Greek yogurt is here! Sort of…

One of my favorite things to eat in the US is greek yogurt. I like yogurt in general but greek yogurt is my favorite. I don’t really like the yogurt I’ve tried in Brazil mainly because it is really runny and thin to me and I like yogurt thick. Well, the other day I saw an advertisement on TV for greek yogurt in Brazil, so I got really excited and bought two different brands. So the greek yogurt in Brazil is nothing like the greek yogurt in America, but what it is like is regular yogurt in America so I am happy. Out of the two brands here is my favorite!

Homemade

Did I mention I was pregnant? Well, I am about 5 months now and I guess it is safe to say now that I am pregnant. It was a tough couple of months there, living in a new country and being in my first trimester where smells and certain foods made me sick. But now I am at a good part of my pregnancy where food is really really good! The only problem is that some of the things I crave I can’t find in Brazil. So my solution has been to try to make things from scratch.

Making things from scratch isn’t always possible because you simple can’t find the right ingredients or the ingredients themselves are really expensive. For example, one of my favorite things in the US is coffee creamer, Hazelnut coffee creamer to be exact. And to my surprise there is a recipe for it; it is basically just a combination of milk, cream, sugar and Hazelnut extract. The problem is that Hazelnut extract is expensive and about R$50 for a small bottle. I also really like maccaroni and cheese, but not only is cheese expensive here, I can’t seem to find the right type of cheese and experimenting seems costly. So for now it is milk in my coffee and regular pasta.

On the other hand, cooking from scratch has led me to some of the best recipes I’ve ever tasted! I made chocolate cupcakes the other day with a chocolate butter cream frosting that was so good I couldn’t stop licking the bowl. I also make really good blueberry muffins, waffles, scalloped potatoes, parmesan zucchini, ribs, and the list goes on. Looking for new recipes and new ideas has become a bit of an obsession and even though some recipes don’t work out; I would say about eight out of ten of them do which keeps me really motivated!

We had some friends over the other night and an Argentinean friend who lives in America said, “Cooking in America is so easy.” In so many ways she is right, there are so many prepackaged meals and ingredients at your finger tips it makes it effortless. But one thing I will say about cooking from scratch is that you know what is in your food at all times, there are no preservatives or additives. And living in Brazil you can find some of the best quality meats and produce around so you food tastes incredible!

Are we still in Brazil???

As I’ve mentioned before I’ve traveled all over the South of Brazil. I thought I knew all of the idiosyncracies that Brazil and Brazilian culture had to offer, but I was totally surprised at what I found in Gramado…

My husband was presenting a paper at a conference in Gramado and he suggested that I come along. Gramado is a small mountain town in the state of Rio Grande de Sul (The southern most state in Brazil). We flew into Porto Alegre, rented a car, and drove up the mountains to Gramado. By the time we reached Gramado it was dark but in the morning I was in shock from what I saw.

Gamado is not like any place that I’ve seen in Brazil. It is a small touristic town rich with a history of German and Italian immigration. Basically Gramado makes you feel like you are in Europe. The streets are beautiful! Filled with planters and beautiful street lights. The architecture is mainly German with little Gingerbread houses everywhere you turn.

Gramado is a great place for both a romantic weekend away or a family vacation with the kids, there are several different activities for everyone. The first day in Gramado we spent shopping at the many different artesian shops and fine furniture shops. Next we went to the several chocolate stores and tried a variety of sweets, we were even able to go to the Prawer Chocolate Factory and see how the handmade chocolate was made. Finally, we ended our lovely day with an excellent meal of fondue. Fondue is a specialty in Gramado, especially because it gets so cold in the winter. We went to an all you can eat fondue restaurant, and our first course was the cheese fondue course served with breads and potatoes. The next course served a variety of raw meat that we cooked ourselves on a stone and was accompanied by 20 different sauces. And our final course was, of course, the chocolate fondue course served with 8 different fruits.

Our second day in Gramado we traveled to the waterfalls near by and hiked down to them. Fair warning though to hike down you have to go down and then up 730 steps. After the waterfalls we went to the Lago Negro (Black Lake) where you can paddle boat around the lake. Finally we headed over to Mini Mundo (Mini World); which is more of a kids attraction but fun none the less.

On our last day we visited the town near by named Canela which has a beautiful church in the center of town.

It was a great weekend getaway that I would highly recommend.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gramado

A Treasure in São Paulo

A couple of months ago, it was a warm day in the middle of winter and my husband and I decided to go visit the São Paulo Zoo. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon but what we didn’t expect is that everyone else would have the same idea as we did. While we were driving down the street to the entrance of the zoo the traffic was so bad that it took us 20 minutes to get to the entrance and as we were driving we passed by the Botanical garden or Jardim Botânico de São Paulo. When finally did get to the entrance of the zoo, my husband took one look at the line forming around the block and said, “Let’s go to the Jardim Botânico instead.”

São Paulo’s Jardim Botânico is a green treasure away from the city. It is the perfect place for a family to go for a picnic or just to take a nice long walk in the afternoon. We saw several people taking professional photographs because the back drop of the gardens makes for a beautiful picture. The entrance fees are very cheap and they have a small cafe with a nice terrace. Overall the Jardim Botânico is a nice afternoon of rest and relaxation while enjoying beautiful scenery. And if you miss the animals from the zoo, you won’t be disappointed because there are plenty of monkeys hanging out at the Jardim Botânico.

http://www.ibot.sp.gov.br/jardim/index.php