Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mocha Latte Oatmeal

I feel like an ice cube. My body is definitely not ready for winter, and this little cold front we are having here in Tennessee needs to go back where it came from. I am not a fan of the cold weather, but there is one benefit of cold winter mornings....


Yep, it's hot oatmeal season again! What better way to warm up and start your day than with a hot and creamy bowl of oats? This particular recipe will definitely motivate you to get up and then keep you going. It's like your morning Cup of Joe and favorite breakfast treat all rolled into one. And because it's mocha, its awesomeness is automatically quadrupled. (Because chocolate makes everything better. :) )


Mocha Latte Oatmeal
¾ cup rolled oats
1 ½ cups coffee
2 tbsp cocoa powder
1 banana, mashed
pinch of salt
sweetener, to taste
¼ cup milk

Bring the coffee to a boil in a small pot and stir in the oats, salt, and cocoa powder until there are no lumps. Cook until the oatmeal has reached your desired consistency and then add in the banana and sweetener to taste. Meanwhile, whisk the milk until frothy. Heat it in the microwave for 40 seconds. Serve the oats topped with the steamed milk.

Friday, October 2, 2015

I may be cou-cou, but that fish can fly!

Barbados is by far not the biggest nation on earth. It's only 14 miles wide and 21 miles long. I cannot imagine living in a place that I could drive across in the time it takes me to get from my apartment to the grocery store. About 90% of all Bajan (the colloquial term for Barbadian) people are of African descent, and the remaining 10% is made up of Indians, Europeans, and Chinese immigrants/descendants. Because it was a colony of Great Britain, Barbados's national language is English. The people speak Standard English in formal settings, but their own dialect of English called "Bajan" in every day speech. Bajan English is a lot different than Standard English, and you may have a hard time understanding it if you are unfamiliar with all the Creole words and phrases. I think it is so cool how a language can morph to be completely different after a few generations. It's so cool to watch the evolution of a new language as a people group adopts and adapts to it.


Bajan cuisine is a mixture of British, Indian, and African cooking styles and ingredients due to its history of colonialism and immigration. It's very similar to other Caribbean cuisines. Curries, fish, exotic fruits and vegetables, lots of carbs and fat.... Basically deliciousness!


Cornmeal, water, and okra are the only ingredients it takes to make Cou-Cou. It's cheap, filling, and healthy, and that is exactly why it became so popular in Barbados back in its colonial period. It was a common slave meal, and even now that slavery has ended, it can still be enjoyed as a nutritious side to any Bajan meal. Every Friday it is traditional to cook up a big batch and enjoy it with your family. I wouldn't mind picking up this tradition......

Cou Cou
4 okras, thinly sliced into rounds
1 cup yellow cornmeal
3 cups water
2 tsp butter
salt and pepper, to taste

Mix together 1 cup of water with the cornmeal. Bring the remaining water to a boil with the okras and cook, covered, for 10 minutes. Quickly whisk the cornmeal into the boiling water and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, stirring constantly, until the cou cou thickens and pulls away from the sides of the pot, about 10 minutes.

Creole sauce is spicy, and makes a great accompaniment. Since Cou-Cou can be a little bland as can plain fried fish, he sauce definitely amps up the flavor level of the meal. It uses hot sauce and Creole seasonings which are a mixture of thyme, ground mustard, marjoram, cumin, coriander, anise, cinnamon, turmeric, garlic, parsley, and cardamom.


Creole Sauce
1 green bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp oil
8 ounces chopped tomatoes
2 tsp Creole seasonings
2 tbsp hot sauce
salt and pepper, to taste
chopped parsley, to serve

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, green bell pepper, and garlic. Cook for 8 minutes, or until the onion and pepper are tender. Add the remaining ingredients except for the parsley. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 15 minutes and serve alongside flying fish and cou cou.


Step aside birds; there's a new star in town. It's the amazing flying fish! No, I am not pulling your leg. Flying fishes do exist, and they are considered a Bajan delicacy. These extraordinary animals can self propel themselves out of the water using amazing wing-like fins. It looks like they are almost flying! Barbados is nicknamed the "land of the flying fish", and they used to be abundant along the Barbadian coast. Unfortunately, pollution and other factors have caused the flying fish to no longer migrate to Barbados, but fried flying fish still remains one of their favorite dishes. Along with Cou-Cou and spicy Creole Sauce, it makes up the national dish and for good reason. It's delicious! I wasn't able to get my hands on actual flying fish, but tilapia was a yummy and decent substitute.
Fried Flying Fish
2 flying fish fillets (I used tilapia.)
¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup water
¼ cup flour
1 tbsp Creole seasonings
½ cup bread crumbs
1 egg white, whisked
salt and pepper, to taste
oil, for frying

Soak the fish for 20 minutes in the lime juice and water. Pat the fish dry with a paper towel, and coat it with the flour and seasonings. Dredge the fish in the egg white and then dip in the bread crumbs. Heat about a ½” of oil over medium heat in a frying pan. Cook the fish on each side for a couple of minutes until golden brown and cooked through.


After a less than stellar experience with cou-cou’s close cousin, fungi, I was a little nervous about making another cornmeal-okra dish. Okra and I have not had the best relationship in the past, but I think I am slowly getting over that as I begin to explore okra in different forms than boiled or fried. Cou-cou was surprisingly good. My Creole Sauce didn’t turn out too “saucy”. It’s probably because I had to sub roasted red peppers for the tomatoes (I’m allergic). Tomatoes are a lot juicier than peppers. Oh, well. It was still yummy. I was a little sad that actual flying fish was not available (and probably will never be in Tennessee), but the tilapia was a great substitute. The whole dish went together well. Everything balanced the other components out, making for the perfect weekend meal.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Don't Scrap Your Scraps!

I never throw away my crafting paper scraps. Call me a paper hoarder, but there are so many uses for them. Paper is expensive, so why would you throw a completely good strip of it away when it has so much potential as a future card? What kind of card can you make out of a bunch of paper scraps? Observe:


Now go run to your craft room's trash can and rescue all those pieces of "scrap" paper that might just become your next masterpiece.

Monday, September 28, 2015

A Meatlover's Pizza

Armenia as a nation dates back to 2492 BC. That's one long history, especially for me as an American to think about. We are not even 2.5 centuries old. The Armenians are counting the millennia. Along with such a rich national history, the Armenian Apostolic Church is the world's oldest national church. The legend goes that after curing Abgar V of Leprosy, the apostles Bartholomew and Thaddeus were invited to spread the gospel through all of Armenia. That was AD 30, but it was not until AD 301 that the Armenians adopted Christianity as their state religion. Today over 93% of Armenians still belong to the Armenian church. Other Christians (like Protestants) make up another 2%. Yazidism, a religion tied to Zoroastrianism, and Islam play a small role in the religious lives of Armenian minority groups, but the country is overall homogenously Christian. Another cool fact about Armenia is that they have their own unique alphabet. Look it up. It is really interesting.


Armenia is in Eurasia, so, as its name hints, the cuisine is a blend of East and West with a little flare that is solely Armenian. There are a lot of similarities between Turkish and Armenian cuisines like tonight's dish demonstrates. (They serve the same thing in Turkey with a slightly different name.) Wheat, dairy products, and legumes are widespread. The Armenians take pride in their delicious ingredients and seasonings. Even after years of Soviet control, their cuisine has stood the test and still is rich and full of culture.


Armenians often eat their lahmajoon folded in half and stuffed with pickles, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, and/or parsley. You have probably heard of it before under the name of Turkish or Armenian pizza. There is a close resemblance between this flavorful flat bread and the beloved Italian pizza. Lahmajoon has its own flare, though, with a super thin and crispy (almost tortilla-like) crust and a supremely meaty topping. I imagine that they would be the perfect appetizer for a party, especially if all the guests ate them  burrito-style as the Armenians do.


makes 10
For the dough:
1 tsp yeast
¾ cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 tsp sugar
2 ¼ cups flour
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp butter

For the topping:
1 pound ground lamb or beef
4 cloves garlic
1 onion
1 green bell pepper, seeded
3 tbsp tomato paste
1 large tomato
1 cup chopped parsley
juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
dash of cayenne pepper power
1 tsp salt

Add-ins after baking:
lemon juice

To make the dough, mix together the yeast, sugar, and ½ cup water. Let this mixture sit in a warm place for 10 minutes to allow the yeast to activate. In a large mixing bowl, combine the remaining dough ingredients. Stir in the yeast mixture and knead until a soft dough has formed. Roll the dough into a ball, spray it all over with oil, and loosely cover with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to sit in a warm place for 2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Using a food processor, finely chop (but NOT puree) the onion, bell pepper, tomato, and garlic. Mix the chopped vegetables, tomato paste, and meat together and then press out any extra moisture through a fine-mesh sieve. Stir the parsley, seasonings, and lemon juice into the mixture. Refrigerate until you are ready to top your lahmajoon.

Once the dough has risen, preheat your oven to 450 degrees and oil 2 large baking sheets. Divide the dough into 10 equal balls. Roll each ball out 1/8” thick, about the size of a tortilla. Brush oil over the top and spread a thin layer of the meat mixture onto each lahmajoon. Working in batches, bake two lahmajoon per baking sheet at a time. Cook one set on the top rack and one on a middle rack for 6 minutes and then rotate. Cook for another 6 minutes, or until the edges are golden brown. Serve drizzled with more lemon juice and topped with lettuce, parsley, and/or pickles.


I could live with making Armenian pizza the Friday night standard. It was crispy, meaty, filling, and delicious. Plus, the smaller size of each lahmajoon is perfect for one person, so you can happily devour the whole flatbread all on your own. Score for Armenia! The only downside is that ground beef is ridiculously expensive here. $7.99 for one pound! It's because I refuse to buy ground beef in log form. Ugh. I might be spoiled, but that's just gross... Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the trip to Armenia!

Friday, September 25, 2015

Banana Poppy Seed Muffins

What is this yummy looking tower of breakfast goodies? It's the leaning tower of Banana Poppy Seed Muffins! Because banana muffins are delectable and lemon poppy seed muffins are enticing, putting the two together just has to create a divine result. Enjoy!


Banana Poppy Seed Muffins
makes 1 ½ dozen
1 cup rolled oatmeal, blended into a flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup white cornmeal
1 cup masa harina or more all-purpose flour
¾ cup coconut flour
1 cup sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
2 ½ tbsp. poppy seeds
1 ½ cups yogurt
3 ripe bananas
2 eggs
2 cups buttermilk
½ cup vegetable oil, or more milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and oil a muffin pan. Mix together the flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda, poppy seeds, and sugar in a large bowl. In a blender, blend the remaining ingredients until there are no more chunks of banana. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together until there are no lumps. Divide the batter out between the prepared muffin pan’s holes. (About ¼ cup batter per hole.) Bake for 26-28 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the muffins to sit in the pan for 5 minutes before removing to cooling racks to cool completely.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Crises, Culture, and Cuisine

Yemen is currently in the middle of an unfortunate crisis (because what crisis is fortunate?) that started in 2011 with protests against the president, poverty, and other issues. Currently rebels have taken the capital city of Sana'a. Corruption is high and radical Muslim groups are causing a lot of problems. Human rights are near to nothing as children can be forced into marriages as young as the age of nine (shudder), you can be arrested without a conviction or trial, and the government does not promote religious freedom. With all of this depressing and somewhat horrifying information about Yemen, you may think it is just about the worst place on earth. I have not done a good job portraying the rich culture and history of the Yemeni people. The historic kingdom of Sheba (like the Queen of Sheba) encompassed Yemen and stretched all the way to Ethiopia. Yemen is also home to four World Heritage sites, and, according to Wikipedia, "UNESCO proclaimed the tradition of poetic songs in Sana'a, called al-Ghina al-San'ani, a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity".


The cuisine of Yemen is separate from the other cuisines of the Middle East because it contains both Ottoman and Indian influences. Fish, lamb, and chicken are the major meats consumed, and both bread and rice are popular. Zurbian is a biryani-type dish served in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. It consists of rice and either lamb or chicken cooked with onions, potatoes, and a ton of seasonings. Commonly served for weddings and other special occasions, this meal is fit for any celebratory Yemeni meal.

Chicken Zurbian
1 pound chicken pieces (I used thighs.)
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into fourths
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
½ tsp coriander
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp dried cilantro
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp black pepper
salt, to taste
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 ¼ cup basmati rice
2 ½ cups chicken broth
large pinch of saffron
almonds, cashews, and raisins, to top

Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until the onions are golden, about 6 minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, cilantro, cinnamon, cardamom, pepper, and salt along with the chicken and potatoes to the pan. Brown each side of the chicken for a minute or so and then pour a 1 ½ cups of chicken broth overtop. Simmer for 30 minutes, adding a little extra water if it all evaporates. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the rice for 10 minutes in the boiling water. Drain the water off the rice and set it aside. Mix the saffron with the remaining chicken broth. Once the chicken is cooked, mix the Greek yogurt into it and remove it from the heat. Put half of the rice into a medium saucepan and then top with the chicken and potato mixture followed by the remaining rice. Pour the saffron-chicken broth evenly over the top. Bring the whole thing to a simmer and cook until the rice is done and all the broth has been absorbed, about 20 minutes. Top with the raisins and the nuts and serve.



I think I would have liked this dish a lot better if I were not sick with a sinus infection and I had cooked the rice a little bit longer. Make sure your rice is fully cooked before removing it from the stove. That was my biggest mistake. The meat had a good overall flavor. I really enjoyed making this dish. Boiling the rice for an initial 10 minutes and then cooking it later on with the meat is a cool trick, and layering the rice and filling was fun. I amazed my roommate with information about saffron, the most expensive spice on earth. (At least as far as I know.) Thankfully I stocked up on (relatively) cheap saffron in Spain. I refuse to pay $13 for a few strands of it hear, so my former "saffron" recipes use substitutions. It's nice to actually use the real thing. Perhaps I had too high of an expectation for Yemeni food. Yemen's breakfast of fatut was my favorite after all. (How can you go wrong with fried pita mixed with scrambles eggs?) It was not my favorite meal, but was still enjoyable in between the trips to the bathroom to blow my nose and frequent coughing spurts.... I hate sinus infections.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A Summer Farewell

Today is officially the last day of summer. :( Fall is upon us and winter is just around the corner. To mourn the loss of my nice sunny weather days and to celebrate the oncoming apple, pumpkin, and all things warm and cozy craze I decided to share one last ice cream recipe of the season. (However, since it is still hot here in Tennessee, it will definitely not be my last batch of ice cream for the year.)


What type of chocolaty goodness in a bowl is this? Chocolate pudding ice cream!!! Making a batch of pudding and then pouring it all into your ice cream machine makes a thick and delicious treat. It's a chocolate lover's dream. Enjoy your last bit of summer!


Chocolate Pudding Ice Cream
1 ¼ cups cocoa powder
¾ cup cornstarch
1 ¾ cup sugar
½ tsp salt
8 cups milk

Mix together the cocoa powder, sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Pour in about a cup or two of the milk and whisk until there are no more lumps. Slowly add in the rest of the milk and whisk until everything is smooth. Pour into a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 3 minute intervals, whisking between each one, until the mixture starts to bubble. Continue to microwave in 1 minute intervals, continuing to stir, until the pudding is thickened. Allow it to cool, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate overnight. Using an ice cream maker (mine is from Cuisinart), pour half the pudding into the frozen ice cream maker’s attachment bowl. Let the machine run for 15 minutes. Repeat another time with the remaining pudding. Serve immediately for soft serve, or pour into a sealed container and freeze for 3 hours for normal ice cream. You may need to let it thaw on the counter for 10 minutes before scooping out and serving.