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Pasta with Shrimp, Spinach and White Wine 

Cook time: Approx. 20 Minutes 


- 16 oz pasta (any kind)

- 1 lb large shrimp, peeled and deveined 

- 6 oz spinach

- 3 tablespoons Butter

- 3 cloves garlic

- 1/2 cup dry white wine

- 1 lemon, juiced 

- red pepper flakes

- salt and pepper


1a. Cook pasta until al dente according to package instructions. Drain then return back to pot.

1b.  While pasta is cooking place skillet on medium heat. Add half the butter and melt. Add garlic and a few pinches of red pepper flakes. Saute until fragrant, approx. 2 minutes

2. Raise heat to medium-high, add wine. Cook until reduced by 1/3, approx. 2 minutes. 

3. Add shrimp, salt and pepper. Cook until opaque, approx. 2 minutes. 

4. Remove skillet from heat and stir in remaining butter and lemon juice.

5. Add spinach to pasta pot, then pour shrimp mixture over. Stir until spinach is wilting. Serve with Parmesan. 

Pumpkin Butter

Carving a pumpkin for Halloween? Make Pumpkin Butter with your leftover pumpkin guts. Butter can be used like jam and is great on toast!

Cook time: Approximately 40 minutes


- 3.5 cups pumpkin guts, puréed OR canned pumpkin

- 3/4 cups apple juice (fresh is best)

- 1.5 cups sugar

- 2 teaspoons ground ginger

- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

- 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

- 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves


If making pumpkin purée fresh:

1. Remove seeds from pumpkin and put aside. Then use hands/sharp spoon to remove pumpkin guts and purée them in food processor.

2. Put all ingredients in medium saucepan over medium heat and bring to a boil.

3.  Turn heat down to low and let mixture simmer for 30 minutes, stirring frequently. 

4. Transfer thickened mixture to jar and refrigerate until ready to eat. 

* Let mixture simmer until thickened. May take more than 30 minutes.

Broccoli Quinoa Pilaf


- small onion, chopped

- 4 cups broccoli, chopped

- 2 cups quinoa, cooked

- 1/2 cup craisins or raisins

- 1 cup roasted almonds, chopped fine

- 1/4 cup chicken broth

- olive oil

- salt and pepper


1. Place medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil then add onions, salt and pepper. Cook stirring occasionally until softened and starting to brown, approx. 3 minutes.

2. Add chicken broth. When it starts to boil turn heat down to medium. Add broccoli and craisins. Cook for 8-10 minutes, until broccoli is tender.

3. Stir in cooked quinoa and let cook for another minute.

4. Remove from heat and stir in almonds. Salt and pepper to taste.

Garlic Balsamic Artichoke

Cook time: 1 hour


- artichoke(s)

- olive oil

- balsamic vinegar

- garlic

- sea salt


1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2. Chop off bottom of artichoke, then top to expose petals.

3. Separate petals. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar inside petals, then sprinkle with sea salt. [Use your fingers to get inside petals.]

4. Stuff minced garlic in between petals.

5. Wrap artichoke in a double layer of aluminium foil. Seal tight.

6. Place on oven rack and bake. A regular sized artichoke will take 1 hour. For a jumbo artichoke cook 75 minutes.

7. Remove wrapped artichoke and let cool before opening foil. 

Orecchiette with Spicy Italian Sausage and Broccoli Rabe

Recipe from Everyday Italian.


- 2 bunches broccoli rabe, stalks trimmed, then quarter 

- 12 oz. orecchiette pasta

- 1 lb. spicy Italian sausage 

- 3 cloves garlic, minced

- 1/4 cup grated Parmesan 

- 3 tablespoons olive oil

- 1 punch red pepper flakes

- salt and pepper

1. Bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Cook broccoli rabe for 1 minute then remove- keep water.

2. Cook the orecchiette in the same boiling water until tender but still firm to bite, approx. 8 min. Reserve 1 cup of water before straining.

3. SAME TIME- Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook breaking up with a spoon until browned, approx. 8 min.

4. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cook for 30 seconds.

5. Add broccoli rabe and toss to coat.

6. Add pasta and reserved cooking water, 1/4 cup at a time, until reached desired moisture. 

7. Add Parmesan cheese, stir. Salt and pepper to taste.

8. Serve warm or at room temperature.

A simple but delicious pasta dish that’s perfect for a regular night in or a dinner party. 

Sesame Snow Peas and Shiitake Mushrooms

Ingredients (serves 2-3)

6-8 large shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 

3/4 lbs snow peas, trimmed

1 tsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp sesame oil

2 tbs vegetable or olive oil

Sesame seeds to garnish 



1. Combine soy sauce and sesame oil with 2 tbs of water in a small bowl.

2. Heat large skillet over high heat. Add 1 tbs of oil. When the oil is hot add mushrooms and stir for 3 minutes.

3. Add remaining oil, snow peas and pinch of salt. Stir for 30 seconds.

4. Add soy/sesame mixture and cool for 2 minutes, until peas are crisp/tender.

5. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve.

Ahi Tuna Tartare


1 lb ground tuna (sashimi grade)

2 tablespoons Sesame oil


Sesame seeds

1 large avocado


1. Put tuna in bowl.

2. Add oil and siracha (to taste.) Use hands to mix. 

3. Mash avocado.

4. Plate avocado, then tuna. Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Garnish plate with wasabi paste.

Oyster Mushrooms with wilted Spinach


3 cloves garlic, chopped

4 cups oyster mushroom, or another wild mushroom

Dry sherry wine, 3 tablespoons

Low sodium soy sauce, 1.5 tablespoons  
20oz spinach



1. In large skillet heat oil and garlic for 1 min.

2. Add mushrooms. Cook 5 minutes until mushrooms are tender.

3. Add sherry and soy sauce. 

4. Once simmering start adding spinach. Continue adding and stirring until all spinach is wilted. Serve.

London, UK

  Currently £1 = $1.55

I flew into London Gatwick airport from Amsterdam with Easy Jet, a budget airline. When I landed I was planning to take the National Express bus but ended up buying a £20 Gatwick Express train ticket instead. The buses don’t run as frequently and they are at least an hour and a half ride into the city, while the train only takes thirty minutes (once your at the train station.)

I decided to Couch Surf for my first time. I’ve always wanted to do it and London seemed like the perfect place because I wanted to experience the city like a local. My host lived in Zone 1, the touristy expensive heart of the city, aka downtown Central London. He picked me up at the train station and we got on the tube.We walked past the smallest Chinatown I’ve seen and stopped at a Wasabi sushi so I could grab a bite to eat.

We then went right nearby to Samuel Smith, a traditional English pub, which is exactly what I wanted. Here I met an American girl from Westport, CT who went to high school with an old family friend of mine. I also spoke to a group of guys about whether or not soccer is popular now in the states. They’re convinced it’s as popular as American football.

The pub shut down and we walked a block up the road to The Warick, a trendy English bar. Here I randomly met the Chinese Ambassador in Britain. On our way to the bus we stopped at a casino, which my host is a member of. I watched a bit of the Stanley Cup final that was on tv. Surprisingly the crowd at the casino was mixed male/female and most of the people inside were there for drinks and the tv.

My first Couch Surfing experience was a bust. My host snored loudly and the room was very bright. I ended up only getting about an hour of sleep and knew I wouldn’t be able to stay another night. So I booked a hostel and before I left for my new neighborhood we went for an Indian lunch at Needoo. My host then walked me down to the river. We crossed a few foot bridges and walked through a waterfront restaurant area that was packed with business lunchers and yachts. I got to see the Tower Bridge, the famous bridge in London; London bridge is actually a flat concrete pathway right next to this fancy bridge. 

 I took the underground at Tower Bridge to King’s Cross and walked to my hostel, Click 261 on Gray’s Inn Rd. The hostel is on the newer end and I stayed in the cheapest dorm, $28 per night in a 18-bed dorm. The room is cramped and smelled like feet. The showers are cramped as well, and the lounge/kitchen is in the basement downstairs with no natural light. However, I did manage to get the first bed in the room which meant I had some privacy, as long as the main door was closed.

I relaxed and did laundry then I headed back to King’s Cross and took the underground to Waterloo station by the south bank. [One of my Montreal friends is from London. She came to NY last summer and I showed her around, now she's showing me around her city.]

We spent the evening at South Bank, which is a massive outdoor waterfront promenade lined with restaurants and bars. We took a walk across the Golden Jubilee Bridge so I could get a great view of Big Ben, the Parliament and the London Eye. 
 For dinner we had chili ramen at Wagamama. It was prefect because I had been craving ramen but also because we love our spicy foods. After dinner I took the tube back home.
The next morning I took the free walking tour available through the hostel. The tour started outside the Covent Garden tube. First we went to Trafalgar square with the lions. I learned that the term “stiff drink” refers to when Admiral Nelson’s corpse was preserved in a liquor barrel at sea and the sailors drank from it anyway.

We walked to Waterloo Place. Then St. James palace and saw the changing of the Queen’s guards, a procession of guards with the traditional red coats and tall black fur hats. Down the road is Buckingham palace, and the flag on top announced that the queen is in the residence- it’s her birthday tomorrow. 

 We walked through the beautiful St. James park to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, where the royal marriages take place. 
   I left the group and had lunch nearby at The Old Star across from St. James Park underground. I ordered the Fish & chips board served with mushy mint peas. It was a must do while I was here, and it was worth it. The cod was fresh and the peas were chunky. 
 Afterwards I walked to Soho and down Carnaby shopping street. I went searching for a hat for Ascot but all I found were the same shops we have at home. 

[Harry Potter] I walked to Cecil Court St. off Charing Cross Road, the street Diagon Alley was inspired off of. It’s full of used book stores. One store was selling an original signed copy of HP. 

 Later on in the evening I went to Clink78 Clash Bar. Clink78 is down the road from Clink261, and in the basement is a real bar where only guests are allowed. They were doing a Spain themed night so for my first drink I had cinnamon sangria.

I went to lunch at Wahaca near Oxford Circus. My London friend recommended it and she did not disappoint. I got the salmon sashimi tostadas and the Sonora chicken salad. 

 I met up with her for the second time on Oxford Street and we walked around that shopping area and to Selfridges department store near the posher side. After we took the train to Richmond (her neighborhood,) a town outside London proper. For dinner we went to Dehli Orchid, an Indian restaurant at my request. She knows her Indian food and we were able to get real spicy food, not the western version of spicy. We each got chicken murg xacuti, a dish she got my addicted to back in Montreal. 

  After dinner we walked up a hill to Roebuck pub, which has a view of River Thames and the lush greenery around. Many of the bars in Richmond have permits so customers can drink outdoors, in this case across the street on the park pathway. It was 9:40pm and still light outside. Another friend of ours from Montreal came for a drink; she also lives in Richmond. 

 The next morning we drove through the massive Richmond park. The park looks more like a forest with tall grass and big groups of deer grazing. It was the perfect English countryside setting. 

   I took the train back to London, then another train out to Watford, north west of London. I got off at the last stop, Watford Junction, and walked to Southern Cross, a bar with rooms upstairs. I got the cheapest room for $65, which had a single bed, a sink and a shower. However, the toilet is shared outside. It was a bit weird but overall a decent room with a comfy bed and a TV.

That night I went to dinner with a girl from my travels in Malaysia/Singapore who lives in Watford. We ate at Tarboush, a popular shisha restaurant in town. We then grabbed a drink at a bar on the promenade and I learned that Strongbow cidre is originally from the Watford area. 

 The morning I walked around town, relaxed on the lawn besides the church, and ate a bunch. At 2:45pm I caught the Harry Potter shuttle bus to Warner Bros along with a huge crowd of people. I had been incredibly excited to go to see the making of Harry Potter. When you first enter you see a 5 min. clip with the producer talking about how the movie blew-up. At this point I cried. Seeing the excitement in cities around the world over a decade of time, I was reminded of every opening night film I waited for.  

Then we saw a short film and the screen lifted and the actual entrance to Hogwarts was right there. We walked through the massive doors and into the Great Hall. One thing I hate about movie sets is that everything looks fake and much smaller. On the tour I saw most sets including the Gryffindor common room, Dumbledore’s office, Hagrid’s home, the Weasley home, etc. I saw tons of props and green screen behind the scenes. Especially with Harry Potter almost every scene is done with a green screen, which for me took away some of the magic. However, I was completely taken aback when I saw the massive model of Hogwarts castle (about 15′ tall,) and the videos on how they use it to do all castle filming. Every single shot of the castle is actually just of this model, and ever single shot of Harry outside the castle is with a green screen.  

         After the studio tour I took the shuttle bus back to the train station, and the train back to my hostel. I grabbed my bag from the storage room and moved to St. Christopher’s Oasis, inside St. Christopher’s Village, a party hostel near the London Bridge tube. Later on I went to the bar downstairs and met a few boys from Reno. All the guests were American or Australian, and I was by far the oldest person at the bar. The Oasis part of the hostel however was perfect. It was an all girls section and most of the women staying in the 12-bed dorm were long term.

In the morning I took the bus to Liverpool street station where I met up with a Brazilian friend from my travels in Thailand. We spent the morning walking around Brick Lane, Shoreditch and Old Street. The areas reminded me of a mix between the East Village and Williamsburg in NYC, except these neighborhoods are more unique and felt like the original. The people living and working around here also seemed more real, and tattoo’d. 

   We then jumped on a bus to go to Camden Town, her neighborhood and another area I was told to check out. All I was told was that there’s a big market where you can buy touristy things but I was pleasantly surprised to find a market that also had a massive gourmet street food section, tattoo shops, regular clothing, and mostly locals, not tourists. A canal runs along one side of the food market and there are a few outdoor bars on the other side. We grabbed a falafel and sat on the waterfront watching the Venice boat go up and down the canal. After eating we had a bottle of wine at The Ice Wharf, one of the river bars. Later on we went to The Elephant Head, her local watering hole. 

 In the morning I moved hostels again, this time to Holland House, a residential hostel near the Victoria station. The hostel is on a beautiful street of white townhouses across from a private residential park. My room had three beds; the other two girls in the room lived there and I felt like we were sharing a dorm room in college, or rather I was visiting them. There is a dining room downstairs and a buffet dinner is included in the £10 a night price. Not only was it the cheapest hostel I stayed in but it was also the nicest- if you’re not looking for a social atmosphere but just a place to get a quite nights sleep. I did get lucky with roommates though; one was fun and the other was quite. 

I took the tube to Oxford Circus and met up with my Vermont friend who I met in Bali and traveled through part of Borneo with. The entire reason I stayed in the UK was because she invited me to the Ascot horse races. I shopped for a fascinator, shoes and a matching purse, which all matched perfectly with my pearls. We walked around all day and stopped at a pub in Soho for lunch. 

   The next morning I stopped at Sainsbury, a cheap chain supermarket, and I picked up lunch and two bottles of champagne. I met my Vermont friend at Waterloo train station at 9:30am. We took the one hour train to Ascot for Royal Ascot, the famous horse races that the queen attends. On this Thursday we had tickets for Silver Ring, the cheapest section where you can bring in your own food and beverages (one bottle of champagne per person.) The lawn was packed with girls in pretty dresses wearing big hats and fascinators, and the boys were very dapper in suits. We had an all-day picnic. We could barely see the track from where we were sitting but I did get up a few times to see the horses. 
     We spent parts of the day at The Stag bar near the race course. I tried a proper Pimms for the first time and I have to admit I’m not a fan. We met some Irish men at the bar after the races and ended up taking a taxi to Richmond with them. Here we sat at a bar on the waterfront and watched the sunset, then later on we went to Viva nightclub. Around 3am I realized that the tube and buses were no longer running, which is something I’m not used to, and I had a minor panic attack because we were in the suburbs. I ended up having to take a forty minute (and $60) taxi ride back into the city. 

The next day I went to Topshop and finally did proper shopping for my first time in the past 8 months. One pair of shorts had a $50 tag and they rang up for only $5, a nice surprise sale. I only bought a few basic items but it feels great to have new things- a big white fascinator didn’t seem to do the trick. 

I ate dinner with my roommate in the dining room and went to bed early. The next morning I woke-up, bought champagne, and met Vermont and a friend of hers at the Waterloo train station. This Saturday we got Grandstand tickets, the section in between Silver Ring and Royal Enclosure. This section consists of an interior stadium-like area with bars and food stands; however, it’s all classy. Outside there are tables and chairs on the lawn, and inside above the first two floors is the Royal Enclosure, aka the boxes. 
 The races don’t start until 2:30pm but there’s a parade for the queen and horses around 2pm each day. This time I actually made it to the track side to watch. I saw Queen Elizabeth and Prince Phillip pass by in a carriage only a few yards from me. She wore an orange outfit, probably to offset the rain clouds. At the end of the day I saw them again as they were vacating the Royal Enclosure. It’s amazing to me how they get so close to the public without intense security around. 
   I bet on two horses in one race and lost on both. I drank some more Pimms, ate a burger and fries soaked in vinegar, and enjoyed the outdoors a bit. The weather was grim with drizzles here and there; typical London weather but nothing I want to be outside in. The outfits in Grandstand were more extravagant than Silver Ring, and at the end of the day we watched the Royal Enclosure let out and then I got to see the designer outfits. Some of the hats were outrageously decorated with massive feathers, flowers, brims, etc. After the races there was a band playing in a bandstand, and thousands of fancy drunk merry Brits sang along to traditional songs. Then it started to downpour and we made a run for it back to the train. My free shiny red ballet flats had puddles in them, and I found out my fascinator is waterproof. 
 On the way home I picked up a large soup from Sainsbury, my millionth and final trip that store. I took a hot shower, watched West Wing and sipped on soup on my final night in London. The next morning I got a refund on my Oyster tube card, then took the Gatwick Express train to Gatwick Airport. I did my VAT refund and got £30 cash back- VAT refunds is something I just learned about. I flew Norwegian Airlines to Copenhagen, then to JFK. 

Budapest, Hungary

 On Sunday we said farewell to Bob, then Dave and I walked past St. Stephan’s church and the Opera House on the way to our hostel. We stayed in a 8-bed dorm in Carpe Diem Vitae aka Vitae, not Carpe Diem, which is the shitty sister hostel. Vitae is on the 5th floor of an apartment building with an interior walkway. Many apartment buildings in Budapest are designed this way. 
After checking in we headed back out. We ran into Judah Fest, a Jewish festival along Kazinczy street, which is also a bar street. The festival was like any other with food, activities, and women selling vintage and handmade jewelry. There were Jewish organizations trying to sign people up, and loud Jewish music playing. We stopped and ate a bean dish and then hummus.  
We continued down the street out of the festival to Szimpla Kert, the famous garden eclectic bar, which is also a farmers market on Sunday’s. We were too full to eat more real food so we bought a kilo of cherries and took a seat. The cherries were really soft but not overripe, which we’d never had before. We chatted with a few German girls who are studying abroad in Budapest. 

 We went to the Great Synagogue, the biggest synagogue in Europe. The bema is magnificent with a gold facade and a colorful ceiling. I was given paper towel to cover my shoulders and Dave was given a yamaka. Behind the synagogue is a gravesite for Jewish heros.  
We walked towards downtown and stopped at Blue Bird coffee. We then went to Erzsebet park and sat on the ledge of the public pool. The pool is only used for dipping your feet and it’s crowded all times of the day. People bring beers during the day and at night all liquor can be found.  
In the middle of the park there’s a few outdoor bars, street food, and a giant Ferris wheel. There was a stage set-up with a band playing, along with men cooking massive skillets of sausages and other Hungarian foods.  
We kept walking and ran into a used book market in a large square. We had a snack at Anna Cafe on a busy tourist shopping street for the people watching. For dinner we went to Kadarka Wine Bar on Kiraly street. I was being incredibly indecisive with both wine and food and the waiter was being a gem, except for when we asked him what food is best and he suggested the burger for Dave and a salad for me. 

After dinner we went to Retox, our sister hostel with a bar. Our entire hostel was there as well. The crowd was young, and the bar was a dump, but the space was big, the drinks cheap, and the people nice.

In the morning we went to breakfast at the elegant New York Cafe commissioned by New York Insurance Company New York Palace.    
We walked through the big City park, past numerous playgrounds and a kids soccer field with mini bleachers. We went to Szechenyi thermal bathhouse, the biggest one which sits on the edge of the park. The bathhouse has three outdoor pools and more than fifteen inside ranging in temperatures, along with saunas, etc. Some of the saunas reach as high as 70 Celsius which is just mad. The interior thermal pools smell like sulfur and hot pee but that’s just the natural hot spring smell. The best pool was the medicinal one. The temperature wasn’t too hot or too cold and the water felt like silk.  
We walked past the zoo, Heroes square, through town and went to Konyha for lunch, a restaurant we had past the day before that had cool sliding windows. We finally tried one of the traditional creams. Every restaurant in Budapest serves veggie and meat creams; a sort of pâté. My fear of them is the amount of mayo but this one only had spinach and feta. We also got fresh fruity lemonade, another thing all restaurants serve.  
We walked down to the waterfront, past our Viking cruise ship which was still there, to the Jewish shoes. The shoes represent the Jewish men and women who were brought to the riverbank and then shot from behind.    
Parliament is right across the road but unfortunately it was closed. We never did get a chance to go inside. We walked back to the social park downtown, and had drinks at Drk Dorko, one of the outdoor bars.

On our walk back home we ran into Gozsdu Udvar, a long pedestrian alley packed with restaurants and bars. In the middle of the alley you can go up or down in the opposite direction hitting more restaurants and a street food outdoor area. The space is awesome and we couldn’t believe we didn’t know it existed. We weren’t hungry for a real meal so we grabbed Pad Thai Wok 2 Go.

Later on we went to Szimpla Kert to check out the night scene there. The bar was great; there were all different types of people all ages. We ordered wine from the wine bar, then beer from the beer bar, and a grapefruit shisha from the shisha bar. It came with a grapefruit head with glow sticks inside the vase.

In the morning we went to Kozpont (across from Konyha) for coffee and sandwiches. It was 10am on a weekday and the local girls next to us were drinking beer. After getting our caffeine fix we walked across Erzsebet bridge and trekked up to the Citadel. You go there mostly for the panoramic views of the city. We came back across on the green bridge farther down the river. When you look back towards the Citadel from this bridge you can see there is a church inside the mountain.    
We walked into Central Market and bought the most amazing sweet cherry tomatoes.  
Lunch was at Trattoria Barca Bianca for the pizza, which we had smelled our first day. On the way home I attempted to shop but all the clothes (that weren’t in American stores) were trashy. I ran back to the hostel and missed getting caught in a crazy hail storm by a few minutes. 

We had beers and sandwiches at Farm, then went to Exit Point to play an escape game. We did Wonderland and couldn’t get out in the end. We made it into the second room but most of the clues were impossible to figure out. After playing we talked to some girls who play regularly and they say you have to ask non-stop for hints in order to get out.

It poured almost all night. After Exit Point we went to Soda bar with our hostel. The bar is famous for having carbonated vodka shots. The next morning we grabbed a cab to the airport and flew to Amsterdam. We then parted ways; Dave to NYC and me to London.