Sick of eating cereal and ramen for lunch and dinner? Want to spend less money eating out and finally start cooking for yourself? Put down that frozen pizza, because HC’s Health Editor, Sammie Levin, is here to share her daily eats so you can get ideas for healthy, satisfying meals that are easy enough for any time-strapped collegiette to make. After you read Collegiette Eats, your taste buds, wallet and waistline will thank you.
Late Sunday night, I got back to Ann Arbor after a week of traveling in Argentina. I've been wishing I could go back since the second I landed and I remembered how cold it is here! I spent my spring break either outside enjoying the sun or inside enjoying food, so I am still in a sun coma and food coma, making it even harder to get back to class and the real world. I didn't document everything I ate, but I snapped some pictures of the highlights to be able to share a recap of my Argentinian eats.
I had lots of delicious food throughout the week - all at mind-blowingly cheap prices - but it definitely was not the healthiest fare. I managed to get some doses of fruits and vegetables, but the meals we ate at restaurants primarily consisted of bread, cheese, meat and more cheese. We were active throughout the days, walking and hiking through the beautiful mountains, but I would've had to hike Mount Everest to work off all of the empanadas I polished off (not to mention the glasses of wine I washed them down with). So, if you're looking for healthy meal ideas, check out my other posts, but if you want some South American food porn to salivate at instead of paying attention to your Econ professor, then you are in the right place. Without further adieu, if you're still with me, behold: the empanada.
What could be bad about melty cheese surrounded by a warm, crispy blanket of fried bread? The answer is the stomachache I got after eating it, but everything else about it was pure bliss. Every restaurant had empanadas as an appetizer option on the menu, so we got them several times. The filling choices were always either cheese, chicken or beef. We could not figure out why no places had the option of chicken and cheese, which so clearly would have been an amazing combination, so we often ordered a mix of cheese and chicken ones to eat simultaneously like the culinary genuises that we are. I'm considering moving to Argentina just to revolutionize the empanada game. Below is the inside of one of the chicken ones, so you can see for yourself how much better it would be if cheese was simultaneously oozing out of there like above.
I could go on and on about empanadas forever, but suffice it to say that I'm in love. I think it is for the best that they are not on every street corner in the U.S. like they are in Argentina, because an overdose would be inevitable.
I actually think I liked the tamales as much as the empanadas, but I didn't discover that until later in the week, so I didn't get to indulge in quite as many. A tamale is basically a casserole mush of ingredients steamed in a banana leaf wrapper. Note: don't eat the leaf, which I learned the hard way. The primary ingredient is corn masa, which kind of tastes like a cross between polenta and cornbread. The one pictured above was also filled with beef, onions, potato and delicious seasoning, but the fillings vary depending on the restaurant (and country). I loved the flavor and texture combinations, and they were fun to eat, too - like unwrapping a cute, tasty, little gift!
Milanese is actually an Italian dish, but it's really popular in Argentina. There are different variations, but the gist of it is breaded meat. More specifically, it's typically a thin slice of beef or chicken (but there were other options, like llama...) dipped in egg and bread crumbs and then pan-fried. The one above is "Milanesa a la Napolitana," which was smothered in tomato sauce and mozzerella cheese and topped with olives. In other words, chicken parm. YUM.
Steak is huge in Argentina. And by that, I don't just mean it's hugely popular, it's also just HUGE. As in massive, like the steak above, which was much larger than my face. I couldn't believe it when we ordered steak for two and that was what was placed in front of us. We also ordered mixed grilled vegetables and the portion size was similarly gigantic. I felt bad wasting so much food, but what we did manage to eat of this feast was absolutely delicious. The vegetables were perfectly smoky. I've never had grilled sweet potato or grilled carrots, only baked or roasted, so that was interesting. My favorite was the grilled beet, though. I don't eat beets very often, but I love them when I do. When I put down my fork for good at the end of this meal, I was the fullest I have been in a long time. I wish we could have taken the rest to go, but something told us it wouldn't have kept well in our backpacks at the hostel.
I'm going to go ahead and assume you are well aware of what a french fry is, so this one doesn't need much explanation. Fried potatoes, whether in the form of a skinny fry like above or crispy rounds, were on nearly all of the menus. We ordered them once or twice (maybe thrice) to accompany our steaks. The ones above were topped with egg, cheese and seasoning. They were a little too oil-y for me, but the egg topping was bomb.
Dulce de Leche
Dulce de leche, or "the candy of milk," is really popular in South America. It's made by carmelizing milk, using sugar and heat. There's a slight distinction between dulce de leche and caramel based on the preparation, but they taste the same. At a few of our hostels where breakfast was included, there was dulce de leche to spread on bread. I tried it and had to exercise real self-restraint to not finish the entire bowl of it. Thick, buttery caramel spread on bread is as good as it sounds. I would have preferred it as dessert because it was a bit too sweet for the morning, but it was delicious in any case. Not something anyone should make a habit of eating regularly, and certainly not part of a healthy, balanced breakfast because it's pure sugar, but it was a nice treat for that once-in-a-lifetime week in Argentina.
This sums up the trip pretty nicely: at one of the hostels we were staying at, a group of locals invited us to share homemade pizza they made for dinner. They made about 10 different types of pizzas, all with fresh ingredients (even the dough was homemade!), and all we had to pitch in was two dollars. Two dollars for essentially all-you-can-eat pizza, shared with people we had just met who were nice enough to invite us! Everyone we met was like that - so welcoming and willing to help.
The pizza was unreal. The crust was thin and crispy, which is exactly how I like it. A little less sauce than I usually like, but plenty of cheese to compensate. Each pizza had different toppings, so it was exciting to see what came out next. My favorites were one topped with carmelized onions and arugula, and another topped with hard-boiled eggs. Hard-boiled eggs on a pizza sounds weird (I've seen fried egg on a pizza, but never hard-boiled), but I loved it! Maybe just because I'm an egg fiend.
Overall, the trip was amazing and I love reliving it through the pictures of all the yummy food. I'm going to need to squeeze in a few extra gym sessions this week, though. Now go pay attention to your Econ professor!