Brazil Recap Part 2: Bahia

Basically if Kevin and I ever choose to invest somewhere in Brazil, it is probably going to be Bahia aka the Hawaii of Brazil. I've never been to Hawaii but Kevin has several times and this made him just as happy if not more, so that is a win for me :)

On January 3rd we flew from Rio to Ilheus, Bahia which is more in the northeastern region of Brazil. My mom has 3 siblings who live there (fun fact, they're all dentists!) - one who we did not see because he lives 9 hours inland - and we stayed at my Tio Adelmar's condo in Itabuna, which is about 30-40 minutes away from Ilheus. My Tia Jacinta also lives there. It was the best 4 days!

The air felt so good when we got off the plane. Rio was hot and sticky while Bahia feels like summer around here, especially at night. The day time heat is a whole other story.

We got to my uncle's house and unpacked and showered. I showed Kevin around his place and he loved it. I remember the first time I visited Bahia when I was 14 and I fell in love. There is something about apartments and homes in Brazil. They're so light and breezy, mostly white. Exactly my style. My uncle is also the most organized person I've ever met and there isn't a speck of dust anywhere. This makes my anxious, Type-A self very relaxed. Perfect for vacation mode.

This was on our second night but I just wanted to show my uncle's living room! Kevin was dying of heat and they only keep AC's in their rooms so my uncle set up a fan for him. Kevin sat in the doorway of the kitchen so he could still talk to us lol :)

This was on our second night but I just wanted to show my uncle's living room! Kevin was dying of heat and they only keep AC's in their rooms so my uncle set up a fan for him. Kevin sat in the doorway of the kitchen so he could still talk to us lol :)

That first day we slept in pretty late. My uncle had put a blanket up on the window to block the sun but this made us sleep until like 10:30. Oops! There was also an hour difference between there and Rio because in Bahia they don't have daylight savings. My uncle made us breakfast with coffee, fruit, and pao delicia (sweet bread with shredded cheese in it - so yummy!) and we lounged for a bit. My aunt picked us all up and we went to one of the quieter beaches in Ilheus for the day. It's about a 40 minute drive and also - fun fact: Bahia is one of the largest producers of cacao in the world! There's tons of beautiful cacao farms on the way. Yay chocolate :)

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Bahia is amazing to me because of how the beaches are. I wish every beach experience could be like this! Along the coast there's TONS of restaurants/bars/shacks that line the beach, each privately owned and you basically just pick one with a table and you hang out there all day. No lugging massive coolers or dragging chairs and umbrellas to the beach. All of that is there for you and it takes the stress out of going to the beach (because yes it can be stressful). So on this first day we ordered coconut water all day, swam, talked, laid in the sun and then had almoço (Portuguese word for lunch aka the largest meal of the day) around 3. Kevin was like "wow you can really live like a king here", because the dollar is worth so much right now!

Kevin and my uncle! This moment was so special to me because neither one speaks each others' language. Although I knew everything would be fine I was still nervous about how much I may have to translate, but everyone found their own way to communicate!

Kevin and my uncle! This moment was so special to me because neither one speaks each others' language. Although I knew everything would be fine I was still nervous about how much I may have to translate, but everyone found their own way to communicate!

We had just found out there was a huge snow storm at home :)

We had just found out there was a huge snow storm at home :)

That day we left around 5 and went home to shower and then just relax and hang out. We didn't have dinner but that is pretty typical in Brazil. It's literally too hot to eat. But if you are hungry you usually have bread, fruit, or leftovers from lunch if you cooked at home.

Relaxing on my uncle's balcony :) He can tell you every fact about these plants!

Relaxing on my uncle's balcony :) He can tell you every fact about these plants!

Eating pão delícia!

Eating pão delícia!

On day 2 we went to a separate beach at a resort called Jardim Atlantico. This day we went earlier and did the same as the day before, only we stayed longer. This was actually a resort but we were able to just use the beach. 

Literally every day it was this cloudy until 11 am and then blue skies for the rest of the day!

Literally every day it was this cloudy until 11 am and then blue skies for the rest of the day!

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Family pic!

Family pic!

That night my aunt took us out for tamaki - apparently Japanese food is having a major moment in Brazil right now. I didn't get a picture, oops!

The plan for the Day 3 was to go on a mini cruise from Camamu, about 3 hours north of Ilheus. We got up at 5 am to be able to get on the boat by 8:30 but about an hour before we got there we ran into this protest in the street. Brazilian "highways" only exist in major cities. Everywhere else, it's just one main road pretty much to get anywhere. This small town had a bridge that fell down in it and the mayor was taking forever to get it fixed so people protested by blocking the only other way through - the main road. They set logs and tires on fire and we (plus other cabs, busses, etc) all had to turn around. If it was here in the U.S. I imagine people would be seriously pissed and the protest wouldn't last this long. But the reaction among everyone was "This is Brazil". And it is. I liked seeing everyone's neutral reaction to the situation because clearly these people have it worse.

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We ended up doing what our plan for Sunday was which was go to Itacarezinho, the most gorgeous beach I've been to and also makes me want to say "This is Brazil"! It's called "Little Hawaii" and it is so calm, clean and peaceful there. Look at the meals we got!

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These picture's don't do this beach justice.

These picture's don't do this beach justice.

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Seafood pasta for Kevin

Seafood pasta for Kevin

I got shrimp soup in pumpkin puree and it is probably one of the most delicious meals I've ever had!

I got shrimp soup in pumpkin puree and it is probably one of the most delicious meals I've ever had!

We couldn't not get açaí  everywhere we went :)

We couldn't not get açaí  everywhere we went :)

Stopped for this view on our way home!

Stopped for this view on our way home!

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At night we went out to eat. In Brazil it is pretty common to order "porções" or basically a platter of different things plus tooth picks and everyone shares. 

My uncle's girlfriend joined us this night!

My uncle's girlfriend joined us this night!

Steak, garlic bread, charcuterie, olives (not a fan, never will be), salad and yucca fries! We also got salad and another plate with grilled chicken and actual fries

Steak, garlic bread, charcuterie, olives (not a fan, never will be), salad and yucca fries! We also got salad and another plate with grilled chicken and actual fries

Back at my uncle's house. These lizards are literally everywhere!

Back at my uncle's house. These lizards are literally everywhere!

On day 4, our last day, my aunt stayed home to run some errands while we went to the beach (again, duh) with my uncle. First we had breakfast at her apartment though. It was another day of sleeping in and then staying at the beach until the sun started setting. It was so beautiful! My uncle prefers the livelier beaches and this one was fun. More crowded, also because it was Sunday. The water was so warm and there was live music. We had all actually gotten burned by this day. Kevin kept his shirt on and we all just stayed in the shade haha.

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Shared a fried fish platter for lunch!

Shared a fried fish platter for lunch!

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The shacks on the beach all close around 6 but you are still able to go to the beach and use the chairs if you like.

The shacks on the beach all close around 6 but you are still able to go to the beach and use the chairs if you like.

Went out to eat again! But also got another açaí on the way home first of course!

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Stayed up late talking/packing and then slept for 5 hours before we made our way to Minas Gerais! Recap coming soon :)

Let's Be Real Meals: Chocolate Lovers' Chia Pudding

Happy Valentine's Day! (*almost*) What better way to celebrate than with chocolate, right? But to be honest, chocolate is ok to have any day of the year. Seriously. I almost don't go a day without it and my health is in top shape. #NoFoodShaming

I went with chia pudding for this month's theme because it's a great recipe to have for breakfast, a snack, or even dessert. It was also another excuse to experiment with the Vitamix I won from FNCE back in October!

Chia pudding is something I've gone back and forth with. If you don't do it right, it comes out a bit too watery. I found via some other food bloggers that banana is the way to go! Plus it adds sweetness without added sugar. There are several optional ingredients that aren't listed in the video, but I'll be sure to add them to the recipe below.

This is a great option for meals/snacks if you're lactose-intolerant or don't tolerate yogurt very well, and is also a fun way to reap the benefits of the omega-3s from chia seeds using different flavors each time. 

Don't forget to search #LetsBeRealMeals on Instagram for more simple recipes!


Recipe: Chocolate Lovers' Chia Pudding

Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup unsweetened almond or coconut milk
- 3 tbsp chia seeds
- 1.5 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1/2 banana (Freeze the other half for smoothies or you can double this recipe for two people!)
- Raspberries
- Shredded coconut
- Optional: 1/4 tsp vanilla extract, stevia, strawberries as an additional topping

Instructions:

1. Mix milk, chia seeds, and cocoa powder (plus vanilla extract and stevia if using) in a small bowl or jar and place in blender with banana. Blend until smooth (about 15-20 seconds).
2. Leave in the fridge overnight or for 8 hours.
3. Top with raspberries and coconut and enjoy!

Double the recipe for a true chocolate lovers' snack or dessert. 

Check back soon for additional recaps from my Brazil trip!

Brazil Recap Part 1: Rio de Janeiro

I am back! From January 1st to the 23rd, I was on a 3-ish week vacation in Brazil to visit family, where I hadn't been in 5 years. This time was extra special not only for that reason but because it was the first time that my boyfriend of 4.5 years got to experience this amazing country. For some history, my parents are both from Brazil, got married in 1990 there and then moved to the U.S., specifically Cape Cod. They are both from small towns in Minas Gerais and come from huge families. My dad is 1 of 9 and my mom is 1 of 16.

When my sister and I were kids and going to Brazil, we never felt like we were "in Brazil" until we got to the farm where my mom grew up. This farm is 5 hours away from the major city of MG and located in a small town that isn't even visible on Google Maps. One time we spent a week on the beaches of Bahia but still didn't feel like we were "in Brazil". Now that I am older I am more aware of how much there is to explore, and I made it a point to do that during this trip. But to be honest, I had no intentions of going to Rio. I just wanted to go where was familiar to be able to show Kevin, but he insisted we go and make the most out of these three weeks, and it ended up working out perfectly. We left on December 31st and saved a TON of money by doing this. Flights to Brazil are overnight and we sacrificed spending NYE on the plane to be able to go to 3 different states in 3 weeks while spending less than 2k. Worth it to me.

I'll be sharing 3-4 posts total about my trip. This is not intended to be a true travel guide since I mostly stayed with family. I also don't consider myself a traveler lol. My goal is to give you some insight on who I am, where I come from, how I came to love food the way I do, and mainly to show all the wonderful things Brazil has to offer. It gets a lot of negative attention in the news sometimes. While the economy is plummeting and their presidents are getting impeached, I've still met some of the happiest, most humblest people there. It really is magical.

So let's start with Rio:

Day 1:

We landed around 11 am and my Tio Tião (short for Sebastião) picked us up at the airport. He's my dad's brother and I had not seen him since I was THREE years old so I was really excited about this. The more we talked on the car ride to the hotel, the more I felt like I had known him for years. Brazil is a very family-oriented country which gives off that warm fuzzy feeling whenever you're together. (For the record, Tio means uncle, Tia means aunt)

My uncle is a taxi driver and knows the city like the back of his hand, conveniently. He took us straight the Sheraton Grand Rio Hotel where we stayed for two nights. Once we checked in, we had a relaxing afternoon where we went to my second cousin's house. Here, I met tons of family members from my dad's side that I'd never met before. They were having churrasco (Brazilian barbecue) and beer and were super welcoming to us and of course, Kevin. This was honestly the most important part of the trip for me.

View from our hotel room

View from our hotel room

We ate, talked about life, had some drinks, and Kevin tried cheese on the grill for the first time and went to heaven. (They have a built in brick grill in their kitchen that is #goals and I can't find my picture of it. Will post later!) At around 4 pm, Kevin and my sister got hit with a wave of tired, so my uncle drove us back to the hotel. We laid on the beach for a while, then Kevin and I got drinks and some pastel (similar to empanadas but fried, he calls them fried meat pockets haha) before bed.

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As far as the hotel, we picked it because I have an aunt who is an international flight attendant and this is where she stays. It has a beach that is semi-private (people from nearby houses come down to it), a nice pool and is kind of in the middle of everything. 

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Day 2:

Although this was very early in the vacation, this was definitely one of my favorite days! I messaged my cousin Mariana (also a nutritionist, and whom I had not seen since I was 3 also) prior to going and told her Kevin and I were interested in doing a hike. Now, Kevin is an all-or-nothing type of person and here, we end up doing New Hampshire hikes that take a whole day. So when looking for trails in Rio, I of course gravitated toward ones with similar distances. My cousin basically told me I was insane and that she'd pick a better one. She was totally right. It was a 100 degrees out, the city was packed from being around NYE and there was no way we'd survive doing a day long hike.

We ended up getting picked up by my uncle, his wife Dorinha, and my cousins Igor and Mariana around 10 am and drove to Morro da Urca. This hike is short, between 1.5 and 2 hours and gave us an amazing view of the city. I would highly recommend it! I loved that we all hiked together as a family and it made me wish my parents were there, too. You're basically hiking in a mini jungle with creatures I'd never seen before, and the top is also convenient for tourists - there's restaurants, wifi, clean bathrooms (#bless) and shops. 

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If this isn't the definition of #fitfam then I don't know what is ;)

If this isn't the definition of #fitfam then I don't know what is ;)

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After the hike we ate a quick buffet lunch (most Brazilian restaurants are like this) and then went to the beach at Barra da Tijuca. Beaches like Copacabana are packed around this time and it just was not worth it. We drove through there and Ipanema and they were all beautiful to me. 

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It started to get super cloudy around 6 (but otherwise would have been so bright out!) so we went back to the hotel early, ate a late dinner and relaxed for the rest of the night.

Day 3:

The plan for this day was to go to see Christ the Redeemer. This didn't happen and I will go ahead and take the blame for it. I was kind of the only one who really wanted to go. My sister had already been and Kevin is the type of person who doesn't like to do cliche tourist things. In the morning we packed and then laid by the pool for a few hours to relax. My uncle picked us up around noon, we checked out and then drove to the Christ statue. To go up there, there used to be a trail but it is now closed. Now, you have to buy tickets for a little train that goes up the mountain. I didn't even think about this and how crowded it was going to be given the time of year. When we got to the booth, I saw a sign that said the next train was going to be at 4:30 pm. Our flight to Bahia was that night and there was no way we'd have time to go and enjoy it. I was totally OK with this though because we had already gotten the scenic view of the city from the previous day's hike, and it is, of course, another reason to go back again!

The statue looks so tiny from the street :)

The statue looks so tiny from the street :)

We ended up going to the Museo do Amanha (Museum of Tomorrow).  This is one of the very many museums built during the Rio Olympics in 2016. While we were driving there, my uncle pointed out tons of gorgeous yet abandoned buildings from that year. The city spent a ton of money on preparing new infrastructures for the guests with the intentions of selling them at the end. With the poor economy, these buildings aren't selling well at all and are just for show at this point. Kind of sad but paints a picture of the Brazilian reality.

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This museum had incredible architecture. I'd call it a mix of an interactive art, history, and science museum. I thought it would feature more innovative technologies for the future that were up and coming, given the name, but instead it focused on sustainability issues we are facing as a global population. It was crowded, again because it was right around New Years, which made it hard to get through. There was a room at the end that showed a ton of  sustainability projects worked on by Brazilian researchers and students which I found interesting. Kevin really enjoyed seeing another countries perspective on these issues.

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After the museum I was basically melting from the heat and told my uncle I was craving some açai. We stopped for some açai smoothies and then drove to his house where my aunt made us dinner. This is custom in Brazil. I have already been asked if I ate out a lot while there and the answer is no. People are always more than happy to cook for their guests. It was a delicious meal and then we all sat around and talked and told stories. Again, I had not seen these people since my infancy and I felt like I knew them for my entire life. We laughed so hard for hours and almost were late to the airport. Although it was short, I am so thankful for this time I got to have with them <3 

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That night we flew to Ilheus, Bahia to spend 4 days going to the beach! Keep an eye out for my recap on those days in my post later this week!

As far as Rio goes, it definitely left a desire to visit again for more time. I would absolutely choose to go back any other time of year, though. My cousins told me that around April and May or even September and October, the city is a lot easier to get around. I am not a city person and the crowds don't intrigue me. It is such a unique city from anything else I've ever experienced and deserves a good amount of time to enjoy it. 

Let's Be Real Meals: Roasted Carrots and Parsnips with Herbs, Garlic, and Parmesan Cheese

Happy Holidays! I am just popping in here to share my recipe for this month's Let's Be Real Meals theme: Healthy holiday sides! It has been a busy month while I prepare for the holidays and for our trip to Brazil. This recipe only takes about 30 minutes to make and it is the perfect dish to volunteer to make last minute!

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I've also been focusing on where I want to take this blog in 2018. If you have suggestions or topics you want me to address specifically, feel free to let me know! More to come on this soon :)

Holidays in my family are typically celebrated with Brazilian food. Since I've moved away from home, studied nutrition and discovered food blogs, it has become a lot more fun to introduce my family to new foods I learn about. Roasted veggies is one that has yet to disappoint. I can't wait to share this one!


Recipe: Garlic, Herb and Parmesan Roasted Carrots and Parsnips

Ingredients:
- 1 lb whole carrots
- 1 lb parsnips
- 1/4 cup avocado oil (I use this oil a lot because of the high smoke point)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp parmesan cheese
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary
Optional: Salt and Pepper

Directions:

1. Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Wash and cut the ends off of the carrots and parsnips. Optional: Keep the skin on for extra fiber!
2. Cut veggies into smaller wedges. Try to keep the size consistent so that they roast evenly. Place into large bowl.
3. Mix garlic, parmesan, and herbs into oil in a small bowl.
4. Pour oil mixture over the cut carrots and parsnips and mix to coat evenly.
5. Spread seasoned veggies onto parchment paper and roast for 20-25 minutes.
6. Enjoy!

Happy Holidays and New Year!

Lets Be Real Meals: Cranberry Orange Waffles

I honestly can't believe it is already November. I feel like it was a few months ago I was making cranberry sauce for last year's Thanksgiving! With that being said, I have no complaints because I love the get-togethers this time of year, and I am a month closer to going back to Brazil. All is well :)

For this month's #LetsBeRealMeals theme, we partnered with Cape Cod Select Premium Cranberries to feature this season's favorite little fruit. Frozen cranberries are so versatile so you can enjoy their health benefits and tart taste year round! My dad always makes cranberry jelly around Thanksgiving but my mom definitely adds them to muffins throughout the year. Our family celebrates Thanksgiving because of American tradition, but being from Brazil it is obviously not something they learned growing up. Coming together in family and in gratitude is a celebration we can get behind :)

For my birthday last year I literally asked for a waffle maker so I could experiment with different flavors. I haven't nailed down the making-my-own-batter part without following a recipe, especially for this one because it has to contain less than 10 ingredients. I did try to make my own whole wheat batter but it honestly tasted flavorless and sad haha. So for the sake of #LetsBeRealMeals...let's be real, not everyone has time to make their own batter from scratch. That's where a pre-made mix comes in!

My absolute favorite batter is from Pamela's Baking Company. It happens to be gluten-free but that is not why I love it. For this recipe, I halved the recipe from the instructions to make only one large waffle, and added my own ingredients (frozen cranberries, ginger, cinnamon, and orange juice instead of water). They were so good they ended up being my lunch after I made the video! Even better...how good would they be with leftover turkey as a breakfast sandwich? Hello!! I just planned your Friday morning breakfast didn't I?


Recipe: Cranberry Orange Waffles
Makes: 1 large waffle

Ingredients:
- 3/4 cup pancake/waffle batter (I use Pamela's)
- 1 egg (or per batter instructions)
- 1 tsp oil (or per batter instructions)
- 1/3 cup frozen Cape Cod Select cranberries
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/3 cup orange juice
- Non-stick spray
- Leftover cranberry sauce
- Maple syrup

Instructions:

1. Mix ingredients with batter throroughly

2. Heat and spray waffle iron. When ready, spoon batter into iron and cook for 5 minutes

3. Top waffle with leftover cranberry sauce (or yogurt, I bet that would be good!) and maple syrup and enjoy!

4. Optional: Add some leftover turkey and cranberry sauce in the middle and make a breakfast sandwich!

I hope you have a lovely holiday and enjoy some amazing food and company. Cheers!

 

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Cape Cod Select Premium Cranberries. Recipe and thoughts are my own.