Tag Archives: potatoes


I recently heard about this dish from one of my Chilean students and I immediately knew I had to try it. Corn? Basil? Pumpkin? Count me in.

Charquicán is a word that derives from the Quechua and Mapuche word, charqui, which means jerky. During Andean times, meat and fish would frequently spoil, so they would dry their meat in order to preserve it. The charquicán stew is traditionally made with dried meat and an array of South American vegetables (squash, potatoes, corn) and topped with a fried egg.

Over time, people began to substitute fresh beef (ground or shredded) for the jerky because of the jerky’s strong, sometimes abrasive taste. Which is exactly what I did.



1 white onion, diced

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 or 2 lbs of lean beef (You can either use ground beef or thin filets)

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1 large chunk of pumpkin (called zapallo in Chile, but you can use squash if you like), cubed

2 cups of beef stock

1 hand full of fresh basil, roughly chopped

3 cups of fresh or frozen large kernel corn

1 tablespoon of paprika

1 tablespoon rosemary

3 tablespoon of cumin

3 tablespoons sea salt

pinch of black pepper

1 tablespoon of oregano

2 tablespoons of olive oil


Cut the beef into strips and simmer in 1/3 c caldo for 1 hour. Shred the beef and save the juices. (If you are using ground beef, skip this step)

Sauté the shredded beef (or ground beef) with the  onion, garlic, pumpkin, potatoes, spices, and salt and pepper in the olive oil in a large, deep pan. Once the beef is cooked and the vegetables nice and fragrant, add the beef stock and simmer until the pumpkin and potatoes are soft (about 20 or 30 minutes). One the potatoes are softening up, mash them up a little to give the stew some thickness, then add the corn and basil and stir. Let the stew simmer for about 10 more minutes until it is nice and thick. Taste for salt or  more spice.

Serve hot in a bowl with a fried egg on top.

Note: Feel free to add more, different vegetables (tomatoes, peas, green beans) and whatever spices feel right. You can’t go wrong with this homey, comforting dish.

This stew is lovely with a free green salad or ensalada chilena and a big glass of Chilean wine.

Another great idea would be to make this a vegetarian stew (use vegetable  or chicken stock and no meat) and serve with a nice juicy steak.



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Salt Flats of Uyuni

The trip to Uyuni from  La Paz was uncomfortable and bumpy.  I took the overnight bus (the only available) and it was not the nicest bus. I was very relieved to arrive safe and sound at 7am the next morning.

Getting off the bus I was a little lost. It was my original pre booked so I didn’t have to think. Luckily, I met a nice group of Argentinian girls who needed an extra for their tour group, so I signed up. I ended leaving straight away at 10 am that morning to begin my journey, but was lucky enough to find a hotel for a shower first.


First stop was the old train cemetery. Bolivia used to have a train system, but in 1950, the trains changed fuel system and they just abounded the old models. Because of the dry heat the train did not disintegrate over time.

After the trains came the best part: The salt flat itself. This is one of the most incredible things I’ve ever seen. Miles and miles of white salt covered by a thin layer of water in all directions. The sky and the water seem to unite, and it feels as though you’ve stepped into some type of heavenly time warp.

Post salar, we were driven a long way to a hostel to stay the night. Dinner there was actually quite lovely, and the beds were warm and comfortable.


This day was all about the lagoons and desert. The first stop was the valley of the rocks, which looked like Arizona, but with bigger rock formations.

Second two stops were at these gorgeous lagoons to try and find some flamingos and enjoy the magnificent colors. I was blown away by the pastel shades, the mountains, and the contrasts. Stunning.

We had an excellent lunch with three different kinds of potatoes..

Last stop for Day Two was the National Park where you can visit el Lago Colorado. It costs to go it, but its worth every penny. It was windy and freezing, but the flamingos in the red water, with the green moss,  and grey mountains made for a picture perfect  painting like view.

The place we stayed at that night was a little rough, but we managed.

DAY THREE: Our 5am wake up  the next day was also not very fun, but we survived. We saw the geysers (freezing) and had breakfast.

Our last stop was to Laguna Verde, one of my favorites. There were no animals here because the lagoon has traces or arsine. Besides the poisonous chemicals, the view was incredible.

Truly, this was one of the most amazing trips of my life and I was left speechless on numerous occasions. It was very difficult to pick good photos…there were so many!


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Arequipa, Peru

I’m back! After two and a half weeks of wandering Boliva and Peru, I made it back to Santiago. After some rest, an emergency computer purchase, and some serious laundry doing, I’m ready to write about my trip. It was not always easy, but that’s why its travelling, not a beach holiday. I learned a lot in a short time, and came back overwhelmed by my experiences.

So, the beginning.

We took a 1am flight from Santiago to Arica. It was exhausting, but everything went smooth. At 4am, we found a “collectivo” (basically just a random van) and got dropped off at a sketchy bus stop. We waited two hours, cold and tired, among quite the colorful crowd (families with all their belongings, drunks, backpackers) for the gate to open. At 6am, they finally unlocked the gate and everyone rushed to get put into a taxi for the border. Once we got shoved in a car, they took our passports. This made me nervous, but they were returned, thankfully, and we headed towards the border. At border patrol, we had to wait another hour, in the middle of the desert, for it to open. Once it did, their was lots of yelling in Spanish, lines, getting in and out of cars, but we finally got through the border, confused but fine.

Once we got to the Tacna bus stop, we had to kill 7 hours for the next bus to Arequipa. I’m not really sure how we survived. All I know is I ate a lot of chicken empanadas, and we must have done 20 different word searches. But, after our long, hot, wait and a few Inca colas, we were on our way.

Arequipa was worth the journey. Our hostel (Flying Dog) was lovely and the city was stunning.

My absolute favorite was the Santa Catalina Monastery. It was so colorful, so drenched in history. I loved roaming this small city within the city.

The main plaza:

The market was also interesting. So many different varieties and colors of potatoes. Even some sheep heads, for those so inclined.

Our last day we did a day trip (3am wake up) up to the Cañon de Colca. It was a five-hour, cold car ride, but the views of the mountains were breathtaking and the canyon was gorgeous.

We were lucky to see many, many condors swooping around.

One of my favorite meals of the trip was the restaurant we stopped at for lunch, with a buffet style special.

Featured is a variety of goodies: fried bananas, alpaca, rococo relleno, papas fritas, beets, stews, and vegetable salad. So delicious.

We also had one fancy dinner out at a restaurant called Zig Zag.

I ordered the fish carpaccio and Katie got the quinoa gnocchi with pesto. My my.

We barely made our bus for Cusco in time (there was panic and running and gringa yelling) but then it was a comfortable Cruz del Sur overnight bus for the ten-hour journey.

Stay tuned for my Cusco blog!


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Aji de Gallina


What a great weekend, filled with sun, cooking, and bowling. The weather is starting to really get warm around here and I love it. Last Friday we had a gringo birthday party at a bowling alley, which was really fun, and then I spent the rest of the weekend soaking up the rays and making food. Classic.

Beginning of Spring picnic with pan, palta and vino. Claro.

Feeling happy about the weather got me in the mood to try this Peruvian dish that I adore: Aji de Gallina.

It’s a bit high maintenance, but this recipe is SUPER RICO. Drool worthy. The creamy, spicy, savory sauce and shredded chicken is comfort food at it’s best. Seriously, make this. Impress all your friends.

Aji de Gallina 


2-3 peeled, boiled and sliced potatoes

3-4 hard boiled eggs, sliced

1/4 sliced black kalamata olives

3 chicken breasts

2 medium carrots, diced

2 celery stocks, diced

2 medium onions, chopped

4 cloves of garlic

1 can of condensed milk

6 slices of white sandwich bread

4 aji amarillo (orange peruvian peppers, they can be canned, in a paste, raw, whatever)

1/4 cup of walnuts, ground

1/4 cup parmesan cheese

2 chicken bouillon cubes



1/4 cup of oil


I see this dish as a two part process. I reccomend you do the first part in the morning or the evening before. It you do it all at once it can be tiresome.

PART I: boil the eggs, and set aside in ice water. Boil the potatoes (not too soft!)  and put in the fridge. Next, add the celery, carrot, and one onion to a big, deep pot with the chicken breasts and one bouillon cube. Add 4-6 cups of water and boil until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and set aside. Save the stock and veggies.


Shred the chicken and set aside.

The next step is to make the sauce. To make the sauce soak 6 slices of bread in the condensed milk. Add the soggy bread into a blender with a clove of garlic, one bouillon cube, the carrots and celery from the stock, and the aji. [My aji was raw, so I sauteed it first in a pan to get it soft. You can also buy pickled aji amarillo, or use aji amarillo paste. All fine.] Blend until smooth. If it is still very liquid, add 3 more slices of bread.

Heat up a large, deep sautee pan or pot with 1/4 cup of oil. Add the remaining chopped onion, and two gloves of garlic, minced. Once the onion is translucent, add the sauce. Stir for 5 minutes, then add the chicken. Be careful to turn the heat down because the milk in the dish can burn easily. Stir until well mixed and thick. Next, add the chopped walnut, and finally the parmesan.

Serve hot with white rice, a sliced hard boiled egg, two olives, and sliced boiled potatoes.

It would also be lovely with a nice, thin sliced cucumber salad with vinegar and sugar. I didn’t add that, but next time I will.

For dessert, I sliced up a lovely pineapple I bought at the market. The pineapple was perfect!! I watched this video which explained how to tell if a pineapple is ripe and how to cut it.

YUM. Hope everyone is having a good week!


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Friends and Fish! Sunday Dinner Party

Well. It’s been almost 7 months now here in Chile, and I think right now I’m the happiest I’ve been. I like my job, I like the people at my job, I like my students, the weather is good, life is good. Currently, I scheming a birthday trip in November to Buenos Aires and Mendoza, Argentina and I am very excited (PS. all advice and tips welcome on that….). I havn’t left Santiago since I got here, and it’s time for a change of scenery, ya know?

Speaking of fellow employees, I had a great time going to the Vega with Isabel and Mike last Sunday. The plan was to give Mike a cooking lesson, who currently has been living off rice and pasta. We pursued the market, and finally came home with reineta, spinach, mushrooms, and potatoes. Using, I dunno, about 3  entire heads of garlic, we put together some thin sliced, roasted garlic potatoes (potatoes, garlic, olive oil, lemon, baked for an hour at 400), creamed spinach with mushrooms, and baked fish with lemon and garlic and cherry tomatoes. We may have  repulsed all vampires within 20 miles, but the food was so tasty! The fish was extra fresh because we got it at the Fish Market.

We had some ensalada de porotos (white bean salad with onion and cilantro, comes in a bag at La Vega) as a starter…

Cooking is really only as hard as you want it to be. Most of the time, all you need to do is stick stuff in the oven for a long time with salt. SEriously.

Monday was payday, and to reward myself, I bought myself a pan! It’s bright, bright green. I love it. All ym cooking equipment blows and its been difficult to cook with bad knifes and terrible pans.

Happy Humpday Everyone.

Til next time!

Leave a comment

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Cazuela de Ave and Learning Chilean Spanish

Happy Hump Day everyone!

It’s been a crazy few weeks. Been struggling to get the best schedule/work load to pay the bills and worrying about other useless stuff. A lot of boring things to do, like go and get my temporary RUT (half way to being Chilean!) and cash checks, blah blah.

But, I did have an eventful weekend, so that helps with the boring week. Last Saturday night I met up with some Chileans for a night out. By the time I got home my brain was swimming (for many reasons). Speaking spanish for 12-24 hours is exhausting, especially Chilean spanish. Although, I’m starting to pick it up (whether I like it or not). Thus far, I’d adapted “sipo,” (means yes basically) “cachai” (you know) “como estaí” (Como estas) but have yet to adapt “weon” (dude, sorta) because I’m afraid. All in good time.

Today is a slow day for me, with only one class at 6:30pm. So, what do I do with my spare time? Cook. Of course.

Today I took a stab at making Cazuela de Ave (see older blog post).
I seem to have a strong penchant for soups and anything that can be made in a huge pot. I love stewing, seeping, and simmering. The smell of spices and juices mixing….mmmm mmmm.

Cazuela de Ave is a perfect mix of Spain and Chile, blending native ingredients like pumpkin and corn with more european flavors and ingredients like rice, onion, garlic, and parsley. Traditionally, the soup might have been made with quinoa, red pepper, and local foul or meat. When the Spanish conquerors arrived on the scene, they named these soups “cazuelas” because they were made in large pots/tubs.

Cazuela is fresh, flavorful, hearty, healthy and filling. It is South American’s version of chicken noodle soup and my does it sooth the soul. Moist, soft hunks of pumpkin drenched in freshly made stock, garnished with herbs. What could be better? Serve it on cold winter nights or when your system needs a re-boot.

Cazuela de Ave


2 chicken legs, skin on (or thigh/leg, breast/leg combo)

6-8 cups of water

4 cloves of garlic, minced

1 hunk of pumpkin of squash, cut into 4-6 large chunks

4 small potatoes, skinned and cubed

1 large onion, chopped

1 large carrot, chopped

1 ear of corn, cut into thirds

1 teaspoon oregano

bouquet garni (click here for explanation)

1 teaspoon cumin

2 tablespoon of salt

1 cube of bouillon (optional)

fresh parsley, minced

black pepper

cilantro, minced

1 cup of  white rice, cooked

thinly sliced green beans/red pepper (Or, I used a frozen veggie mix with peas and carrots)


Cook a small pot of rice and set aside.

Take you chicken and cover it with half the garlic, salt, and a dash of pepper. Put a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot and turn the heat to medium high. Stick the chicken in the pot and brown the skin slightly.

Next, add 6 cups of water, or until pot is a little over 3/4 full. Boil the chicken in the water for about 40 minutes until the liquid has absorbed the chicken flavor and the water looks more yellow and rich. I added bouillon to my broth at this point only because I didn’t have much chicken and the stock seemed a little bland, but in the future, I might not do this. It was a little salty.

Then, remove chicken from the pot and drain liquid through a strainer into a different container and set aside. In your original pot, add a few tablespoons of olive oil, the onion and carrot. Next, add the oregano, cumin, salt, and left over garlic. Stir until fragrant.  Add the potatoes, squash, and corn, green beans/bell pepper, bouquet garni, and the remaining stock and chicken pieces. Gently boil for 40 minutes, or until the potatoes and squash can be pierced with a knife.

To serve, put a tablespoon of rice at the bottom of a deep soup bowl with some of the vegetables. Next, add a piece of corn, a hunk of squash, potatoes, carrots, and a chicken leg (or piece of chicken). Garnish with fresh parsley and cilantro.

Serve with some warm fluffy pan del día and butter, and  nice big glass of red, Chilean wine. You’ll thank me.

Serves 2-4 (depending on how many pieces of chicken you use). I had tons of leftovers.

Simple, fresh, and satisfying, this dish a winner in my book, and might be the new, improved chicken noodle soup for years to come.

Has anyone else made cazuela and made it differently?

Stay tuned for more Chilean adventures. Until next time, ciao!

Grace Geiger


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Valpo Trip and Gringa Winning

Monday, Monday.

No one likes them. Although, to be honest, I think I’m one of those people who kind of likes them…..the worst, right? I hate Tuesdays, but on Monday, I forget just how bad work or school can actually be, so I have illusions of fun. But on Monday night no one is happy.

But as much as I like to pretend I’m a working women, it seems I’m basically unemployed as is, because not ONLY do I have…like…maybe 5 classes (I mean sessions in total, not like a M/W class and then another T/R class) total, but many of these classes are cancelled this week because of semana santa. And no, that does not mean I get paid holidays. The lack of income needs to change, and it’s my own fault for not being proactive at the moment and trying to sell myself in the streets for private lessons, but I’m getting there. I even made a flyer…just need to find a place to print it. Why does Chile hate printing?? Printing can be a good thing, just not excessive printing. Makes it hard to be a teacher when printers are so rare.

But, enough of boring “WORK” problems, lets talk about fun things, like my trip this weekend to Valpo with Katie. It was a super easy trip. Basically just a few hops on the metro and an hour and a half bus ride and voila! It cost about 5,500 pesos (ten dollars? ish?) for an ida y vuelta which is really cheap.

Due to a late night out Friday, Katie and I sort of scrambled to the bus stop on Saturday around noon without any sort of plan whatsoever. The consequence of which was a lot of random wandering around Valpo, which actually is the way to go anyway.  Katie and I decided to call all this haphazardness “gringa moments”. For example, not understanding what people are saying to us would be a gringa fail, and finally finding a hostel  would be gringa winning.  Pisco=gringa winning.

Valpo is truly one of the most visually stunning places I’ve been. It reminded me a little bit of a cross between parts of Italy and Portugal, with its own Chilean flavor mixed in. The city itself isn’t very organized and there isn’t really any sort of central plaza. It’s a big, crazy hodgepodge of colors, graffiti, hills, passageways, stray dogs, and broken bottles.But therein lies the charm. Its bohemia defined, with colors and art at every corner, like walking in a moving, breathing painting.

Even though my feet were really tired by the end of the day, it worth the pain to walk around and get lost in crooked streets and alleyways. We had one midday meal, what I deemed “dunch” that was so fatty and filling we couldn’t eat again til 1pm the next day. I seem to always want to order pollo a lo pobre. This is probably because it is one of the few things I recognize on the menu, and also because I always forget just how big that dish really is and how bad my stomach feels afterwards. Oh well?

There is art on every wall and building, some promoting political agendas, others just celebrating playful colors and child-like imaginations.

I desperately wanted to get a little place on the hill and just eat avocados and drink wine while writing my new novel. Oh, the fantasies of English majors.

Saturday night Katie and did some more wandering and went out for a few pisco sours at a local bar. Sunday morning we checked out of the hostal (which was awful, very dirty and loud) and starting hiking up the hil towards the La Casa de Pablo Neruda. The museum/house was very cool. I loved the collection of odds and ends in his house, the quirky furniture and collections of maps, toys, and strange trinketts. The view was spectacular. With that view, anyone could be a poet!

Although, unfortunately most of us don’t produce poetry quite like this, but we can try:

“I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.”

– Sonnet XVII by Pablo Neruda

Right. Food blog. Truth is, I did not eat much worth blogging in Valpo. We desperately tried to get some seafood, namely ceviche, but Sunday not much was open and we didn’t know were to go, so we just went to a little Chilean place. I ordered Cazuela de Ave (shout out to Amy who recommended I try it) which can be made with with chicken (ave) or beef. The soup is made by boiling the meat with potato (or squash) and a piece of corn (during the summer months). The broth is also served with either rice or noodles, and some small pieces of vegetable like green beans, peppers, possibly peas, and maybe some parsley or fresh herbs. The recipe is originally a Spanish dish but has been adapted to Chilean flavors and ingredients. My cazuela had a big hunk of calabaza and a little potatoes, with some rice swimming on the bottom. It was fresh, healthy, and left me filling full and warm.

Katie and I can’t seem to keep a straight face.

Hope everyone has a good week and I hope to have more adventures, both culinary and otherwise, to blog about soon!

Grace Geiger


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