Living abroad for a semester is an eye opening cultural experience. It will lead to so much growth, learning, and stepping out of your comfort zone, but without a doubt, there you will also experience a change in your eating habits!

When you hear about living abroad, particularly about France, you might get a great description of the wonderful brioche and coffee you can find on every corner, or about the various meat and escargot dishes you can’t get enough of.

Allison Leacu

But what gets glossed over about living abroad, is how easy it is to miss home, friends, and the simple things, like dishes you used to eat at home, that you easily took for granted.

I’ve always found cooking to be a form of self-care. If I’m in the worst of my finals, carving time out of my schedule to cook helps me feel better, tremendously. It’s a huge stress reliever. Living abroad in Paris for just a month, I’ve had plenty of moments where I feel homesick and anxious. I’ve found comfort in cooking dishes that remind me of things I love: Boston, friends, and family.

I’m excited to offer a few of my favorite recipes that I’ve tried since starting my Northeastern co-op experience abroad in Paris last month!

Allison Leacu

To be eating at Greco....

First, I present to you Greek Meatballs with Tzatziki Sauce. This recipe is great if you’re missing Mediterranean food such as Greco or Gyroscope in Boston, close to Northeastern's campus.

All I could think of when I saw this recipe was Greco's Bifteki wrap. It always hit the spot back home.

The recipe has a number of ingredients (especially the meatballs), but fear not! It’s simple, and trust me, the herbs they ask for should NOT be skipped! The parsley, mint, dill mixed with the spices and garlic make some seriously flavorful meatballs, and honestly are unlike any meatball that I’ve ever made. Mint wasn't a common cooking herb at home, but truly creates  a unique meatball experience.

Allison Leacu

I’ll be honest, I’m still figuring out my oven here in Europe, I especially struggle with the oven temperature, converting Fahrenheit to Celsius (another challenge has been measuring cups… I wish I brought some, because it’s a pain converting cups to grams/ml. Amazon could have a quick fix!).

I think I cooked my meatballs longer than necessary, and they became a bit dry. I recommend keeping a close eye on them in the oven. Still tasty, none-the-less!

Allison Leacu

The Tzatziki sauce was awesome since I’ve never attempted to make it before, and it’s incredibly easy! The recipe recommends a food processor to pulse the cucumber, dill, and garlic, but it’s not necessary. I chopped up these ingredients to my desired size, and mixed in other ingredients. For me, it’s the lemon which really ties the sauce together. Maybe I’m a citrus fiend, but it blends with the herbs and yogurt so well!

TIP: The recipe stops here, but I wanted the full experience, so I cooked some couscous, chopped some carrots and tomatoes, and put it all together! I finished it with by garnishing it with feta and parsley. I can’t say this recipe compares to my favorite mediterranean spots at home, but it did bring back some good memories.

Next: El Jefe's en Paris?

Next, is this Cilantro Lime Chicken dish. I’ve gone back to this recipe a couple of times now, and it’s only been a few weeks since I discovered it on Pinterest, so you should know it’s worth it 😏.

What really does it for me is the mango salsa. It reminds me of mango salsa at El Jefes… Oh how I miss nights grabbing El Jefe's near campus with my friends! Here in Paris, they have Chipotle, so if I feel like a little bit of home, I’ll stop by there. But I’ve turned this recipe into tacos quite easily; even if you want to skip out on the chicken, the salsa recipe is perfect for Taco Tuesday!

First, the chicken. I have a number of chicken recipes that include soy sauce and honey, and they NEVER disappoint. This is the first time it’s had a Mexican swing to it, with a hint of cumin and lime.

I recommend planning this dish ahead of dinner time, and  marinating the chicken for the recommended time of two hours. That being said, I never remember to prep, so I pretty much make the sauce and let the chicken marinate for 5 minutes while my pan with oil was heating up. The sauce is flavorful enough that this isn’t a problem, and you still get tons of flavor.

TIP: I suggest baking this dish, and using tin foil under the chicken to avoid messes. I sautéed the chicken, and the honey (being sugar) burned a bit. This was partially my own bad, but it also created a mess of a pan.

For the salsa, it’s quite simple. It’s just chopping up all the ingredients and putting them together. I don’t know why you wouldn’t love fresh orange juice and mango in your salsa, but if you rather something more traditional, and less sweet, you could easily substitute. Again, I think the orange and lime juice is what really ties it all together! If you aren’t into spice, you can skip the jalapeño as I did.

If you feel like turning this into a taco dish, heat up some beans (I go for black beans with this recipe), cut up some tomatoes, lettuce, and grab some cheese… and voila: a taco salad, or fill up some shells or tortillas for the ultimate taco dinner!

Allison Leacu

Paris has close to NO Mexican food here, so this is the closest I can get. I’m missing taco nights with my family, so this is one of the recipes that makes me feel a bit at home.

Enfin, La Dessert

Lastly, I want to recommend my favorite baking dish - perfect for dessert, breakfast, or maybe for your afternoon coffee break!

Now, yes, you can find amazing pastries everywhere in Paris. But one of the most rewarding and relaxing activities for myself  is baking, and let me tell you these homemade cinnamon rolls are absolutely incredible.

It reminds me of home because my mom and I, being traditional and old fashioned people, found this recipe in a magazine (Gasp! Not online?), as we often do, and made it for the first time. Fear not, the recipe is here too.

The recipe is super easy! You just combine the dry ingredients, combine the wet ingredients and sugar, before slowly adding in the dry ingredients to make the dough. When making this recipe in Paris (where I might have my measurement conversions wrong) the amount of flour they ask for isn’t enough to mix with the ingredients and form into a ball. If this occurs, continue adding flour in small amounts, until you're able to form it into a ball with your hands, for kneading. If it’s making a total mess, you still need more flour.

KEY TIP: I want to preface... I’ve tried this recipe with whole wheat or half whole wheat half white flour. Don’t do it. Maybe you want a healthier option, but this recipe won’t work well. Something about the flour when it’s whole wheat causes the rolls to have trouble rising the way in comparison than when you use white all-purpose flour.

Don’t be intimidated by the use of yeast! If you’re familiar with baking bread, it’s necessary. Seriously, don’t skimp out on letting the dough rise for an hour or so! Once the rolls bake in the oven and turn golden brown, you’ll see they turned double the size they started out as! 

If you’re baking for a smaller group, I found that halving the recipe gives me somewhere between 7 to 9 rolls. The recipe would tell you half is roughly 6 rolls, but you can definitely stretch this number.

The super simple frosting is incredible. Drizzle it over your warm fluffy rolls after they’ve cooled down, and enjoy with a cup of tea or coffee!

Allison Leacu

Whether you’re on your college campus, or somewhere new, cooking and baking can be one of the most rewarding, comforting, and anxiety-easing additions to your daily or weekly routine. Maybe this has inspired you to scroll through Pinterest and find your own inspirations for cooking as well!