Thursday, March 26, 2015

Birthday Balloons!

I just cooked a HUGE Indonesian feast last night, and I am super excited to blog about it. Right now I am in the midst of packing and preparing for spring break which starts tomorrow, so I want to wait until I have a sufficient amount of time to give my Indonesian meal the justice it deserves. (I spent over 8 hours cooking it and about 6 hours researching it, so blogging about it is probably going to be another extensive time commitment.

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Tonight I wanted to just share with you real quick a super simple card idea. I like to make personalized and intricate cards, but when I'm in a rush it is always good to have a design or two that I can churn out quickly. All you need for these adorable birthday balloon cards are giant circles (glittery paper makes super cool balloons, but any paper will do), a small heart punch, a birthday stamp, and some twine. Ba-bing! You have a stack of cards ready to be sent out within minutes.
 
Have a nice night and look forward to Indonesia!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spread Your Wings

I really love how this inspirational greeting card turned out. Everything from the punched stamps to the sentiment to the fancy embellishment all fit together perfectly. It is not a super complex card, but I think the recipient will appreciate the subtle beauty and time that was put into it. Who knew that you could write a description like this just to talk about a simple card? I amuse myself too much in these blog posts.

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I hope my card inspires you to get crafting!!
 

Monday, March 23, 2015

Peanutty Paradise

I love being in college and being able to meet so many diverse people from different backgrounds, nations, and ethnicities. In addition to being super cool to learn about the culture of people from all over the world, it gives me a great source for researching my countries. What is a better way to find out what people eat in Guinea than by asking someone who lived there? Luckily, my friend Luke grew up as a missionary kid in the Republic of Guinea, so he was able to share some insight into the traditional cuisine served in this West African country. The 24 ethnic groups that make up Guinea speak over 40 ethnic groups and are mostly Islamic. There is a small percent (8 and 7 respectively) that are Christians or practice traditionally religions. The current Ebola epidemic started out last year in Guinea, and has spread to be an international crisis. All of Western Africa needs continuous prayer so that this horrific crisis can finally come to an end. The consumption of bats is one cause that leads to this horrendous disease. I can't imagine eating a bat, so I was very glad to find other delicious options to choose from when I cooked Guinea. My friend Luke suggested a dish called mafe tiga, so I went with his advice.


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Mafe is a West African peanut stew/ sauce that The Guinean people love their rice, so I decided to go with it as a base for my stew. You can also serve mafe over other starches common to the area like cassava. Mafe originated in Mali, and now is consumed widespread throughout this region of Africa. I know why! The stuff is delicious!
 
 

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Mafé Tiga
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tbsp oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1 habanero chili, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
dash of cayenne pepper powder
½ cup natural creamy peanut butter (preferably sugar free)
salt and pepper, to taste               
rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and habanero. Cook until the onion is translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the tomato paste to the pot and stir it constantly for 2 to 3 minutes. Now pour in the chicken broth, lemon juice, diced tomatoes, bay leaf, and cayenne pepper powder. Mix this all together, cover, and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and then stir in the peanut butter. Continue to simmer the sauce for an hour, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat and brown the chicken pieces. Add them to the sauce and cook for another 45 minutes, continuing to stir every so often. Serve over rice.
 
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I know I say this a lot, but this meal was one of my favorites. I love African food, I love everything peanut butter, anything with sautéed onions is automatically top of my list, and chicken is my favorite meat. Putting all these things together surely created one amazing dish. I would be okay with making mafe tiga tomorrow night for dinner. And the next night. And the night after that. Thursday night sounds good too, and why not Friday as well? Yeah, I'd be fine with having this every night for the rest of my life!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Nontraditional Cupcakes

These aren't your typical cupcakes, and they aren't covered with your typical frosting. Don't expect your general Kroger birthday cupcake. These healthy treats are better in my opinion. They don't have that artificial and plastic taste to them, and with their secret ingredient, you can actually feel good about eating them.


Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate Sweet Potato Frosting (5)
What is my secret ingredient that makes these decadent cupcakes guilt free enough to eat for breakfast? It's sweet potatoes! I have made muffins before with sweet potato muffins, but I wanted to try something more on the dessert side of things. Also, I wanted to switch it up and not actually use the sweet potatoes in the muffins. That's right- sweet potato frosting! Sweet potatoes lighten up your traditional shortening laden buttercream or chocolate frosting while still keeping that creamy texture that you love. Chocolate sweet potato frosting is the perfect way to round off chocolaty coconut muffins topped with toasted shredded coconut and pecans. Enjoy!

Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate Sweet Potato Frosting (4)
 
Chocolate Coconut Cupcakes with Chocolate Sweet Potato Frosting
Makes 15-16
For the cupcakes:
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup flour
¾ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 cups coconut cream or coconut milk (from the can)
¾ cup yogurt (preferably coconut)
1 cup applesauce
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp vanilla extract
 
For the frosting:
2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes
¾ cup powdered sugar
½ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
milk, as needed for thinning
 
For the topping:
Toasted coconut
Toasted pecans
 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and oil a cupcake pan. Using a high speed blender, blend the oats into a flour. Stir the oats, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, sugar, and cocoa powder together in a large bowl. Use the blender again to blend together all the remaining ingredients. Add the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed. Divide the batter between the prepared cupcake pan. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cupcakes cool for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. While the cupcakes are baking, blend together all of the frosting ingredients until they reach a spreadable texture. Frost the cooled cupcakes, and sprinkle on the toppings to serve.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Pyrenees Perfection

I generally get the strangest looks when I tell people that I’d one day love to visit Andorra. I used to thing that they had something against the beautiful Pyrenees mountains, skiing, Europe's highest capital city, tax free shops, or the 300 days of sunshine Andorra gets a year,but I have come to realize that my fellow Americans simple do not know where (or even what) Andorra is. This is one thing that I have loved about my trip around the world and back again- I have learned so many things about so many different places through my culinary explorations. One of these being about the small Pyrenees country jammed between Spain and France called Andorra.
 
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Andorra, or officially the Principality of Andorra, is the sixth smallest country in Europe. You can find it wedged between France and Spain if you look close enough on a map. The government is a co-monarchy with the president of France and the Spanish Bishop of Urgell serving as co-princes. I think it's a little weird that their monarch is a democratically elected president, but it is not the Andorrans who elect him. Only the French people vote for him, and the Andorran people end up with him as the prince. It gained its independence from Aragon in 1278, but was shortly occupied by France during the 1930s. The official language is Catalan, and a little over a third of the population claims this as their native language. Next comes Spanish with 35% of the population, followed by Portuguese with 15% and French with 5%. This statistic surprises me a little since France borders Andorra and they share a president. Why is there so much Portuguese influence? I guess it stems from the high rate of immigration. Also something that I found interesting is that Andorra does not have its own airport or post office. They rely on their French and Spanish neighbors for these services.

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The cuisine of Andorra is mostly Catalan with a little bit of French flare and a unique Mountainous aspect all its own. For my Andorran meal, I wanted to showcase the three main cuisines of the small country. One recipe (the trinxat) is purely Andorran in nature. The salad is a Catalan dish, influenced by the Spanish Catalans. Lastly, the omelet is of French origin.

 
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Trinxat would have been the perfect dish to serve earlier this week for Saint Patrick’s Day. It’s basically boiled cabbage mashed together with potatoes and bacon. You would never guess that this very Irish sounding dish hails from their fellow European nation of Andorra. In Catalan trinxat means chopped. A lot of chopping does go into this lovely dish whether it be the crispy bacon, tender cabbage, boiled potatoes, or fragrant garlic cloves.
 

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Trinxat
serves 4
1 head green cabbage, cut into fourths
1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
6 slices bacon
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-3 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Bring the cabbage to a boil in a large pot of water. Cover and cook for 25 minutes. Add in the potatoes and cook for another 20 minutes. Drain and allow the cabbage and potatoes to cool. Once cooled, squeeze and excess water out of the cabbage and then mash it together with the potatoes. Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute until it is golden. Remove the garlic from the pan. Add the bacon to the pan and cook until it’s crispy. Crumble up the bacon. Mix two slices worth of crumbles into the potato mixture along with the garlic. Spread the remaining bacon around the bottom of the pan along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Scoop the potato mixture over the top and press down to form a cake. Cook for 8-10 minutes until the bottom is golden. Using a plate, invert the trinxat onto the plate and then slide it bottom-down back into the pan. Increase the temperature to medium high heat and cook until the bottom is browned as well. Serve the trinxat bacon side up.



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Fresh spinach sautéed in high quality olive oil topped with toasted pine nuts, plump raisins, and fried garlic makes for a great vegetable side. I'm almost positive the spinach in Andorra is a lot better than what I could get ahold of, and I know that the raisins sure are. Andorra does not grow many grapes, but those they do are transformed into yummy raisins just destined to be a salad topper.
 
Espinacas a la Catalana
1 bunch spinach with the stems removed
1 ½ tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ounce pine nuts
1 ounce raisins

Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the garlic and cook for about a minute until it is golden. Combine the pine nuts and raisins with the garlic and continue to cook until the pine nuts are toasted. Add the spinach, and cook until it has wilted. Toss everything together to fully mix and serve.

 
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First of all, I just want to brag a bit about my perfect looking omelet. How did I reach such high levels of omelet making abilities? Lots of practice, a bit of good luck, and the right proportion of eggs to oil to filling to pan size. Anyway, this omelet (or truita in Catalan) showcases the French influence found in Andorra.

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Truita de Bolets
serves 4
3 eggs
6 egg whites
2 tbsp milk or cream
2-3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp herbs de Provence
10 ounces sliced baby bella mushrooms
¼ yellow onion, chopped
2 ounces shredded manchego or parmesan cheese
salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk together the eggs, egg whites, and milk. Meanwhile, heat a skillet over medium heat with 1 tbsp olive oil. Cook the onions until golden, about 8 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another 6-7 minutes until they are tender. Remove the onions and mushrooms to a bowl and stir in the herbs and seasonings to taste. Clean out your skillet and place it back over medium heat. Pour enough oil in to barely cover the bottom and allow it to get hot. Carefully pour in enough of the egg mixture to make a thin layer on the bottom of the pan. Allow the eggs to set, flip (you may need to use a plate to assist you in doing this), and top with the mushrooms and cheese. Fold the omelet in half and carefully slide it onto a plate. Repeat with the remaining egg and filling.





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Visiting Andorra through its cuisine might not replace an actual trip to Andorra (which I would love to take while I’m in Spain this summer!), but it sure was delicious. The omelet was delicate, flavorful, and perfectly cheesy. I loved the sauteed mushrooms and seasonings and would have been happy to just eat the filling plain. The salad was also very good. I used high quality extra virgin Spanish olive oil that my mom gave me for Christmas, and I could really taste the difference in quality. Yum! The pine nuts and raisins complemented each other well. My only regret was that there was not more! The trinxat was my least favorite part of the meal. Boiled cabbage, bacon, and potatoes just don’t appeal to me at all. Thankfully, the actual dish turned out a lot better than I thought. It did not taste bad at all, just a little bland. It couldn’t compete with the other two dishes, but I still was able to enjoy it. Overall Andorra was a success! I hope to one day be able to share with you about an actual trip to Andorra and be able to try this yummy cuisine made by the Andorran people.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Loving my new stamps!

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I just love the stamp set I got for Christmas. It allows me to make layered stamps and then cut them out with a flower punch. Here is a very red thank you note that I made.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Saint Patrick's Day with a Thai Twist

Happy Saint Patrick's Day! I'm not Irish, I don't drink, and I even forgot to wear green today, but I thought that at least I would post a green themed dinner tonight. My motivation was to counter the horrific green things that the cafeteria on campus concocted today. Don't get me wrong, I love the head chef, and he is an amazing cook. I just get a little freaked out with green eggs. I know they are just regular eggs that have food coloring, but I just can't mentally handle it. Also, they served cabbage and meatloaf for dinner. Most picky college kids don't go for this, so they all came to eat at the Lex where I was working. Let's just say I am not too thrilled with the results of the "Irish" feast. I am here to share a naturally green and even more delicious Saint Patrick's Day feast inspired by the opposite side of the world. Who's up for green curry and zucchini noodles? (Probably not picky college students, but I sure am!)

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This meal is green to the extreme. Yummy green curry loaded with spinach, chicken, onions, and zucchini sits atop a bed of pasta and zucchini noodles. The best part is that the curry cooks up in the slow cooker, and the zucchini noodles and pasta can be cooked in a flash to make a fast and easy weeknight meal. You can enjoy your meatloaf, green eggs, and boiled cabbage, but I think I will stick to my yummy curry. :)
 
 
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Slow Cooker Green Curry Chicken over Green Noodles
For the curry:
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breast, cubed
3 tbsp Thai green curry
2 cups chicken broth
1- 15 ounce can coconut milk
1- 10 ounce bag frozen spinach
1 large onion, chopped
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp fish sauce

For the noodles:
1 package spaghetti noodles
3-4 large zucchini, julienned

To make the curry, heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onions and cook for about 8 minutes until they are tender and golden. Stir in the curry and fish sauce. Pour in about ¼ cup of broth and whisk it well. Add everything to a large crockpot and cook on high for 6 hours.

To make the noodles, cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the box. During the last 3 minutes of boiling, toss in the zucchini noodles. Drain well and serve topped with the curry.