A Swedish family member asked me recently if I’d only be sharing Swedish recipes or if I’ll have any American ones as well. Well, here you go… a real American-style, Tex-Mex recipe based on one of my favorite restaurants back in college – Casa Que Pasa!
If you went to Western Washington University (WWU) or have spent some time in Bellingham, then you probably know about Casa Que Pasa. Many cheap (and delicious) meals were shared with friends within Casa’s colorful walls during my time at Western. There is something special about their potato burrito in particular…maybe it’s the soft-on-the-inside, crispy-on-the-outside potatos…or the unique cream sauce on top…or their selection of fresh salsas…whatever it is, it has led Casa to become a landmark, I’d even say an institution, of Bellingham.
I really feel so lucky that I got to spend my undergraduate years in Bellingham at WWU. A friend recently posted this video that made me miss that beautiful city even more than I already do (seriously, watch it and then try not moving to Bellingham afterwards). First of all, Bellingham is only about 2 hours north of Seattle and a quick 20 minute drive to the Canadian border. The city is small enough that you often run into friends when out at the adorable farmer’s market, but large enough that there are always concerts, events, a great nightlife… let’s just say that life is never boring in Bellingham! And the cherry on top? It is surrounded by the beautiful water and islands of Puget Sound, tons of lakes, forests, waterfalls, and it’s only a skip-hop-and-a-jump to the mountains. Mount Baker, about an hour drive away, is always full of students skiing or snowboarding during the winter, and hiking and mountain biking in the summer. My husband even scheduled his classes at WWU each winter so that he’d always have Tuesdays/Thursdays off and could go skiing those days…
And now I’m here in Stockholm, studying again! But this time for my master’s at Stockholm University (SU). Although it might not be totally fair to compare my two university experiences (one was undergraduate, the other graduate, after all) I still think it might be interesting to share the differences I’ve noticed between higher education in the US and Sweden.
One of the biggest differences about studying in Sweden is how classes are scheduled. In the US, most universities encourage students to take 3-5 classes at the same time (dependending on if it’s quarters or semesters). Here you take classes one at a time. So you’ll have one class for a month or two, finish with an exam, and then take the next class. One advantage is you can focus on the material for one class… but the downside is it can be a bit boring…
At least you are not stuck with one professor, though! In each class we have multiple professors for lectures, seminars and even grading your papers at the end. Like everything, this has advantages and disadvantages… it breaks up the monotony (especially since you are only taking one class), but sometimes there is confusion about what is expected in a paper when you have a variety of graders. Understanding the grading system here has been a bit of a challenge in general, especially since letter grading is a recent thing in Swedish higher education (it used to just be pass/fail).
And finally, the last major difference between school here and in the US? The sense of school community. In the US, campuses are full of students studying (of course), but also socializing, enjoying concerts, sports games, etc. This might have something to do with the fact that in the US basically all freshman live in campus dorms the first year (there are no dorms here, just student housing… which are basically apartments and are REALLY hard to get)…or the fact that Swedish schools don’t have sports teams… But I think it also has something to do with a sort of school spirit, which doesn’t really exist here. SU does have special events and I think they try to provide opportunities to hang out on campus, but overall it doesn’t seem that common. However… they do have free-refill beer in the soda fountains at the cafeteria (since the drinking age is 18)…remind me, why we don’t hang out at the cafeteria more often?
Although there are pluses and minuses about both types of schooling, I have to say, the trump card for Sweden’s higher education is…it’s free! In fact, I actually get a little money from the government (not much, but still) to go to school… all Swedes do. This makes going to school here feel like a wonderful opportunity, not a financial burden, and really is the reason I am able to get my master’s at all (I’m still paying off those student loans for my undergraduate degree back in the US…).
But no matter where I end up in life, for school or otherwise, a little piece of Bellingham will always be in my heart. And in that piece of Bellingham is another little piece with Casa Que Pasa’s potato burrito. My recipe is not exactly the same as theirs… I baked the potatoes with olive oil rather than batter-deep-fried (although mine still turned out with the perfect balance of crispy and soft)… and I decided to use black beans (because they are the best)… but all-in-all I’d say it’s pretty close! So, if you are also missing Casa, I hope this recipe lives up to your expectations…and if it’s your first time, I hope you’re inspired to visit Bellingham one day (even if it’s just for a burrito).
Casa-style Potato Burrito
- 12 medium-sized potatoes / potatisar
- 1 cup water / 2.3 dl vatten
- ¼ cup olive oil / 0.6 dl olivolja
- 1 tablespoon taco seasoning / taco kryddblandning Cream Sauce:
- 1 cup sour cream / 2.3 dl gräddfil
- 1 ½ tablespoons taco seasoning / taco kryddblandning Black Beans:
- 2 cans black beans / packet svarta böner
- ¼ cup water / 0.6 dl vatten
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder / vitlökspulver
- ½ teaspoon onion powder / lökpulver For the Burrito:
- large soft tortillas / mjuka tortillabröd
- grated cheddar cheese / riven cheddar ost
- Salsa (see below)
- Preheat the oven to 425°F / 220°C and place a baking sheet lined with foil in the oven
- Wash and cut each potato into eighths
- Place cut potatoes in a medium-sized pot with 1 cup water on high heat (potatoes should be almost covered with water)
- Boil the water and potatoes for 6-7 minutes, or until the liquid is gone
- Keeping the potatoes in the pot, turn off the heat and add the olive oil tossing until all the potatoes are coated
- Add the taco seasoning and toss again
- Pour the oiled and seasoned potatoes onto the heated, foil-lined baking sheet (don’t forget to use an oven mitt, as the pan will be super hot!)
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan part way through
- While the potatoes are baking, mix the sour cream and taco seasoning mixture to create the cream sauce, then place in the fridge until ready to eat (this is also the time to make homemade salsa, if you want)
- Place black beans, water, onion powder and garlic powder in a pot over medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally
- When potatoes are done, let them sit on the pan for a few minutes, until they easily come up off the foil
- Heat the tortillas in the microwave with a damp paper towel on top for around 30 seconds
- Top each tortilla with potatoes, black beans, cheese, cream sauce and salsa, then roll up and enjoy!
Fresh Pico-de-Gallo Salsa
- 4 roma tomatoes / tomater
- ⅓ cup red onion / rödlök
- cilantro / koriander
- 8-10 slices jar jalapeno / burk jalapeno
- 1 avocado / avokado
- 1 tablespoon lime juice / limejuice
- 1 clove garlic / vitlök
- ¼ teaspoon salt / salt
- Chop the tomatoes, onion, cilantro, jalapenos and avocado into small chunks and add to a bowl
- Add the lime juice and crushed garlic, then stir
- Just before serving, add the salt and give the salsa another stir