Friday, November 20, 2015

A Taste of My Fall Kitchen

I am finally posting again! I cannot believe that I have practically missed all of Autumn here on my blog. There are so many apple, pumpkin, squash, and Thanksgiving recipes I wish I had time to share. Plus, I have a boatload of craft ideas and a ton of countries on my list of things to do once I can breathe again. The end is near. I see the light at the end of this long tunnel that is senior year (or senior semester). Only a few more weeks before I have my diploma! Hopefully I can make it until then. This whole 4 hours of sleep a night thing is really getting to me....

Anyway, even though I am not posting, I still do eat. I justify spending time cooking and eating because if I don't, I will die. If I die, who will write my papers? Who will get my diploma? Who will do that laundry that has been sitting on my bed for what feels like years, just waiting to be folded? The answer is nobody, so cooking is a must. :) Since instant ramen noodles just don't cut it, I have some recipes to share that use up some of the yummy ingredients that are ever-so-popular this time of year. Enjoy!


This first recipe is just in time for Thanksgiving. I absolutely adore dressing. (And yes, it is dressing, not stuffing.) I can eat a whole pan all by myself, and that is exactly what I did with this delicious butternut squash filled and hazelnut coated dressing.

Butternut and Hazelnut Cornbread Dressing
12 cornbread muffins, or 1 recipe cornbread
1 onion, finely chopped
1 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into small cubes
3 apples, peeled and cut into small cubes
3 eggs
2 cups chicken broth (or more if you like a wetter dressing)
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried sage
½ cup chopped hazelnuts

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and prepare a large baking pan or several smaller ones. Chop the cornbread into small cubes. In a large bowl toss the apples, squash, onions, and seasonings. Whisk the eggs and broth together in a separate bowl. Add the broth mixture and bread cubes into the bowl and mix until well combined. Evenly spread the mixture into your baking dish and top with the hazelnuts. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the squash is tender and the hazelnuts are toasted.


Recipe #2 uses butternut squash again to make a creamy, fall-themed pasta sauce. It is so good!

Butternut Squash Alfredo
1 pound cubed butternut squash (about 1 medium squash)
3 cloves garlic
1 cup milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
12 ounces grated mozzarella cheese
6 ounces grated parmesan cheese, plus more for topping
6 tbsp butter
16 ounces pasta noodles, cooked according to the directions on the box

Boil the butternut squash in a pot for 20 minutes, or until extremely tender. Blend together the squash, milk, and garlic in a high speed blender. Heat the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the sauce and continue to stir until it begins to bubble. Season to taste. Mix in the cheese, remove the pan from the heat, and toss the sauce with the pasta. Top with more parmesan cheese and serve.


Here's a recipe to make your Thanksgiving brunch amazing. Any leftovers will be the perfect way to prepare for hours of Black Friday shopping in the wee hours of the morning. Plus, they are whole grain, so you can feel good about eating them after all that apple pie and sweet potato soufflé.

Multigrain Pumpkin Muffins
makes 2 dozen
1 ¾ cups rolled oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 ½ cups milk
4 eggs
2 cups canned pumpkin
½ cup oil

Soak the 10 Grain Hot Cereal and milk in a covered bowl for at least 3 hours. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees, and oil a muffin pan. Blend 1 ¼ cups of the oats into a flour using a high speed blender. Mix the flour, oat flour, oats, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder together. Whisk the Hot Cereal and milk mixture together with the eggs, pumpkin, and oil. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until just mixed. Divide the batter between the prepared muffin pans. Bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins sit for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Friday, November 13, 2015

An Autumn African Stew

My most recent stovetop travel took me to the African country of Angola. It was a past colony of Portugal, and it was the Portuguese who gave named it based off of the indigenous Ndongo’s name for their leaders, ngola, back in 1571. The Angolans gained independence in 1975 and right afterward went into a civil war that lasted several decades. Since the end of its civil war in 2002, Angola has been on an upward trajectory. Angola's economy is centered around diamonds and oil. The government has also just instated a new push towards better healthcare and vaccinations. Let's hope that Angola continues to become a happier and freer place to live.


Muamba de Galinha is like a lot of African stews. It uses chicken, okra, and red palm oil to create a delicious and nutritious meal. Unlike African stews that I have cooked in the past, Muamba de Galinha has the delightful addition of pumpkin. Leave it to Africa to show us how good a savory pumpkin dish can be.


Muamba de Galinha
¼ cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chili pepper, minced
½ tsp chili powder
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound chicken breast, cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 tbsp red palm oil
1 cup chicken stock (traditionally palm soup base)
4 okra, sliced
1 small pie pumpkin; seeded, peeled, and cubed

Mix the lemon juice, garlic, chili, and seasonings together. Pour this marinade over the chicken and let it sit for 20 minutes, mixing occasionally to ensure that the flavors meld. Heat the red palm oil over medium high heat in a saucepan. Add the onions and cook until golden, about 6 minutes. Toss the chicken into the pan and cook each side for about a minute until browned all over. Pour in the marinade and chicken broth. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer for 20-30 minutes. Uncover the pan, and add the pumpkin and okra. Cook for another 15 minutes until the pumpkin is tender.


This yummy pumpkin and chicken stew proved to be a delicious fall-themed comforting meal that provided the African flavors that I adore. It came together pretty easily, was relatively inexpensive (boneless, skinless chicken breasts are $1.99/ lb from the meat counter at Kroger, but around $4 or $5/lb if you buy the prepackaged kind), and was delicious!! I love African food, and I love trying out new African recipes. I have been trying to space my African meals out to savor them, but I am flying through the country a lot faster than I would have liked. If only Eastern Europe could go by as quickly….

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Creamy Parmesan Chicken Risotto

It seems like my posts are going to be few and far between these next few weeks before graduation. I really hate it because its the time of year when I want to share a bunch of cute holiday craft ideas/recipes. But unfortunately when you have to choose between class, work, blogging, and breathing, it's pretty obvious what goes first. (Sleeping dropped out of the running long ago.) Anyway, I wanted to be able to post at least once this week and hopefully get a country in. The country posts take forever, so don't hold your breath.


I don't know what the weather is like in your neck of the woods, but it has been gross and rainy the past few days here in Tennessee. Rainy October days call for comfort food and PJs. (Unless you are a college student taking seven classes to graduate in 2.5 years while working 5 jobs and writing 11 papers. Someone that crazy doesn't even know what pajamas look like. They just know that they are on page 16 of their 20 page research paper in Spanish and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel because their computer screen has caused them to go blind.)


What was I talking about?

.......oh yeah, chicken risotto. It's perfect for a yucky day. Or a sunny day. Or a snowy one. Even one of those weird days when you can't see your hand in front of you because all of the fog, but for some reason everyone still thinks driving is a good idea. Yes, that is the kind of day for risotto. And here is that risotto:


Creamy Parmesan Chicken Risotto
1 cup Arborio rice
4 cups chicken broth
¼ cup olive oil
3 slices bacon, chopped
1 cup milk
¾ cup shredded parmesan cheese
2 tsp Pampered Chef Garlic and Herb Seasonings
2 chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
salt and pepper, to taste

To cook the chicken heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium heat in a large frying pan. Cook the chicken until it’s done and browned all over. Meanwhile bring the broth to a boil in a small pot and heat the remaining olive oil in a saucepan over medium high heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy. Stir in the rice and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often. Pour one cup of the boiling broth over the rice. Stir and cook until the rice has absorbed all the liquid. Continue in this manner, slowly adding in more broth as the rice absorbs it until there is no more broth. Stir in the milk, seasonings, cheese, and chicken. Bring it back to a simmer and cook until the milk has been absorbed as well. Season to taste and serve.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Cheese and Chilies

Life continues to get crazier and crazier, but Bhutan and its unique cuisine do not deserve to be ignored any longer. There is a widespread deficiency amongst the college-age American population of knowledge about Bhutan. When I told several different people that I cooked Bhutanese food, they either gave me blank stares, asked me what country the "Bhutan" was from (like it was a dish and not the actual place's name), or said something like, "Bhu-what?". I am here today to put an end to Bhutanese ignorance. Bhutan is actually one of the many nations that make up our world and deserves to be recognized. Bhutanese culture lovers unite! :) Before I get too carried away here....

Bhutan is a country. There's our start. Can everyone say Bhutan. (The inner teacher is really coming out now.) It's located in Asia. Yes, China is not the only country over there no matter what the bottom of every item you have ever bought claims. If you find China on a map and go south a bit, you will find Bhutan tucked away in the Himalayas. The mostly Buddhist Bhutanese people are matrilineal (ancestry is passed down the mother's line) and archery is the national sport. The Driglam Namzha is basically Bhutan's code of etiquette. It regulates dress code during different situations depending on the formality and context. It also tells the people how to eat, bow, talk, and how to build their buildings. One minority group refused to follow the new code when it was enacted in 1990, and their whole region was exiled and no longer is recognized by the Bhutanese as being part of Bhutan. About 20% of Bhutan is currently in exile because of nonconformity. That's a high percentage, especially since Bhutan is not that big to begin with. Back to the point about how Bhutan is matrilineal, it is the Bhutanese men who generally cook, clean, and take care of the home. It's also illegal to smoke in Bhutan and has been since 2010. It was the first country to enact this law. Bhutan has some very interesting laws....


Bhutan is home to the amazing red rice; the only rice that grows at high altitudes such as those in Bhutan. (They are in the Himalayas, after all.) Other than the staple of rice (and in some regions corn and buckwheat), yak, chicken, dried beef, and pork are popular. Chili peppers and cheese are other must-haves for a Bhutanese table. Butter tea is a common drink that literally mixes tea with butter and supposedly tastes great.


Eze is like the salsa of Bhutan and is great served alongside your main dish and rice to spice things up. (Because you didn't think your Bhutanese food could get any spicier.)

1 small onion, quartered
1 small tomato, quartered
1 cup packed cilantro leaves
4 red serrano chilies
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tsp Szechuan peppercorns

Broil the chilies under high heat until charred. Flip them over and cook until the other side is charred as well. Wait for the chilies to cool before peeling and seeding them. Place all the ingredients in a food processor and process until a nice paste has formed.


Ema Datshi is the national dish of Bhutan, and consists of chili, "Ema", and cheese, "Datshi". It's spicy and good served over a nice heaping portion of red rice. Be careful when you cook the chilies because they will smoke you out if not covered properly.

Ema Datshi
8 ounces feta cheese (the creamy block kind, not crumbled)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 cups green chilies, seeded and sliced into long strips
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp oil
1 tomato, pureed in a blender
a few leaves of cilantro
salt, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan with a lid. (Trust me; you’ll want the lid unless you enjoy hot chili smoke in your eyes and throat.) Add the garlic, onion, and chilies to the saucepan, cover, and cook for about 10 minutes. Stir occasionally and do not allow them to brown, only caramelize. Add in about a cup of water along with the tomato. Simmer for about 5 minutes before adding the cheese. Stir until creamy, adjusting the water as needed. It should be a creamy sauce. Last of all, stir in the cilantro and cook for 2 minutes. Season to taste and serve with red rice.

Minced chicken and (even more) chilies come together to make the meat dish called Jasha Maroo. It's also good over rice and topped with cilantro.
Jasha Maroo
1 pound chicken breast, cubed
1 tomato, chopped
6 tbsp finely chopped green chilies
1 onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 tbs oil
salt, to taste
cilantro, to garnish

Heat the oil over medium high heat in a large skillet. Add the onion, garlic, and chilies. Cook for about 5 minutes before adding the chicken. Allow the chicken to brown for a couple of minutes before pouring in the water along with the tomato, and ginger. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding more water if needed. Serve atop red rice garnished with cilantro leaves.


The Bhutanese sure do love their cheese and chilies. Unfortunately, I was not able to get authentic cheese nor chilies like they have in Bhutan. My Ema Datshi looks a little chunky because the feta I used did not melt as nicely as I had hoped. Oh well, the chili flavor still showed through. My mouth was on fire! I also couldn't get ahold of any red rice, so I subbed black rice, which I think looks very similar. Maybe it was all the less-than-perfect substitutions or maybe I just wasn't in a spicy food kind of mood, but I wasn't completely thrilled with my Bhutanese experience. I think I just wasn't feeling it because everything tasted great and came together well. (Except for the chunky cheese.) I even stirred some of the leftover chili salsa (Eze) into soup I made a couple of days later. I wonder if my meal goes along with the mandated Driglam Namzha code. I would not want to be exiled....

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Oatmeal hot or cold!

As the weather continues to fluctuate between summer and fall, I cannot keep track of whether I should plan on making cold overnight oats or warm cooked oatmeal. That's why I'm sharing two oatmeal recipes today. This way you have a back-up plan for whatever the weather decides to do. Who knows- it might be snowing tomorrow morning but get up to the mid 90s by the afternoon. You will be well stocked with yummy oatmeal recipes for every situation imaginable.


I have seen quite a few recipes on Pinterest and around the web for oatmeal made with grated zucchini. The claim is that the zucchini moistens up the oatmeal without imparting any squash-y flavor. I decided to try it out for myself and threw in some grated apple to give it a fall theme. A big glob rounded it out and created one of the creamiest bowls of oatmeal I had ever experienced. Zucchini is a definite winner, and this recipe is great for all you fall lovers!


Peanut Butter Apple Zoats
serves 2
1 small apple or half a large apple, grated
½ a zucchini, grated
1 cup oatmeal (I used a mixture of quick and old fashioned.)
1 cup milk
1 cup water
2-3 tbsp maple syrup, optional
¼ cup peanut butter
cinnamon, to taste

Bring the oats, milk, water, apple, and zucchini to a boil in a small pot and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed and the oats have reached your desired consistency/texture. Stir in the peanut butter, maple syrup, and cinnamon and enjoy!

If you are still clinging to the last recesses of summer (or living in the southern hemisphere), Peach Melba Oats are the way to go. Inspired by the favorite dessert of vanilla ice cream topped with peaches and raspberry sauce, this scrumptious bowl lets you have all the decadence for breakfast! A thick and luscious vanilla-yogurt-oatmeal base is mixed with fresh fruit and raspberry preserves to create a cooling breakfast treat.

Peach Melba Overnight Oats:

Peach Melba Overnight Oats
¼ cup plain or vanilla yogurt
½ cup milk
½ cup rolled oats
½ tsp vanilla extract
1 peach, peeled and diced
handful of raspberries
3 tbsp raspberry jelly/preserves

Mix together the yogurt, milk, and oats. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least 4 hours. The next morning stir in the vanilla, peach, and raspberries. Top with the preserves and enjoy!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fat Rice!

Tonight’s meal was extra special because I got to share it with one of my very best friends, Becca, who has actually spent a month living in Burkina. Burkina Faso is an African nation with a history of French colonization up until the 1960s and an even more recent history of governmental overthrows and issues. By recent I mean last month. Yeah, things in Burkina are not going so well right now. In 1984 Burkina Faso changed its name from Upper Volta to what it is today. The current name means "the country of honorable people". One very interesting custom that is generally practiced between family members or between members of two different ethnic groups is called "rakiire". Rakiire is basically a form of joking with the other person, but in the Burkinabe culture it is seen more as an invitation into the community than a harmful insult. Members of a single family can basically trash talk each other and it is seen as loving expression. Between members of two different ethnic groups rakiire expresses a pact of peace and nonaggression. If two tribes seem to be on the edge of a battle, rakiire can be used to defuse it. I guess the Burkinabe utilize it as a way of fighting with words instead of weapons in a way that is more comical to the other group than hurtful. Check out this interesting article if you want to learn more about rakiire:  Maybe the coup leader who just seized the president of Burkina back in September and declared a change in government was persuaded to back down by rakiire. Six days later the transitional president, Michel Kafando, was restored to power.


Becca and the internet told me that Burkinabe food is based mainly off of the common staple or rice along with a sauce. I debated on making peanut butter or okra sauce with as this seemed to be the most common Burinabe meal, but I have made peanut sauce and a million times. ( also goes by the names fufu, mielie-meal, ugali, sadza, pap, and nshima in other African countries. It also closely resembles the cou-cou of the Caribbean.) Instead of making yet another repeat meal, I decided to go with what appears to be Burkina’s national dish: Riz Gras, which means “fat rice” in French. Becca said that meat was hardly ever served where she stayed except during celebrations. She was working in an orphanage so I am sure that the food was not of the highest quality, but meat definitely is a treat for most Burkinabe people, orphan or not. Riz Gras would probably be a great meal for an important day. I had to feed my guest the best. 


Riz Gras
8 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into cubes
1 cup rice, rinsed
1 small onion
1 tomato
1 jalapeño, seeded
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups cabbage, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
oil, as needed
salt, to taste
thinly sliced onion, to serve

Pour enough oil to cover the bottom of a pot/wok. Add the chicken and fry until browned all over. Cover the chicken with water and bring it to a simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, process the onion, tomato, jalapeño, and garlic together in a food processor until it becomes a thick past. Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Add the pasta and cook, stirring frequently, for 8 minutes. Pour the broth into the saucepan along with the cabbage, carrot, rice, tomato paste, and chicken. Stir to evenly mix everything together. Cover the saucepan with a lid and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook until the rice is done and all the water has been absorbed, about 20 minutes for white rice and 45 for brown. Season to taste and serve topped with onion slices.


Becca and I LOVED the Riz Gras. (At least I know I did, and she said that she did.) We had to sub roasted red peppers for the tomatoes because of my allergy and her complete hatred towards anything tomato related. (Maybe that’s why we are such great friends. We bond over a common enemy.) The flavor was amazing, and even with the peppers instead of tomatoes, the color turned out to be just like in the pictures I found of authentic Riz Gras. It was nice to have company for one of my countries and learn about Becca’s experience in Burkina. African food never ceases to amaze me. I’d eat Riz Gras every day!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Happy Birthday Abi!!

It's my roommate's 21st birthday, so I thought I would share a cute birthday card to celebrate.


Have a wonderful Monday!