Friday, February 27, 2015

Sailor Boy Card


Isn't this just the cutest card ever? I love the little sailor boy look. The card opens upwards to allow you to write a caring message to the expectant parents, birthday boy, or whoever else you want to send this adorable card to. I think I am going to try to use the layout to create a baby girl card. Maybe with a little tutu?

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Good luck crafting!
 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Munching on Machboos

Bahrain is a Middle Eastern island nation near Saudi Arabia and Qatar. It's actually joined to Saudi Arabia by a 16 mile long bridge called the King Fahd Causeway. It was one of the first areas to convert to Islam way back in 682. Over 70% of the population is Muslim. You would expect it to be higher, but since more than half of the people living in Bahrain are immigrants, many other religions have been brought to the island. Hinduism followed closely by Catholicism are the next two most prevalent religions.

As the first post-oil economy in the Persian Gulf, Bahrain has set up the freest economy in the Middle East and was the fastest growing one back in 2006. Due to the limit of their oil and water resources, Bahrain has a lot of long term instability. Unemployment is on the rise, causing the country to also be the fist Arab country to implement unemployment. Hopefully a fast growing tourist industry will help to curve this and make the Bahraini's future a little more hopeful.

The culinary scene is Bahrain is similar to other Persian Gulf cuisines. Since it's an island with not too many resources, Bahrain imports most of its food. Like most islands, fish plays a big role in the local diet. Either fish or chicken are the traditional meats cooked in the national dish called machboos.
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Can I interest you in any machboos? Match who? No machboos, the DELICIOUS Bahraini dish. It's made using a combination of a ton of different spices that make up the blend called baharat. These are added to a pot of sautéed onions, tomatoes, and chicken that is boiled down. The chicken is then broiled or grilled to a golden crisp and rice is cooked in the remaining broth. You can find machboos' counterpart in Saudi Arabia and Jordan where it is called kabsa. Machboos ala dajaj literally means 'spiced chicken and rice' which is what it is. Loomi, or dried limes, are often added along with rose water to make the meal even more flavorful. I had to sub the loomi with lime zest and leave the rose water out, but my machboos was far from lacking in flavor.

Machboos ala Dajaj
1 ½ onions, chopped
2 tbsp ghee or oil
1 green chili, seeded and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp turmeric
¼ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp pepper
¼ tsp cardamom
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp cloves
¼ tsp coriander
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tbsp lime zest (or 2 dried limes, loomi)
1 cup chopped tomatoes
2 cups water
3 chicken leg quarters
2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp rose water (optional)
1 cup basmati rice

Heat the ghee over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onions and sauté until golden, about 8 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chili, and spices. Cook for about 2 minutes until the spices are aromatic. Add the tomatoes, lime zest, water, and chicken. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook covered for an hour, or until the chicken is done. Meanwhile, soak your rice in water for 15 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot, and stir in the rice, rose water, and cilantro. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes, adding a little extra water if needed. Remove the pot from the heat and leave covered for 10 minutes. Preheat your broiler over high and arrange the chicken skin-side-up on a pan. Broil for a minute or two until the skin is golden. Serve the chicken over the rice.
 
 
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Khubz is the staple bread of the Middle East. It means 'bread' in Arabic, and can be found from the Arabian Peninsula to Morocco and then up to Israel. I made it for my Jordanian breakfast and decided to revisit it to go along with my machboos.
 
 
Khubz
makes 4
1 ½ cups flour
¾ tsp active dry yeast
½ cup warm water (110 degrees)
½ tsp salt
1 tsp olive oil

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let it sit for 10 minutes. Stir in the flour, salt, and oil until a soft dough forms. Knead for 10 minutes, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in a warm place for 90 minutes. Once the dough has doubled, divide it into 4 balls and roll them out into ¼” thick spheres. Let them sit for 15 minutes. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Cook the khubz for 10 minutes. Increase the oven’s heat to 500 and cook for another minute or two until golden.

 

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I was looking forward to trying Bahrain's food. Middle Eastern food is my cup of tea, and the pictures online of machboos looked delicious. I was not disappointed. The long spice list may seem a little intimidating, but trust me, it all melds together to make a deliciously flavored dish. I was surprised that the chicken actually wasn't a little more flavorful.
 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Waffle Dreams

It has been a while since I posted a super yummy Belgian waffle recipe. It has been even longer since I was able to enjoy one. I can't wait to get home over spring break to see my family and use my mom's waffle maker. They think I'm coming home for them, but I have ulterior motives. Ulterior motives that have everything to do with creamy, peanut buttery syrup topped waffles like these. If you are lucky enough to have your own waffle iron, I suggest this to be your midnight snack. :)

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Peanut Butter Belgian Waffles
makes 5 waffles (20 triangles)
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup PB2 or PB fit
2 ounces roasted peanuts
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
¼ cup brown sugar
1 cup buttermilk
3 bananas
2 eggs, lightly beaten
 
Blend the oats and peanuts together until they form a course four. In a large mixing bowl, mix all the dry ingredients together. Put the buttermilk, bananas, and eggs into the blender. Blend until smooth. Combing the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until fully incorporated. Preheat your waffle iron to your desired temperature and setting. Pour in the batter, spread out, and cook.

Monday, February 23, 2015

My Brilliant Sisters

I made these foam letter tiles that spell out Carson's name as a Christmas gift for her this year. She is only 2 years old (not even 2.5), and she can spell both her first and last name, count to 30 (I think), recognize most letters and numbers, say multiple Bible verses complete with their references, and sing her ABCs. That's just to name a few. This child is brilliant, and my mom doesn't know what to do with her. The other day she asked for 5 grapes. My mom gave her 3, and Carson told her that she needed 2 more. I know 7 year olds who can't subtract. This kid is 2. (And just to clarify things, Harper is not the 7 year old I am referring to. That child is amazing as well. She can do math like no one's business and reads on a 5th grade level.)

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My mom throws these tiles up in the air to scatter them, and Carson collects them and puts them in order. What a great game for any preschooler!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Lunch on the go!

I don't generally post recipes that are this simple or quick to make, but every once in a while you just need something fast. This chicken wrap with a Middle Eastern/ Mediterranean flare is just the perfect pick-me-up during a long day at work or after a morning full of stressful classes. (Trust me, I've experienced both quite frequently lately and having something to eat that you can just throw together when you get home is very nice.) Of course, you could make your own wrap, whip up homemade hummus and baba ghanoush, or cook chicken from scratch, but the novelty of this meal is that it's just as good if you make it on the spot.

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Mediterranean Chicken Wrap
serves 1
1 wrap
3 ounces deli meat chicken (I used Boar’s Head Reduced Sodium)
1 ounce feta cheese
2 tbsp baba ghanoush
2 tbsp roasted red pepper hummus
¼ cup shredded carrot
1 ounce chopped roasted red peppers
shredded lettuce

Spread the baba ghanoush and hummus on the tortilla/ wrap. Sprinkle the feta over top along with the carrots. Layer on the chicken, roasted peppers, and lettuce. Roll up and enjoy!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Snow/ Ice Days!

It has been a snowy/ icy world outside for the past few days. We had three days off of school earlier this week, and should have probably had today off too. I'm so sick of the ice and just want a heat wave! I never thought that I should have brought ice skates to school, but they would be a lot better at getting me to class than my slippery tennis shoes. I know all over the eastern US schools are being cancelled for snow days. Here's a cool snowman to celebrate the extra free time! Too bad that our snow is actually ice. Icemen are not as easy to build. :)

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Street Hawker Delight

Can you believe it? I have managed to crank out two countries in a row! I am on a role. We have had three snow days this week, and I have had a little extra free time on my hands. I still worked every day (because the cafeteria and tutoring have to go on even when all else stops) and did about 9 hours of homework yesterday alone, but I was able to cram in Singapore and El Salvador during my much needed break. Almost a fourth of the Singaporeans are foreign born. They are attracted to the small city-state island nation of Singapore with its booming economy, great schools, and top notch healthcare. It's the third most densely populated nation in the world with 19,725 people per square mile. The 5.5 million inhabitants all live in one city. I can't even imagine that. Before Singapore gained independence from Great Britain in 1965, it was a major naval base. This brought a lot of commerce and trade to the colony resulting in the wealth the Singapore has today. One out of every six Singaporeans is a millionaire, and this statistic does not even take into account property values. (Housing in such a dense city/ nation isn't cheap.) There is no minimum wage to increase competition. All of this economic wealth has lead to a super high inequality rate between the rich and poor. There is no welfare system, but no one goes hungry without ample sources of aid and assistance. The culture encourages a good work ethic, so everyone is motivated to seek employment and make their own wealth. Don't break any rules while in Singapore. They are very strict, and corporal punishment is allowed. I also heard that they charge heft fines for things like spitting gum on the street and forgetting to flush the toilet. (I think my university should start charging for these things too. :) )
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The cuisine of Singapore has been passed down and adapted by the many ethnic groups that have immigrated to the island, the largest being the Chinese, Malay, and Indian. Street hawker cuisine is a popular way to get an inexpensive bite to eat between bus or train stops or on your walk to work. These hawker centers have a diverse range of stands offering culinary treats from all over Asia and beyond. Like my meal from tonight, the Singaporeans always put their own twist to the adapted dishes. The cuisine of Singapore cannot be called a copycat cuisine in any way. Take the Hainanese chicken rice that I made for instance. It was adopted from Chinese immigrants long ago who prepared a basic poached chicken dish with ginger. That simple dish evolved into the street hawker cuisine of today that includes accompanying chili sauce, rice, broth, and many other toppings. You can get as intricate as you want with all the various toppings, but I just stuck with green onions. Cilantro is expensive, I'm highly allergic to tomatoes and do not want them touching my food, and I refuse to pay for a cucumber that I am not going to eat. I thought the chili and the broth were enough accompaniments for me, and I absolutely loved this dish.

Hainanese Chicken Rice
serves 2

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To make the chicken:
2 chicken thigh and leg quarters
1” ginger, sliced into 1/8” thick rounds
2 cloves garlic, halved
4 green onions, halved

Add everything to a large pot and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook with the lid on for 30 minutes. Once the chicken registers to be 165 degrees, immediately place it in a bowl of ice water to cool. Discard the garlic, ginger, and green onions. Skim the fat off the top of the broth and set it aside to use later.


To make the rice:
2 cups reserved chicken broth
1 tsp grated ginger
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tbsp. oil
1 cup rice
salt, to taste

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the onion. Cook for about 5 minutes until tender. Toss in the ginger and garlic. Cook for a minute or two until the spices are aromatic but not burnt. Add the rice and broth to the pot. Cover, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes until all the broth has been absorbed. Allow the rice to sit for 10 minutes with the lid on it before fluffing with a fork and seasoning to taste.

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To make the chili sauce:
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp reserved chicken broth
6 tbsp siracha
1 clove garlic, minced

Mix all the ingredients together.

To make the soup:
remaining chicken broth
2 sliced green onions

Ladle the remaining broth into two individual bowls and top with the green onions.

To serve:
sliced green onions
cilantro
cucumber slices
tomato slices

Cut the meat with a cleaver into slices and arrange it onto two plates. Give each plate a serving of rice and chili sauce. Garnish with green onions, cilantro, and cucumber slices as desired and serve with the soup.

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Oddly enough, my favorite part of the meal was the delicious rice. The heavenly homemade chicken broth really made it shine, and the additional spices made it even better. Coming from a former rice hater, this is very surprising. I have learned throughout cooking all the countries I have made so far that I do not dislike rice. I just never really knew how to make it properly. The other surprise was that even though I don't typically like the taste of ginger, I really liked it in this dish. The soup, chicken, rice, and sauce all had an amazing taste. Plus, the broth made my whole dorm room smell absolutely delicious as it simmered. The chicken was tender and delicious, the rice was amazing, and the chili sauce and soup added the perfect balance of spice and comfort.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Pupusa Magic

El Salvador literally means "the savior". The name came from the Spanish conquistadors who first named the country  La Provincia De Nuestro Señor Jesus Cristo, El Salvador Del Mundo. That's quite a mouthful meaning "The Province of Our Lord Jesús Christ, the Savior of the World." Yeah, El Salvador flows a bit better. :) The capital of El Salvador is San Salvador, and the second and thrid largest cities (after San Salvador) are Santa Ana and San Miguel. With all of these saintly and holy names, you can guess that the two major religious groups are Catholics and Protestants. El Salvador is the smallest Central American country. It's also the most densly populated and the only one without an Atlantic coastline.

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El Salvadoran cuisine is a mixture of indigenous Pipil Native Americans and the Spaniards who conquered El Salvador in the 16th century. Only 2% of the population of El Salvador today are fully Pipil, but over 80% are mestizos. This mix of Spanish and Pipil blood is reflected in their delicious cuisine. For my meal tonight, I decided to go with the staple and ppopular pupusa. Pupusas are almost always accompanied by curtido and salsa roja. Along with a nice side of beans, you have a nice, traditional El Salvadoran meal.


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Refried beans are common in all of central America. In El Salvador they are commonly served with just about every meal, and are made out of red kidney beans. You can make them from scratch with dry beans by soaking and then cooking the beans first, or go the easy route with canned beans. Either way, your refried beans will turn out so delicious that you'll want to grab a bowl of chips and dig in!
 

Frijoles Fritos
1 ½ cups cooked kidney beans
½ small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp vegetable oil
½ cup bean liquid
salt, to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a small pan. Add the onions and garlic, and cook for about 8 minutes until the onion is tender. Stir the mixture occasionally to prevent it from burning. Meanwhile, blend the bean liquid and beans together until they form a thick puree. Add the beans and remaining oil to the pan of onions. Cook, stirring every few minutes, until the oil has been absorbed and the beans have reddened, about 8 minutes. Season to taste.



 

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Pupusas are the national dish of El Salvador, and a national favorite.  There is even a whole holiday commemorating them. It's a weeklong festival called La Festival Nacional De La Pupusa that lasts from November 7-13. Masa harina is used to make a thick tortilla shell that is stuffed with goodies and cooked in a frying pan until golden. They have gained popularity in the United States for obvious reasons. (Cheese= yummy!) There are many traditional fillings such as chicharron (pork), loroco (a vine flower bud), or just cheese.
 
Pupusas Mixtas
1 ¾ cups masa harina
1- 1 ¼ cups warm water

For the filling:
½ cup frijoles fritos (recipe above)
8 ounces queso fresco, cut into cubes
½ bell pepper, chopped
1 loroco or chili pepper, chopped

To make the filling, process the cheese, chili, and bell pepper together in a food processor until fully combined. Set it aside along with the beans until your pupusas are ready to be stuffed.

To make the pupusa dough, mix together the water and masa into a soft dough. Form it into a ball, cover with a moist towel, and allow it to sit for 10 minutes. Divide the dough into balls and make large indents into them with your thumb. Stuff a spoonful each of the beans and cheese mixture into the indent, close up the top of the dough, and press the pupusa into a disk about ½” thick. Repeat with the remaining dough. Heat a pan over medium heat and spray it with oil. Cook the pupusas for about 3 minutes per side, or until golden brown.



 

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Salsa roja is a slightly watery and slightly spicy accompaniment to pupusas and curtido. It is a must for any pupusa night, and I guarantee you that you will love it.

Salsa Roja
1 hot chili pepper
2 cups chopped tomatoes
½ onion, chopped
2 small cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano

Heat a little oil in a pan over medium heat. Cook the onions and garlic for about five minutes and then stir in the remaining ingredients. Combine everything into a food processor and process until you get a thick paste. Serve with pupusas and curtido.
 
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Fermented cabbage dishes are common all over the world. It's another one of those dishes like leafy greens in coconut milk or fried bread that just seems to be eaten everywhere. The Salvadoran version of kimchi and sauerkraut is called curtido. Thankfully curtido is not quite as fermented as the previous two dishes. Maybe it will help to ease me into the whole fermented veggie trend that the whole world seems to have adapted to.
 
Curtido
1-16 ounce package shredded cabbage and carrot mix
½ cup white vinegar
½ cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried oregano
¼ a large onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded and chopped
boiling water

Pour the boiling water over the cabbage mixture. Let it sit for 10 minutes and then drain well. Mix together all the ingredients and let them sit at room temperature for 2 hours. Refrigerate until chilled, at least 2 hours and preferably overnight.

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I was super excited to make my pupusas because I has such success with them when I  made cheese pupusas for El Salvador during Breakfasts Around the World. For some reason I just couldn't get into my pupusa making mojo while I was cooking this week, so my pupusas turned out too thick, gummy, and unflavorful. Plus, they were super ugly and practically falling apart. It was a bummer. Luckily, I had some extra filling leftover, and I really enjoyed eating that. The queso fresco that I bought from the store (for 75% off!) was salty and delicious, the refried beans were super yummy, and the salsa was the perfect amount of spicy. I even liked the curtido. Overall, I enjoyed El Salvador even though the main component of my meal was a fail. Dipping the bland pupusas in the salsa cured any problems I had with the taste. You could dip just about anything into that stuff to make it taste good. Enjoy El Salvador!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pancake Tuesday

Today is Mardi Gras/ Shrove Tuesday/ Fat Tuesday/ the last day to pig out before Lent. Best of all, today is Pancake Tuesday: the day to eat pancakes until you puke. Then you'll be so sick of them that you won't want to eat them at all during Lent. :) Just kidding. You would never get sick of these nontraditional pancakes. They are not sweet, but savory. Spinach and cheese make them more like a dinner side than a sweet breakfast, but they are great in the morning too along with some scrambled eggs and thick juicy bacon. Happy Pancake Day!

Parmesan Spinach Pancakes (3)
 
Parmesan Spinach Pancakes
1 cup white cornmeal
1 cup masa harina
½ cup all- purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp dried cilantro
dash of cayenne pepper powder
dash of paprika
1- 12 ounce bag frozen chopped spinach, thawed
2 ½ cups buttermilk
1 cup water
2 eggs
6 ounces parmesan cheese, grated
2 ounces parmesan cheese, cut into tiny cubes
oil, as needed

Mix together the masa, cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices. Stir in the cheese and spinach. In a separate bowl, whisk the milk, eggs, and water. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, stirring until well mixed. Heat about a teaspoon of oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Pour ¼ cup of the batter onto the hot pan. Cook each side of the pancake until golden brown, about a minute per side. Serve warm.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

A Soup for the Cold Weather Season

Going to the grocery store today was a big mistake. An even bigger mistake than going on Super Bowl Sunday or (if you would even dare) the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Tomorrow we are expecting the ice storm of the century according to the weatherman who seems to predict a similar icepocalypse every year. For my small little town in Tennessee, that means that everyone hits the grocery store to stock up on milk, bread, and (strangely) beer. I guess those are the three staples of life? Honestly, bread and milk are not the most shelf stable foods, especially if the power goes out. Oh well, bring on the snow because I have a warming bowl of soup to at least make your insides feel like it's a nice summer day. I know that it's not the best picture (my roommate actually took it on her iPhone), but who cares what the soup looks like as long as it tastes amazing? And amazing this soup is with yummy meatballs, healthy veggies, and delicious lentils. Enjoy and keep warm!

Italian lentil meatball
 
Slow Cooker Italian Lentil and Meatball Soup
4 cups chicken broth
1 egg
½ pound ground beef
2 tbsp ground flaxseed
2 tbsp olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
½ an onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 cup dry lentils
1 ½ tsp Italian seasoning
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a pan. Add the garlic and onion and sauté until the onion is soft, about 8 minutes. Add the carrots and cook for another minute. Meanwhile, mix the ground beef, egg, flaxseed, ½ tsp Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste together until just mixed. Roll one tablespoon of the meat mixture at a time into small balls. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat, and brown the meatballs for about 3 minutes. Combine the broth, vegetables, meatballs, lentils, remaining teaspoon of Italian seasoning, and salt and pepper to taste into your crockpot. Cook on low for 6-8 hours.

Friday, February 13, 2015

A Last Minute Valentine

This is the last Valentine card that I will share before the big day. I have a ton of other ones I want to show off, but I guess they will have to wait until next year. I promised my customers that I would not spoil their loved ones' surprises by posting them online.


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I sent this one to Carson. I like how the gradually darkening strips of paper seem to have hearts exploding out of them. I think it's fun. Carson will probably think it is fun to destroy. It's just an idea for any of you last minute card makers scrambling to get stuff together before the big day. I actually had someone request a card from me while I was at work just last night. I rushed to get it together on time between homework, class, and working two of my three jobs today. It has been a day!

Happy Valentine's Day! Pray that everyone takes their date out tomorrow night so that we're not busy at work. :)

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Africa Brings a Zing to Things

Traveling to Senegal has been on my bucket list since I was a little kid. My cousin Stephanie lives there, and I always dreamed of one day joining her in her work. Her husband is helping introduce a new species of sweet potato that has higher nutrition and is better for the soil. She facilitates adoptions and works as a psychologist. All my life everyone has called me Stephanie and told me that I look, dress, and act just like her. I have a lot to live up to if I ever want to be like my role model.

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I really want to go visit Stephanie in Senegal now after tasting their delicious food and learning a little more about their unique and rich culture. Senegal gained its independence from France in 1960, and the French culture left a lasting impact. French is the official language still and is used by the government and in the school system. Wolof and several other regional languages are used by the people traditionally. Most of the population comes from the Wolof and Fula tribes. The Wolofs used to actually have their own country which makes up modern day Senegal and The Gambia. My little cousins Atticus and Ophelia's (Stephanie's kids) nanny is from the Wolof tribe. She speaks Wolof fluently as well as a couple of other languages other than French and English if I remember correctly. Atticus (and I'm sure Ophelia now too since she is 2) speaks French fluently.

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Now let's talk about some good food! Over 92% of the country practices Islam, so the Senegalese people are not really pork eaters. Chicken and beef are popular, though, as well as fresh fish found along the coast. Yassa is a dish from Senegal that for obvious reasons is popular all over West Africa. (The obvious reasons being that it is absolutely delicious!) Poulet au Yassa is from the Casamance region of Senegal south of Dakar, and I decided to go with this version for my meal. Yassa itself is a dish made from onions and meat that are marinated in chilies and lemon juice. The onions are then cooked down into a rich sauce and then simmered in the marinade and the meat. Everything is then served over lots and lots of rice. Fish or beef can be used to make yassa, but chicken, or poulet, is the most traditional.


Poulet au Yassa
2 chicken leg and thigh quarters
3 onions, thinly sliced
½ cup lemon juice
1 tsp cayenne pepper powder
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 habanero or fresno chili pepper, chopped
1 bay leaf
4 tbsp oil
1 carrot, peeled and sliced
cooked rice, to serve

Mix together the chicken, onions, lemon juice, cayenne pepper, garlic, chili, and bay leaf in a large plastic bag. Toss to coat everything evenly in the marinade. Refrigerate overnight. Heat the oil over medium low heat in a large pot. Remove the onions from the marinade to the pot and cook for about an hour, stirring often to make sure they do not burn. Add the rest of the marinade, chicken, and carrot to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover and cook for an hour, or until the chicken registers 165 degrees on a thermometer. Serve the sauce and chicken over a plate of cooked rice.

 
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Chicken + onion sauce= AMAZING!! Marinating the chicken in lemon juice allows it to be tender and moist. It practically falls off the bone. I thought the 1/2 cup of lemon juice would be too overpowering, but it was absolutely delicious. The rich onion sauce was not as spicy as I thought, but had enough of a kick to keep it flavorful. Served over a bed of rice to soak up all the juices, this meal left me licking the plate and craving more. Way to go Senegal! I now officially know I like the food all over Africa. From the north to the south to the east to the west and everything in between!

 

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

A Bit More Sophistication

Here is another way that you can design yesterday's card.  I liked the idea so much that I wanted to try it again and play with the positioning of the hearts a little bit. I think that the grey background adds an unusual twist to the usual Valentine's colors. My friend and I both agreed that grey brings a lot of sophistication to Valentine's Day. It seems that the theme of my Valentine's creations has been sophistication. (Just check out my super sophisticated oatcakes.)

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Are you sophisticated enough to handle this card?

Monday, February 9, 2015

Another Valentine

I have another Valentine card idea to share to continue our little count down to the big day. (Or not so big day if you are single like me and will be working a 10 hour shift at work. Then it's a pretty torturous day.)

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I like the simple, yet heartfelt message that this card sends. I think I will give it to my mom. Let's hope she doesn't read my blog between now and Valentines. ;)

Sunday, February 8, 2015

PB&J Oatcakes!

Valentine's Day is less than a week away now, and I have the perfect treat for a nice Valentine's Day breakfast or tea. Everyone will love these oatcakes no matter what their age or pickiness level. Oatcakes themselves are sophisticated enough to pull off any fancy gathering, and the classic combo of peanut butter and jelly will appeal to any child (or child at heart!) You can thank Hallmark for Valentine's Day, the Scotts for oatcakes, or Julia Davis Chandler for the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but you'll have to thank me for this awesome recipe that ties the three perfectly together. Us Chandlers must just be an ingenious race of peanut butter lovers or something. :)



pb&j scottish oatcakes (3)



PB&J Scottish Oatcakes
Makes 18
1 ½ cups Scottish oatmeal
½ cup flour
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tbsp brown sugar
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp baking powder
1/3 cup peanut butter, melted
½ cup butter, melted
¼ cup hot water
2-3 tbsp rolled oats
Strawberry jelly

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees, and oil a baking sheet. Mix together the flour, Scottish oats, baking powder, salt, sugar, and cinnamon. Add in the melted butter and peanut butter. Stir until everything is evenly distributed. Add in the water slowly until you have a nice, soft ball of dough. Sprinkle the rolled oats out onto a cutting board. Roll the ball of dough out ¼” thick. Cut it out into 2 inch round circles or heart or whatever shape you want. Space the oatcakes ¼” apart on the oiled baking pan. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Allow the oatcakes to sit for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack to cool completely. Serve with strawberry jelly.

 

Friday, February 6, 2015

A Cool Card Idea

I saw a card on pinterest that used this cool idea to take a strip of paper, cut a shape out of the bottom of it, and glue both the strip and shape onto the card to create an effect like the shape was shooting out of the strip. It kind of looks like a shooting star, or, in this case, shooting hearts for Valentine's Day.

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Less than 12 days left of card making time!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

I Hope You're Hungary!

I hope y’all are hungry tonight because I have a warming winter stew to share with you straight from Hungary. Formally called the Republic of Hungary until 2012 when the name was changed to just plain Hungary, this Central European nation first invented the rubik's cube and the ballpoint pen. It used to be part of the powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire that rose to be the second largest nation in Europe.  You can go to Hungary to ride down the beautiful Danube river, relax in one of the many hot spring spas, or see the beautiful architecture of the capital city of Budapest.
 

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Hungarian cuisine has quite a bit of popularity here in the US due mainly to all the Hungarian immigrants who came over after the Hungarian Revolution in the 1800s and then in the late 1900s. Goulash and chicken paprika are now American comfort foods passed down from Hungarian grandparents. I’m not really a fan of chicken paprika, and the tomatoey goulash dish that frequents American tables is scary to someone with a tomato allergy. For these reasons I was not too excited to cook Hungary. Thankfully the Americanized version of Hungarian food is as far from accurate as Taco Bell is to authentic Mexican cuisine. True Hungarian cuisine is very meat and potatoes based with dumplings and pasta as common accompaniments. Soup is a must for any Hungarian meal. Onions, bay leaf, and the famous Hungarian paprika are the seasonings of choice that yield delicious and flavorful meals. Are you hungry for some Hungary yet?



 
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‘Gulyás’ means herdsman or cowboy in Hungarian and ‘sleves’ means soup. Put the two words together and you have an awesome Hungarian meal! It was a dish traditionally made by the Hungarian cattle herders who would have to pack light and eat quick meals cooked over a campfire. This delicious soup warmed the bellies of many herdsmen over the years, and now it can warm yours with this authentic recipe!

 
Gulyásleves
serves 3-4
1 pound steak (sirloin, bottom round, chuck), cubed
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp oil
1-2 bay leaves
1 tbsp paprika
3 cups water
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed
salt and pepper, to taste
csipetke (optional)

Heat the oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onions, and sauté for 5 to 6minutes until the onions are tender. Mix in the paprika. Add in the beef and cook for a couple of minutes to brown. Pour the water and bay leaves into the pot, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 2 hours. (Add a little water if too much evaporates.) Put the cubed potatoes into the pot, bring everything back to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for another 20 minutes. Add in the csipetke during the last five minutes of cooking if using.

 

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Little pastas or dumplings are common accompaniments to soups and stews in Hungary. They are not a must, but they have the capability of making an amazing dish absolutely spectacular. ‘Csipetke’ drives from the Hungarian word pinch which is exactly how you make these pastas. They are super easy to create, and are great in any soup or stew.

 

Csipetke
serves 2-3
1 cup flour, plus extra for dusting
1 egg
1-2 tbsp water
dash of salt

Mix all the ingredients together and form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow it to sit for at least half an hour. Flour a clean surface. Pinch of little pieces of the dough, roll them in the flour, and arrange them separately on a cutting board. Bring a pot of water to a boil and cook until they rise to the top, about 4 to 5 minutes. Alternatively, throw them in your gulyás during the last five minutes of cooking and serve immediately once they rise to the top.

 

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I really liked both the stew and pasta/ dumplings which surprised me. After a few hours simmering away, the beef was super tender and flavorful. Pasta is always good, so you can’t go wrong there. A warming stew really hits the spot on a cold day. You can trust Hungary to bring a comforting bowl on any winter's night.

 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hello Kitty to the Max

Valentine's Day is coming up soon, and I have been busy card making as usual! We had a nice long weekend between our January term and the spring semester, so I was able to get some cards cranked out with a couple of good friends. I've made two custom Valentines for a friend and a professor to give to their boyfriend and wife. They were excited about them, and I was pleased that someone else appreciated my hard work. I hope that little Harper appreciates this Valentine that I made for her today.

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If you walk into Harper's room, you will discover immediately that she is a Hello Kitty fan. She probably has 30 Hello Kitty stuffed animals, t-shirts, jewelry, and other paraphernalia. Her walls are hot pink with Hello Kitty stickers all over them, and even her bedspread is Hello Kitty. She informed me the other day that her favorite animal was indeed a cat, and she will someday own one. I think this card will fit in well sitting up on her dresser next to the billion other Hello Kitty sit arounds she has. :)
 
 

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Andean Eats


The poor Andean country of Bolivia holds a special part of my heart. It is my planned future country of residence, and I have written many papers and presented many research projects about it. I first learned of Bolivia when I started sponsoring my Compassion child, Alison. I was 13 then and she was 6. Over the past 6 years Alison has written me beautiful descriptions of her country. She just turned 12 last week, and her love for her God and her culture inspires me. (I love sharing Bible verses with her and hearing her commentaries on various works and miracles of Jesus. We have such an amazing relationship! I am just too blessed.) One day I would love to meet my little Bolivian sister in person and hopefully teach somewhere in her country. Bolivia is over 50% Native American, giving it the highest indigenous population out of any country in South America. Their president, Evo Morales, is actually Aymara. It’s also the poorest with 53% of the people living beneath the poverty line. There are two capital cities in Bolivia: Sucre and La Paz (the highest capital in the world!) The Andean mountain range cuts through the western section and is inhabited by the Quechuas and Aymaras. That’s where Alison lives (she’s Aymara) and where my dinner for tonight came from. Other indigenous groups include the Guarani and Weenhayek in the chacos; the Afrobolivians, Chiquitanos, Cayubabas, and Ayore in the Amazon region, and many others. Bolivia really is a country full of culture and diversity.




 
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I could ramble on and on about Bolivian facts and fun information. I know a ton about it. (Maybe more that the US.) If I wasn’t so excited about the yummy food I cooked, I might write a novel, but these three recipes need to be shared immediately. I was hoping that I would like Bolivian food since I will one day be eating it 24/7. I am happy to say that everything I made was absolutely delicious. I am still drooling over it. Bolivian cuisine is pretty carb heavy, especially in the Andean region. Staples include corn (choclo), potatoes (especially a dehydrated kind called chuno), and rice. Lunch is the biggest meal of the day and often includes a soup and tons of carbs and some meat. Dinner is often lighter and served later in the night. It’s often a bowl of soup and some corn with cheese. My friend Becca has been to Bolivia, and she fell in love with the corn that they seem to sell almost everywhere. They bake it with cheese and apparently it is the bomb. I can imagine why. Cheese makes everything delicious. Read on to find out some recipes that prove this.

 
 
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Sopa de maní is from the Andean city of Cochabamba, but I am glad that a recipe found its way north to the US. A thick and creamy peanut broth is cooked with potatoes, peas, corn, and onions then topped with cilantro, fried potato strips, and a spicy sauce called llajwa. Rice can also be added. The soup typically contains either chicken or beef ribs, but vegetarian options are available. I went down the chicken route and have no regrets.

Sopa de Maní
1 tsp oregano
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
4 cups chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 large carrot, cut into ¼” rounds
1 tbsp oil
½ cup peas
3 ½ potatoes, cut into large cubes
2 ounces peanuts
½ cup water

To garnish:
½ potato, peeled and julienned
2 tbsp oil
cilantro
llajwa
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, oregano, garlic, and carrots. Cook for 6-8 minutes until the onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken to brown for a minute before pouring in the broth. Bring everything to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 25 minutes. Meanwhile, blend the peanuts and water together into a paste. Mix this into the soup and add in the potatoes and peas. Bring everything back to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook, covered, for another 20 minutes until the potatoes are tender. To make the garnish, heat the oil in a pan over medium high heat. Cook the strips of potato for a few minutes per side until golden. Serve the soup in individual bowls topped with the fried potato strips, llajwa, and cilantro. Season to taste.




 
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Llajwa is a spicy dip/ condiment made from the indigenous locoto chili peppers and quilquina, a type of Bolivian coriander. You can eat this delicious dip with potatoes or bread, mix it into soup, or dip your fried cheese and corn in it like I did. J What’s life without a little spice?

Llajwa
5-6 sprigs quilquina or cilantro
1 tomato, diced (I subbed roasted red peppers because of my allergy.)
1 locoto pepper, seeded

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process into a chunky paste. Enjoy your spicy sauce with just about anything!

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El Plato Paceño is a traditional meal from the city of La Paz. It’s a must to celebrate the two festivals in La Paz on July 16th and October 20th. To make this carb laden and utterly delicious plate (or ‘plato’), you pile on corn, potatoes, habas (like lima or fava beans), and fried cheese. Yes, I said fried cheese. Are you sold yet?

Plato Paceño
4 ears of corn, husked
4 small red potatoes
8 ounces queso blanco, cut into 8 strips
1- 12 ounce bag frozen lima beans or fava beans
oil, as needed

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the corn, lima beans, and potatoes. Cook for 20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a pan over medium heat. Fry a couple of strips of the queso blanco for 1 ½ to 2 minutes per side until it’s a nice golden brown. Add more oil to the pan as needed to cook all the cheese. Serve each plate with a potato, scoop of lima beans, an ear of corn, and two slices of the fried cheese.

 

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I am so glad that my Bolivian meal turned out as delicious as it did! I cannot wait to try some home cooked Bolivian food one day. Everything from the soup to the llajwa was delicious. I did not expect to like the dip all that much, but it turned out to be delicious! The soup was amazing, especially with a little swirl of llajwa. And don’t even get me started on that fried cheese! Bolivia is definitely up there in competition for my favorite country so far. I loved every bite of it.