When in Pennsylvania

Have you been waiting in anticipation to figure out WHERE I could have possibly gone after being in Hershey all week? No, I didn’t think so, either, so we’ll just let it out.

Obviously I had to go back to the ‘burgh!

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As soon as I found out I was going to be a mere 4-hour drive from my first home-away-from-home, I told everyone I could think of to make sure that they’d be around. I even convinced Erin to fly in from chilly New Hampshire!

We were really happy to be together again.

We were really happy to be reunited.

After finding her roaming around on campus and completely freaking out about being back, we remembered that we had a last-minute Friday Night Dinner to throw together. Off to Giant Eagle!

Erin works for Lindt at the moment, so we joke about our career rivalry sometimes, but I think I still got her trained…

Hershey love in Giant Eagle

Hershey love in Giant Eagle

Our next stop was to our friend Wes’s new place to 1. see what the hell everyone has been up to, and 2. make some delicious things! Apparently, Texas has worn off on me more than I thought it would because we chose to make my new favorite: fried pickles.

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And, I mean, if you have a bunch of pickle juice left over, might as well do some pickle juice shots, right? The Midwest boys were troopers and humored my request for something Southern.

Look at that concentration.

Look at that concentration.

We went bar hopping in the neighborhood of Bloomfield for the rest of the night, which was a first for me. With so many nooks and crannies, Pittsburgh neighborhoods leave a lot to be explored! I think I could have lived there for 8 years and still had things left to discover. (There’s my aside for why everyone should visit Pittsburgh at least once.)

The rest of the weekend was spent strolling through campus, eating our way through Pittsburgh’s quirky food offerings, and catching up with whoever we could find.

Pittsburgh popcorn: MUST have

Pittsburgh popcorn: MUST have

My go-to for anything Mediterranean. The place I got both of my tattoos is just left of this picture's frame!

My go-to for anything Mediterranean. The place I got both of my tattoos is just left of this picture’s frame!

Rain in Shadyside calls for a stop at Iron Cactus for happy hour.

Rain in Shadyside calls for a stop at Steel Cactus for happy hour.

Unsurprisingly, our happy "hour" turned into a happy marathon.

Unsurprisingly, our happy “hour” turned into a happy marathon.

I found an Abi!

I found an Abi!

It was strange enjoying the city from such a different perspective. Erin and I stayed with our friend, Nick, in South Side, so we didn’t have our own cozy apartment to go back to whenever we wanted. It was nice that we didn’t have to worry about classes or homework, but that meant that we also didn’t really have any purpose to be in Oakland, which was the center of our Universe for 4 years. That pushed us to try a lot of new places, which I hadn’t expected! It’s just an odd sensation feeling slightly out of place in a city where you belonged and called home.

The last activity before having to fly back to San Antone was to meet up with my friend, Alexis, to plan our trip to Peru and Chile!

Trip planning over coffee and baked goods has to be one of life's greatest pleasures.

Trip planning over coffee and baked goods has to be one of life’s greatest pleasures.

Bold coffee fuels bold ideas.

Bold coffee fuels bold ideas.

We hit a point in our brainstorming when we kind of decided we would just wing it and do what we felt like once we got there, which is RIGHT when a girl sitting at a table behind us turned around to ask, “are you planning a trip to Peru? I travelled through there for 6 weeks. Do you want some suggestions?” LIFE SAVER! I love when strangers come out of nowhere and are awesome people.

After all that excitement, I had to grab Erin and head back to the airport. It felt like the weekend had flown by and we didn’t get everywhere we wanted to, but I was so appreciative of being able to get a different view on “my city” and spending time with some of my favorite people without any distractions. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my short time as an “adult”, it’s that mini trips will save your sanity!

Speaking of, next on the blog brag list is quite a bit more than just a mini trip. Back to South America we go!

– Alexa

If you actually listen to me, and go to Pittsburgh, here’s where I ate and drank my face off on this last trip that I’d definitely recommend:

Pittsburgh Popcorn
Steel Cactus
Espresso a Mano
Big Dog Coffee


Empanadas Americanas

After much ado, HERE is the empanada post! I’ve been meaning to try making empanadas since we came back from Argentina, but just never made the time or got the motivation. I never really learned how, so that could have contributed, too. Thankfully, Friday Night Dinner makes me get adventurous, and let me say, it was definitely an adventure.

We were expecting a pretty sizable crowd, so my roommate and I thought we’d be super planners and make a few things ahead of time. Enter: cilantro pesto and corn-and-red-pepper filling. Mmmmm.

This was followed by a grocery store trip in which we gathered the rest of our ingredients. Unfortunately, the biggest grocery store near us didn’t have the tapas for the outside crust of the empanadas. Improvising, I decided that phyllo dough would suffice since it was the only frozen dough available. Well, it doesn’t. An hour, a realization, and an emergency store trip later, the dough was magically made from scratch.

Erin, you're the best.

After that hiccup, it was time to start filling! We were lucky enough to have a lot of help from a couple of Chilean friends that Maddy, Abi, and I met two summers ago along with their French roommate. It was like a little international empanada workshop!

Our imported help 🙂

Look at the first-timer go!

We ended up making more variations than expected. We had planned for the corn-and-red-pepper, pesto chicken, and spinach empanadas. A last-minute decision had us making caprese empanadas, too (because they’re the best ever). Then, after an outcry from the Chileans that there were no traditional meat empanadas (I know, what an outrage), a batch of those was whipped up.

Caprese deliciousness

(Cilantro) pesto chicken!

I'm assuming you can guess which one it is..

The meat ones are not pictured due to the mad rush to make them first (because apparently they’re more important than all others). They were ginormous and had rave reviews.

Got creative enough to differentiate between kinds!

We were feeling fancy, so they all got an egg bath for aesthetic baking effects.

So close!

Ahhh.. the finished product.

Really, if that isn't beauty, then what is?

Thankfully we had a bunch of leftovers following the feast. Once empanadas are actually made, they’re one of the most convenient snacks ever. I’m surprised to announce that there is one lone corn empanada buried in our fridge a full two weeks after the endeavor! I might have to go fix that.

– Alexa

The Official Falafel-Off

Some Pitt friends and I started a tradition the semester before Abi, Maddy, and I left for Argentina called Friday Night Dinner (FND, for short). We all get together on Fridays and someone cooks up something new that not everyone has tried before. It was our attempt at being self-sufficient college students, living on our own, and managing to feed ourselves. It’s also a great excuse to catch up with everyone after a busy week of classes and work!

This past week, my friend Wes whipped up some falafel for everyone to try. If you read the comments on our posts, you might have noticed that he challenged the deliciousness of the falafel I tried at Veggie Fest. I can honestly say that he backed up his claims and made an extremely edible dinner. It’s actually a lot easier to make than you’d expect!

He used a mix that you let sit in water for about 30 minutes.

The mixture is rolled into balls and dropped into hot oil so they maintain their round shape.

There were beautifully cut veggies to decorate our pitas!

Final step: assemble and enjoy. As you can see, some do so more than others.

It has yet to be planned, but I’m already excited for this week’s FND! Hopefully it’s a dinner as cultural as this one and the one before it (when we had an Indian curry dish). My turn must be coming up soon. I’ll have to share some Argentine foods! Maybe empanadas with something dulce de leche for dessert?

– Alexa