How to make Spanish Paella and Sangria 101

I have to be honest when I say I wasn’t too crazy about Spanish food. I did however fall in love with the genius combination of paella and sangria. Sangria is the perfect refreshing drink, especially in that Spanish heat. Sangria will always be a little reminder of the bold sweetness of my experiences in Spain.

Check out a taste of Spain from a cooking class I took while backpacking– and I hope you take a day to get your loved ones together and try it out!

chicken paella
chicken paella

To give you a little background on the delicious dish, Paella is Valencian rice dish originated near the east coast of Spain. Many non-Spaniards think of paella as Spain’s national dish, but Spaniards think of it more as a regional dish. Mixed paella is what I saw the most, so I had to share what I learned with you. This is not the only  recipe for paella, and I am no expert–every chef has his or her creative method in creating their favorite paella.

Preparation:

  1. Heat a little bit of olive oil in a large frying pan (paellera), if you don’t have a paella pan, you can use any flat type of pan (not a Wok).
  2. Add the chicken & cook until golden. [400 gr of chicken]
  3. Add a sprinkle of chopped garlic, salt, & pepper
  4. Turn ingredients around, & turn everything on strong heat (it’s important to always stir in the same direction).
  5. Add fish (king prawns, mussels, whatever fish you love) & let liquids steam away for 5-7 min. [8 pieces]
  6.  Add rice, saffron & paprika. Then move ingredients around so rice is evenly spread. [500 gr. med grain rice]
  7.  Add tomato sauce, white wine, then wait 2 min for wine to steam away. [1/4 liter dry white wine]
  8.  Add chicken stock & then add the water (will remove rice from sticking to the pan). [1/2 lit chicken stock]
  9.  Move ingredients around again, then leave paella to cook at medium to strong heat (until you see it boiling)
  10.  Once paella is boiling, turn down the heat to a simmer & add 100 gr. of diced red pepper.
  11. When rice appears to be cooked, add fish in “decorative way”. Leave paella cooking until fish is properly cooked.
  12.  After approximately 10 min, turn the heat down.
  13.  When fish is pink, sample the rice to check if it is al dente.
  14. For the last 4-5 min of cooking, leave paella covered by aluminum foil.
  15.  For a nice aroma, add lemon. Add the fresh peas if you like as well since they don’t need to be cooked.
  16.  And lastly, enjoy with friends & pour the sangria!
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Cooling down from the heat with sangria in Sevilla

Sangria is a light, affordable wine punch that is usually from the province of Rioja. It’s perfect for any time of the day and I highly recommend it with your favorite tapas and paella.

To make your own sangria, add pieces of your favorite fruits like oranges, lemon, apples, grapefruit, and peaches to soak in with the wine. White wine can be used instead of red called sangria blanca. I learned that besides wine and fruits, sangria normally has sweetener like honey, sugar, orange juice, or fruit nectar. A small amount of brandy, triple sec, or other liquors can be added as well.  Lastly, add ice and carbonated soda. Sangria is often served with a wooden spoon to stir and to get the fruit out.

And as my friend Meg always said:

“you know it’s going to be a good night when you eat the fruit out of the sangria!”

Enjoy!

Backpacking through Andalucía, España

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Backing through the south of Spain was easily one of my favorite experiences during the past 6 months of traveling. Here’s some highlights from my six-city adventure through Andalucía!

Excited to experience my first bullfight in Sevilla
Excited to experience my first bullfight inside Plaza de Toros
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One of my favorite spots in Sevilla
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Plaza Santa Cruz is a peaceful part of Sevilla
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Beautiful Córdoba and a view of the Mezquita

For my first evening in Córdoba, a few of us took a night bike tour/tapas crawl to get to know each other and the city. At a small bar near the roman bridge, a girl from Salamanca leaned towards me asking in British English: “So if you don’t know any Spanish, then… how are you getting by, all by yourself?”. I smiled, then answered: “Well, I guess I never thought of it that way. I’m learning basics from people I meet and enjoying figuring it all out”.

I know how to order my favorite tapas, my coffee just how I like it, how to ask for directions, and…that’s about it. This was all part of the fun for me though I’ve got to admit.

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Streets of Cordoba
Streets of Córdoba
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A view from Cordoba from my hostel terrace
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Inside the famous Alhambra [Granada]
My second flamenco show
Flamenco show in Granada
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One of my favorite views of Monachil in Granada

If you have time to do the hike through Monachil, I can’t recommend it enough. I’d argue that day was one of my favorite memories with friends I had just met earlier that day through my hostel. You can swim in the water (the waterfalls are incredibly beautiful) and the hike itself is exciting. You feel like you’re in a hidden treasure of nature.

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Hiking in the Monachil village in Granada
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Playing around on the beaches of Marbella
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View of Ronda [Málaga region of Spain]
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Ronda’s famous bridge
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Old town in Marbella

I wrote a snippet about my backpacking trip here, but I’ve also learned that some people come into your life for years and some for maybe just a few hours. But regardless, that time is important. The beauty and heartache of traveling is leaving so abruptly;  and yet it’s amazing to cross paths with people from all over the world. Backpacking opened my eyes to the core of human needs and the simplicity of life. It’s not a style of travel for everyone (understandably), but I never thought I’d enjoy living out of a backpack either. It really challenges you and teaches you–and I’m so grateful for all of it.

“Traveling is like flirting with life. It’s like saying, I would stay and love you, but I have to go”

P.S. I’m working on my “favorite hostels in europe” post for all the avid European travelers!

5 things I learned from my first solo backpacking adventure

I should start by saying I never planned on backpacking. Like eating a whole bag of popcorn while watching a movie, it just… sort of happened.

It was a week before my semester was ending and it dawned on me that 1. I had no real travel plans (daydreaming of island hopping around Greece doesn’t count), and 2. consequently, I’d be homeless in Italy real soon. And I could tell you that by my first day of backpacking, I knew I was about to have the experience I’d been missing out on during my time studying abroad.

And to be honest, I learned more in the two weeks I backpacked on my own then the time I spent studying and living in Italy. It must be the beauty of getting completely out of my comfort zone and not having a friendly face to depend on for anything. Here’s my thoughts:

1. Less things scare me now. My family was pretty nervous for my safety (understandably) and I was anxious about how I would figure all the planning out. But after overcoming something that once seemed daunting, I gained a new perspective and confidence in what I can accomplish.

2. A simple life is always more beautiful. You don’t need most things, you just don’t. I learned to appreciate every little thing I could fit into my bag. Especially the travel size goodies that I held onto for months. I swear, it’s the simplest things.

3. Don’t let others dictate what you can and cannot do.  Just because traveling independently has its precautions, it doesn’t mean it can’t be done (and loved). I was surprised how passionate and comfortable I felt; the people I met during my adventure made my experience exceptionally memorable.

4. There’s no price on education. I want to learn and grow–and I guarantee that you can’t buy experiences that grab a hold of you and transform you from the inside out. I learned to react  to mistakes that fostered a new kind of patience and understanding that I hope will stay with me forever.

5. People have this innate gravitation towards others. Even if you’re not an extrovert, when you’re in an unfamiliar, thrilling situation like traveling independently, you naturally gravitate towards others. You want others to share that new experience with you. I can only explain it by illustrating it as a basic human need.

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A view of one of the waterfalls in Monachil. One of my favorite memories.
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Travelers from literally all over the world. All day Hiking in the Monachil village in Granada, Spain

Would you ever backpack on your own?

Semana Santa in Sevilla, España

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The Giralda, part of the Cathedral in Sevilla
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When in España… loved the importance of flamenco dancing
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Delicious cafe con leche at a local cafe
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Beautiful day for exploring the streets of Sevilla

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Personal tour guide: my gorgeous roommate Tamara
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Loved the chaos of eating at El Patio San Eloy
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Montaditos and Sevilla’s beer, Cruzcampos at El Patio San Eloy
Beautiful Plaza de España
Beautifully intricate architecture at Plaza de España
a paso, the main attraction of a procesión
A paso, the main attraction of a procesión
sampling desserts
1euro desserts turned into dessert sampling…whoops
Painted flamenco fans
Painted flamenco fans
Inside Alcázar de Sevilla
Inside Alcázar de Sevilla
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Making a new friend after eating churros con chocolate
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Another view of Plaza de España

Jaw-dropping architecture, vibrant streets with blooming orange trees, gorgeous people, cheap tapas, beer and tinto–Sevilla is easily one of my favorite cities so far.

I knew I’d love Sevilla after talking to one of my close friends (shout-out to the lovely Jenn Sanchez!) who spent a month this past summer doing an intensive language immersion home-stay. I had the opportunity to spend Easter break visiting my roommate in college, Tamara, who is currently studying in Sevilla. The moment I got off the bus from Madrid, I could feel the intensity of the city joining together in celebration for their Easter rituals, as men dressed in cultural attire gathered together along with the rest of the city. We could barely get through the streets to the residencia it was so packed. Accidentally speaking in Italian, all I could do was laugh as we made our way to the front of the scene to experience my first paso. I quickly realized, Semana Santa is a religious holiday that is taken very seriously in Sevilla. After meeting Tamara’s speaking partner, he educated us about the importance of the procesións and led us through the crowds.

The pride Sevillanos have about their beautiful city is contagious and refreshing. The intricate Moorish architecture reminded me of Morocco and unlike most cities commercialized by tourism, this city still embodies its own sense of awe in their own culture, which I loved.

*Traveling from Perugia to Sevilla took close to 16 hours of multiple trains, 1 plane, and 1 bus. After arriving in Madrid, ‘Socibus’ can take you from Madrid to the center of Sevilla in 6 hours for only 22 euros.

48 hours in Barcelona, España

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Obsessing over all the fun postcards-best I’ve seen yet
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Trying a new fruit at the Mercat de la Boqueria
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Sam picking out the label for her candy “happy pills”
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Jessica under wire art
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Casa Batlló at night
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The line to get take out
"todos" (add everything) deliciousness sandwich
“todos” (add everything) deliciousness sandwich
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View of the city at Park Güell (another work by Antonio Gaudí)
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La Sagrada Familia is one of Gaudí’s most famous works in Barcelona

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Sexy. That’s the word that comes to mind when I think of Barcelona (I was maybe influenced by the movie Vicky Cristina Barcelona). Colorfully radiant, interesting art by the infamous Catalan architect (Gaudí) seems almost randomly placed within this metropolitan city. My immediate reaction was how friendly and confident the people are, and how the city comes alive at night. As our second stop on spring break, the less than 48 hours spent in Barcelona was a refreshing break from the overcast chills of Paris. The sun reminded me of southern California and I felt completely content just walking down Las Ramblas. Another study abroad student and good friend of Sammi, Jessica, was awesome and gave us an insiders only tour of the beautiful city. We shopped in the gothic quater, which reminded me of streets in Italia, took a tour of all the goodies at la Boqueria market, where we met two Italians and bonded. At a tapas bar, we ate a couple different tapas (small plates) as the football game was on and I suddenly felt the urge to yell along with everyone at the TV screen. We even got to experience the best kept not-so-secret anymore for any college student: Bó de B, and pretended like it was normal for us to start going out to a club at 2 am. This made us feel slightly Spanish/Catalan, even if it was for 2 days.