Monday, June 30, 2014

Disney Review: Columbia Harbour House

The Columbia Harbour House is a colonial New England style quick service restaurant located in Magic Kingdom's Liberty Square. It was by far my favorite quick service restaurant, and I ate there on both days we were in Magic Kingdom. The food is fresh and healthy, the atmosphere really feels like you've stepped back in time to colonial New England, and the portions are large.

columbia harbor house
 
I had the Broccoli Peppercorn Salad (Mixed Greens, Garden Vegetables, Chicken, Broccoli, and Parmesan tossed with a Creamy Peppercorn Dressing) with a side of extra steamed broccoli. (Broccoli makes my top three list of favorite foods, and I eat it every day at home. I was missing it in Disney World.) Other menu options include grilled salmon with couscous and broccoli, lobster rolls, tuna sandwiches, hummus sandwiches, fried fish or shrimp, and chicken nuggets. The sides range from your typical fries and potato chips to clam chowder, couscous, and chili.
 
One of the highlights of my meal was when a cast member came around and asked us all Disney trivia. I don't know if that is something that they do all the time, but it was a lot of fun.
 
I really loved this spot, and encourage you to go there if you are longing for something green amongst all the popcorn and turkey legs.
 

Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Recap of My Birthday and an Frozen Yogurt Recipe

Yesterday was my 19th birthday. I know it sounds a little strange (ok, a lot strange), but what I wanted for my birthday was a trip up to Cleveland to visit Lakeview Cemetery (where former President Garfield and Rockefeller are buried) and Whole Foods (the best grocery store ever!). To make myself seem a little less crazy, I'm a history buff, and Garfield's monument is really cool with four floors you can visit and a balcony that has a great view of Cleveland. The cemetery is also huge, very nice, and well taken care of. People go their for picnics, enjoy the afternoon strolling around, and even get married there. (I think the last one is a bit weird creepy, but everyone likes different things... I'd rather get married in Disney than surrounded by a bunch of dead people, but that's my own opinion.) I needed to make a run to Whole Foods for my Meals Around the World Project because our local grocery store does not stock some of the ingredients I need. I also like to look around Whole Foods. It's an awesome place. Anyway, I had a great birthday, but it is time to move on to more important matters.


oatmeal raisin cookie frozen yogurt (1)
 
More important things like frozen yogurt.
 
Oatmeal raisin frozen yogurt, to be precise. Thick and creamy with raisins spread throughout and a slight hint of nuttiness from the oats. It's magical stuff, especially for a hot day in June. Whether it's a birthday treat or a way to cool off after a stressful week, this frozen yogurt is good to go.
 
 
oatmeal raisin cookie frozen yogurt (1)  
 
Oatmeal Raisin Frozen Yogurt
2 cups rolled oats
4 ¼ cups plain Greek yogurt
2 ¾ cups milk
½ cup honey
¼ cup applesauce
½ cup brown sugar
dash of salt
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup raisins
1 cup hot water
1/4 cup white sugar
 
 
Soak the raisins in the hot water 1/4 cup sugar for 10 minutes. Blend the oats in a high speed blender until they reach a flour-like consistency. Combine all the ingredients except for the raisins into the blender and blend until well incorporated. Refrigerate for 3 hours. Using an ice cream machine (mine is a Cuisinart), pour your frozen yogurt base into the machine while it is running. I had to make it in two batches, using half the yogurt mixture each time. Run the machine for 15 minutes. Add in the raisins while the machine is still running, and churn for 5 minutes. Once the yogurt has been churned, enjoy immediately as soft serve, or freeze for 3 hours to make it real frozen yogurt.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

"Celebrating You!" Card

Here's another card that can be used for a graduation, celebrating the end of a school year, a good report card, or just a random note of encouragement to your favorite scholar. The layout is simple and could be used for other occasions and card ideas. Enjoy!


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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

An Epic Banana Split

This banana split is set apart in a league of its own. It combines five different flavors of bananacream along with fresh fruit, peanuts, and chocolate chips to make a feast worthy dessert that you can feel good about eating.

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It's delicious plain, but all the toppings make it even better. Let your imagination go wild and top it with any other nut, dried fruit, fresh fruit, or ice cream sauce.

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Be warned, this recipe is meant to share, so grab a group of friends and dig in!

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Bananacream Split
makes 3 banana splits
3 ripe bananas
5 frozen bananas
1/4 cup chocolate chips
2 cups frozen strawberries
1/3 cup peanut flour or PB2
1 cup frozen pineapple
milk, as needed
peanuts, chocolate chips, diced strawberries, and diced pineapple, to serve

To make the plain bananacream, use a small, high powdered blender to blend 1 1/2 frozen bananas together with 1-2 tablespoons of milk until it is creamy. Pour the mixture into a bowl and put it in the freezer until you are ready to assemble the banana split.
To make the chocolate bananacream, melt the chocolate chips in the microwave. Heat in a small microwave safe bowl for 30 seconds, stir, and heat another 15 seconds if they are not melted. Blend the melted chocolate chips with one of the frozen bananas until creamy. Pour into a bowl and put it into the freezer. Clean out the blender.
To make the strawberry-cream, blend all the strawberries together until creamy. Pour into a bowl and freeze. Clean out the blender.
To make the peanut butter bananacream, blend the peanut flour, 1 1/2 bananas, and 1-2 tablespoons of milk together until creamy. Pour into a bowl and freeze. Clean out your blender.
To make the pineapple bananacream, blend the pineapple and one banana together until creamy. Pour into a bowl and freeze while you start assembling the split.
To assemble, cut the three unfrozen bananas in half lengthwise. Place them in three large bowls. Place a scoop of each flavor of bananacream into the splits. I put three down the middle (plain, pineapple, and strawberry) and two on the outside (chocolate and peanut butter). Sprinkle the top with chocolate chips, peanuts, and the diced fruit. Freeze for 10-15 minutes until solid and then serve.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Disney Review: Cosmic Ray's Starlight Cafe

A good option when you are in Magic Kingdom's Tomorrowland in need of a quick service meal is Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café. It is a great choice for families like ours who often cannot decide on a restaurant because there is so much variety in the menu. There are three separate stations, or "bays" where you can order. Bay one has chicken, bay two has burgers and hot dogs, and bay three has soups, salads, and sandwiches. You can eat outside, inside by the singing alien robot, or inside in a quieter area. We chose the latter because it was raining and the alien is a bit creepy. In the center of the restaurant is a huge toppings bar where you can load up on any kind of burger topping that you can imagine.

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If you are on the dining plan, the best value meal is probably the "1/2 Chicken and Rib Combo - with Mashed Potatoes and a Seasonal Vegetable". For the same credit that you get just a hot dog and fries, you can get half a chicken, half a slab of BBQ ribs, mashed potatoes, and (in our case) green beans. It's a definite steal. Pictured with the meal is the carrot cake.

My dad ordered the "Barbecued Pork Sandwich with a Cucumber Salad". His dessert was the triple chocolate cake.


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Sydney got a cheeseburger with fries, a nice choice for any picky eaters or anyone that's not sick of theme park food yet.
 
 
Harper got her usual chicken nuggets with carrots and grapes. She pretty much lived off of these three things in Disney World. I don't think there were any complaints.
 
 
Overall, Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café is a good pick for any hungry family looking for a quick bite to eat in Tomorrowland. There are plenty of seats inside, plenty of options on the menu, and the food is not all that bad.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Last Minute Grad Card

This is a last minute graduation card that I made for Syd to take to a friend. She told me she needed a card right before she left for the party, so I had to put together something really fast. This was my result.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

An Alsatian Speciatly

My mom and I traveled to France last year. We visited Strasbourg which is the capital of the Alsace region in Eastern France. Like many of the other cultural aspects of this region, the cuisine of Alsace is a mixture of French and German.

 
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One of the regional specialties is a hearty meat and potato casserole called Baeckeoffe. My mom ordered it in one of the restaurants we ate in, and she really enjoyed it. I decided to recreate the dish, but I wanted to make it a simple after church lunch. Baeckeoffe means "baker's oven", and it is typically baked in the oven. I wanted to make it for lunch after church, so I adapted the recipe to simmer away in the crockpot. The crockpot may not be traditional, but historically Baeckeoffe was a meal served after church on Sundays. The Alsatian women would prepare it on Saturday night and drop it off at the baker's to cook while they sat through service. By the time service was over, the oven would have cooled, and their lunch would be complete.

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Baeckeoffe
1 pound beef or lamb, cut into 1" cubes
1 pound pork, cut into 1" cubes
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 pounds potatoes, sliced 1/4" thick
3 carrots, sliced 1/4" thick
1/4 cup chopped parsley
10 sage leaves
1 cup Riesling wine
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large crockpot, layer half of the potatoes along the bottom. Top with half the onions, half the carrots, and half the herbs. Add in the meat, and top with the herbs, onion and carrots, and then potatoes. Pour the wine and broth overtop. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours. Enjoy with a nice loaf of French bread and fresh salad.

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I also made some homemade bread and a simple French salad to go along with the heavy casserole. Here is my recipe for a delicious baguette of French bread. Harper really loved the salad. It was the first time I had ever seen her eat lettuce the way she did. She has been so adventurous!


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Simple French Salad
1 head iceberg lettuce
1 head green leaf lettuce
1/2 cup white wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

Wash and dry the lettuce. Tear it up and place it in a large bowl. Whisk the vinegar, oil, and salt together. Toss with the salad to serve.

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We all liked the baeckeoffe, but agreed that I did not allow it to cook long enough. Since I made it in the slow cooker, it needed a few more hours of simmering. We left it running until dinner time, and the meat was so much more tender. The taste was delicious, and the accompanying salad and bread tied off the meal.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

A Mexican Fiesta!

Our nation seems to be on a Mexican food rage. You can find places like Chipotle and Taco Bell everywhere, and grocery stores are stocked with Old El Paso seasonings and meal kits. Although I do love a good crispy taco, your typical "Mexican" joint is not all that authentic. I wanted my Mexican meal to be as legit as possible, so I researched in to what a real Mexican meal looks like.

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There are many different regions of Mexico with distinct differences in cooking styles. While you may find the flour tortilla on plates across Northern Mexico, the southern areas serve a good corn tortilla with most of their meals. Mexicans generally eat four meals a day. Their largest meal is comida (which means food). It is generally served in the afternoon and consists of a soup, beans, and meat. Homemade tortillas or rice often accompany the meal.

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My first dish is a cold refreshing soup that is perfect for hot days. Everyone in my family loved it served with tortilla chips. It is kind of like guacamole in soup form. It is pretty filling, and I think it could be served alone as a nice lunch with chips and a cold fruit smoothie.

Sopa de Aguacate
serves 4
2 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 tomato, diced
4 cups chicken broth
2 ripe avocados, pitted and peeled
cilantro, to serve
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan. Once the oil sizzles, add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno. Cook for 5 minutes until fragrant. Add the tomato and cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour in the broth, bring the mixture to a boil, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes or so. Remove the pan from the heat and cool slightly. In a large blender, blend the avocados with the soup. Refrigerate until cooled, about 3 hours. Serve topped with the cilantro and seasoned to taste. My family loved to dip their tortilla chips in this like guacamole.


 
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Along with a liquid soup, a sopa seca, or dry soup, is often served with at a Mexican table. How is rice considered a soup? Just think about it, you prepare rice the same way you would a soup. It starts out with a lot of broth and some vegetables, and then the rice soaks up all the moisture. This rice is set apart from your general prepackaged "Mexican Rice" that is colored with food die and tastes artificial. Toasting the rice before you cook it really brings out the extra flavor, and the fresh produce make it all the more delicious. Spanish rice gets its yellow color with saffron, and traditional Mexican rice is colored with tomatoes. It's easy to prepare, and tastes great.

Arroz a la Mexicana
2 cups dry long grain rice
4 tbsp oil
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 onion, peeled
2 tomatoes, cored
4 cups chicken broth
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large saucepan with a lid. Add the rice. Cook the rice until lightly toasted, about 10 minutes. Stir every few minutes or so to make sure the rice does not burn. Combine the tomato, garlic, and onion in a high speed blender. Blend until the mixture in completely smooth. Add the blended vegetables to the pan, stir them together with the rice, and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in the broth and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes, or until all the moisture has been absorbed. Stir occasionally while it cooks. Season to taste and serve.



 
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Refried beans really are not refried at all. They are just cooked twice. No one in my family really liked these. I think I left the onion chunks a little too big. If you still want to make them, make sure you allow enough time to fully cook the beans. It is a easy, but lengthy process.
 
 
Frijoles Refritos
8 ounces dry red beans
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp ground cumin
4tbsp oil
1 onion, finely chopped
¼ tsp cayenne pepper powder
salt and pepper, to taste

Cover the beans with water in a pot. Bring the beans and water to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes, remove from the heat, cover, and allow the beans to soak for at least an hour. Drain the beans. Pour 4 cups of water into the pot along with the garlic and 1 tablespoon of cumin. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cover partially. Cook for about an hour, or until the beans are tender and the water has been absorbed. Stir the beans occasionally as they cook. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the onion for 10 minutes, or until it is tender. Add the beans and the remaining ingredients to the pan. Take the pan off the stove. Mash the beans into a paste and serve with tortilla chips.


 
 
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One thing I found in common with all of Mexico was their wide use of tomatoes in cooking. I looked long and hard for a main dish recipe without them since I am allergic, and only was able to find one where tomatoes were optional. I'm not generally a fish fan, but I had to make it since I could not eat the soup or rice. Fish is often served in the Yucatan region where seafood prevails. My dad is a fish snob, so the only flatfish he likes is halibut. We live no where near the coast, so the halibut was pretty expensive. Feel free to double the recipe if you want a larger serving. Everyone loved the fish and wished they had more.  

Sautéed Flatfish with Lime
serves 4
1 ¼ pound halibut, flounder, or another flatfish cut into 4 pieces
2 tbps oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
dash of cayenne pepper powder
juice of 1 lime
salt and pepper, to taste
cilantro, to serve

Sprinkle a little cayenne pepper power onto the fish. Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the fish and garlic. After 2 minutes, pour the lime juice over the fish into the pan. Cook the fish for 2 more minutes, flip, and cook until a thermometer registers the internal temperature of the fish to be 145 degrees. Serve topped with cilantro and seasoned to taste.

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Dessert was a fresh, juicy pineapple that everyone enjoyed. Fresh fruit is a great way to round out a meal.

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Except for the refried beans, the Mexican dinner was a success. Harper had a little friend over, and they were not really fans of the food, but I think that was because the rice was red and the soup was green. Harper said she liked the taste of the rice, soup, and little bite of fish my mom gave her, but she ended up just eating a bowl of cereal. My mom, dad, and Sydney, on the other hand were huge fans of the fish. My mom said that it was cooked perfectly, and my fish snob father even approved. My mom also said the rice was some of the best she had ever had.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Vanilla Bean Frozen Yogurt

There are so many fancy ice cream and frozen yogurt flavors out there like red velvet, butter pecan , cherry Garcia, brownie fudge, and chocolate chip cookie dough . The list is endless. While all of these flavors are delicious, you simply cannot beat a bowl of classic vanilla bean ice cream. It just does not get better than this on a toasty day by the pool. Now you can make this yogurt at home yourself with little stress and a whole lot of benefits. (A recognizable ingredient list for one.) Enjoy!


chocolate magic shell (3)
 
Vanilla Bean Frozen Yogurt
3 ¼ cups plain Greek yogurt
2 cups milk
1 cup agave nectar or honey
dash of salt
2 tbsp vanilla extract
1 vanilla bean

Cut the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the insides. Combine all the ingredients into a blender and blend until well incorporated. Refrigerate for 3 hours. Using an ice cream machine (mine is a Cuisinart), pour your frozen yogurt base into the machine while it is running. I had to make it in two batches, using half the yogurt mixture each time. Run the machine for 15 minutes. Once the yogurt has been churned, enjoy immediately as soft serve, or freeze for 3 hours to make it real frozen yogurt.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Summer Card

I made this card for my roommate, Hannah, who is away teaching at summer camp. I waited until now to send it to her because before this week, it really did not feel like summer. (When it is in the 40s in June, you cannot even think of summer.) This week it has warmed up, so I found this card to be very appropriate.

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The design can be used for many other cards. You could change up the colors and prints of the paper, and make a Christmas, Easter, or birthday card. That's the beauty of making your own cards. They can reflect whatever you want them to.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Disney Review: Akershus Royal Banquet Hall Princess Breakfast

Akershus Royal Banquet Hall will take you on a grand adventure all the way to Norway where the princesses eat breakfast with you, and good food abounds. Alright, it's not really in Norway, but it is as close as you will get. Epcot's Norway pavilion is amazingly crafted to look like a Norwegian village. You generally cannot get back to it until after 11 when the World Showcase opens. It tends to be super crowded then, especially because the new hit princess movie, Frozen, takes place there. The only way to get a glimpse of Norway in the morning is to book breakfast at the wonderful Akershus. You will be able to dine on traditional Norwegian fare while visiting with princesses. (Not Anna and Elsa, but the standard ones like Belle and Snow White.) We were all impressed with the food, and the princess parade Harper got to take part in was a lot of fun.
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After our Norwegian waitress seated us, we were free to explore the buffet. The food resembled what my mom and I were served for breakfast in Germany. The meats and cheese table included delicious fruits, smoked salmon, diced onions, capers, peppered mackerel, Glassmeister herring, tomato herring, Jalsburg cheese, muenster cheese, Gjetost goat cheese, and salami. I was a little leery of the fish, but I found a new love for the peppered mackerel. My dad told me that they eat it along with the capers in Europe. He and I both had our fair share of this combination. Other than for the fruit, the rest of my family avoided this table.


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The muesli table had yogurts, nuts, and dried fruit to eat your oats with. It also had butter and cream cheese for the breads.


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The bakery section took up two tables of Danishes, croissants, muffins, doughnuts, and other breakfast sweets. This was Harper and Sydney's favorite table. Sydney loved the croissants and said they were some of the best she had ever eaten. (She has not been to France, though, so I do not think this is a valid opinion. :) )

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Do not be afraid if you or your family are not very adventurous. You can stick with something normal like bagels, and the waiters bring around a big plate of American specialties for each table. This includes scrambles eggs, bacon, sausage, and a potato casserole. I really suggest you at least try the Norwegian food, though. I found something new that I liked, and I'm sure you would too.

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I really enjoyed our Princess breakfast. It is a great alternative to eating in the castle, and is considerably cheaper. The food is great, the servers are really interesting to talk to, and the kids will love seeing the princesses. Plus, you get to get into Epcot before anyone else. What more could you ask for?



Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Let's Eat Ethiopia!

Ethiopia was the next stop on our around the world meal adventure. A bit more exotic and adventurous than Italy, the Ethiopian food intrigued some of us and turned others off. We sponsor a little girl through Compassion who lives in Ethiopia. Taking part in a traditional meal from her culture helps us connect to her and break the boundary of all those miles we live apart. I think it is so cool to be able to try new things that are not very new to many people who live on this earth.
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An Ethiopian meal normally is made up of a meat stew, cheese, raw salad, several vegetable stews, and bread. The national dish is doro wat, a slightly spicy chicken stew. I made this along with a lentil stew, cooked shallots, a tomato salad, Ethiopian cheese, and injera.

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I wanted to go down the authentic route, so we ate the food without utensils or plates. (My mom wiped down the table very well before we did this.) Injera is the staple flatbread of Ethiopia. All the food is traditionally placed on top of it. Pieces of the bread are pinched off (with the right hand only!) and used to scoop up the various meats, vegetables, and other dishes. I had a lot of fun eating the Ethiopian way, but Sydney said she would rather just stick with a fork. Traditionally, injera is made with teff flour, a grain similar to millet. You will have a hard time finding teff here, so I used wheat flour.


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Injera
Makes 6
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
2 cups carbonated water
2 tbsp lemon juice

Mix together the flours, salt, and baking powder. Whisk in the carbonated water until a batter forms similar to pancake batter. Preheat a large nonstick pancake pan over medium heat. Wipe oil on it with a paper towel. Scoop ½ cup of batter at a time onto the pan and spread it out into a large circle with the back of a rubber spatula. Cook each side of the injera for a minute or two, or until golden brown. Serve immediately, or store in a warm oven in between layers of paper towels until you’re ready to use them.


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Iab is the traditional Ethiopian cheese served alongside spicy dishes to help cool them off. It is really similar to cottage cheese, but is a bit drier because you drain it. My mom loved this cheese even though she is not a cottage cheese fan. She wrapped her injera around the chicken, lentils, and cheese like a taco. I liked the slight lemony flavor it brought to my "plate".


Iab
Makes 2 cups
2 cups cottage cheese
¼ cup yogurt
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon zest
Dash of salt

Mix all the ingredients together. Place the mixture in a cheesecloth and hang to drain over a bowl. Pour off the drained liquid and serve.



My cooked vegetable side was shallots, and my raw salad was made up of tomatoes and black olives. I really liked the shallots, and my dad said he enjoyed the salad.

 
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Tomato and Olive Salad
1 cup cherry tomatoes
½ cup black olives
¼ cup pickled sliced jalapenos
2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp olive oil

Toss all the ingredients together. Let the mixture sit for at least 30 minutes before serving.

 

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Cooked Shallots
Serves 6
6 large shallots
1 tbsp oil

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and sauté until tender. Pour 1 cup of water into the pan. Bring the water to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes.

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"Wat" means stew, and "mesir" means lentils, so "mesir wat" is a lentil stew. I made this vegetarian dish not so vegetarian with chicken broth, but you could always sub in vegetable broth to make it meat free. My mom and I really liked the lentils, but I think the look of them put the rest of my family off.


Mesir Wat
Serves 6
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp ground mustard or turmeric
¼ tsp cayenne pepper powder
1 tbsp paprika
1 onion
1 clove garlic
8 ounces lentils
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
Salt and pepper, to taste

Puree the onion, garlic, and ginger together in a food processor. Heat the oil in a pan with a lid over medium heat. Whisk the seasonings into the oil, stirring constantly for a minute. Pour in the onion mixture and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add the broth, water, and lentils. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


The main stew was Ethiopia's national dish: doro wat. It is slightly spicy and very flavorful. The chicken simmers down delightfully in the delicious sauce. I used my injera to sop up the extra sauce, and it was amazing. Carson and Harper were in love with the boiled eggs scattered throughout the stew. At least they would have something to eat if they ever venture out to Ethiopia...

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Doro Wat
Serves 6
2 lbs skinless chicken thighs and legs
Juice of 2 lemons
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
¾ tsp ground ginger
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp ground paprika
¼ cup berbere seasoning
1 ¾ cup chicken broth
4 hardboiled eggs

Combine the lemon and chicken pieces. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, puree the onion, garlic, and ginger together in a food processor. Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid over medium heat. Whisk in the paprika and then the berbere, stirring constantly for a minute. Pour in the onion mixture and cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Pour the broth, lemon juice, and chicken pieces into the pan. Stir and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pan, and cook the chicken for about 45 minutes, or until it is no longer pink. Cut the eggs into fourths, add them into the sauce, and cook for another 5 minutes.

 


Food is an amazing thing. It uses so many of our senses other than just taste. Sight, smell, and texture also are a major impact on the way we eat what we eat.  This having been said, the Ethiopian meal really scared some of my family. I was told that the lentils looked like Carson's diaper, the bread was super bland, and there was a nasty spice that they could not identify. I found this funny because most of the spices are ones my mom uses all the time. Others were new, but I found them all to come together nicely. My mom really enjoyed it as well. Harper was really good about it, too. She tried everything on her plate. I think it was too spicy for her. My dad and Sydney had the wrong attitude about it from the start. They started off with the mindset that it would be horrible, and they were not open to accepting that it was not going to taste like mama's chicken pot pie. What makes food such a wonderful thing is it's diversity. I will have to work on easing my family into enjoying some of the more exotic countries. Maybe I should stick to places like Mexico and France for now....

Monday, June 16, 2014

A Simple Graduation Card

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I finally think I am done with the graduation cards when my mom or sister asks me to make another one. That's alright with me, though. Why would you spend $3 on a card when you can easily make a personalized one yourself? This one reflects the school colors of the recipient (purple & white) and the year she graduated.
 
 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Disney Review: Biergarten

Biergarten is a restaurant tucked away in the back of Germany. My mom made the reservation because she could not decide where else to eat, and we had gone before on our very first Disney trip back in 1998. Since it is a buffet, she figured we could all at least find something to eat. I sure am glad she decided to book a table for us at Biergarten. It was delicious! The chicken was probably the best I had out of anywhere in Disney, and the environment was a lot of fun.

 Bavaria-themed dining area in Biergarten Restaurant featuring long communal tables, street lamps and a stage
 
 
Biergarten is set to resemble an Oktoberfest feast, and the interior is amazingly decorated. It's like you are in a German city with houses, shops, and the night sky. (This picture is from Disney's website.) Seating at Biergarten is by shared tables of 8. Since we are a family of six, a young couple joined us at the front of the table. It was fun to talk to them and to watch the polka band that came out to play a few songs. The random toasts, dancing, and unique instrumentals all made the dinner super fun. The kids were invited down to the front to dance, but Harp was too shy to go.

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 I know my pictures are not so great, but this is one of the buffet tables. There was an enormous spread of delicious German food, including many things that I actually tried in Germany. Above is the freshly sliced meats, spaetzle, mac& cheese, meatballs, and sausages.
 
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Potatoes, brussels sprouts, and beets
 
 
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Numerous cold salads
 
 
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More salad
 
 
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Pork Schnitzel, White Fish, Rotisserie Chicken, and other delicious dishes. The head chef came out and showed me all the things I could not eat because of my tomato allergy. The beef was sadly tomato laden, but my mom said it was one of her favorites.
 
 
 
 
 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

An Italian Feast

Our next stop on our around the world culinary adventure was delicious Italia! I spent all day in the kitchen making homemade noodles, fresh bread, chicken, dips, and all the other ingredients that came together to make our Italian feast. It was a daunting task, but I made it through. The results were well worth the time spent in the kitchen.


Here is our menu. I kept it a secret until we were sitting down to eat. The anticipation and suspense were high, and I think that I met the expectations. A traditional Italian meal structure has quite a few courses. These include the aperitivo (an alcoholic beverage to start), antipasto (the appetizer), primo (a carb dish), secondo (a meat dish), contorno (veggies served along with the secondo dish), formaggio e frutta (fresh fruit and regional cheese), dolce (dessert), caffe (coffee), and digestive (more alcohol). That's quite a lot of food, so I toned it down for our dinner. No one in my family drinks alcohol or coffee, so those courses were automatically eliminated. We had ice cream in the freezer, so that served as the "dolce", and I just did not have time for cheese, fruit, and a salad. We were unhealthy Italians for the night. The four courses I did serve were delicious, and we were too stuffed to have eaten any more.


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Thankfully I had some help in the kitchen. Harper volunteered to assist me make the bread. She measured flour, kneaded dough, and helped prepare it to rise. I'm so glad to have a happy helper.

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Crunchy Bread Loaf
makes 1 loaf
3 cups flour
1 tbsp active dry yeast
¾ tsp salt
1 cup warm water (110 degrees)

Mix 1 cup of flour, the salt, the yeast, and the water together in an electric mixer. Slowly add in the remaining flour. Once a ball has formed, take it out and knead it for 15 minutes. Form the dough into a ball, coat it in oil, cover it, and allow it to rest in a warm place for three hours or until doubled. Once it is doubled, punch the dough down, cover it, and let it rest another 10 minutes. Sprinkle cornmeal onto a clean surface and roll the dough into a rectangle. Using the longer side, roll it up. Seal the edges with water and taper the ends off. Place it seam side down on a nonstick baking stone, cover, and allow it to rest for 40 minutes or until it has just about doubled. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 375 degrees with a pan of water on the bottom rack. Slash the top of the dough with a sharp knife. Bake for 35-40 minutes.

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The loaf was not in loaf form for long. Soon after it cooled, I sliced the bread up to make the crostini. You can make the crostini and spread ahead of time. When you are ready to eat it, heat the spread up, and assemble the crostini.

Crostini with Cannellini and Sage Spread
Makes 2 cups of spread and about 15 crostini
For the crostini:
1 baguette
Olive oil

For the spread:
1- 14oz can of cannellini beans
2 tbsp of liquid reserved from the beans
1 clove garlic
2 tbsp oilive oil
1 small onion
5 sage leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste
Additional sage leaves, to serve

To make the crostini, preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cut the baguette up into 1” thick slices. Spread each slice with olive oil, and arrange them on a large baking pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip each of the pieces of bread over and bake for another 4-5 minutes, or until lightly browned.

To make the spread, finely chop up the onion, garlic, and sage. Heat the oil over medium heat in a saucepan. Add the onion, garlic, and sage. Cook for about 7 minutes until the onion is tender. Add in the beans and reserved bean water. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring often. Pour the mixture into a food processor and process until there are no more chunks.

To assemble, spread each crostini slice with some of the hot bean mixture. Top with a sage leaf and serve immediately.


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We all surprisingly loved the bean spread. This is a miracle considering my dad doesn't like spices, I don't like beans, and my mom hates onions. I loved the leftover spread cold with baby carrots the next day for lunch.

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Fresh Linguine
Serves 6
3 ½ cups all-purpose flour
4 eggs
1-2 tbsp water
½ tsp salt

Mix together all of the ingredients, adding water until a hard dough has formed. It should not be sticky at all, but it should not crumble. Knead the dough until it all comes together. Divide it into 6 balls. Let the dough rest covered with a moist towel for 30 minutes. Using a pasta machine or roller, follow the instructions to make linguine. I rolled mine out to the 6th setting, and then made it into noodles.

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This pasta sauce is not your typical Americanized Italian spaghetti and meatball sauce or anything of the sort. Authentic Italian food is centered around simplicity. You don't need to have an excessive ingredient list when the ingredients you do have are fresh and of the highest quality. Fresh pasta and some specialty extra virgin olive oil helped make this simple pasta dish amazing. I recommend usin olive oil with a heavier taste.

 
 
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Garlic Olive Oil Linguine
Serves 6
Fresh linguine (recipe follows)
½ cup high quality extra virgin olive oil
3 small cloves garlic, minced
Parsley, to serve
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add in the garlic and cook until golden, about 5-7 minutes. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the pasta for 3-4 minutes. Taste a piece to make sure it is cooked al dente before draining the pasta. Toss the pasta with the olive oil and garlic sauce. Serve topped with fresh parsley. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Like the pasta, the chicken dish has only a few ingredients. You have to try the cooked sage. It is amazing, and does not taste anything like raw sage. Harper was hesitant to try it at first, but she ended up loving it.


Lemon Sage Chicken
Serves 4
4 skin on chicken breast with the ribs
½ cup chicken broth
Juice of one lemon
1 large clove of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
25 fresh sage leaves
Salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil in a large pan with a lid over medium heat. Add in the garlic and half of the sage. Cook for 1 minute. Add in the chicken skin side down. Allow the chicken to brown for about 5 minutes. Flip the chicken over, add the remaining ingredients to the pan, and cover. Reduce the heat to a simmer on low. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the chicken registers to 165 degrees. Season to taste.

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I made these artichokes just as something my dad could eat if he didn't like any of the other dishes. Everyone ended up loving them. He horded them away even though he enjoyed the rest of the food too. My only mistake was to not make more.



Sautéed Artichokes
1-9oz package of frozen artichokes, thawed
1 tbsp olive oil
Dash of salt
Dash of ground pepper

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the artichokes. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes until the artichokes are golden, stirring occasionally. Serve warm.


We all loved Italian night. You would be surprised to see how many authentic Italian recipes you can find without cheese or tomato sauce. The bread turned out beautiful after I let it rise longer than usual, and I got high praises for the sautéed artichokes. My dad liked the pasta and even had an extra serving. I would have never expected a man who hates garlic to like "Garlic Olive Oil Linguine".