Being Polish, I can’t resist typical seasonal flavours of my native country (regardless of my current location and different culinary traditions): tangerines and hot red wine in Christmas time, fried cabbage with new potatoes in spring, strawberries and blueberries in summer and, the protagonist of today’s post, plums potato dumplings in autumn. I am quite sure you that know what I mean (especially if you ever lived abroad for a while)!
Polish people love exaggerating with the amount of potatoes served for dinner (an indispensable component), thus have become real masters in reusing them on the following day. You can also replace plums with strawberries or other kinds of berries (summer version). In any case, don’t forget about roux (roasted breadcrumbs with butter) and sweetened cream. That’s what makes it truly irresistible!
500 g boiled potatoes
300 g flour
400 g plums
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of powdered sugar
A few tablespoons of breadcrumbs
A few tablespoons of butter
1 tablespoon of sugar
Pinch of salt
1. Mash potatoes well, add flour (not necessarily all of it – the less you add, the softer the dumplings will be), eggs, a pinch of salt and a pinch of sugar. Mix until the ingredient are well combined.
2. Wash the plums and remove seeds. Cut into halves or quarters. Sprinkle with cinnamon and powdered sugar, mix and leave aside.
3. Form two rolls from the dough and cut into smaller pieces. Place each on the palm of your hand to form mini-pancakes, then close a portion of plumps inside (wrap up & give a round shape). Cook in boiling salted water for about 10minutes.
4. Roast breadcrumbs on a dry pan, gradually add butter and mix well. Serve with cream with a bit of sugar.
Do you recall watching a film that made you want to quit your current lifestyle, spread wings and conquer the world? I could bet that very few were left indifferent after watching The Pursuit of Happiness or Forrest Gump.
Although some of my friends consider watching films as a waste of time, I openly and straight-forwardly disagree with them. Spending an evening in front of the screen doesn’t have to be for entertaining purposes only. Sometimes it can actually teach you more than a random book or an over-rated coaching lecture. Film industry has a lot of beautiful and instructive content out there – you simply may need to make some effort to find it. Do your research first and make the right choice!
Coming back to the post’s title! Autumn, season when many things re-start or take new curves, is a perfect time for inspirational film screening sessions (either with friends or alone, wrapped up in a warm blanket sipping red-fruit tea).
Let these 5 titles boost your afflatus!
1. The founder: the story of McDonald’s company and it’s founder(s).
2. Joy: the story of a woman (Jennifer Lawrence) who had great ideas for solving daily difficulties and despite numerous obstacles managed to transform them into a real business dynasty.
3. Miss Sloane: a tough and powerful woman (Jessica Chastain) behind the effective lobbying of powerful multinational companies.
4. Nightcrawler: fascinating story of a particular man (Jake Gyllenhaal) desperate to become successful at selling crime video coverage for tv news.
5. Good Will Hunting: beautiful story of a genius young man (Matt Damon) who is struggling to discover his real identity, until he meets his real soul mate (Robin Williams)… I don’t know why I’d never seen this film before (shame on me!).
Do you know anyone who thinks that baking is complicated? Show them this recipe and they will surely change their mind. It only takes one bowl and a pinch of common sense (no mixer needed!). My advise would be to prepare it in the evening and devour for breakfast on the following day – possibly together with some cream cheese or dark chocolate spread. Fantastic hook for cooking beginners!
3 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup melted butter
1 teaspoon of baking powder
A pinch of salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 beaten egg
1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
1 and 1/2 cup flour
A handful of raisins (optional)
In a bowl, mash the bananas using a fork until smooth and creamy (just like a soup for babies). Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well. Transfer into a previously buttered loaf pan (10×20 cm) and bake at 180°C for 50-60 minutes.
Have you ever got surprised by the customs or daily habits you saw in a foreign country? I still remember my astonishment to: drinking tea on a hot day in Tunisia, having ice-creams served in bread for breakfast in Sicily or not locking the door when leaving house in Sweden. I am a great fan of learning new usages from our closer and further neighbours, because why not borrow some of them and experience something different (possibly better)?
Well, probably not all of the newly discovered practices will turn practical or safe in your own country… But at least some might entertain you a great deal! That’s what happened to me in the Dominican Republic. These 10 things surprised me the most!
At first I couldn’t figure out what made the cars look so different. Unknown brands? Colours? Excessive dirt? None of these. The cars were simply missing an important visual element at the front – they looked empty with no license plate attached! Not to mention, I’ve always been told that ”unknown” cars most probably belong to thieves or criminals…
2. No toilet paper flushing allowed
Yes, you quickly have to learn how not to flushtoiletpaper after using. You have to throw it to a bin. It’s a real challenge to change your lifelong habit in one day, good exercise for brain, though!
3. Barehead motorcyclists
That is definitely a habit I wouldn’t recommend borrowing. No matter the generation, helmets simply seem to be out of fashion. A truly terrifying view for someone who’s always been thaught to keep the seat belt fasten even when the car’s not in motion. Surprisingly enough, helmets gain popularity on rainydays (easier than carrying an umbrella when steering).
4. 24h working hours
Flat battery on Sunday morning? No problem – someone will surely fix it for you within a couple of hours. There’s no time to be wasted if there’s work to be done! Of course I am fully aware that such tendency has its huge drawbacks, too, as everybody deserves to take a rest from time to time, on the other hand allowing for too much siesta – as often seen in other places – can make one’s life really complicated. Balance is the key.
5. ”Normal” hair social movements
Where ”normal” means ”different than African-American-textured”. Could you ever imagine that the debate around accepting one’s natural hair is something as common as discussing the weather, sports or politics? There are opponents and proponents, but even more interestingly social movements encouraging females to accept what MotherNature has endowed them with. Intriguing!
6. Short summer days
Summer season (for me as a European) has always been about long days and never-ending bright evenings spent outside the house. You can’t imagine how awkward it felt to experience sunny Caribbean days ending at 7.00 pm! One can get really confused by the sudden darkness, so typical for short winter days in Europe, in the middle of the summer.
7. Bags of… plastic bags
Belgium doesn’t really let you buy one-off supermarket bags anymore, but in the Dominican Republic you are virtually flooded with them! I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw the grocery items being packed separately, in two plastic bags each (just in case a bunch of bananas proves too heavy). A real nightmare for eco-friendly visitors (myself included).
8. Drive-through banking
Note: I might not be aware of such smart solutions already in common use elsewhere. This was the first time I saw a drive-through banking system, inclusive of a pressurised tube money deposit, video customer service and automated cash withdrawals. Only a coffee machine was missing!
9. Everything’s fried
…or extremely sweet. Not a perfect place for diet-obsessed people, unless they are ready to say no to Dominican delicacies. This can be quite a challenge, though (in 99% cases ”fried” equals ”super tasty”).
10. Pretty cigarettes packaging
I had already forgotten how pretty a package of cigarettes can look like without the terrifyingimages with black lungs or throat cancer warning the customers against the harmful consequences of smoking. I almost took the Dominican cigarettes for chewing gums! Be aware of their plainlabels, they can seem really innocent…
It’s a root vegetable popular in the majority of Caribbean and latin American countries. I discovered it thanks to my Dominican friends living in Europe who can’t imagine not having a bunch of green plantains in their kitchen. Despite being quite sceptical at first, I proudly support the same idea now! Plantains are delicious and so different than any other vegetable you normally look for doing your grocery shopping.
Luckily enough, platanos are relatively easy to find in Belgium where I currently live. Try to google an international market in your city – you might discover plenty of other exotic products and enrich your daily diet.
Plantains can be cooked in various ways depending on their ripeness. The riper they are, the yellower they get. For tostones green version is perfectly fine!
”Fried chips” is not the lightest recipe of all, but definitely worth having in small quantity or… on your cheatday with lots of ketchup and mayo!
Dominican Republic, similarly to other islands surrounded by the CaribbeanSea, is famous for its paradise beaches, wedding venues and luxurious hotel resorts. Everything is perfectly true. But there are many beautiful places outside these comfortable “bubbles’’ waiting to be explored and admired by the visitors! In this article I will do my best to convince you that Dominican Republic is worth replacing all-exclusive holiday with an adventurous and a local-like stay. Where to go and what to do? Here is some advice!
Good to know before going
Well, I highly recommend that you rent a car. Many natural monuments and beaches are not accessible by any other way of transport. Good news is that the island is relatively small and has a good net of highways. You can also consider using long-distance buses such as Metro Tours to get from one city to another, however, make sure you book your tickets a few hours before departure (possible by phone only).
You can use Uber when moving around in the main cities (Santo Domingo, Santiago, Puerto Plata) or a motorbike taxi (locally called motoconcho), but mind your head – the majority of drivers don’t provide helmets for their passengers!
Try Airbnb or haunt for some good offers online (e.g. booking.com), unless you prefer going fully local via Couchsurfing. All of these options work well in the country and you can find yourself sleeping at a very low cost in some of the most breathtaking villas overlooking scenic seashores.
Note: do not take Cabañas for real hotels – they are mainly destined for a few hours stays. You might prefer to choose another sleeping facility for a longer stop.
Although many people speak English very well, with no Spanish basics it can be challenging to communicate while travelling inside the country.
Currency: Dominican peso (1 EUR = approx. 57 DOP)
Best time to go: all months are sunny and hot, but December and January tend to be a bit fresher and more pleasant.
Also: it’s not recommended to drink water from the tap.
7 places to visit
1. Extraordinary swing in Montaña Redonda de Miches
This extraordinary swing will literally make you fly away! It’s located in a remote part of the island, but you can easily reach it by car and by one of the taxis available on site. I had a chance to try the pick-up car – it was great fun while going up the hill! The view from the top is absolutely stunning. Tip: Remember to bring your own camera to save USD$75 for a professional photo-session. Brooms, swings and hammocks are included in the entrance ticket (that is taxi and parking cost, around RD$500). Read more here: https://dariasdiaries.eu/2017/08/14/a-place-where-you-can-fly/
2. Cayo Arena: possibly the smallest island on earth
When in Puerto Plata (north), do not miss the trip to Cayo Arena (also known as Paradise Island). It’s a strictly protected natural reservoir which is probably going to disappear in a couple of years. To slow the process down, tourists are only allowed to enter the island barefoot. The organised tours can be purchased online or from local vendors. The tour normally includes transport by bus and speedboat, fresh fruit & drinks at the island, snorkelling equipment, lunch and occasionally a visit to a cigar manufactory. Definitely worth the cost (around USD$100). Tip: while snorkelling, take some banana with you – it will attract fish to come closer!
3. Saltos de Jima: pristine waterfalls near Bonao
This place immediately stole my heart! It’s located in a difficult-to-find area, so don’t count on Google maps – you will get there faster by asking locals for the right way. The route inside the park is 1.8km long and leads through a beautiful old forest overlooking the river. Only 3 out of 23 waterfalls are currently open for tourists (with the third one being reachable by climbing up a few slippery rocks). Bring comfortable shoes and some chocolate to fill up your energy! The entrance if free of charge, but have some cash on you for parking (RD$100) and a guide (optional).
4. Los Tres Ojos: underground lakes near Santo Domingo
I honestly didn’t expect to find such a fabulous land below the ground just next to one of the busiest highways in the country. But there it is, natural caves and transparent lakes surrounded by astonishing, dense vegetation. Do not miss the boat ride to reach the fourth lake! Also, the park is inhabited by an elderly man resembling Tarzan – at an extra cost he can climb up a rocky wall for you and perform a bold jump to the water. The entrance is RD$100, boat ride RD$25. Tip: the humidity can be unbearable so take some refreshment towels with you.
Looking for something really adventurous? Try paragliding with Flying Tony in a mountainous town of Jarabacoa located in the middle of the country. Stunning views are included in the price! Should the weather make the flying too risky, hiking or having a fabulous dinner (see ‘’restaurants’’ below) could be your back-up plan.
6. Colonial Zone in Santo Domingo
Do you remember learning about Christopher Columbus at your history classes? This is exactly where he arrived when he first reached the land of America. Designed by Spanish colonisers, this particular part of the city might remind you of a Mediterranean town. Colonial Zone offers a variety of cultural activities, including theatre and music events. Do not miss dancing salsa in white with Grupo Bonye on Sunday evening, nor one of the open-air jazz sessions occasionally held on Thursdays (check dates online). Tip: sightsee the place on a rented city bike!
A truly fascinating place to visit! Its unique architecture and cobblestone streets will transfer you directly to a Mediterraneanvillage from 16th Century. Whether you’re looking for a bit of luxury, live music or leisure activities such as shooting or golf, Casa de Campo Resort and Villas will surely satisfy your needs! Tip: make sure you book your tickets for one of the live music shows in the village’s amphitheatre!
5 beaches to go
1. Playa Blanca in Punta Cana
A picturesque beach with typically bended palm tress and soft white sand where you can enjoy comfortable deckchairs and delicious cocktails at the restaurant. You will be asked to register as a visitor at the main entrance to the resort.
Best to visit on your way back from Montaña Redonda. It’s a truly paradise beach with white sand, turquoise water and plenty of palm trees. Very photogenic, so don’t forget to bring your camera along (together with towels and snacks).
3. Bocana in Boca Chica
Famous for its local vendors offering everything from sunglasses to relaxing massages. One of my favourite beaches to relax in water – the sea is flat and shallow. You might be asked to pay for the parking at the restaurant’s entrance (no deckchairs provided).
Have you ever heard about this miracle beach? Miracle, because it appeared overnight only 14 years ago! Worth visiting during a stay in Puerto Plata. Fantastic place to rest – fewervendors and fewer tourists than in the nearby Playa Sosua beach.
5. Hemingway in Juan Dolio
Although it might not seem as edenic as its neighbour beaches, it has enchanted me with the sound of rough waves and a truly magical sunset. Thanks to the nearby high housing, the beach is sometimes compared to the Miami’s coast. Take your own towels and snacks.
5 foods & drinks to try
Plátano, also known as plantain or vegetable banana, is a true symbol of Dominican Republic. Everybody knows someone who has a plantain tree in their garden. Many national snacks and dishes have plantain as the main ingredient. Most popular are:
A traditional meet and vegetable stew. Absolutely delicious!
3. Cassava (Yuca in Spanish)
Cassava is a long tuberous starchy root, similar to the potato. You can find it mashed, fried or baked. My favourite serving version is called Casabe – mini flat round galettes. You can buy them in any supermarket (light and healthy!).
4. Moro de Habichuelas: white rice with beans
One of the most popular dishes among Dominicans. It’s similar to other Latin America’s traditional meals. A mixture of rice, vegetables and different beans. Not my favourite, but definitely worth trying!
5. Morir Soñando
Literal translation: die dreaming. A popular beverage made of orange juice, condensed milk, cane sugar and ice. Terribly sweet, but very tasty!
1. La Piazzetta in Altos de Chavón (Italian)
As mentioned above, Altos de Chavón offers a genuine Mediterranean climate. This Italian restaurant La Piazzetta located in the village couldn’t be different! As a frequent visitor to Italy I can guarantee that both the food and ambience won’t let you down. I had some typical Italian appetisers, beef carpaccio & bruschettas with green pesto and a seafood risotto with asparagus. Each course far exceeded my expectations. Definitely a must!
2. El Meson De La Cava in Santo Domingo (Caribbean/Latin/Seafood)
Have you ever dined in a cave? If not, then this might be the right time to try! El Meson De La Cava is a one-of-kind restaurant located in Santo Domingo’s underground caves, once covered by the sea. I really enjoyed the fancy decor and good service. A bit pricey, but worth the cost.
3. El Conuco in Santo Domingo (Dominican)
This place will teach you something about Dominican culture and lifestyle. Not only thanks to the food, but also music and interior design. Put some comfortable shoes on before leaving home – you are likely to dance with the staff! Perfect place to try plantain dishes.
4. Aroma de la Montaña in Jarabacoa (Caribbean/Latin/International)
If you’re hungry for some unforgettable views while dining, add Aroma de la Montaña restaurant to your list. Located on a hill, it makes a 360-degree turn while you’re enjoying your food. It’s an amazing visual experience!
Have you got any specific questions? Leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer!