Festive Drink Series: Hot Chocolate

 istetiana via Getty Images

Hot chocolate, anyone?

Chocolate comes from the word “xocoatl”  meaning “bitter water” in Mexico’s indigenous náhuatl language.  Unsurprisingly, hot chocolate’s earliest forms were made with chili peppers! 

Did you know that the first civilizations to grow cacao beans, the Mayans and Aztecs, also used it as a medium of exchange? Also, today is National Cocoa Day (December 13)… so happy chocolate-ing with the recipe below… guilt free! 🍫


  • Milk of your choice
  • Cocoa powder
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate chips

Place in the milk in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add cocoa powder & sugar. Whisk until warm & add chocolate chips once the milk is warm. Serve with toppings of your choice: marshmallows, whipped cream or maybe crushed candy canes! Enjoy!

Sources: https://www.insider.com/chocolate-fun-facts-2018-11 https://www.thespruceeats.com/the-history-of-hot-chocolate-764463https://celebratingsweets.com/homemade-hot-chocolate/

Festive Drink Series: Canelazo

It’s cinnamon season! And we have the perfect soul-warming drink for the holidays: Ecuadorian-born “Canelazo”— stemming from the Spanish word for cinnamon, “Canela”.

The origins of Canelazo are rumored to be from Ecuador, after traveling Europeans introduced the spice cinnamon to Latin America- which was introduced to them through Silk Road imports from India and Sri Lanka! Now, cinnamon is less of a rarity and can be organically grown in Latin America– so you can find this warm drink being enjoyed all over the region.

Cozy-up to this cinnamon-infused treat with this delicious recipe, which can be enjoyed with or without booze!


  • 6 Cups Water
  • 8 Sticks Cinnamon
  • 1/2 Cup of Grated Panela
  • 1-2oz. Aguardiente (Can be replaced with Black Tea, Ounces determined upon strength preference.)
  • Optional Fruit Juice like Naranjilla, Lemon, Orange, or Passion Fruit


  • Mix all the ingredients in a medium-sized pot (Except to Aguardiente/Tea and Fruit juice.)
  • Bring to a boil. (While waiting, the black tea can be prepared separately.)
  • Reduce heat, simmer over low for 40 minutes.
  • Remove from heat, add the Aguardiente/Tea and fruit juice (if desired.)


Source & Image: https://www.196flavors.com/ecuador-canelazo/

Festive Drink Series: Mulled Wine

Many love cozying up to the holiday season with a glass of mulled wine.. but did you know earlier traces of the drink are found in ancient Egypt?

“First reported on the scene in 3150 BCE in ancient Egypt, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania found jars excavated in 2009 from Scorpion I, one of Egypt’s first pharaohs, detecting some interesting residue inside that “provides the earliest direct chemical evidence for wine with organic medicinal additives.”

Glühwein, vin brulé, vino caliento… Today, there are many variations around the world & you can even make it at home!


  • 1 (750 ml) bottle of dry red wine
  • 1 orange, sliced into rounds
  • 8 whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 star anise
  • 2–4 tablespoons sugar, honey, or maple syrup to taste
  • optional garnishes: citrus slices (orange, lemon and/or lime), extra cinnamon sticks, extra star anise

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan & heat until the mixture reaches simmer point. Make sure to avoid boiling! Reduce heat & let the wine simmer for at least 15 minutes. Strain & serve warm. Enjoy! 🍷

Source: https://www.naplesillustrated.com/cocktail-corner-mulled-wine/  Recipe source: https://www.gimmesomeoven.com/mulled-wine-recipe/ Image: Marco Verch on Flickr

Comfort Food Series: Fatteh

Fatteh (فتة), meaning “to crumble” in Arabic, can be traced back to the 13th century Abbasid Caliphate period. This mix of fried bread, chickpeas, yogurt, & buttery pine nuts will have everyone asking for seconds!

Find the recipe below- and don’t forget to try the Eggplant Version!


  • Chickpeas
  • Pita bread
  • Plain whole milk yogurt
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 2 tsp. tahini paste
  • Salt
  • 2 tb. pine nuts
  • 2 tb. olive oil

Cut the pita bread to small pieces using kitchen scissors. Deep fry the pita pieces. Spread them on a baking sheet & bake for 5 minutes– until light brown and crispy.

Wash the canned chickpeas & place in a small pot with some water. Warm them for 5-7 minutes & set aside.

Heat olive oil in a small pan & cook pine nuts until they are brown & crispy.

Assemble the fatteh in a large serving plate — starting with pita on the bottom, followed by chickpeas & yogurt. Finally, drizzle the pine nuts & olive oil on top. Sahtein!

Source: https://www.simplyleb.com/recipe/chickpea-fatte/

Image source: https://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/fatteh-hummus

Travel Tuesday: Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Looking for a Patagonian adventure? How about Perito Moreno glacier in Argentina! Formed during the last ice age, stretches 100 square miles & continues to grow 2 meters a day.

Perito Moreno glacier was named after a 19th century explorer & it is the third largest fresh water reserve in the world today. While you are there, make sure to hike around the base or take the boat tour to discover all the beautiful shades of blue!

Ready to head out? Don’t forget those warm layers — and perhaps pack some Spanish phrases with our conversation partners before you go!

Source: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/perito-moreno-glacier

Comfort Food Series: Tacos Al Pastor

“It’s a story of migration.”

Tacos al Pastor (or “the Shephard’s Tacos”) and shawarma….Notice any resemblance?

When Lebanese communities emigrated to Mexico, they didn’t forget to bring shawarma with them! Tacos al Pastor is the Mexican adaptation of the Middle Eastern classic, with a few added tweaks. As the dish adapted into Mexico, traditional Lebanese lamb became substituted with pork. Another major change is the garnishing of pineapples on-top for an added tangy flavor!

Does this sound up your alley? Here’s a recipe for you to try at home!

For the Al Pastor Meat/Marinade:

  • 2-3 pound Pork Loin cut into thin slices (or substitute of your preference)
  • 4 Guajillo Chile boiled, de-seeded, and cleaned.
  • 1 Ancho Chile boiled, de-seeded, and cleaned.
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1/2 cup of orange juice
  • 3/4 cup of pineapple juice fresh is better
  • 1 Tablespoon of Oregano
  • 1 Tablespoon of Thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon of Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon of Cumin
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of Paprika
  • 1-2 Tablespoons of Salt
  • 3 Cloves

For the Roasted Tomatillo Chipotle Sauce:

  • 3 Tomatillos
  • 1/4 Onion
  • 2 small cloves of garlic
  • 1-2 chipotles depending on level of spiciness you want
  • 3 Tablespoons of Pineapple juice
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

For the Tacos:

  • 15 Corn Tortillas
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Chopped Onions
  • Lime juice
  • Salt
  • Grilled pineapple
  • Tacos al pastor meat


For the Al Pastor Meat/Marinade

  • Blend all of the ingredients together until completely combined.
  • Strain the liquid over a bowl to end up with a smooth marinade.
  • Add one layer of meat in a large bowl or baking dish and cover with the marinade, and then repeat in layers until all of the meat and marinade have been used.
  • Cover with aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least 4 hours (overnight is best)
  • Remove from the refrigerator and grill the meat until cooked through.
  • Remove from grill and cut into thin slices to serve on the tacos.

For the Roasted Tomatillo Chipotle Salsa

  • Roast the tomatillo, onion, and garlic in the oven on baking sheet at 450 degrees for 8-10 minutes, remove from oven.
  • Blend with the rest of the ingredients except the salt and pepper until well combined.
  • Put in a bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste.

For the Tacos

  • Heat the tortillas with a little bit of oil.
  • Add the meat, the pineapple, the salsa, the lime juice, the cilantro and onions.


Source: https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-33993719

Recipe Source: https://www.mylatinatable.com/best-tacos-al-pastor-recipe/

Travel Tuesday: Band-e Amir, Afghanistan

Band-e-Amir, or literally ‘Commander’s Dam‘ in Persian and Dari, is the first national park of Afghanistan.

This natural beauty has a series of six deep-blue lakes whose mineral-rich nature taints the lake’s color from faint turquoise to deep blue.

Located in the province of Bamiyan, this natural attraction is popular with the locals who can plan a hike, rent a pedalo, or in rare cases spot wild goats, wild sheep, wolves, foxes, and birds in a distance.

In her guide to Afghanistan (1970), Nancy Hatch Dupree, who was an American historian specialized in modern Afghanistan, wrote the following account: Band-e-Amir would “rob the uninitiated of the wonder and amazement it produces on all who gaze upon it“!

P.S. Have you worked with any of our Afghan conversation partners? Whether you’re interested in learning Farsi or Dari, why not give it a try today! Find out more here or head directly to our sign-up forms!

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2009/sep/08/afghanistan-national-park

Image: https://www.instagram.com/p/BZ3ywq2j5gp/ via @masoudsoheili

Comfort Food Series: Iranian Kotlet

An all-time favourite comfort food that brings up nostalgic childhood memories, is Persian “Kotlet“, or کتلت ! The word originates from ‘cutlet‘, the western version of ground meat patties. This ground meat patty can be served hot or cold, at home or at picnics. Find the recipe below if you want to try them out yourself!


  • 250 grams ground beef
  • 2 large potato
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon ground garlic
  • vegetable oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced

Grate potatoes & onions. Add ground beef, turmeric, salt, minced garlic & black pepper. Add eggs & mix well. If your mixture is too wet, add breadcrumbs. Take small amounts & flatten into patties. Fry until crispy brown. Enjoy!

Recipe: http://www.thepersianpot.com/recipe/kotlet-persian-cutlet/

Image: https://dornatrip.com/kotlet-iranian-cutlet/

Travel Tuesday: Haïti

Sun, sea, and mountains…

Did you know the name Haïti comes from the indigenous Taíno language, meaning ‘land of high mountains‘!? This is because Haïti has the most number of mountains in the entire Caribbean, and its highest peak is the Pic la Selle with 2,680 meters above sea level.

In fact, the largest mountaintop fortress in the Western Hemisphere, called the Citadel, is located in Haïti.

But.. Did you also know French is one of the official languages of this Carribean island? Practice it with our conversation partners today!

Sources: https://thefactfile.org/haiti-facts/ & http://justfunfacts.com/interesting-facts-about-haiti/

Comfort Food Series: Quebec Poutine

Comfort food at it’s finest — the Québécois knew EXACTLY what they were doing when they invented Poutine… Or maybe they didn’t 😛 ?!

The origin of Poutine remains unclear.. but according to some sources, it all started in a restaurant called Le Lutin qui rit, in Quebec — with a customer and the restaurant owner. Upon the customer requesting for some cheese to be added to his fries, the owner exclaims “Ça va faire une maudite poutine!” or, “That’s going to make a dreadful mess.”

While the source(s) remains questionable, what is very clear that Poutine is definitely a ‘mess’, or a hot ‘mess’ as some would argue.

This random mix of fries, curd cheese, & gravy blends so well together, it’s now known as the bourgeoisie of Garbage Food. Try it for yourself!

Authentic Canadian PoutineWhat You’ll Need:

For the Gravy:

  • 3 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 2 Tbsp water
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup unbleached all purpose flour
  • 20 oz beef broth
  • 10 oz chicken broth
  • Pepper, to taste

For the Fries:

  • 2 lbs Russet potatoes (3-4 medium potatoes)
  • Peanut or other frying o

For the Toppings:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese curds (Or torn chunks of mozzarella cheese would be the closest substitution)


  • Prepare the gravy: In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water and set aside.
  • In a large saucepan, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes, until the mixture turns golden brown.
  • Add the beef and chicken broth and bring to a boil, stirring with a whisk. Stir in the cornstarch and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes or until the sauce thickens. Season with pepper. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary, to taste. Make ahead and re-warm or keep warm until your fries are ready.
  • For Deep-Fried Fries: Prepare your potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch thick sticks. Place into a large bowl and cover completely with cold water. Allow to stand at least one hour or several hours. When ready to cook, heat your oil in your deep fryer or large, wide, heavy cooking pot to 300° F.
  • Remove the potatoes from the water and place onto a sheet of paper towel. Blot to remove as much excess moisture as possible.
  • Add your fries to the 300°F oil and cook for 5-8 minutes, just until potatoes are starting to cook but are not yet browned. Remove potatoes from oil and scatter on a wire rack. Increase oil temperature to 375°F Once oil is heated to that temperature, return the potatoes to the fryer and cook until potatoes are golden brown. Remove to a paper towel-lined bowl.
  • To Prepare Poutine: Add your fried or baked fries to a large, clean bowl. Season lightly with salt while still warm. Add a ladle of hot poutine gravy to the bowl and using tongs, toss the fries in the gravy. Add more gravy, as needed to mostly coat the fries.
  • Add the cheese curds and toss with the hot fries and gravy. Serve with freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately.

Bon appétit!




Image Source: https://www.avenuecalgary.com/restaurants-food/dining-out/where-to-go-for-poutine-in-calgary/