.

Then I drift off into a comfortable and easy sleep.

I rarely have trouble going to sleep unless I’m sick (weird, huh?), and I rarely have a night where I haven’t been dreaming. Most times, I can remember my dreams. Other nights, even if I can’t remember any parts of the dream, I know that I was dreaming because of how I felt upon waking. Sometimes distressed, sometimes peaceful… but it was all because of a dream.

I wonder what exactly I do when I sleep, because I’ll fall asleep with everything in place, then wake up with bed sheets disheveled, and the pillow that I so lovingly cuddled tossed on the floor. All of this movement during bedtime is the reason that I don’t wear pants to bed. It also makes me too hot, which will rouse me from sleep.

Being too hot is the worst when it comes to trying to sleep. I have a weird habit of not sleeping unless I’m under a cover. If I’m not covered, forget sleep.

In short, sleep and I have a complicated relationship. I compare myself to a child that never wants to go to bed, but am always contented when I’m settling in to go to sleep. There’s a sense of comfort that comes with going to sleep. In bed is where you (hopefully) have no more worries and concerns. You can shrug them off, and settle down into your bed with your blankets, and drift off drowsily into a lake of peace and serenity that only good sleep can give.

Off to dreamland I go…

 

Cuba Libre and Converses on Saturday

Welp, we’re at the end of the week! Thus ends another work week, and here begins my week of rest. That’s right, your girl took a week off! A series of events spurred me to go take a good week off. It’s a week of not getting paid, but alas, some things are more important than a paycheck.

Last night, I went out with C and her children. We walked around during twilight in Philly with two small people, and stopped to get them something to eat. Then we got ourselves something to eat. I’ve heard good things about Cuba Libre, and have passed it on the street numerous times. Today, however, C and I were hungry and looking for something good to eat. The menu was intriguing… so much so that we stepped inside and asked for a table.

She had Levanta Muerta (Raise The Dead) Seafood Soup, and I had vegetable paella. It was bustling with people because we came at the height of dinner service. Despite this and the fact that we hadn’t made a reservation, all four of us were seated in less than 5 minutes on the upper level. The decor lit my imagination afire; the ceiling fans had blades that looked like big hand fans. Small trees that looked like little banana trees were in oversized pots throughout the restaurant, and the walls had facades of houses in different and bright colours.

Something about the space made me leave Philly for just a moment and enter into this world. Between that and the food, it was enough to leave an impression on me. In fact, it left so much of an impression that I returned the next day for brunch!

If  I could use one word to describe my brunch at Cuba Libre, it would be this:

scrumptious.

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Anywhere that puts churros on their menu as a breakfast/brunch item is automatically put into the Hall Of Awesomeness. AND… they had the nerve to serve said churros with a chocolate sauce! The chocolate sauce had a citrus note, and was delicious on its own. In fact, I enjoyed the chocolate so much that I dipped my fingers in its container and licked it off my fingers. Yes, it was uncouth. No, I didn’t care.

The waitress was kind enough to save me from getting any more undignified than I already was. “Are you finished?” she asked, in only the way that a waitress can. Without using these words, she used her tone and eyes to say “Put the saucer down. You look like an idiot.” “Uh, yes… I’m done”, I replied, and relinquished the chocolate sauce.

Yep, it was that kind of day.

I also got to spend some time at the Italian Market Festival, where I danced to “I Wanna Dance” by Whitney Houston. If you can’t get your dance on when that song comes on, something’s just wrong with you.

Chris Brown said “You’re like Jordans on Saturday” in a song. He clearly never wore Converse All Stars on a Saturday. It may not have flowed as well, but when I pull out my Converses, it’s Saturday regardless of what day it actually is. I wore a dress on Saturday, but I was grateful that I wore my Converses. I wasn’t the only one, either. I saw several girls with the same idea I had, plus more than a few guys rocking Converse shoes on a Saturday. One especially cute guy rocked the high tops with the star on the side. Nice.

I walked home tired and got caught in driving rain on the way home. Thankfully, someone that knew me was nice enough to stop and take me home. All in all, I had a good day. I was greedy, spent too much money (as I do when I’m downtown), and walked for hours… but I enjoyed myself.

This is what Saturdays are made of.

Empanadas, Not Enchiladas!

This post is brought to you by lard, which was purchased for me by Tina, a woman that I work with. Thank you Tina for introducing me to lard. We’ll see how my thighs and gut thank you later. (ha, j/k. sort of.)

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I confess, this lard sat in my house for a WHILE. I was unusually tired, so I did very little that involved standing after work, unless it involved getting a shower. Admittedly, I was reluctant to do even that. Needless to say, there was no cooking done by me at the house.

One day, however, I decided to get myself together and make these empanadas. It seemed that whenever I told people I was making these, they would say “Oh! Enchiladas!” “Um, no…” I would reply. Enchiladas are more like a Mexican manicotti. It’s not that enchiladas involve pasta, but they’re constructed like the Italian counterpart. Empanadas are more like a miniature turnover. Before baking, they resemble pierogies. We’ll get to that later, though.

The beauty of empanadas is that you can stuff them with whatever you wish! I used a basic recipe from Food Network, but I stuffed only 1/2 of the empanadas with beef, like the recipe suggests. I stuffed the latter half with mushrooms, though. I rarely eat mushrooms simply because I’m the only one at home that likes them; however, I made an exception since this was my experiment.

Editor’s Note: The recipe suggests using a 3″ round cutter to make your empanadas. If you’re like me and don’t have one, or couldn’t find one at the store, use a cup as your cutter. I used a small tea cup that measure 3″ across.

When I’m making something, I will oftentimes “start” it so that I commit myself to finishing. Late one night, I made the dough, which was easy to do. The recipe calls for lard and butter in the dough, so do not consume if you’re dieting. You could use all lard if desired, but I used both lard and butter. Just a note: I could see the fat streaked in the dough. It was my first time using lard for something other than frying. Needless to say, I was shocked!

About 3 days hence, I now had all my ingredients, and was ready to throw down!

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Rolling out my dough was easy enough, but putting in the right amount of filling was a little tricky. I was using a spoon, but I wanted to be greedy generous as possible with the amount that I put in the little round shells. I ended up with extra filling towards the end for both the beef and the mushrooms! I may make them into a savory tart or a larger turnover. Hey, it was delicious!

My final verdict on this recipe? There were some ingredients–mainly the almonds, cinnamon and raisins–that I thought were a little strange to put in. I thought it may turn out sweeter than I wanted. However, with the savory flavors added by the cumin, beef and mushrooms, and the heat from the serrano chiles, it wasn’t at all sweet. It lent more complexity to the filling. I was also a fan of the almonds in this; they gave this something rough and crunchy in the midst of the soft filling.

Although I did follow a recipe, I’m glad I chose that one out of all of the recipes I looked at. I’ll definitely use this again and play around with my fillings and spices. I’m also going to note that I didn’t measure out the few spices that were in this dish. I felt no need to do so. There are measurements, but I did it to taste. The amounts I used were mostly likely equivalent to the amounts in the recipe.

If you desire something substantial, these won’t stick unless you eat quite a few! If you want something that will fill you up, I have 2 suggestions:

1. Make them bigger than the recipe.

2. Eat them alongside rice or a salad. They would compliment a salad well.

Have fun with your empanadas! If you have leftovers, don’t despair; they can easily be frozen until you’re ready to enjoy more (and I know you will be!)

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By the way… if you’re thinking of taking lard out of the recipe, I’m here to be your voice of reason: DON’T DO IT! If you’ve never used lard to make a dough, here’s some info on that:

1. I don’t know what I was thinking, but lard doesn’t smell pork-y at all. In fact, it doesn’t smell like much of anything.

2. It makes a crust so flaky that you can visibly see the layers, even if you have 4 eyes, like me.

3. Said crust dissolves in your mouth when you eat it. It’s also crisp.

My final word on the subject? Add butter if you so wish, but do not take away the lard!

Introverted In The City

Saturday was just one of those days. Laying in bed with a will to do nothing, I turned over quite a few times before rousing from the covers. Although I didn’t want to go out, Saturday is really my only day to do so since Sundays are church days. Though I don’t like being out on weekends, the other option would be to work on weekends. Since doing so is asking to be in the 8th circle of hell, the much better alternative is to take weekends off.

I don’t know why I keep telling myself that I’m going to the art museum on my days off, because I never manage to get my behind there. Today was no different. Instead, I took a side trip to the Farmacy, my favourite brunch spot located in University City.

The gray sky and rain christened the already dreary day. It rained lightly at first, and I took care to walk around puddles to keep water from seeping into my non-rain boots. After getting off the el at 46th Street, I approached my destination after waiting through a procession of police cars, and steering myself past the tempting smell of a halal place (that’s next on my hit list; that salty-savory aroma was AMAZING). I stepped over the Rx on the step and into the threshold to one of my favourite places to hide.

Apparently, The Farmacy was just what the doctor ordered for that day.

It was warmer and considerably drier inside than out. The muted yellow, the plants that hang from baskets in various spots, and the 3 square mini skillets hanging on the wall makes the restaurant feel homey. Also, the intimate size of the space made it feel cozy. It wasn’t quite as busy as the last time I was there, which was months ago.

Songs that I heard when I was growing up blasted from the kitchen, and I sang to most of them. I ordered the huevos rancheros on this particular day. I’ve had huevos rancheros before and like it, but I’ve not tried it here. Every place makes common dishes like that differently; therefore I was anxious to try it at my favorite spot.

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“Now that’s impressive”, the waitress exclaimed when she saw how clean the skillet was. I laughed from embarrassment. I had done all but lick the skillet, and that’s only because I kept myself from doing so. “That’s all right; I did that the first time I had it, too”. A runnier yolk would’ve been nice, but I clearly had no problem with eating this interpretation of huevos rancheros. The duck fat potatoes in the bottom sealed the deal for me. They also helped me clean the skillet at the end.

After enjoying some bacon, I left brunch to wander around University City. I ducked in and out of a couple of shops, then ventured to Center City area to go to Reading Terminal Market. I started a bit because of the volume of people in the place. It’s nowhere near as crowded in the middle of the week unless you go during lunch. Even then, it doesn’t compare to the amount of bodies pushing through the seemingly narrow aisles. Maybe they only seemed narrow because my head was starting to spin and the loud crowd started getting mysteriously quieter.

It was then that I realized I was panicking. I never remember experiencing this feeling before although I manifest shyness and introverted tendencies. I had to quickly duck out of the fray. I found the shop where the spice corner had been, and ducked in.

What had just happened? Did I have a panic attack? Why? Part of me wondered if pushing through the bustle reminded me of the time I went “crowd surfing” in Times Square in NYC. I don’t mean the fun crowd surfing that happens when you’re above the crowd, being guided by a sea of hands.

What I call “crowd surfing” is when a large, protesting crowd crushes you in so that you can’t move, your feet leave the ground, and you are “carried” in whatever direction that crowd moves. It’s frightening because if your feet don’t get back onto the ground in a way where you’re holding yourself up, you can easily be trampled… and we know where that can lead to in a worst case scenario.

It was at this time that I decided to leave the market once I summoned the courage to leave the little shop. I thought about what had happened on the way home. Despite that incident, I love being in the city. I still love Center City Philly and I still love New York City.

Introverts and shy girls can totally make it in the city; just be true to yourself!

If you know your limit is eating & shopping for the day, stick to that! When it gets to be too much, retreat to the quiet spot in the city that you love. Also know when it’s time to get home and recharge… and don’t think something’s wrong with you for needing that. Cities are perfect for introverts because it’s okay if you’re a little offbeat. In a city, everyone’s offbeat… and somehow… it all harmonizes and makes something that we can’t stay away from, no matter how introverted we can be. I can be.