Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Three Dish Dinner

The Southern African country of Malawi is mostly Christian, very poor, and the population is expected to triple by 2050. (That's some incredible growth!) About 12% of the people have HIV/AIDS, and 70% of hospital beds are filled with HIV/AIDS patients. A low life expectancy of 50 years adds to the widespread health crisis in the country. Malawi has been a republic since 1966, two years after their independence from the UK. The majority of the people are Chewas, a Bantu group.

 Meals in Malawi is based off three major components: a carbohydrate, a vegetable stew/ dish, and some sort of protein. The Malawians have some very high quality tea, and it is their second largesrt export crop. The staple cornmeal carbohydrate called nsima is a must if you are trying Malawian food, and fish is also pretty common. My menu for tonight was curried chambo fish, nsima, and futali, a peanut buttery vegetable mash.
Chambo fish are a favorite of the Malawians. Since chambo fish are native to Lake Malawi, a lake I have no hopes of getting to to go fishing in, tilapia was the best substitute I could find. It is another African fish from the same family as chambos.
Curried Chambo
serves 4
4- 4 ounce tilapia fillets (traditionally 4 whole chambo fish; cleaned, gutted, and descaled)
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1 tsp coriander
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground piri piri
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup water
4 tbsp oil
Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a pan. Add the fish and brown each side for a minute or two. Pour on the lemon juice.  Remove the fish to a baking dish and heat the remaining tablespoon of oil back over medium heat. Cook the onions and seasonings until the onions are translucent, about 7 minutes. Add the carrot and water, bring to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer for 10-15 minutes until most of the water has evaporated. Pour the onion mixture over the fish and bake for 8 minutes, or until the fish flakes easily.
I made a more porridge like form of nsima when I cooked Malawi for breakfast, and I absolutely adored it. The Malawians serve this stuff for three meals a day, so don't be surprised that it popped back up for dinner. To eat like a real Malawian, you need to pinch off little pieces of the mtanda (nsima patties) and eat it with your hands alongside meat and stews.
serves 4
1 cup white cornmeal
3 cups water
Heat the water in a small pot with a lid on over high heat. Stir in half of the cornmeal just before it starts to boil, whisking it so that there are no lumps. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat to medium. Continue to stir constantly until the cornmeal mixture has become very thick. (It should just about form a ball.) Run a little cold water over a wooden spatula and scoop about ¼ a cup of the nsima out. Slap it onto your plate in the shape of a hamburger patty. Each individual serving of nsima is called a mtanda. Repeat with the remaining nsima.
Futali can be made with sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cassava, or plantains. They are boiled down into a mash and then peanut flour is whisked in.
serves 4
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
1 cup peanut flour
2 cups water
Bring the water and sweet potatoes to a boil over high heat in a pot covered with a lid. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer for 10 minutes. Mash the sweet potatoes and water together with a fork and thoroughly stir in the peanut flour, making sure not to leave any lumps. You may need to add more water at this point. Remove the pot from the heat and serve.
My only complaint about Malawi is that I am not much of a fish fan. Other than that, the meal was great. The curried chambo was nice and spicy, the futali was creamy and peanut buttery, and the nsima was a good side to take some of the heat out of the fish. Everything African continues to shine throughout this project. I cannot wait to try more!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Stuffed Peppers!

My roommate requested that I make a salsa chicken recipe that she found for one of her dinners this week. I read the recipe and did what I always do to recipes: Make them my own! The way-too-simple salsa chicken recipe shares only the common ingredients of chicken and salsa. The rest was put under my imaginative construction.

This is my first stuffed pepper recipe on my blog. It was incredibly simple, so look forward to more! Quinoa was a great addition for an extra protein and fiber boost. The chicken and salsa were a perfect pair. And everything is better with cheese! Rachel loved them!
Mexican Chicken- Quinoa Stuffed Peppers
serves 2
2 bell peppers, seeded with the tops cut off
1/2 a bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup salsa
2 chicken tenders, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp taco seasoning
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1 tbsp. oil
3-4 ounces thinly sliced mozzarella cheese

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat the oil over medium heat in a pan and cook the garlic, chicken, and chopped bell peppers until the chicken is cooked through. Add the salsa, quinoa, and taco seasoning. Mix well and remove from the heat. Pour a few tablespoons of water into a small deep baking dish and place the hollowed out peppers side by side inside of it. Fill the peppers with the chicken mixture, cover the baking dish with tin foil, and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the tin foil, cover the tops of the peppers with cheese, and bake for another 10 minutes until the cheese melts.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Flavorful Dressing!

Can you believe Thanksgiving is only a week away? I can't! I'm looking forward to turkey, dressing, roasted veggies, and all that good stuff that goes along with the most thankful day of the year. As you can see, my holiday appetite got ahead of me and I decided to make this delicious dressing ahead of time. Now you can enjoy it at your Thanksgiving feast.

A side note on the dressing:

I like to make my dressing outside of the turkey to prevent the turkey from not cooking properly and the avoid the risk of raw meat contamination. (I'm weird about my raw meat.) I found the addition of mushrooms and apples to an adapted version of my favorite dressing recipe to be delicious. And as for the name, it's dressing. Stuffing is for pillows and Teddy bears.

Mushroom Cornbread Dressing
For the corn muffins:
2 cups cornmeal
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 ¾ cups buttermilk
¼ cup oil
2 eggs

For the dressing:
6 slices sandwich bread
2 tsp dried sage
2 tsp dried thyme
2- 14.5 oz containers chicken broth
2 eggs
12 ounces white mushrooms, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 apples, peeled and chopped
5 green onions, tops and bottoms removed and thinly sliced

To make the corn muffins, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and oil a 12 hole muffin pan. Mix together all the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl, whisk the wet. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together. Divide the batter between the muffin holes and bake for 18 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the muffins cool and then cut up into cubes.

To toast the breads, lay the sliced bread and corn muffins out on a baking pan and toast until nice and crispy, about 12 minutes. Flip it over halfway through the baking time to evenly toast. Allow the toasted bread to cool and then crumble it all in a large bowl.

Heat a skillet over medium heat with a little oil in the bottom. Sauté the onions until golden, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the ovens from the skillet to the bowl with the bread and cornbread crumbs. Wash and dry the mushrooms and add them to the skillet. Cook for about 5 minutes over medium heat until they are tender and lightly brown.

Add the sliced green onions, thyme, sage, mushrooms, apples, and eggs to the bread crumb mixture. Mix thoroughly and then spread out onto a deep 9”x13” baking dish. Pour the broth evenly over the top. Bake uncovered for 40 minutes.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Pop Out Slider Cards

I made this pop out slider card using the instructions found on this very nicely formatted card making blog. There are tons of ideas, free tutorials, and videos that you can use. I love getting ideas from other crafters, and this is one of the better made blogs I have

Using Dawn's example and instructions, this is the Christmas card I made. You pull on the ribbon to make the picture of the reindeer and tree fold up and reveal the message inside.

Next week is Thanksgiving, and then only a few more weeks until Christmas. It's time to get crafting!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Baked Oats

I know, I know, you're sick of all the pumpkin recipes everywhere. Or maybe you're not. I don't care because fall is almost over, and I'll soon be posting about Christmas and the New Year. Let me revel in my last autumn-y recipes before it's too late. Tonight is a healthy and filling breakfast recipe for peanut butter and pumpkin baked oatmeal. Peanut butter and pumpkin are a beautiful pair, and they yield a delicious dish for a cold winter morning.

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Baked Oats
serves 2
1 cup quick or old fashioned oats
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp honey
2 egg yolks or 1 egg
¼ cup peanut butter
¾ cup pumpkin puree

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees, and oil a ramekin. Mix the oats, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder together. Whisk the pumpkin together with the milk, eggs, peanut butter, honey, and oil. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until well mixed. Pour the batter into the ramekin. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Broil for 1-2 minutes until golden brown.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Sweet Potato-Gruyere Pasta

I love thick, creamy, cheesy pasta sauces. They just warm you up and make you feel all good inside. Pasta is definitely one of the best comfort foods. This particular pasta dish makes an extra thick sauce that uses a fall favorite- sweet potatoes! They are a perfect complement to a healthy amount of gruyere cheese and basil.

Sweet Potato-Gruyere Pasta
serves 4-6
12 oz pasta, cooked according to the instructions on the package
¼ cup reserved pasta water
1 large sweet potato
8 ounces shredded gruyere cheese
3 cups milk
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp flour
dried basil, to top
Pierce the sweet potato with a fork, place in a microwave dish with a little water, and microwave for 8-20 minutes, or until tender. Peel the sweet potato once it is cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, heat the butter in a pot over medium heat until melted. Whisk in the flour for one minute, and then slowly pour in the milk, mixing until there are no more lumps of flour. Stir in the cheese until it is melted and the mixture is thick and bubbly. Allow it to cool slightly before blending with the sweet potato and reserved pasta water until creamy. Mix in the pasta and top with the dried basil.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

A Blend of Cuisines

Guyana is not to be confused with Guinea, the French Guinea, or Guinea Bissau, although all four of these countries have very similar names. A former colony of the Netherlands and England, Guyana is the only South American country whose native language is English. Most of the people speak the English based Guyanese Creole. 90% of the people live along a thin strip of coast at the north of Guyana. There are rich rainforests not accessible by humans and a savannah towards the south, making coastal living the best choice for building cities and industry.


You might be a little shocked that tonight's meal comes from South America. There are were tortillas, beans, or cheese made in any of tonight's four dishes. I can explain the strangely Caribbean, Indian, and Chinese flair that Guyanese cuisine tends to have. Even though it is technically connected to mainland South America, Guyana is considered part of the Caribbean because of it's Dutch and British roots. It did not have the Latin influence of other South American countries like Brazil and Argentina. About 43% of the population is Indian, making them the largest ethnic group. They are descendents from the indentured servants who came over from India in the mid 1800s. Lastly, Chinese food is very popular in Guyana. They even have their own type of chow mein and low mein noodles. This ethnic mixture influenced tonight's table. The main Chow Mein dish was served alongside Roti and an Indian eggplant dip called Baigan Choka. To accompany the meal I made a very smoothie-ish drink called Peanut Punch.


I cannot believe I made chow mein for a country in the Western Hemisphere. The more I researched, the more I learned that chow mein is a common dinner across Guyana. It is a little spicier than the Chinese variation thanks to the hot wari wari pepper. Chicken is commonly added. I think

Chow Mein
serves 4
12 oz Guyanese chow mein or spaghetti noodles, cooked according to the instructions on the package
1 ½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, sliced into strips
6 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tsp Chinese 5 spice powder
½ tsp ground ginger
1 each yellow, green, and orange bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 cups shredded cabbage
1 carrot, shredded
1 ½ cups green beans
1 wari wari pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 tbsp oil

Mix together the Chinese 5 spice powder, 3 tablespoons of soy sauce, ginger, and chicken. Allow the chicken to marinate for 30 minutes. Heat a tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Cook the chicken for a couple of minutes on each side until it is done. In a large wok, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Sautee the onion and garlic for about 5 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the sweet peppers, hot pepper, and beans. Cook for another 3-4 minutes before adding the cabbage and carrot. Once the cabbage wilts slightly (a couple of minutes), add the chicken, soy sauce, and noodles. Toss until everything is combined and heated through.


Here is an updated version of roti from the one I made when I cooked Guyana for breakfast. This flaky flatbread folded in layers of oil is perfect to go along with any meal.

makes 2
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ cup hot water
½ tsp oil, plus more as needed

Mix together the flour and baking powder. Stir in the water and ½ tsp of oil until everything is combined. Knead for about 8 minutes until a pliable dough has formed. Cover with a damp towel and let the dough sit for 30 minutes. Divide the dough into two balls, and roll them out into thin disks. Brush the tops with oil, cut a slit halfway down the middle, and roll them up like a cone. Cover again with the towel and let rest for 15 more minutes. Preheat a large pan over medium heat. Roll the dough balls out into large disks 1/8” thick. Cook them one at a time on the pan, flipping after the bottom is golden brown. Brush the top with oil, and flip when the other side is brown. Brush this side with oil as well. Quickly remove the bread from the skilled and clap out any air bubbles. Serve hot.


Spread this warm eggplant dip onto your roti for a true Indo- Caribbean side dish. Baigan means eggplant, and it is very similar to an eggplant dish served in India called Baingan Bharta.
Baigan Choka
1 eggplant
2 cloves garlic, sliced
¼ cup thinly sliced onion
1 tsp oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Preheat your oven to 450 degree. Pierce the eggplant with a knife and slip the garlic in the holes. Roast in the oven for 30 minutes until tender. Meanwhile, sauté the onion in the oil over medium heat until slightly golden but crispy. Peel and mash the eggplant together with the garlic and onion. Season to taste.


Peanut punch is a popular cold blended beverage that is found throughout the Caribbean. You can even find it in packaged variations. This smoothie-like drink was probably my favorite part of the meal.
Peanut Punch
serves 4
3 cups milk
6 tbsp peanut butter
6-8 ice cubes
sugar, to taste

Toss everything into the blender and blend until creamy.

Overall, I was not too thrilled with Guyana. I probably should have stuck to making dishes from on of the ethnic groups instead of creating a mixture that did not really go together. I did not hate it, but it all didn't really settle well together.