Zoodle + Shrimp Pad Thai

Yes, please. If you haven’t heard me talk about my zoodler, you aren’t asking the right questions. I am obsessed. If you aren’t familiar, I’m referring to a handy tool that can make noodles out of any vegetable. {Zucchini noodles–> zoodles –> zoodler} Technically it’s called a veggetti…but that name has obvious issues that the entire marketing team somehow overlooked. If you want to convince anyone that your dish is better than regular noodles, I recommend staying away from that word.

Let’s hit it:IMG_4491

What you need (Prep 20 mins)
-First and foremost, a Zoodler! Aka a vegetti…but that name has obvious issues that the
entire marketing team somehow overlooked. So I call it a zoodler. Rice noodles could be used if you aren’t convinced this tool will change your life.
-6 zucchinis (on the smaller side)
-3 eggs
-15 shrimp, defrosted
-1 can chickpeas
-3 tbsp garlic
-Simmer sauce (Trader Joe’s Red Thai Curry is my fave)
-Crushed red pepper
-Lemon & pepper seasoning

IMG_4492How to (Cook time 15 mins)
-Start boiling the water and zoodle all zucchinis into a large bowl, set aside.
-Sautee shrimp and season with lemon & pepper spice, set aside.
-Add zoodles to boiling water, cook for 5-7 minutes; drain
-Chop shrimp into thirds, add to zoodles with drained chickpeas, garlic, and stir in simmer sauce to cover mixture. Low heat for 5 minutes.
-Scramble the 3 eggs, and stir in.
-Add crushed red pepper to taste, and serve!

Serves four. Or in my language, bring to work in a large tupperware and have with salad for four days 🙂 Why Zoodle?

  • Zucchinis are rich in fiber, protein, vitamins (A, B6, C & K), potassium, magnesium, and folate. This is true for zucchini squash as well!
  • Sweet potatoes are an amazing source of vitamin A (shout out to that beta-carotene), vitamin C, copper, magnesium, fiber, vitamins B1 & B2, and phosphorus. And then you get to say sweet patoodle. My kind of perk.

Compared to pasta, which usually has at least 200 carb-dense calories/serving. For me, the main differentiator is that vegetable noodles have one nutrient-rich ingredient going into their production, while pasta is processed and preserved.

I can tell you from my four months of living in Italy that all of those ingredients, preservatives, and coloring agents do make a difference. Fresh and homemade pasta was not reserved for the most gourmet restaurants, it is just how Italians make pasta. As a result, Americans who are gluten-intolerant/sensitive tend to not experience issues.

If a trip isn’t in the near future, start experimenting with fresh zucchini noodles! Have a favorite zoodler recipe? Please share!



Finisco Finals

One of the least popular things you can say, as a college student in May, is “I’m done!”

I apologize in advance. With some finals scattered through the end of April, presentations instead of exams and a movie viewing, you could say this was one of my more enjoyable exam seasons.

Instead, I tested my emotional stability as I had many “lasts” with my wonderful abroad group of friends and prepared to say goodbye to my favorite city. I brainstormed which stories I’ll tell first, and recalled historical facts while showing my family the city. Exams are meant to see what you’ve learned throughout the semester; since Italy skipped most of those, here’s what I’m walking away with-

1. There’s always more to see: In my neighborhood, in Rome, in Italy, in Europe, in the world, this rings true. You won’t ever be able to visit or do all of it, but what would be the appeal if you could? Traveling should be a life long hobby and value, not something you do for one semester in college. There’s always something to go back for, and wherever you are, there’s always something to be discovered.

2. “Bar” refers to coffee: Classic mixup. However, my discovered love for cappuccinos made the abundance of “bars” exciting in it’s own way.

family trevi3. I’m no stranger to being wrong: I originally thought I shouldn’t go to Rome since I had been there (for two days). That was funny. I couldn’t be more pleased with my last minute decision to study abroad, or coming back to Italy. Although it wasn’t the first time I threw a coin in the Trevi, walked through the colosseum, or tasted gelato; I’m no longer the soon to be senior in high school who did all those things. I’ve retained more knowledge, appreciated more beauty and laughed with purer happiness than I could have ever imagined, especially in two days.

4. Or to being right: Noticing that I can correctly remember directions, silently say the correct answer or accurately predict friendship potential; I found how to trust my instincts and myself. Welcoming independence and confidence, this semester has continued the process of coming into my own, one I had forgot should always be in progress. Experiences like being the most trusted translator at my internship, learning the Italian language, and showing my family around this wonderful city have only magnified this.

5. Blame it on the a-a-a-alcohol: Even giving up sweets for lent can’t save you from the calories of red wine. Who knew? But  at 3 euro a bottle, I don’t think anyone is surprised.

6. How to dive deep: Whether it’s taking the time to learn about what I am seeing rather than just snapping a picture, or taking the time to correct first impressions, this semester taught me to look beneath the surface. This applies to people as well, baccina famas many of my favorite memories took place with my roommates, that started as strangers and became family.

7I’m such a mom: That wasn’t just a cliche comparison, our apartment’s family dynamics consisted of a grandma, aunt,
mom (yours truly), angsty teen and baby. From approving outfits as we left for class to internship searching for everyone, my mother goose nickname surfaced once again. Although it’s not surprising, this strong characteristic allowed me to see that regardless of the city I’m in, the friends I make or the routines I fall into, my personality will always be distinctly me.

8. Ti amo, Roma: More than anything, all of these things have made me realize that Rome will always be home. This city went from being the short term back drop of my first trip to Europe as a 17 year old to the city that celebrated my 21st birthday with me, showed me the value of history, and gave me a greater appreciation for perspectives different than my own. Although I could skip minor details like political corruption and a lack of feminism, I will always adore Rome and Italy as a whole.

Although my time is nearing an undeniable end, my experiences, appreciation for cultures and languages, along with my adoration for traveling, have made Rome a part of who I am. This semester has taught me more than any stack of notecards, bubble sheet or strict professor ever could. For this reason, I am unable to be a college student boasting that “I’m done!” because this semester, this growth, will always be with me.

Time Is Of The Essence

As I’ve mentioned, Italy takes a different approach to daily routines, one that has made me never feel pressed for time- until now. I’ve been told that our time abroad is beginning to near the end, an idea I refuse to acknowledge enough to fact check.

The saddest part of this concept, isn’t all the cappuccinos, amazing professors or beautiful monuments that I will miss. It’s the presence of people, across many different programs, counting down the days until their return to US soil.

Yes, everyone is different and to each their own, etc. Yet, for me, witnessing these reactions to our last month studying abroad represents a lack of gratitude and appreciation. From Rome to Brazil to Australia, wherever you are, studying abroad is a privilege so many people are unable to experience. How could you not appreciate, cherish, and already miss every single moment?

Screen Shot 2014-04-10 at 9.51.49 AMThis value of time coincides with the Italian approach to food. Dedicated to the slow food movement, Italy has reinforced my values of eating local and knowing what you’re eating. From the traditional family restaurants to the abundance of open air markets to the beloved Made In Italy label, real food is essential to Italy.

Similar to students ready to return home, our usual approach to food speeds along a process in a way that compromises quality and experience. Our Sustainable Foods professor, Sergio, says we are “enslaved by speed,” meaning we allow a lack of time to decide everything about our lives, especially what we eat. After an amazing weekend field trip to the Abruzzo region of Italy, where we only ate food grown and produced on the farm and watched cheese being made, the value of taking your time with food was driven home.

Everywhere around the world, especially the US, we take quality ingredients for granted and attempt to make the process of cooking and eating as efficient as possible. Few people want to know where their meat or produce come from, and have even less interest in the process it took for their meal to get there.

Started in Italy by Carlo Petrini and a group of activists in the 1980’s, Slow Food began in response to the opening of the first McDonald’s in Rome. Even though there are now 10 Roman locations, this is no sign of a Slow Food defeat.

Followed first by Germany and Switzerland, the Slow Food movement gained international recognition, even leading to Slow Food USA in 2000.

IMG_1782Eating is one of the simplest, yet most memorable, ways of experiencing a culture. This makes quality food universally and cross-culturally valued, something I experienced first hand in Istanbul. Walking past the fishermen waiting patiently by the river, walking through bustling fish markets, then visiting the famous fish sandwich vendors and enjoying our meal on said river; the simplicity was impossible to ignore. Sergio often reminds us to ask ourselves where our food comes from. All at once I could see where my fish came from, and each step of the production process, usually kept clandestine by the food industry. This transparent, local and sustainable approach to food is one of my most sacred memories of Istanbul.

What this all comes down to, is there will never be enough time; but we have more control over how we spend it than we admit. Whether it’s a semester abroad or ingredients for dinner, we’ll experience so much more if we make the most of what we are given. Skype shouldn’t trump scenic walks through foreign streets; 15 minutes isn’t better spent Facebook stalking than cooking real meals; and opportunities for connecting and building relationships with those around you shouldn’t be swapped for updating that silly countdown.

True appreciation of the experiences we are given, whatever they may be, calls for a mindset that focuses on what you have accomplished, enjoyed and grown from- not when it will be over.

And if you’re truly doing it right, what you take away from these once in a lifetime opportunities won’t have an expiration date. You’ll meet people with an open mind, thinking of that one roommate that pleasantly surprised you; you’ll say yes to invitations out of your comfort zone, remembering everything you gained from new cultural experiences; and most importantly, you’ll have gratitude that needs not a reminder.

The Waiting Game

True to the lax Roman lifestyle, I have yet to be placed in my internship for the semester.

One of the courses I am enrolled in this semester sets students up with employers in their field of study, in order to receive class credit for a 10 hr/week internship. The internship interviews began shortly after we arrived, but are inconsistent throughout employers. Some employers are taking their time to set up meetings, which is why some students have yet to be placed.

Turns out, this limbo period is giving me a true Italian experience.

ImageAs a result of a lack of opportunities, corrupt labor laws and cultural norms, Italians are often taking as long as eight years to find full time employment after graduating from college. Italy’s current education system creates little room for internships or for students to gain any work experience before graduation.

Employers lacking the economic flexibility to create many internships or take risks with unexperienced workers lead to a never ending cycle of employment. Long-term opportunities are also very difficult to come by, making more and more grads hold numerous short-term, dead end jobs that are rarely related to their degree.

In the States, college grads are beginning to relate a bit more to this fate. Yet, the stage of post-graduation unemployment in the US still doesn’t compare to Italy’s, which explains the difference of incomes over lifetimes. We retire at the same age, but Americans have almost a decade more of work experience.

Cultural differences vary the causes and degree of desperation, yet high unemployment of young people is detrimental to any economy.

Work ethic in Italy seems to be stunted by the lack of urgency to leave the nest and overall social acceptance of avoiding independence. It is also not fiscally possible for most 20-something Italians to afford their own place when work is so difficult to find. This doesn’t have the same American stigma usually associated with moving back home.

In fact, it’s not uncommon for that 20-something Italian graduate to become a 40-something raising a family in their parent’s home.

Ultimately, my impatience towards receiving my internship placement is just my type-A tendencies coming out, rather than actual job instability- a tragic truth of Italy I have no intent to belittle. While I hope to soon begin my academic internship, I am far more anxious to see what strides Italy is able to make for the 40.1% youth unemployment rate.

One can only hope the young Italians’ patience pays off.