Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Place Show at Bowdoin College

I was lucky enough to have my work accepted into The Place Show, an exhibit of images and text located in Bowdoin College's Hawthorne-Longfellow Library's Ramp Gallery. 

{Golden State of Mind on display}

My essay, called Golden State of Mind, is a a glimpse into what I learned about California while growing up in San Diego. 

{The Ramp Gallery}

For more information about the Place Show, visit this link

Golden State of Mind
by Nicole Sadowsky
            The American Dream was born in California when the first travelers came West in 1849 in search of that shiny, yellow metal that hides in riverbeds and streams. They epitomized the frontier life associated with The Dream as they toiled away for as little as a tenuous promise of a new life of prosperity and upward mobility from striking it rich. Since the moment that a Californian found gold in the earth, the state has been ruled by what some people have and what some people don’t. For those that have wealth, everything is purchasable. Want a new face? Go to the plastic surgeon. A new wife? Sign up to be on The Bachelor. A different life?  Go on a permanent vacation. It will only cost you 10 million dollars.
            Many Californians are lifers. A lifer is someone who was raised in California and has never left. They went through the public school system, attended a State school or University in California for undergrad, got a job and built a family. Lifers contrast with those who moved out to California in their late twenties, chasing their dreams of becoming famous actors like Angelina Jolie or Leonardo DiCaprio. Hailing from obscure states like Montana and South Dakota, they start off waiting tables at the bar down the street from their tiny apartment, lying to themselves that it will only be like this for a little while longer. Years go by and they still haven’t even had a callback. The movie industry controls the game, everyone else is a pawn, and they know it. A lifer would understand that becoming an actor is a dream that probably will never happen.
            The predominant college system in California is University of California. Ten campuses span the state from San Diego all the way up to Davis. More than 1 million students currently attend a UC school. Because of their mammoth size, the communities of these universities encompass a very diverse group of people. It is quite possible that a spoiled brat from the city might end up rooming with a desert dweller from “out east.” For clarities sake, let’s look at a common scenario. Picture a girl, age 19. We’ll call her Natalie.
            Natalie applied to all ten UC schools but she only ever considered going to Berkeley. Both her parents had attended Berkeley, where they met, and Natalie felt like it was her destiny. Her family had been preparing for the application process for a long time. They had donated money for important construction projects. The Whitney Aquarium and the Whitney Laser Tag Zone are prominent and completely necessary features on campus that increased the quality of life for every student everyday. The Whitneys knew the right people and had strong connections with admissions. If it came down to it, they were prepared to write a check. Their only child would attend Berkeley no matter what. Natalie was used to getting what she wanted anyway, so she wasn’t worried.
            Now, let’s imagine another girl. Take Jess, for example.
            Jess grew up in Santee and attended Santee High, the local public school for her community. She worked three jobs. Her favorite was her Dunkin Donuts job, which she commuted 45 minutes to everyday during the summer. But it was all worth it if she could pay for Berkeley. Her mother had attended San Diego State, but dropped out after three years and her father went straight into the work force after high school, so Jess would be the first to graduate from college in her family. She kept herself grounded the whole year through overuse of an illicit drug known as 1,3,7-trimethylxanthine, also known by its street name, caffeine. When she received the thick letter in the mail, she filled up her mug and congratulated herself on four more years of work.
            At the same time in Los Angeles, Natalie was gleefully ripping open her own letter of acceptance. She already knew she had been accepted because her parents had talked to the president of the university, but one of Natalie’s favorite things to do was unwrap presents so she pretended like she didn’t know what was inside.  In just a few short months, Natalie and Jess would be rooming together at the college of their dreams.
            After awkward hellos and where-are-you-froms, Natalie and Jess began moving their stuff in.
            “Do you want to listen to some music or radio or something?” asked Natalie.
            “Sure!” replied Jess. Her favorite type of music was laid-back stoner reggae tunes, but judging from Natalie’s jappy, princess-like demeanor, Jess doubted that she would like that type of music.
            “Cool. Is Katy Perry okay? I usually listened to her in the morning while I put on my uniform in high school.”
            Jess had never heard of Katy Perry. She had no idea that she was a famous pop singer. Her parents usually only listened to the local country station in the car.
“What’s Katy Perry?” she asked.
What’s Katy Perry?!?!? How did this girl get into Berkeley, thought Natalie.
“She’s my favorite singer. I’ll put her on.” Natalie slid her iPhone out of the back pocket of her designer J-Brand shorts and stuck it into the iHome on her desk. Soon, “Last Friday Night” filled the room.
            Natalie fell into her own thoughts as they drifted toward what she missed from home. How was she going to get used to not having a car? Berkeley strictly forbids students from bringing cars to campus. It would be a change not being able to jump behind the wheel and go grab a smoothie whenever she felt like it. Her white Porsche Boxter calmed Natalie down. The upside was that she wouldn’t have to sit in any horrid traffic. Rush hour in California is an experience in itself. It is completely unlawful to sit in traffic for less than forty minutes a day.  Even when the freeways are fifteen lanes wide, they routinely still clog up at 5pm.
            Jess shared a car with her two siblings, an older brother and a younger sister. Usually, she ended up dropping off her brother at work before heading to school and then after to her own job at the Genius Bar of the Apple store. Apple, the company that completely revolutionized personal technology, is based in Cupertino, CA. 97.4% of smartphone users in the US own an iPhone and those who don’t are classically conditioned to drool at the sight of one. Jess felt like she was in her element behind the Genuis Bar. She was surrounded by like-minded people who loved to tinker with the different parts of the sleek technology they had access to.
            Jess closed her eyes and imagined herself back at her old job. When she opened them, she found herself staring at a bright magenta quilt with teal polka dots, complete with fluffy pink, white, and yellow pillows in various square and circular shapes arranged on a bed. Natalie had also strung up lights above her bed and hung posters of Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez on the wall. Over Jess’s own bed hung a poster of the Arizona desert with cacti and shrubbery dotting the landscape along with a red and orange bulls-eye patterned tapestry. Jess loved the warm colors of the desert. It reminded her of one time when she drove through Death Valley. Away from all that glamour and materialism, she felt at one with nature. The sand dunes looked like they were combed by the fingers of a giant. She had taken a few photos on her disposable camera, but never got them developed because she wanted to keep the images clear in her mind untainted by outside forces.
            Jess snapped out of her day-dream just as Natalie suggested they go check out the dining hall. The two girls left the room, turning off the lights behind them.
Despite their obvious differences, Natalie and Jess had one important commonality: they were both born and raised in the Golden State. They understood that different areas of California have developed vastly different cultures and that the weather isn’t perfect everywhere.  They share the common beliefs that Mexican food is best eaten at 2:30am on a Saturday night and Starbucks Coffee is king. Natalie knows Jess will understand her complaints about traffic and Jess knows Natalie will relate to her story about being pooped on by a seagull. Natalie and Jess are just two fictional girls used to demonstrate a common experience for many students in California. Their experiences show that although the Golden State seems completely superficial, it deserves to be described in a genuine way, too.
California can be whatever you want it to be. You just have to dream it up.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cheesy Stuffed Jalapeños

Hello! A lot has changed since I last blogged!

I am now living in Brunswick, Maine attending Bowdoin College. I absolutely love Maine, and I am convinced it is the hidden gem of the United States.

So far, college has been super busy, but this weekend I found myself with a couple of free hours. I thought, “What better way to spend that time than to cook!?”

I decided to make cheesy stuffed jalapeños because they only have three ingredients, are difficult to mess up, and are so so so yummy. Plus, I haven’t had good Mexican food since I left San Diego (though the dining hall food here is amazing!), and I was desperately craving something spicy.

Cheesy Stuffed Jalapeños


6 jalapeño peppers
4 oz cream cheese
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Wash jalapeños. Slice peppers in half long ways. Remove the seeds and white pith and set peppers aside. (Do avoid enflamed hands a couple of hours later, either use gloves when handing the peppers or use a paper towel like I did and touch the peppers and seeds only when absolutely necessary.)
  3. In a bowl, mix cream cheese and cheddar cheese together. (I find the easiest way to do this is to use a knife and continuously chop them together until they are mixed.)
  4. Using a knife, fill each jalapeño half with about a tablespoon of cheese mixture. Do not overfill or the cheese may melt over the sides. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
  5. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown, turning half way through for even cooking.
  6. Let cool, Instagram a picture, and enjoy! 

Yields 12 jalapeño halves

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Lentil Soup

Some people don’t like lentils and I don’t understand why at all. I could eat lentils every day and never get sick of them. Maybe this is because I first had lentils last summer in Chile and my host-mom cooked them very well. They were so good that I knew I had to make them once I returned home to San Diego. I am still amazed at how easy and quick they are to cook and how little effort it takes to make them taste delicious.

Lentil Soup
adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything: The Basics

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped
1 stalk of celery, leaves discarded and chopped
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed
3 bay leaves
kosher salt 
ground black pepper
  1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan until hot. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, 2 to 3 minutes. Add carrots and celery and cook until carrots are bright orange, about 2 minutes. 
  2. Add lentils, 6 cups water, bay leaves, salt, and pepper, and bring to a slow boil. Turn down heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until lentils are tender. If lentils seem too dry, add 1/4 cup water.
  3. Add salt to taste. Serve!
Variation: Let the soup cool for a bit and then puree it in the blender or food processor for a luxurious version of lentil soup.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Green Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad

Since it is the first week of summer, I thought it would be perfect to celebrate with this corn salad. During the winter and fall, I suffice with canned corn kernels, but during June, July, and August, I cook with fresh corn as much as I can. Whether it's grilled or cut off the cob and used in salads, fresh corn caters to my sweet tooth in a healthy way. 

Green Bean, Corn and Tomato Salad
adapted from Power Foods from the editors of Whole Living Magazine


3 ears corn, husked
1 1/2 lbs. green beans, trimmed
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1 yellow tomato, sliced 1/2 inch thick
2 cups mixed small tomatoes (I used sugar plum grape tomatoes but colorful tomatoes make the salad look more appetizing)
Kosher salt

  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Cook the corn for 5-7 minutes, until crisp and tender. Remove the corn with tongs and place green beans into pot. Return to a boil, cover, and cook for 5-8 minutes or until tender. 
  2. Using a serrated knife, cut kernels off of corn into a bowl. Add green beans, 3 tbsp olive oil, and garlic. Toss and let stand in fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Just before serving, add remaining tbsp of olive oil, vinegar, onion, and tomatoes. Season with 1/2 tsp of salt or more. Serve!
Yields 4 Servings

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kale, Strawberry, and Avocado Salad

Oh Kale! How I love thee. Kale just agrees with me so much. It makes me feel energetic   and healthy. When I came across this kale salad with two of my favorite salad add-ins, I knew I had to try it. The strawberries and avocado paired with lemon juice compliment the bitter flavor of the kale. 

Kale, Strawberry, and Avocado Salad


1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp poppy seeds
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1 bunch (4 cups) lacinato (dino) kale, stems removed and chopped
1 cup sliced strawberries
1 avocado, chopped
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, poppy seeds, salt, and pepper. 
  2. Drizzle kale with olive oil mixture and massage the leaves until coated. 
  3. Add strawberries, avocado, almonds, and feta. Toss gently to combine. Serve!

Yields 4 Servings

Monday, May 20, 2013

Classic Beef Tacos

I tested this recipe out on my brother and he loved it. Tacos are a very easy meal that can feed one person or a crowd. All you need are tortillas, meat, and some toppings. I set up a taco bar because it makes all the food look fancier and more gourmet than it already is! 

Classic Beef Tacos
adapted from Alton Brown


1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tsp for tortillas
1 tsp kosher salt
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz ground sirloin
12 (6inch) yellow corn tortillas
1 recipe Taco Potion #19, recipe to follow
2/3 cup water

6 ounces cheddar (or shredded mexican blend) cheese
1 cup shredded iceberg (or romaine) lettuce
1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
sour cream
avocado, peeled and sliced

Note: Use whatever toppings you want. Guacamole is great. Cilantro and jalapeño slices are yummy too.

  1. Heat 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil in a skillet on medium heat until it shimmers. 
  2. Add onion and cook until softened and lightly browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add ground sirloin, garlic, and salt. Stir occasionally to break up the meat and cook until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes. 
  3. Add Taco Potion and water and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered until sauce is slightly thickened about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and put into serving bowl for taco bar. 
  4. In another skillet, heat 1 tsp of extra virgin olive oil for 2 minutes. Place one tortilla in the skillet and top with thinly sliced cheddar cheese or shredded mexican blend cheese. 
  5. While cheese is melting, assemble taco bar with lettuce, tomato, sour cream and avocado. 
  6. When cheese is melted, serve first taco! Repeat for as many tacos as needed. (I leave the burner on low even when there isn’t a tortilla in the skillet so that it is easy to heat up a tortilla when someone wants another one.)
Yields 4 servings

Taco Potion #19


2 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp ground cumin
2 tsp cornstarch
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

  1. Combine ingredients all in a bowl and mix well. 
Yields 1/4 cup

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I don’t bake all that often, but I decided to make something special at for my teachers to show them how much I have appreciated them this year. Everyone loves a good chocolate chip cookie and I had been dying to try Emily Schuman’s recipe from her book Cupcakes and Cashmere.

They turned out so yummy, perfectly gooey, and all around delicious.

Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from Emily Schuman’s Cupcakes and Cashmere


2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 egg, at room temperature
12 oz semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate chips (or a mix!)
parchment paper

  1. Sift the flour into a bowl and mix in salt and baking soda. Set aside. 
  2. Using an electric mixer with the flat paddle attachment, beat together butter, sugars, and vanilla at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and continue mixing until just combined. 
  3. Slow the mixer down to a low speed and add flour mixture in segments until incorporated. Stop the mixer and stir in chocolate chips with a rubber spatula. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate the cookie dough for 1 hour.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375° F and line the baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  5. Form small balls of dough about 1 inch in diameter and place them on the parchment paper 1 inch apart. Bake the cookies for 10-12 minutes (rotating halfway through) or until slightly browned. Remove baking sheet from the oven and let stand for 5 minutes. Then, transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool. 
Yields 35-45 cookies depending on size

Neighborhood Adventures

The school year is practically over and I needed a break from studying for my exams so I went on a walk around my neighborhood and encountered some beautiful sights. 

They say spring is the season of new life. The baby swans that live at the lake are so adorable!

I ran into Gabe and I couldn’t believe how big he was. The ideal height for a doberman pinscher is 27 1/2 inches measured from the whither, which is the highest point on the back just below the neck. That doesn’t even count the head!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Chicken Asparagus Roll-Ups

{chicken asparagus roll-ups before sauce + breadcrumbs}

My brother specifically requested these tonight. Their blend of provolone, asparagus, and tarragon is spot on and sure to satisfy everyone’s taste buds. Eating these is like opening a present made just for you with a yummy cheesy lemony surprise in the center. 

{delicious chicken asparagus roll-ups}

Chicken Asparagus Roll-Ups
adapted from allrecipes


1/2 cup mayonnaise
3 tbsp dijon mustard
1 lemon, zested and juiced
2 tsp dried tarragon
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp kosher salt
16 asparagus spears, trimmed
4 skinless boneless chicken breast halves
4 slices provolone cheese
1 cup panko bread crumbs

  1. Preheat the oven to 475°F. Grease a baking dish. 
  2. To cook asparagus, heat water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add asparagus and lower heat to a simmer. Cook for 2 minutes, then remove asparagus and set aside. 
  3. To prepare chicken, place one chicken breast half inside a heavy plastic ziploc bag and pound with the smooth side of a meat mallet until 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with 3 other chicken chicken breast halves. 
  4. In a small bowl, mix together mayonnaise, dijon mustard, lemon zest and juice, tarragon, pepper, and salt. 
  5. Place chicken in baking dish and top each with one slice of provolone. Place 4 asparagus spears on top of each cheese slice. Roll the chicken breasts around the asparagus and place seam side down. Repeat. 
  6. Spoon mayonnaise mixture on top of each chicken breast package. Top with bread crumbs, pressing them into the chicken to make a coating. 
  7. Bake until crumbs are brown and chicken is cooked to 165°F about 25 minutes. 
Yields 4 Servings

Kale, Bell Pepper, and Avocado Salad with Toasted Pepitas

I love kale salads (evidence here) and this variation below is perfect for spring. In fact, this recipe can be easily updated for any time of year. Instead of using bell peppers, try tomatoes in the summer and citrus in the winter. 

On a separate note, I buy my pepitas already salted and toasted, but I encourage you to  buy them raw and toast them yourself! The kind I use are Eden’s Dry Roasted and Sea Salted Pumpkin Seeds

Kale, Bell Pepper, and Avocado Salad with Toasted Pepitas
adapted from Terry Walter’s Clean Start 


1 bunch dinosaur (lacinato) kale
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp sea salt
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (or 3/4 tsp dried ground ginger)
1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped
3 tbsp finely chopped red onion
1 red, orange, or yellow bell pepper
1 carrot, grated
3 tbsp toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/2 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced

  1. Wash kale and cut out stalks. Chop the lettuce into small pieces. (This is key! The kale should be small enough that vegetables don’t fall to the bottom of the salad.)
  2. Place the kale in a mixing bowl and top with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and ginger. Massage ingredients into kale until coated. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes to marinate. 
  3. Once the kale is finished marinating, add onion, bell pepper, carrot, and toasted pepitas to the bowl and toss. Pour lemon and lime juice over salad and toss to incorporate. Salt to taste
  4. Add avocado at the very end just before serving and toss minimally so that the avocado does not turn mushy. Serve!
Yields 4 Servings