Saturday, January 31, 2015

All Mashed Up

I have never been much of a fan of potatoes in general, but something about mashed potatoes especially turned me off. I always wanted to like them. They were a common addition to our dinner table, and the rest of my family adores a big, creamy bowl. I could just never choke them down. I finally came up with the perfect solution! I boiled down some parsnips and cauliflower, blended them together, added some cheese, and had the perfect side dish to any steak or baked chicken dinner. Since parsnips and cauliflower are white, they are easily disguised as a potato. Parsnips even have the starchy texture found in potatoes. I added chevre and some herbs to bring this bowl of yummy up to a bowl of sophisticated deliciousness. I will never be jealous of potato lovers again. I have found something even better!


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Creamy Chevre Mashed Cauliflower and Parsnips
12 ounces cauliflower florets
12 ounces parsnips, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
½ cup milk
4 ounces chevre cheese
2 tsp herbs de Provence

Cover the cauliflower and parsnips with water and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes and then drain. In a heat resistant blender, puree the vegetables with the remaining ingredients.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Another Take on a Delicious Meal

I know this is an awful picture, but I was not planning on sharing this recipe and just snapped a photo before running out the door to work. I was so dazzled by my Thai chicken curry that I just had to make it again. This time I was not worried about sticking to the traditional ingredients and method, so I was more liberal with my add-ins. I finished off my bottle of red curry paste that I bought when I cooked Cambodia. (At the time I was worried I'd never finish the stuff off. Now I'm planning to buy more.) The veggies brought this flavor-packed curry to a whole new level. So pull out your fish sauce and dice up some chicken because this dinner is calling your name!

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Thai Chicken and Spinach Red Curry
1 pound boneless and skinless chicken thighs, cubed
1- 14 ounce can of coconut milk
1 tbsp oil
3 tbsp red curry paste
1- 10 ounce package frozen spinach, thawed
1 large onion, chopped
2 tsp fish sauce
Heat the oil over medium heat and add the onions. Sauté for 5 minutes until tender and then mix in the curry paste. Cook, stirring constantly for a minute before pouring in the coconut milk. Bring it to a simmer, add the chicken and spinach, and cook for about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Lastly, stir in the fish sauce serve.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Chowing Down the Chamorro Way

Guam is an unincorporated territory of the US like American Samoa which I cooked last week. Guam has a long history of colonization and inhabitation. Over 4,000 years ago the Chamorro people first came to the island. Ferdinand Magellan, the famous Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain whose crew was the first to sail all around the world (He actually died, so did not complete the mission.), discovered Guam in 1521. The island was officially claimed for Spain in 1565. After the Spanish- American War, the US took over Guam. It was used as a military station for troops traveling to the Philippines. Japan had claim to Guam for less than 3 years during WW2, and almost a tenth of the Chamorro people were killed as a result of the Japanese's harsh treatment. The Battle of Guam in 1944 returned it to American control. Today Guam is still a territory of the US. Today the Guamanians speak English an Chamorro, the native language with many Filipino and Spanish influences. A lot of them also have Spanish last names.

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The cuisine of Guam also has a lot of Spanish, Filipino, and American influence, as you can imagine. I could have made the Filipino pancit (rice noodles with meat) or lumpia (egg rolls), but I chose to go a more traditional Chamorro route, allowing some Spanish influence without letting it overpower my meal. I wasn't quite brave enough to try a fruit bat soup, but I did want to try some specialties such as Bistek Chamorro, red rice, and fina'denne. I rounded everything out with two veggie sides to make my complete Guamanian meal.


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Fina’ denne is an essential Chamorro dipping sauce that is served alongside meat. A dark soy sauce version is made for beef, and a light lemon juice based version is traditional for fish. I went the soy sauce version to go with my Chamorro bistek.

Fina’denne
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
1 shopped shallot
¼ cup chopped chile pepper

Mix all the ingredients together and refrigerate for at least an hour to allow the flavors to meld. Serve as a dipping sauce with meat. (I think it would also be great with sushi!)

 

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The difference between this creamy coconut spinach dish and all the others I have made along my Meals Around the World journey is the addition of turmeric. This common spice adds a yellow color to the spinach in the thick milk sauce. I think it would have been really good with a little less turmeric. If I were you, I’d use a bit less. Traditionally the dish is made with taro leaves that are all hacked up and then boiled, but spinach is an adequate substitute.

 

Gollai Hågun Suni
1-12 ounce bag frozen spinach, thawed (traditionally it’s made with taro leaves)
¾ cup coconut milk
¼ cup chopped onion
2 tsp oil
1 tbsp chopped chili pepper
½ tbsp. turmeric
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a pan. Cook the onion for about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add all the remaining ingredients and barely bring to a simmer. Remove from the heat and serve.

 

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I couldn’t really figure out the exact name of this dish. Multiple cites either called it padu’ lalu’ or tininun biringenas, but they all had the same idea. The recipe is for a creamy coconut sauce that is poured over grilled eggplants and then left to marinate until all the flavors have soaked it. I really liked it although I had to make a minor substitution. Skinny Asian eggplants are the ones of choice in Guam, but here in Tennessee, all I could find were the large European ones. Oh well, I am sure the taste was pretty similar. (And quite delicious!)

Padu’ Lalu’/ Tininun Biringenas
1 pound Japanese/ Chinese skinny eggplants (I had to substitute a normal European eggplant.)
2/3 cup coconut milk
1 green onion, sliced
½ to 1 tbsp lime juice
¼ cup chopped onion
2 tbsp chopped chili pepper
1 tsp soy sauce
salt and pepper, to taste

Prick the eggplants with a fork and grill or broil until tender. Allow them to cool before peeling. Cut the eggplants in half (or cut a large eggplant into sixths or eighths) and arrange them side by side in a platter. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients. Pour them over the eggplant, making sure to spread it out evenly. Refrigerate for 2 hours to allow the flavors to meld and the eggplant to cool.

 

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Red rice is a traditional staple on any table in Guam. The red annatto seed gives it a beautiful color that just looks festive. The Spaniards brought this spice to Guam via Mexico. I think that the sharing of spices and cuisines may be the only beneficial result to colonization. What would my Guamanian meal have been like without it?

Red Rice
1 cup rice
2 tbsp red recado paste (annatto/ achiote)
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp. oil
2 cups water

Heat the oil and onion in a small pot over medium heat. Cook the onion for about 6 minutes until tender. Break up the recado paste and mix it into the onion, making sure there are no clumps. Add the rice and cook for another minute. Finally, pour in the water and bring it to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Keep the lid on the pot for 10 minutes before serving.




 
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My only issue with this dish was that I was cheap and bought a not-so-great cut of meat. It was super tough, but the flavor was still good, and I enjoyed it. I advise that you go with a sirloin. It will be less chewy, and still packed with spice. This is a common dinner dish in Guam, and has many different variations. I saw some without the annatto, others without the onion, and some that used different veggies. I stuck with this version because I had the annatto on hand and wanted to try it out.

 
 
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Chamorro Bistek
1 pound steak. sliced into strips
¼ cup vinegar
¼ cup soy sauce
½ cup water
2 tbsp red recado paste (annatto/ achiote)
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tbsp oil
½ cup snap peas or green beans

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook for 6 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the meat and brown it on all sides. Meanwhile, whisk together the water, vinegar, soy sauce, and recado paste until there are no lumps. Mix this into the meat and bring to a low simmer. Cook for about 8-10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened. Add the peas and cook for another 5 minutes before serving.




 
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My Chamorro meal reminded me a lot of Belizean cuisine. I guess it was the use of annatto and coconut milk. Like the rest of the world, Guam likes its coconut milk along with leafy greens and eggplants. Is the United States the only place in the world that does not rely on these three common ingredients? I guess Europeans don’t really either, and we get a lot of our culinary heritage from them. We’re just missing out because the rest of the world is in on the creamy coconut sauce covered veggie bandwagon. I’m still not that big of a fan of annatto/ achiote/ red recado/ whatever you want to call it. There is just a little something off with the flavor to me. It’s not awful, though. The steak was really good dipped in the fina’denne sauce. I LOVED the eggplant dish in all its creamy goodness. I would scale back on the amount of turmeric I put into my spinach next time. It was a little too much. (Almost chalky.) I wasn’t a fan at all, but I think it had potential. Maybe ½ a teaspoon of turmeric would do the trick. It may just be that I am still traumatized by turmeric after the turmeric and chicken gizzard sauce from Burundi.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

A Congratulations Card

I made this card using my new stamp and punch set that I got for Christmas. (Thanks mom!) It's simple and yet elegant with the rounded edges. The cool set from EK Success Brands comes with sentiment and background stamps along with a large flower punch that lines up with the stamps. It's really good for creating layered effects.


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Stay tuned for more ideas using my new sets from EK! I think they are so cool. Here's a link to their cite if you are interested in getting your own: http://www.eksuccessbrands.com/
 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Beet Hummus

I was recently informed that the Super Bowl is coming up this Sunday. I don't keep up with football, nor does it interest me at all. (I actually thought the Super Bowl took place in November. Whoops...) I do love a good party, though, and a good party cannot happen without some good food. Why not bring a healthy and colorful dip to your Super Bowl party wherever you may be celebrating it. Your friends will definitely thank you, and it will make a good change to all the Chex mix, cookies, and  wings. 


beet hummus (1)

Beet Hummus
makes 2 cups
1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
1 ½ cups sliced beets, cooked
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp garlic powder
¼ tsp cayenne pepper powder
2 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp lemon juice

Combine all the ingredients into a high speed blender. Blend until completely creamy. Cover and store in the refrigerator for at least one hour. Enjoy with crackers, carrot sticks, celery, or pita chips.

Monday, January 26, 2015

My Thai Table

I consider myself an experienced chef of the Southeastern Asian cuisine now that I have completed Thailand, my fifth country from this region. Thailand is the only nation in Southeast Asia to have not been colonized, and their current monarch is the longest reigning surviving monarch in the world. Bhumibol Adulyadej became king in 1946, and at 87 years old, he is still in power. The Thai people love their king, or at least they say they do. Criticizing the king results in incarceration. I guess freedom of speech is not widely practiced in the "land of freedom". This Thursday a group from my church will be traveling to Thailand to spread the love of Jesus to a country that is so very lost. Almost 95% of the people are Buddhist and practically all of the remaining 5% are Muslim. Thailand could definitely use your prayers. I pray that the truth of Jesus could take hold of these beautiful people and that they may grow to know and love Him.

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Recently, Thai food has gained a lot of popularity here in the United States. Thai restaurants are popping up as fast as Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Italian, Indian, and Mexican it seems like. (The US has yet to discover that there are hundreds of more cuisines out there to uncover.) The cuisine of Thailand is a mixture of five tastes: spicy, sweet, sour, bitter, and salty. Every meal is a balance of all five. Most meals include a soup, salad, curry, sauce, and fried dish with no tastes repeated. I tried to recreate this for my Thai table, and I think I did the best I could. Everything is rounded out with a nice healthy serving of Jasmine rice. It helps to cleanse the pallet and cut the heat. Thai food is complex and beautiful.

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My first dish is a light bamboo salad from the Northeast. Unlike in the West, there is no soup and salad course in Thailand. All the food is served at once with rice being the center. I found this salad to go well with the rest of the meal. It was slightly salty and a little sour from the canned bamboo, a perfect balance to my spicy nam prik and creamy soup.

Sup No Mai
1 cup thinly sliced bamboo shoots (from a can)
2 green onions, sliced
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp toasted rice
½ tsp ground chili pepper powder

Bring a small pot of water to a boil and cook the bamboo for a couple of minutes. Drain and allow the bamboo to cool. Toss all the ingredients together to serve.

 
 
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Tom kha gai is the quintessential Thai soup. If you know anything about Thai food, you know this coconut soup and pad thai (which turns out to be a street food, not something found on the table at your average Thai home). Chicken is the traditional filler, but it can also be supplemented or replaced with mushrooms. The name would change if the chicken is taken out, though, as 'gai' is the Thai word for chicken. This soup is both spicy and sour. I loved the creamy texture and the delicious and complex taste.
 
 
 
 
 
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Tom Kha Gai
1 cup coconut milk
1 cup chicken broth
2 kaffir lime leaves, shredded or 1 tbsp lime zest
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 2” pieces
1/2 cup cubed chicken thighs or breast
1- 2” piece galangal, cut into rings
2 shallots, chopped
½ -1 tbsp fish sauce
juice of one lime
red chili powder, to taste
1 hot chili pepper, seeded and sliced
cilantro leaves

Bring chicken broth, coconut milk, galangal, and kaffir lime leaves to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and add the chicken and onions. Cook covered for about 20 minutes. Serve topped with sliced chilies, chili powder, lime juice, and cilantro.

 

 
Literally "everything mixed together", pad phak ruam mitr is a vegetable stir fry that incorporates a ton of fresh produce. You will feel super healthy eating this along with a side of Jasmine rice. The chili gives it just the right flavor but does not overpower the crispy and fresh taste of the veggies. Simple and delicious!
 
Pad Phak Ruam Mitr
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup cauliflower florets
½ cup snow peas
½ cup sliced bell pepper
1 large shallot, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into rounds
½ cup sliced mushrooms
1 bunch spinach
1 red hot chili pepper, julienned with seeds removed
1 green hot chili pepper, julienned with seeds removed
1 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp lime juice
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1 tbsp chili oil
4 tbsp water

Heat a wok over medium high heat with the oil. Add the shallot and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the water and remaining vegetables except for the mung bean sprouts and cook until crisp- tender, about 5-6 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, lime juice, and bean sprouts. Remove from the heat and serve.




 
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Wow this sauce put my mouth on fire! I love spicy food, and this was right up my alley. I caution you to wear gloves when working with the chilies. I didn't, and my poor hands faced the consequence. And whatever you do, do not touch your face! Not even 3 hours later. It burns! Traditionally you would pound this out with a mortar and pestle, but I found a food processor to be a quicker and still efficient substitute. Some version of a nam prik is always served with a Thai meal to flavor things up a bit. (If you can taste anything once your tongue is burned off.) Proceed with caution.
 
Nam Prik Kiga
½ cup chopped red chili peppers
½ cup chopped green chili peppers
¼ cup chopped shallot
2 tbsp minced garlic
5-6 sprigs of cilantro, leaves and stem
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp fish sauce
½ tbsp oil

Heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the chili peppers, garlic, and shallot. Cook for about 8 minutes, until the shallot is tender. Allow the pepper to cool. In a food processor, process all the ingredients together until finely chopped. Serve with meats, rice, seafood, and lots of milk to cut back the heat!




 
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This curry is the bomb! The short ingredient list does nothing to demonstrate the complexity of the flavors found in this easily put together curry. I guess I can attribute it to the curry paste, but I have never tasted anything quite like it. I'm already planning on making it again sometime this week. It was that good. The Thai have these awesome little eggplants that they use along with chicken to ad sustenance to the sauce. They look like little peas and are impossible to find in the middle of Tennessee. I read that peas were a good substitute, so I had to use them. Another version uses bamboo shoots, so if you have any leftover from the salad, feel free to throw them in! I chose to do a red curry, but the number of different curries found in Thailand is too long to list. I'd like to eventually explore some more of them after having such success with this one.

Gaeng Phed Gai
2 large chicken thighs, cubed
1 cup coconut milk
1 tbsp oil
2 tbsp red curry paste
1/3 cup Thai eggplants or green peas
5 kaffir lime leaves, shredded or 1 tbsp lime zest
6 basil leaves
1 tbsp fish sauce
cooked jasmine rice, to serve

Heat the oil over medium heat and add the curry paste. Cook, stirring constantly for a minute before pouring in the coconut milk. Bring it to a simmer, add the chicken and lime leaves, and cook for about 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Add the eggplants and cook for another 5 minutes. Lastly, stir in the fish sauce and basil and serve with rice.


I have hit the Southeastern Asian countries fast and hard. First I cooked Laos, then Vietnam, followed by Myanmar, Cambodia, and now Thailand. I have not been a fan of some of the exotic flavorings nor the excessive use of fish sauce. For this reason and the fact that Thai food seemed quite daunting, I was pretty stressed out about this meal. I would have to say that I definitely spent the longest time researching Thailand. I was excited to do it because it was so complex and new, but at the same time I was really intimidated. My meal had to be perfect. I had to find the correct dishes that correlated with one another to mesh together my Thai table. Nothing could go wrong. This was a very unrealistic expectation, especially considering my lack of experience with Thai cuisine, and the lack of many authentic Thai ingredients at the grocery store. In the end, I had to make a few substitutions, my meal was not perfect by far, and I spent a little too much time researching, but I was quite pleased with the results. Either I am growing to like fish sauce or I am learning how to better blend the flavors of Southeastern Asia together, but I liked (if not loved) all of the dishes I made for Thailand. It was a rough journey, but my trip to the country of enchanting temples and beautiful orchids.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

A Celebration Card

I have gotten quite a bit of interest in my new card making business, and I think this is cause to celebrate! What better way to celebrate than by making some new cards?

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It looks like I will be making a lot of cards in the near future. If the orders keep coming in, I will need to keep up. Bring them on because I'm ready to get crafting! 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Chopping it up island style!

American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States situated in the Pacific Ocean. It's a little bigger than Washington DC with almost 78 square miles spread out over 5 islands and 2 atolls. Most of the people live on the largest island of Tutuila. One of the atolls is actually an uninhabited wildlife sanctuary. The other atoll has a whopping population of 17 people who apparently live on it to harvest coconuts. (?) Just about all of the 55,500 inhabitants are fluent in English and Gagana Fa'asāmoa (Samoan). One quick historical fact about American Samoa is that it avoided getting the Spanish flue epidemic in the early 1900s. A good decision from the governor of the time (John Martin Poyer) to quarantine any incoming ships from America saved the people from the pandemic disease. Neighboring Samoa lost 62% of their population while there was not one death in American Samoa.

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The food scene in American Samoa is not very well advertised here in the states. There are only a couple of Samoan cooking sites online, and I had to be careful to save enough recipes to cook for the neighboring independent country of Samoa. (They have very similar traditions, cuisines, and backgrounds.) Taro, rice, coconut, breadfruit, and fish are staples from the islands. There is not all that much variety in fresh fruits and vegetables or other products, so canned goods are frequently used. It is not uncommon to find dishes of corned beef, canned vegetables, or other processed items.

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For my main, I decided to make the Samoan version of chop suey. Often made from canned veggies, this stir fried noodle dish is super simple and economic to make. Chicken and corned beef are the two most common protein additions. I went with chicken because I had some on hand, but you can totally swap it out with corned beef if you are feeling more adventurous. Also, feel free to mix up the veggies you use in it. You can go totally canned for a more "authentic" feel, or use up the rest of those vegetables sitting in the back of your fridge. It's all up to you.

Sapasui
2 large chicken breasts, cut into ½” cubes
8 oz clear cellophane/ mung bean noodles
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp grated ginger
1 tbsp oil
½ cup soy sauce
1 ½ cups chicken broth or water
½ cup each chopped red bell pepper, broccoli florets, cauliflower florets, chopped carrot, snow peas, and corn (fresh, frozen, or canned)
sliced green onions, to serve

Soak the noodles in water for 10 to 15 minutes to loosen them up. Meanwhile, heat the oil over medium heat in a wok or large skillet with a lid. Add the ginger, onion, and garlic. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes until the onion is tender. Add in the chicken and brown on all sides for about 5 minutes, making sure not to cook it all the way through. Pour in the broth and soy sauce. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Add in the veggies and noodles. Mix well, bring back to a simmer, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 5 minutes. Serve topped with sliced green onions.

 



 
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I read that a common sides to the sapasui were taro with coconut sauce or coconut rice. I went with the latter option because, sadly, I have never came across taro at my local Kroger. Coconuts are very important in American Samoa and used often like in many island nations.


Alaisa Fa’apopo
1 ½ cups rice
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup coconut milk
salt, to taste

Place the water and rice in a small pot with a lid and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook covered for 18 minutes. Stir in the coconut milk and remove the pot from the heat. Let the pot sit for 10 minutes with the lid still on it before fluffing with a fork, seasoning to taste, and serving.

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My Samoan meal was perfect for a weeknight. Besides chopping up all the vegetables, it was quick and simple to put together. The coconut milk gave the rice a light island feel without overpowering it, and the sapasui was healthy and delicious. I learned a thing or two about mung bean/ cellophane noodles too. I had to order them off of Amazon because Kroger failed me yet again. I planned on using them two separate times, so I tried to break the bundle of noodles in half. My hands now hold the battle scars. Mung bean noodles are not forgiving. Before you soak them, they are strong little buggers! Anyway, I hope you enjoyed your brief visit to the island of Samoa this January. Just think, it's summer for them right now.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

What is better than a recipe for chocolate zucchini bread? A customizable recipe for chocolate zucchini bread!

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Customizable? What does that mean? Well, I am so very glad you asked. This zucchini bread can be adapted to serve any tastes or occasions. You can go the decadent route by using oil and chocolate chips, add in an extra serving of fruit with some applesauce, make it gluten free, boost your calcium and probiotics with yogurt, or bring down the caffeine level with carob powder. The options are for you to decide based off of your own needs and wants. The result? A yummy quick bread that is sure to satisfy.

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Customizable Chocolate Zucchini Bread
2 cups rolled oats, blended into a flour
½ cup whole wheat, all purpose, or gluten free flour
¼ cup coconut flour
1 cup cocoa powder or carob powder
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 cups sugar
½ cup oil, applesauce, or yogurt
2 ½ cups buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½ cups shredded zucchini
¾ cup milk chocolate, dark chocolate, or carob chips (optional)
 
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and grease a large loaf pan. Mix together the first 7 ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the remaining ingredients except for the chocolate chips. Combine the wet and dry ingredients together, folding in the chocolate chips (if using). Bake for 60-70 minutes, or until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean. Allow the bread to sit in the pan for 10 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Infinity Scarf #2

Here is another infinity scarf that I knitted modeled by none the less than beautiful Miss Harper. I like this one better than my last one. I made it a little thicker and longer to make a more cozy scarf for a friend.


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I am just so thankful to have my little model. I cannot wait to see her again over spring break. I miss you Harper!
 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Beans in Burundi

Burundi is a landlocked country in Southeastern Africa. A civil war, AIDS, and famine have stricken the country in the recent past, and they are slowly recovering. A former colony of Belgium, the official language of Burundi is French along with Kirundi. Swahili is also commonly spoken amongst the 10.3 million Hutus, Tutsis, Twas, and other minorities who call Burundi their home.


Beans, beans, and more beans. That's what defines the diet of your average Burundian. Meat is a rare treat, especially red meat. Other than their practically daily staple of beans, Burundians eat a lot of porridge, plantains, peas, sweet potatoes, cassava, and corn. Over 80% of the land is devoted to agriculture, and a lot of people also own livestock. The occasional red meat dish is served, but this is mainly from lamb or goat meat. Cattle are almost sacred and more of a status symbol than a source of food. I chose two bean dishes and an Arabic inspired Swahili dish using chicken and bulgur. I couldn't have made a Burundian meal without any beans!


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Ibiharage is a dish of fried white beans. It is given a bit of a kick with chili pepper and dressed up with some fried onions. What’s not to like?
 
Ibiharage
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbsp oil
2 cups cooked white beans
¾ tsp chili pepper
1 clove garlic, minced
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Stir in the chili pepper to completely incorporate it. Add the beans and continue to cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot. Season to taste.

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The favorite beans of Burundi are red kidney beans, so I had to include these in one of my recipes. I’m not really sure what the name of this dish is, but it combines the two popular Burundian items of plantains and red kidney beans, so I decided to go with it. This was my least favorite dish of the three, but it was not horrible. Plantains are strange fruits. If you have never had one, they look like bananas but taste like potatoes. I discovered doing my breakfasts around the world that they are served fried, baked, mashed, and in porridges all over the world. I am still not a fan after quite a few experiences, so I don’t think they are growing on me. Don’t take my word for it though. Probably billions (or at least millions) of people eat them regularly, so they can’t be too horrid. The dish was similar to the ibiharage, but boils the beans and plantains instead of cooking them.

 

Beans and Plantains
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp oil
2 cups cooked red kidney beans
1 plantain, sliced into ¼” slices
¾ tsp chili pepper
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, or until translucent. Stir in the chili pepper and plantains. Cook for another 5 minutes and then cover with water. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 20 minutes. Add the beans and continue to cook uncovered for 10 minute until most of the water evaporates. Serve hot.



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Boko boko is a dish similar to the Arabic harees. It is common amongst the Swahili peoples who adapted it from Arabic settlers hundreds of years ago. The African version of the dish is slightly sweetened and adds in chicken gizzards to give it an extra oomph. The bulgur is boiled down until it forms a kind of thick paste. It was a little bland, but adding a bit of seasoning did the trick. I was a little freaked out about the chicken gizzards, but thankfully they were only used in the sauce. I tried a bit with the bulgur and then pushed the rest to the side of my plate. Chicken tummies are not for me. Who knows what that chicken had been eating?

 
Boko Boko
¾ cup bulgur
1 large chicken breast
½ an onion, grated
salt and pepper, to taste

For the turmeric sauce:
2 chicken gizzards, chopped
1 tbsp turmeric
½ cup water, plus more as needed
1 tbsp sugar

To top:
1 tbsp oil
½ a cup onion, sliced
ghee, to taste

To make the turmeric sauce, whisk the water, sugar, and turmeric together and bring it to a boil in a small pot. Add the gizzards, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook for 10-15 minutes, adding water as needed to form a thick paste-like sauce. Set aside.

To make the topping, heat the oil over medium heat in a skillet. Add the onion and fry for 6-8 minutes until golden brown.

Cover the bulgur, chicken, and grated onion with water in a pot. Bring it to a boil, cover, and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for about an hour, or until all the water has been absorbed. Remove the chicken breast and shred it up. Add the chicken back to the bulgur and mash everything together. Top with ghee and the fried onions, and serve alongside the turmeric sauce.

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I was kind of dreading/ looking forward to cooking Burundi. On one hand, I wanted to try the gizzards, and on the other hand, they really freaked me out. My roommates added to my discomfort by telling me exactly how nasty eating a chicken gizzard was. (The funny thing is, none of them knew what part of the body the gizzard came from. I guess gizzard is just a gross sounding name that fits the stomach well.) Also, I'm not really a bean or plantain person. I know, I know. I'm little Miss Picky, but I can't help it. In the end, I really liked the ibiharage. The boko boko was good too (without the sauce). It kind of reminded me of oatmeal which I adore. Overall, Burundi was not horrible, but I have definitely enjoyed the other African nations a little more. I guess my expectations were a little too high. I should have just told myself it was part of Southeast Asia, and I would have loved it.