Sunday, May 31, 2015

Let Your Message Explode

This card looks like a regular card from the outside, but if you have read my blog long enough, you should know that looks can be deceiving. (Especially when it comes to cards or foreign cuisines.)

dd

Opening up this card creates a gigantic explosion of awesomeness! Inside I stamped a pattern to match the outside of the card onto a sheet of paper. I the folded the paper a special way to make it pop out when opened. Cool, right?

ff

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Terrific Tagines

Can you guess what country tonight's menu hails from? Here's a hint:

https://flic.kr/p/sMPCGu | DSC_0055[1]

Yes, that is a tagine, and tonight's meal came from Morocco. I have always been intrigued by this North African country that is more Mediterranean/ Middle Eastern than African. (It's practically part of Europe. When I am in Alicante, Spain next week, I'll only be 770 miles away from Morocco.) My friend Jasmine is the daughter of a French and an American missionary and had the opportunity to grow up in Morocco. She helped me plan for tonight's meal and gave me a little insight into the unique culture of Morocco. The country is mostly made up of Arabic and Berber people. The latter group is mainly located in in the mountainous regions and they keep their language and culture isolated and intact. From 1912 to 1956 Morocco was under French rule. Today Berber and Arabic are the official languages, but French still plays a powerful role in the government and business sector of society.  The Moroccan society is multilingual. French and Standard Arabic are taught in schools, the Moroccan dialect of Arabic-Darija- is spoken in most homes, and 40% of the population can also speak Berber. Spanish is also common since the proximity to Spain and a history of Spanish presence and power. That's incredible! There is just too much about Morocco that I want to say, so I am going to have to stop here. Go online and look up pictures of the art, architecture, and culture of Morocco. It's truly spectacular.

https://flic.kr/p/tNPARt | 8f33d1277f603d93dd27d79b4e75fd54

With Berber, French, and Arabic roots, Morocco is a melting pot of flavor. During our trip to Disney last year, we ate at Restaurant Marrakesh located in Epcot's Morocco. My family all loved both the food and the décor of the restaurant, but the belly dancing through us off a bit. :) Because of my family's mutual agreement that Moroccan food is the bomb, I decided that it would be a great idea for me to cook Morocco while I was home. I am so glad I did. It's probably the first country that everyone enjoyed. Anyway, back to Moroccan cuisine. Meals generally consist of bread, salad, and a main dish of couscous or a tagine. Everything is finished out with a sweet glass of mint tea. Members of a family traditionally sit around the dishes on a rug and eat with their hands. If your portion of chicken or beef happens to contain a bone, make sure to suck the marrow out of it. Failing to do so would be a social no-no.

gg

Bread is a must for every Moroccan meal. It is used as a utensil to scoop up food and is made out of semolina wheat. This light and airy khobz is the perfect accompaniment to tagines and stews.

Khobz Dyal Smida
1 ½ cups warm water (110 degrees)
1 tbsp yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 cups semolina flour
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp salt
1 ½ tbsp. olive oil
argon oil, for dipping

Mix the yeast, water, and sugar together. Let the mixture sit until the yeast has activated, about 10 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients (except the argon oil). Knead for 10 minutes. Cover the dough and let it rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour. Divide the dough in half and roll each half out into 8” disks on a clean surface lightly dusted with semolina flour. Allow the dough to rise again for about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 415 degrees. Cook the bread for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with argon oil to dip.
 
https://flic.kr/p/tJQQFD | DSC_0029[1]

I heard about this really cool company called Try the World in a Food Network magazine. You can order boxes that come with a set of cool ingredients. I got the Moroccan box, and it came with couscous, a tagine sauce, cookies, sardines, and this argan oil. Each item is from the specific country, and there is a little booklet that explains the significance of the items and recipes to use them. I was excited to try out the argan oil as a dip for the bread. It has a really nutty aroma and a taste that none of us could put our finger on. It wasn't our favorite, but it was fun to try.

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Carrots or other vegetables steamed and then served at room temperature. Either sweet or spicy, these salads are common starters to the main meal of the day.

Spicy Carrot Salad
6 carrots, peeled and sliced into long segments
½ tbsp. vinegar or lemon juice
¼ tsp ground cumin
dash of cayenne pepper powder
salt and pepper, to taste
chopped mint

Bring a pot of water to boil with the carrots in it. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes until the carrots are crisp-tender. Rinse them with cold water and then toss them with the vinegar, seasonings, and mint. Serve at room temperature.
 
 
 
https://flic.kr/p/tJR6Pz | DSC_0031[1]
 
When I think of Moroccan cuisine, my mind immediately jumps to the tagine. I asked for a tagine for Easter just so I could present my Moroccan meal authentically, and my parents kindly obliged. (Actually the Easter bunny brought it in my basket. My sisters all got chocolate and stuffed animals. I got a North African cooking vessel.) Djaj, or chicken, is traditionally cooked with spices like ginger, cumin, and saffron and accompanied by tangy green olives. Red meat such as lamb are cooked with sweet dried fruits to create a sweet and complex meal. Vegetarian tagines are also popular, especially amongst the lower class. There are two categories of tagines. The first is called "mhammer". These tagines are cooked in butter and colored with paprika. I made a mqualli tagine cooked in oil and colored with saffron.

bj

Djaj Mqualli
1 tbsp olive oil
4 chicken leg quarters
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric or a pinch of saffron
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground ginger
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cinnamon stick
2-3 cups chicken broth
2 mssiyar (preserved lemons), sliced- recipe follows
1 cup pitted green olives
½ bunch chopped parsley

Heat your tagine (or Dutch oven) over medium-high heat with the olive oil. Add the chicken and brown all over. Remove the chicken from the pan onto a plate and set aside. Cook the onions in the chicken drippings along with the garlic for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent. Add the seasonings and cook for another 2 minutes. Pour in 2 cups of chicken broth and place the chicken skin-side up back into the pan. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes, adding in extra chicken broth as needed. Stir in the olives, lemons, and parsley. Cover and cook for another 15 minutes.

 
https://flic.kr/p/tw8hjb | 997ef1c2c53120312a21b4ed8a3f7321

 Preserved lemons, or mssiyar, are a common ingredient used to pump up the flavor of tagines and other Moroccan dishes. If you live near a Mediterranean market, you might be lucky enough to find some premade, but I had no such luck. Authentic preserved lemons undergo a boiling process and then are put away for about six weeks until they are able to be used. Even though I plan my world meals weeks and weeks in advance, I did not plan on making these lemons. Thankfully I found a recipe for quick preserved lemons. It might not be strictly authentic, but it worked.

Mssiyar
2 lemons, sliced into sixths
2 tbsp salt
1 cup water

Mix together the water and salt in a small pot. Add the lemons and bring to a boil. Cook for about 30 minutes until most of the liquid has been reduced. Allow the lemons to cool before using.

 diw

Couscous is a Moroccan staple. This semolina pasta accompanies tagines or can serve as a whole meal itself when topped with veggies and meat. (I made this for Algeria.) Easily whipped up within minutes, couscous is the perfect side. It can be savory or sweet when combined with dried fruits and nuts in a dish called "seffa".
 
Seksu
1 1/3 cup couscous
2 cups boiling water
butter, as desired

Combine the couscous and water in a heat proof bowl. Cover and let it sit for 8 minutes. Fluff the couscous with a fork and stir in butter to taste.
 
https://flic.kr/p/tJwjt7 | DSC_0026[1]
 
For dessert we had Moroccan cookies that came in the Moroccan box I got from Try the World. They are like sheets of filo baked with butter and dusted with sugar.
 
ef

Moroccan meals are always finished up with a glass of Moroccan mint tea. It's easily made by brewing green tea with mint leaves and then serving with a lot of sugar. (Moroccans like their tea sweet.) I found the tea a great way to round out the meal and cleanse the palate.

d


Thankfully after Australia's negative reviews Morocco proved to be a success. Everyone loved the tagine and my only regret was not making more meat. The chicken was perfectly tender and had a great flavor from the spices, olives, and lemon without being overpowered. Although the argon oil was not a big hit, the bread was. My dad loved the carrots and ate practically the whole dish. I was glad to finally find something he likes. Carson, Sydney, and Harper all loved the cookies. Carson managed to eat about 8 of them before we realized what was happening. She is quite the cookie monster. The mint gave plain green tea an extra boost of flavor. A great end to a delicious meal.

d
 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The Cake to Beat All Cakes

I baked a cake.


j

But this cake is not your typical chocolate or yellow cake. Can I give you a hint? It's one of my favorite combos. (See here and here.)

j


I started with a nontraditional peanut butter base. (Because peanut butter makes EVERYTHING better.)

i7

Then I add on a layer of jelly to create....

j

... a Peanut Butter and Jelly cake!!

i

Just look at those lovely layers. I'm drooling over the memory. Honestly, this cake was so amazing that my camera went a little crazy and took a bunch of pictures.

 j

I just couldn't help myself from capturing each and every delicious bite. I hope you enjoy this not-so-ordinary-but-completely-extraordinary cake as much as I did.


 n


Peanut Butter and Jelly Cake with a Peanut Butter Yogurt Frosting
1 cup masa harina
2 cups peanut flour
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup sugar
2 cups buttermilk
1 cup yogurt
1 cup applesauce
½ cup butter, melted
2 eggs
½ cup strawberry jelly

For the frosting:
1 cup plain yogurt
¼ cup honey
½ cup peanut flour

Preheat your oven to 350 and grease two cake pans. Beat the sugar and butter together. Whisk in the eggs, milk, applesauce, and yogurt. In a separate bowl, combine the masa, peanut flour, cinnamon, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Mix the wet and dry ingredients together and divide them between the prepared cake pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes before removing from the pan to cool completely on a cooling rack. To make the frosting, whisk all the ingredients together. Once the cake is cool, spread the jelly over the bottom layer. Carefully place the other layer on top and spread the frosting over the top and sides.

Monday, May 25, 2015

It's your "bird"day!

This cute little birdy is here to wish someone a very happy BIRD-day. I made a simple background out of strips of patterned paper to give the card color. The cute little bird ties everything together. Enjoy!

e

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Two Course Crepe Lunch

Crepes are absolutely delicious. That is a fact that no one can dispute. Unfortunately, places McDonalds and Subway just have not caught on to the crepe trend. Who wants to eat a nasty burger or sandwich made out of questionable meat when you can have a crepe? Fear not, I now present you with a fast and easy way to make a two course meal of crepes that is sure to satisfy. This crepe recipe makes two crepes- the perfect amount for you to make a sweet crepe and a savory crepe, creating a wonderful meal. The fillings are sure to impress. Bacon and cheese? Yes, please! Strawberries, chocolate, and Nutella? I know I have you drooling.


g
 
Single Serving Crepes
makes 2
For the batter:
½ cup flour
pinch of salt
1 egg yolk
¼ cup milk
¼ cup water
1 tbsp melted butter
½ tsp sugar

Bacon, Cheese, and Spinach Filling:
4 slices bacon, cooked and chopped
½ cup shredded mixed cheese (mozzarella, parmesan, asiago, romano, fontina, provolone, or any combination of these)
¼ cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry

Strawberry Nutella Filling:
3 strawberries, chopped
2 tbsp milk chocolate chips
1 tbsp mini semi-sweet chocolate chips, plus more for topping
2 tbsp Nutella
powdered sugar, to top


Add all the ingredients for the batter except for the sugar together into a blender. Blend until everything is well incorporated and there are no lumps. Allow the batter to sit for 20 minutes at room temperature. Preheat a large skilled brushed with oil over medium-high heat. Add half of the batter to the pan, swirling it around to create a thin crepe. Cook until the top is dried and the bottom is golden. Flip and add the savory toppings onto one half of the crepe. Fold the top half over and slide the crepe onto your plate. Remove the pan from the heat and enjoy your meal. Once finished, whisk the sugar into the remaining crepe batter. Reheat the pan over medium-high and cook the sweet crepe the same way you made the savory one. Spread the Nutella onto one half of the crepe. Top with the chocolate chips and strawberries. Fold the crepe in half and top it with additional mini chocolate chips and powdered sugar.


 

 jgj

 

Thursday, May 21, 2015

A Journey to the Land Down Under

You could call Australia the "Land Down Under", but one look at an Australian map of the world would change your view on things very quickly (both literally and figuratively). Located in Oceania and historically inhabited by Aboriginals who spoke over 250 distinct languages for thousands of years, Australia was later found by the Dutch and taken over by the English. Prisoners were sent to the island-continent to serve for crimes like debt, forgery, theft, and other petty crimes. Over 20% of modern-day Australians descended from these convicts. After WW2, Australia saw another surge in its population when about 5.9 million immigrants began moving to the nation. Today about 25% of Australians were born abroad. The major countries of emigration are the UK, New Zealand, India, China, and Vietnam. Australia's culture reflects a lot of Western influence as well as factors brought by Asian immigrants and inherited from their Aboriginal predecessors.

 https://flic.kr/p/tmr9NX | DSC_0896[1]

The cuisine of Australia is a mixture of western and native cuisines. Recently, there has been a push towards going back to Aboriginal roots and embracing historic foods like kangaroo, emu, crocodile, quandong, kutjera, muntries, riberry, Davidson's plum, and finger lime along with other bush tucker. British elements like meat pies, roasts, and fish and chips are also common mainstays. Australia has also made a cuisine of its own with the infamous barbeque and Vegemite. Back when I cooked Australia for breakfast, bush bread and damper were two delicious breads that I cooked. They were pretty economical, but Australian main meals can be expensive here in the US. (Even the wannabe Australian restaurant Outback has high prices.) I looked up Kangaroo meat and was met by a $75 price tag that did not include shipping. Shrimp is not cheap here in landlocked Ohio, and lamb is not within my price range either. Thankfully I found some authentic Australian recipes that did not break the bank but still stayed true to representing the "Land Down Under". (Or "Up Above" according to an Australian.)

https://flic.kr/p/tmobAV | d6b9bf0b600593584998a04007c41b5b

The iconic Aussie meat pie is a classic football and rugby-watching meal. The Australian brand Four'N'Twenty produces 50,000 of the handheld pies an hour. Similar to the British steak pie, Aussie meat pies are made up of a pie crust topped with a puff pastry and filled with ground beef, onion, and seasonings.

Meat Pies
makes 8-9
For the filling:
1 ¼ pounds lean ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup water
2 tbsp flour

For the crust:
1 puff pastry shell
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ tsp salt
4 tbsp cold butter, cut into little cubes
5 ounces cold water
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp. water

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees and oil 8-9 holes of a muffin pan. To make the filling, heat a large pan over medium high heat. Add the onions, meat, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, nutmeg, and tomato paste. Cook until the meat is browned, breaking it up into tiny pieces. Add 3/4 cup of the water to the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 25 minutes. Mix the flour with the remaining 1/4 cup water. Stir this mixture into the beef once it is done simmering. Remove the pan from the heat and allow it to sit for five minutes to allow it to thicken.

Meanwhile, make the pie crust. Combine the flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in the butter and mix until little pebbles form. (Do not over mix!) Add the 5 ounces of cold water and mix until just combined. Cover and refrigerate for 20 minutes.

To assemble, roll the pie crust out to be 1/4" thick. Press it into the prepared muffin tin. Scoop in the filling until it reaches the top of the pie crust. Cut out the puff pastry into circles that fit on top of the muffin holes. (I used a biscuit cutter.) Wet the edges of the pie crust and press on the puff pastry. Brush the tops with a mixture of the egg yolk and 2 tbsp. of water. Bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Serve with mushy peas and ketchup.

j
 
Mushy peas are another British import to Australia. They are the perfect meat pie accompaniment and add a little color to a bland plate.
 
Mushy Peas
1 pound frozen green peas
3 tbsp water
salt and pepper, to taste
butter, to serve

Bring the peas and water to a boil in a pot. Cook for 5 minutes. Puree the peas in a blender, season to taste, and add butter as desired.

jik

Rissoles are traditionally a French dish of a fried or baked croquette. The Australian version is more like a hamburger and is cooked in a pan on top of the stove.
 
Rissoles
makes 8-9
1 ¼ pounds lean ground beef
1 onion, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 egg
½ cup bread crumbs
flour, as needed
oil, as needed

Mix together the first six ingredients with your hands. Form the mixture into patties. Toss them with flour until they are finely coated. Heat a fine layer of oil in a pan over medium high heat. Cook each patty for about 3 minutes per side, adjusting the heat of the pan and adding more oil as needed.

ji
 
According to Wikipedia, "dark brown Australian food paste made from leftover brewers' yeast extract with various vegetable and spice additives developed by Cyril P. Callister in Melbourne, Victoria, in 1922". This definition does not really make Vegemite appeal to me, but I guess some people around the world would be horrified by my beloved peanut butter. Kraft Foods currently owns the spread.

Vegemite Toast
toasted bread
butter
Vegemite

Butter the slices of toast and spread a very (very) thin layer of Vegemite over the top. Trust me, a little goes a long way.

 h

I wanted to cook Australia while I was home because the meat pies contain tomato paste (which I cannot eat), my dad sent me Vegemite so I wanted him to have to try it with me, and it seemed like a menu that everyone in my family would enjoy. Two minutes into our meal Carson’s declaration of “I don’t like it, I don’t like it, I DON’T LIKE IT!” pretty much summed up everyone’s thoughts about Aussie food. I should have chopped the onion up finer in the rissoles. That’s why no one liked them. Dad called them welfare burgers. Sydney compared them to poorly made Krystal burgers. The mushy peas were not very appealing to my super picky family. Harper thought they were edible, but declined seconds. Vegemite is awful, y’all. We all tried it at once and spit it out in unison. It tastes like salty fermented yeast which is basically what it is. Surprisingly my dad actually liked it. He is so weird. The meat pies were the only thing that had decent reviews. Dad ate all the filling out of them and agreed to take the leftovers to work tomorrow. Syd ate all of hers and said it tasted like Manwich. (I have no idea where she tried Manwich. My mom would never allow something so processed in her kitchen.) Harper and my mom said they were ok. I, unlike my family, really enjoyed the Australian meal. I could not eat the meat pies because of the tomatoes. I probably wouldn’t like them because I always seem to have the opposite taste buds from the rest of my family. The rissoles were amazing. I ate 5 of them. (Yes, skinny little me ate 5 burgers. Don’t judge.) The mushy peas were good too. Vegemite doesn’t count because no one in their right mind could like something so horrendous unless they had been raised eating it like the Australians. The fact that my dad liked it reflects a lot about his mental health. Overall, we decided that you cannot expect Australian food to taste like Outback. After all my work, my mom had to grill hotdogs for everyone so they didn’t have to go to bed hungry. Oh well, at least they tried it.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Happy Retirement

The last card idea that I posted was an owl graduation card. I thought it would be appropriate to make my next card post come from the opposite side of the spectrum. That's right, tonight's card theme is retirement!

Motorhome Retirement Card

This cute motorhome card is the perfect way to start off the retired season of life. What other point in your life do you have the time and money to be able to continuously vacation with no school, children, or work responsibilities? I hope this card can serve to kick off a great retirement.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Brunch on a Bun

The Bob was the specialty at my old work place, the Lexington Inn, or the Lex for short. Last Monday was my last day working with my coworkers at the Lex. My school is getting a new dining service, so the days of the Lex are over. Likewise, so are the days of being able to order a Bob for dinner. What is a Bob exactly? Bob stands for "Brunch on a Bun". This monster of a burger consists of a patty, two slices of cheese, a fried egg, bacon, and a grilled tomato. Even though the Lex is gone, I wanted to allow the Bob to live on. Here is a recipe for the sandwich with the addition of avocado to make it even better.

The Bob



The Bob
serves 4
For the burger patties:
4 slices of bacon
1 pound 85% ground beef
2 eggs          
2 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese
dash of cayenne pepper powder
salt and pepper, to taste

To assemble:
8 slices of bacon
4 ounces shredded pepper jack cheese
4 thick slices of tomato
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
4 double yolked eggs (or 4 normal eggs and four egg yolks)
4 burger buns, buttered and toasted

To make the patties, chop up 4 slices of bacon and mix it in with the ground beef, eggs, cheese, and seasonings. Stir with your hands until just mixed and divide it into 4 patties. Pat the patties into rounds about the size of your buns and set aside.

Cook the remaining slices of bacon in a large skillet until nice and browned. Remove the bacon to a paper towel lined plate to drain, reserving the oil in the pan. Cook the patties individually in a tablespoon of the reserved grease over medium high heat for about 5 minutes per side, or until your desired doneness. Top each with a tablespoon or two of the remaining cheese a couple of minutes before you remove it from the pan so that the cheese can melt on to it. Meanwhile fry the eggs and grill the tomatoes slices for about a minute per side in the remaining bacon grease. Lay the burgers on the bottom of the buns and top with a tomato slice, a fried egg, two slices of bacon, and a few slices of avocado. Top the bun off and enjoy!


Monday, May 18, 2015

Chocolate Covered Strawberries in Cake Form!

Chocolate coated strawberries are heavenly. Strawberries dipped in Greek yogurt are delicious. Chocolate Greek yogurt is guiltlessly sinful. And cake is just the bomb. How do all of these things tie together? The following recipe for a chocolate cake with a strawberry- Greek yogurt swirl will solve (almost) all problems in life and provide one of the best treats around.

Chocolate Cake with a Strawberry-Greek Yogurt Swirl





 

Chocolate Cake with a Strawberry-Greek Yogurt Swirl
1 ½ cups cocoa powder
2 cups rolled oats, blended into a flour
¼ cup all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup applesauce
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
½ cup strawberry jelly

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and spray a 12” cake pan with oil. Mix all the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, applesauce, and buttermilk. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, mixing until there are no more lumps. Spread the batter out evenly in your pan. Whisk together the yogurt and jelly. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture around the top of the cake and swirl in with a knife. Bake for 35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow the cake to sit for 10 minutes before slicing into it.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Gift of Wisdom


With so many college graduations going on (my school's was this weekend) and high school graduations just around the corner, I thought it was about time to post a graduation card idea. This cute little owl would inspire any grad to seek wisdom and work hard wherever their future takes them. Good luck class of 2015. You are going to do great things!
Owl Graduation Card

Friday, May 15, 2015

A Peanut Butter Lover's Dream

I wanted to squeeze in one more country before the end of the semester. Since Zimbabwe is the last country on my alphabetical list of every nation on earth (plus some disputed ones), I thought it was a great choice to wrap up the last week of school. Since it is exam week, forgive me if I cut anything a little short. I’ll try to give Zimbabwe all the credit it deserves without encroaching on my precious study hours. (Whose idea was it to take 18 hours anyway? That just means more exams!)

 kn


Situated in between the Zambezi and Limpopo rivers, Zimbabwe is a southern African nation
with a population of 13 million speaking 16 official languages. You can say that Zimbabwe (formerly called Rhodesia under the control of the British South Africa Company) is a pretty diverse place. Most of the people of are Bantu origin. The Shona are the largest ethnic Bantu group making up 70% of the population. The Ndebele people make up about 20%. They are the descendants of Zulu immigrants from the 1800s. Although Zimbabwe’s history has been rough and their current government is still working out the kinks, their culture continues to endure and evolve as time goes on. The beautiful Shona carvings of birds, humans, stools, baskets, and other items are famous for being made out of a single piece of wood or stone. The stone carved bird is their national symbol and can be found on their flag. Zimbabwe also has their own version of the Boy Scouts. Their Boy Scout troops started in 1909, and they celebrate the skills of carving, tracking, leadership field-craft, and self-reliance.

 
 
kjn



Zimbabwe has British and Boer influences, but the majority of the cuisine is mainly African. Sadza and rice are the staples, and peanuts are a favorite flavoring ingredient. The Zimbabweans can mix peanut butter into just about any dish and make it taste spectacular. I was a big fan. Enjoy the following very peanut-filled (or groundnuts as the Zimbabweans call them) recipes!
 nk
This ceremonial feast dish is a chicken and peanut butter stew served on special occasions. Meat is a luxury amongst the poor of Zimbabwe, so this dish is a real treat. To get the true Zimbabwean feel, serve it out of a communal dish and eat it with you right hand. (Sorry lefties. :)  )

https://flic.kr/p/sRqrS6 | DSC_0837[1]
Huku ne Dovi
2 onions, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 green chili pepper, chopped
1 tbsp oil
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1 green bell pepper, diced
¼ tsp cayenne pepper powder
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup peanut butter
salt and pepper, to taste     

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and chili pepper. Sauté for about 8 minutes until the onion is tender. Add the chicken, bell pepper, and carrots to the pan. Continue to sauté until the chicken is browned all over but not cooked through. Season with cayenne pepper powder and mash the tomatoes into the stew. Add the water, bring to a simmer, and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter, cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until almost all of the moisture has evaporated, and season to taste.

 

 k

A dish of cooked greens with peanut butter often accompanies a stew and staple grain on the Zimbabwean table. “Muboora” is the word for pumpkin leaves, but I substituted spinach.  

Muboora ne Dovi
1-10 ounce bag frozen pumpkin leaves or spinach, thawed
¼ cup peanut butter
salt and pepper, to taste
3 tbsp water

Heat the water in a skillet over medium heat. Add the spinach and cook thoroughly, draining off any excess moisture. Stir in the peanut butter, cook for another 2 minutes, and season to taste.

 
https://flic.kr/p/rUpYsq | DSC_0832[1]
Although sadza is the typical Zimbabwean staple, I found a lot of recipes and talk of a peanut butter rice dish called mupunga ne dovi. Since I already made sadza when I cooked Tanzania for breakfast and my meal was already very peanut buttery, I decided to go all-out and include the peanut butter rice dish. I do not regret it!

 
Mupunga ne Dovi
1 cup brown rice, rinsed
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup peanut butter
salt, to taste

Bring the rice and water to a boil in a pot with a lid. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover, and continue to cook for about 20 minutes, or until the water has been absorbed and the rice is cooked. Stir in the peanut butter and salt to taste, cover the pot, and allow to sit for 5 minutes.

 ,

Did you catch the theme of this meal? Dovi, dovi, dovi…. What does “dovi” even mean? Peanut butter! Since I am a peanut butter girl, a peanut butter themed meal was a success in the making. Thankfully, Zimbabwe did not fail me. The spicy chicken stew was amazing. (I used a very spicy chili pepper since the recipe was not very specific. If you want a less spicy dish, use a milder chili.) The taste of the peanut butter was not over powerful, but gave it an amazing depth of flavor. My dislike of spinach has completely been eradicated throughout this journey around the world. Peanut butter spinach is the bomb. Even though rice really isn’t my thing due to the sticky texture and bland taste, the peanut butter rice was pretty good.

Monday, May 11, 2015

British-Indian Fusion

No, tonight's recipe is not part of my Meals Around the World project. Although many people associate chicken tikka masala with Indian cuisine, it is in fact of British origins. What? How can such a classic dish served at almost every Indian restaurant be British? According to Wikipedia, the story goes like this:

On a typical dark, wet Glasgow night a bus driver coming off shift came in and ordered a chicken curry. He sent it back to the waiter saying it's dry. At the time chef Ali Ahmed Aslam (proprietor of the Shish Mahal restaurant in the west end of Glasgow),  had an ulcer and was enjoying a plate of tomato soup. So he said why not put some tomato soup into the curry with some spices. They sent it back to the table and the bus driver absolutely loved it. He and his friends came back again and again and he put it on the menu.

I don't know the level of reliability surrounding this account, but today chicken tikka masala is one of the national dishes of the United Kingdom. I guess the British loved the Indian food they experienced during their period of colonizing India that they had to return home and adapt the flavors and style of the cuisine to their local ingredients and preferences. It just goes to show how small the world really is.

https://flic.kr/p/rJmYsw | Chicken Tikka Masala (1)

Chicken Tikka Masala
2 chicken tenders, cut into 1” cubes
1- 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes
¼ cup chopped onion
2 tbsp chopped jalapeño pepper
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp minced ginger
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp cayenne pepper powder
¼ cup flour
3 tbsp oil
salt and pepper, to taste
cilantro, to garnish
basmati rice, to serve

Preheat your broiler and line a baking pan with tin foil. Combine 1 tsp garam masala, ½ tsp cumin, 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper powder, 3 tbsp flour, and a dash each of salt and pepper in a bowl. Dredge the chicken in the mixture, arrange on the pan, and broil for 4 minutes. Meanwhile heat the oil, garlic, ginger, onion, and jalapeno over medium heat in a small pot. Once the onions are translucent, stir in the remaining seasonings (1/8 tsp cayenne pepper powder, 2 tsp garam masala, ½ tsp cumin, salt, and pepper). Cook for about a minute, whisk in the flour, and stir constantly for 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chicken and cook for another 10 minutes. Finally, stir in the cream, bring back to a simmer, and then serve topped with cilantro alongside basmati rice.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

A Shadow Box Picture Frame


It's about time for another craft idea! This one is a shadow box picture frame that I made for my little sister Sydney. She's about to be a senior in high school, so I guess she really isn't that little anymore. I'll always see her as my baby sister, though, and that's all that matters. Anyway, I love Syd to death and wanted to make something to show her how awesome of a sister she is. A shadow box picture frame was the perfect idea. It's like a simplified scrapbook that can be hung up and displayed for all to see. The color theme for Sydney's was purple and green to match her room. She loved it!

https://flic.kr/p/skwFxf | DSC_0070

Friday, May 8, 2015

Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

I had some leftover aji criollo from last night's Ecuadorian meal. I brainstormed ways to best utilize the spicy sauce and decided to make a spicy hummus dip. The results were so delicious that I had to share. Sorry about the poor photo quality. I had not planned on posting this thrown-together recipe, and the result was too good to waste time setting up a photo shoot.



https://flic.kr/ps/2nWwcp | Decorated11's photostream
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
3 cloves garlic
½ bunch of cilantro
4 serrano chili peppers
1 Thai bird chili
2 green onions
½ cup water
2 tbsp lime juice
8 ounces toasted pepitas
2 ½ cups dry chickpeas, cooked
1- 16 ounce jar roasted red peppers
salt, to taste
olive oil, as needed

Combine the first 8 ingredients into a food processor. Process until a chunky paste has formed. Add the chickpeas and roasted red peppers. Blend until a smooth paste forms, adding olive oil as needed. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Highland Specialties

The small Andean country of Ecuador sits right on top of Peru. Historically the region was populated by the Incan Empire and later fell into Spanish hands. Today, Ecuador is a blending of cultures with the majority of the population being mestizo (a mixture of Native American and Spanish). Ecuador’s borders stretch out to incorporate the beautiful Galapagos Islands (one of the few places on earth without a native population) as well as 23 other provinces. Regionalism is a big dividing factor amongst Ecuador’s people. Each geographical region isolates itself from others and prides in keeping the competition between regions. This has impacted the economy and in some cases has led to sabotage during battle just so one region did not see the other win against the enemy.

 
Ecuadorian cuisine shares a lot of similar ingredients as nearby Bolivia and Peru. Corn, potatoes, and rice are the common starches, and they are all eaten in abundance. The three regions of the country all have their own unique dishes and styles. Along the coast, you will find an abundance of fish, churrasco, chocolate, and many other specialties. The Amazon region places a large emphasis on the use of cassava as well as many fresh fruits. The highlands are famous for their cuy (guinea pig) and starches. I based my meal off of the highland region’s cuisine. I made locro soup and llapingachos with two sauces that are generally served with them as an accompaniment. My friend Noemí is and international from Ecuador. I told her today about last night’s Ecuadorian feast, and she was very excited to hear that I had cooked some of her favorite dishes. I wish I had remembered her when I was planning for Ecuador. I should have invited her over to cook with me. Oh well, that just means I’ll have to do it again some other time.

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Aji criollo is a typical Ecuadorian condiment that graces tables all over the country. It allows everyone to add their preferred amount of spiciness to the dishes as well as provides a delicious flavor booster. For those unaccustomed to heat, proceed with caution.

Aji Criollo
3 cloves garlic
½ bunch of cilantro
4 serrano chili peppers
1 Thai bird chili
2 green onions
½ cup water
2 tbsp lime juice
salt, to taste

Combine all the ingredients into a food processor. Process until a chunky paste has formed. Season to taste and serve alongside llapingachos, meats, or stews.


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Salsa de mani is a warm peanut sauce that is served alongside llapingachos. It's both creamy and delicious, and I loved pouring it all over my potato patties.
 
Salsa de Maní
½ onion, finely chopped
1 ½ cups milk
½ cup peanut butter (all-natural and unsweetened)
1 tbsp oil
salt, to taste

Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the oil and onion to the skillet. Cook for about 8 minutes until the onion is tender, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, mix the milk and peanut butter together. Pour in the milk mixture and bring to a low simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring constantly to make sure the milk does not curdle. Remove from the heat, allow the sauce to cool, and season to taste.

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Llapingachos are fried potato patties served with the abovementioned condiments as well as fresh avocado, fried eggs, meats, and many other additions. Salsa de mani and avocados are a must, but other than that the accompaniments are up to you.
 

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Llapingachos
1 pound potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tsp achiote
¼ onion, chopped
1 tbsp oil
salt, to taste
1 cup grated queso freso or mozzarella
salsa de maní, to garnish
sliced avocado, to garnish
aji criollo, to garnish
cilantro, to garnish
oil, for frying

Bring the potatoes to a boil in a pot of water. Cook for about 25-30 minutes until the potatoes are tender. (A fork should easily go through them.) Drain the potatoes and set them aside to cool. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the onions and achiote. Fry until the onions are tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Remove the onions from the pan and mash them together with the potatoes to form a soft dough. Season to taste, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour. Divide the dough into about 12 golf ball sized balls. Make an indent into each ball with your thumb and fill them with about a tablespoon of the cheese. Seal the top and press the balls flat. Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of a skillet over medium heat. Fry each dough ball until they are golden brown on each side. Serve topped with avocado, salsa de maní, aji criollo, and cilantro. (Fried eggs and fried pork are other common sides.)



 
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Locro is the South American version of cheesy potato soup. It has all the standard ingredients of potatoes, milk, and cheese, but adds an Andean element to the classic with the addition of achiote and queso fresco.




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Locro
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp oil
2 tsp achiote
1 tsp cumin
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
2 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups milk
1 cup shredded queso fresco or mozzarella cheese, plus more for topping
salt and pepper, to taste
avocado, for topping
cilantro, for topping

Heat the oil in the bottom of a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, achiote, and cumin. Sautee until the onions are tender, about 8 minutes. Add in the water, chicken broth, and potatoes. Bring the soup to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30 minutes. Once the potatoes are super tender (falling apart), mash them up with the back of a fork or spoon. Stir in the milk, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the cheese, and serve topped with avocado, cilantro, and additional cheese.



Desserts are often fresh fruit in Ecuador. I saw a red banana at the grocery store this week. Since they are native to Ecuador and I've always wanted to try one, I decided to include it in my Ecuadorian meal. My verdict? It tastes like a super cool looking banana.

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With the amount of achiote, a spice that I have not enjoyed in the past (see Belize and Guam), I thought Ecuador was going to be a flop. Thankfully I was mistaken. The fried potato patties with the peanut sauce and avocado were divine, a must if you are cooking any kind of Ecuadorian meal. The locro was comforting and filling. The aji criollo added the perfect amount of spice to round everything off. My friend Noemi was right. Ecuadorian food is amazing!