Ginger Stewed Chicken, Baked Sweet Potatoes, and Celery and Rice

Even though I’ve been doing this for almost seven months and have made over seventy meals, I still expect every one to be amazing and the best thing I’ve ever eaten. I know that’s a tall, HUGE, order but it’s true. I guess on some level I just feel that if I’m putting this much effort into it, not just cooking but the researching and shopping, that it should pay off very well. The reality is that not every meal can meet my ridiculously high standards and I need to settle down with that way of thinking.

I’ll take “Duh Melissa” for $200, Alex.

This meal was on the lower end of my satisfaction meter. It was a decent meal and it was something that could be prepared any day of the week. On that alone, it’s very family friendly and I probably will save it for future use and it might even turn into a “Go to” meal but I wasn’t super impressed. I thought the ginger would make the chicken more exciting but not really. I think my sauce should have been thicker but I don’t know if that would have really made a difference. The potatoes tasted like something I’ve had for Thanksgiving but I will say the orange extract did give it a slightly more interesting flavor.

Surprisingly, I liked the celery and rice the most. I was really worried about the celery because it is such an overpowering flavor but the ginger brought a down a notch. Also helping it was the pepper. Scotch bonnet peppers are used A LOT in Jamaican cooking but I wasn’t able to find them. I even went to a Afro-Caribbean market but they didn’t have them. Scotch bonnets are a cousin of the habanero and rocoto pepper. You might remember the rocoto pepper from Peruvian week. Also, a little tidbit, in Mexico, the rocoto pepper is called a manzano pepper because of its apple like shape. Anyway, Scotch bonnets are fiery like habanero and tangy like rocoto/manzano. I don’t like fiery but I like tangy so I used the latter. That might have also helped the celery and rice, having little big of tang, but I think the biggest factor was the ginger.

So, you know, this meal was good. It was fine. I’d eat it again. The girls liked the rice and potatoes but were pretty uninterested in the chicken. I think the oldest even ate the potatoes for lunch the next day. Double duty meals are always great!

Recipe, recipe, recipe

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Stuffed and Baked Chocho and Callaloo (but not really)

So I had a long post in mind, one where I would discuss my admiration and respect for the history of Jamaica and its people. I would mention the slave revolt that led to its independence, its struggle to find its own place in the world, and how all that had contributed to a rich cuisine.

Then I realized that all my opinions and admiration were for Haiti, not Jamaica. I somehow got the two countries confused. I don’t know how I got the two confused. I am, apparently, a pretty stupid person. I’ll be honest, I’m a little ashamed. I should know better and I need to check this privilege. Lesson learned.

I don’t know anything about Jamaica and I didn’t take the time to read the cookbook I used last week. Yes, I’m a week behind in posting but I’m not cooking this week so I can catch up. Anyway, the cookbook I used was Jamaican Cooking by Lucinda Scala Quinn. I am adding “read the damn book” to my To Do List for the rest of the week.

This was the first of four meals we ate last week. It was a pretty easy meal to put together. This was our second time eating chayote, the first being during Burmese week. I’ve been looking for another opportunity to eat it because I really liked it the first time and this one did not disappoint. I like the firmness of this squash compared to others. I boiled it for about twenty minutes but it still held its shape very well and wasn’t too watery. The meat and cheese combined with the sweetness of the squash made it very juicy and tasty.

The spinach was okay, nothing mind blowing, but I did like the thyme that was added to it. It added a little unexpected flavor to it.

The baby liked the squash, like she did the last time we ate it. The three year old only ate the filling because the rest of the meal was green and we all know how disgusting green things are.

Recipe, Recipe

Beef and Stout Pie

Let’s go ahead and address the obvious: I changed the placemats BUT it wasn’t just to please the kid. I decided the red ones were better for everyday use because I got them for $5 at Ross and because they hide stains better. I’ll save the others for people who know how to use utensils properly and who know how to keep the food on their plates and not all over the table and their faces. And yes, a little to please the kid but she will never be told that. You did not win this round kid!

Moving on.

This was a recipe that was shared by my friend from back home, Caroline. This recipe came from a cookbook her mother gave her but I didn’t get the title so I apologize to whomever compiled the recipes for that cookbook, I will not be able to give you proper credit.

This was my first time making a pot pie. The recipe called for puff pastry sheets and I thought I had sheets but it turned out I had shells. Because of this, my crust came out significantly thinner than it should have since I had to roll out the small shells. It didn’t really affect the flavor much but I think it would have been nice to have a bit more “bread” to dip with. I also used a combination of ground beef and pork instead of cubes of chuck steak because I wanted to use up the meat I have sitting in my freezer. I think it would have been more savory with cubes but it worked overall. Both James and I had indigestion later on that night but that might have had more to do with the wine we drank while watching Game of Thrones.

And now for a squirrel moment: OMG y’all, GoT! I’ve waited six flippin’ seasons for Daenerys to bring out her dragons and it was so satisfying!  I need to find a way to incorporate “dracarys” into my vocabulary. I’m thinking maybe when I’m about to lose my shit. Also, that battle scene was legit! Oh, yeah, sorry for the spoilers but c’mon, it’s Wednesday, you’ve had plenty of time to watch it.

Both of the girls enjoyed their pot pies. The oldest especially loved the crust and now that I think about it, that’s all she ate.

Carbs are her best friend, seriously.

Recipe

Guinness Battered Fish and Chips

I once again forgot to take a separate pic of my meal from the one used for Instagram, HOWEVER, this time I have a legit reason: my three year old is insane.

If you haven’t noticed, we got a new dining table. Our last table was given to us by a friend nine years ago when he was switching apartments. We didn’t have a table so we gladly took his free one. When we bought our house seven years ago, “Buy a grown up table” was on our To Do List but then other things that were higher priority were added to the list. Things like “Plan bachelor/bachelorette parties” and “Get married” oh, and the real important one “Keep this new baby alive.” That last one hasn’t left the list for almost four years but I’m sure we’ll eventually get to cross it off.

The table started to fall apart about five years ago. The iron handles on the chairs lost their screws so they would pop out, the metal strips on the back of the chairs somehow got detached from the frame, and the straw that broke the camel’s back, the plastic caps on the bottom of the chairs disappeared and the chairs started scratching the floors. Apparently that was it for James. Having a table and chairs that look like they belong in an apartment off Riverside was okay but once they started scratching up the floors (and possibly causing more housework for him later on in case he needed to replace a plank) THAT WAS IT. I, obviously, didn’t complain, I’ve wanted a new set for a long time. So we got a new set and because I want this table to last longer than a year, I’ve decided we need to use placemats like the dignified, classy people we are.

The three year old disagreed.

I put the mats down and started bringing the plates to the table to serve ourselves and she walked in, took one look at the mats, and hollered “I DON’T LIKE THESE THINGS!” and flinged hers to the ground. What followed was an argument about how Mom doesn’t care what she wants, she’s using a place mat. But she doesn’t want to use a place mat. Mom.does.not.care. USE THE MAT. SHE DOESN’T WANT TO. That was followed by screaming and crying (she cried, not me, this kid can’t break me. And on the occasion that she does, I do it in the bathroom with a bottle of wine like a good mom) and the three year old being sent to her room to scream and cry to her heart’s content while we and the baby ate our meal. And James and I chugged our Guinness in silence. She eventually came out after twenty minutes and ate her meal ON THE DAMN PLACEMAT AND LOVED IT.

MOM FOR THE WIN!

Adding to my mom victory was this super, great meal! I got this recipe from a friend back home, whose parents are Irish. I wasn’t having much success finding recipes that didn’t include potatoes and cabbage as a main ingredient so I reached out to Caroline for help and boy, did she come through! This was just one of many recipes she sent me and I am so grateful for her help. I like cabbage and potatoes, I don’t like cabbage and potatoes for dinner all week.

The batter was really light and didn’t make me feel gross afterwards. The chips I figured out by myself, I mean, they’re fried potatoes, I don’t need a recipe for that. I used cod for the fish and it was the right amount of firm texture. Sometimes you get a soft fish and, yeah, that’s gross, but not cod. I’ve used cod before, for the Sister’s Stew, but this time it was prepared differently so I wondered how it’d hold up. It did great. Good for you, cod, you’re such a trooper!

Aside from Great War of the Placemat, this meal was extremely enjoyable. I almost felt like I was in a pub, eating my fish and chips and drinking a pint with my man and loving life. Then the local drunk, in the form of a moody three year old, tried to ruin it but we were like “Get out of the damn pub, you’re pissed” Not today, Satan, not today.

Recipe

Roasted Salmon and Bacon and Cabbage with Parsley Sauce

This will probably be the shortest post in this blog’s history. It’s not that I’m short on time or anything, this meal was just kinda boring.

The most interesting part of the entire thing was I marinated the salmon in Irish whiskey which, by the way, I got scolded for because I used the expensive Irish whiskey. I used an eighth of a cup, James! It was a little tangy from the lemon zest and vinegar but it still tasted like salmon.

Same thing with the cabbage. It was tasty but it wasn’t anything special. My sauce came out kinda lumpy but I don’t think it being runnier would have made it any better.

On a scale of “Barf” to “OMG I WANT TO DIE AFTER EATING THIS MEAL BECAUSE NOTHING WILL EVER BE BETTER” I give this meal a “This food is being eaten to give my body nutrients.”

Recipe, Recipe

Shakshuka and Jerusalem Bagels

Sorry for the Instagram picture repeat. I typically try to upload different pics to my IG account from the ones I use on the blog but I guess I forgot to take one for the blog. My bad. In my defense,we were trying to wrangle the girls for breakfast while also trying to not knock our food off our tv trays. Up until yesterday, we were eating in the living room off tv trays because we got rid of our old dining set and were waiting on the new set to be delivered. Adding to the frustration, I decided to pull out the Persian rug that James’ stepdad gave us a few years ago. He got it in Iran(q?) over twenty years ago and gave it to us a few years ago when he and James’ mom were moving from San Antonio to Austin. We pulled it up when we decided to potty train the oldest because I did not want to hear “it” if she accidentally peed on an authentic Persian rug.  We were without a table for ten days and let me tell you, with two kids who still manage to get food everywhere, it was not a fun ten days. Having to pull out their play table and our tv trays and then watching what they dropped on the rug, it was annoying.

I know, I know, I lead such a hard life.

Shakshuka and Jerusalem bagels.

A few different people recommended shakshuka to me when they learned about my little project. All I was told was that it involved eggs, tomatoes, and it was really yummy. Reading up on it, I learned that the dish actually didn’t originate in Israel but in Tunisia. However, with the influx of Tunisian Jews in the 1950s, it quickly became a very popular dish in Israel. The recipe I used was from Smitten Kitten. I probably could have used a more authentic Israeli site but the recipe followed all the others I read and I really like Smitten Kitten.

The preparation was really easy and fast. Aside from the feta cheese, I think most people have the ingredients for this meal in their fridge and pantry so you could probably whip this up tonight. And yes, even though it does have eggs in it, you don’t necessarily have to eat it for breakfast; apparently it’s also eaten for dinner in Israel. In flavor, it reminded me of Huevos Rancheros because it’s basically the same thing! Huevos Rancheros obviously doesn’t have feta and uses cilantro instead of parsley but other than that, everything is the same. It was delicious though, I even went back for seconds of just the sauce. The baby ate the eggs and the oldest licked it and asked for crackers. Ugh, that kid…

That kid, annoying as she can be, was pretty helpful when it came to making the bagels. I chose Jerusalem bagels because they are baked, not boiled. For some reason the idea of boiling bread intimidates me, probably because it involves a bit more attention than just chunking something in the oven. The recipe I used was about as straight forward as can be so it made the whole process a less daunting. It took about two hours total but a lot of that time involved the dough rising.

At first the baby was helping me roll out the dough but when the oldest saw she was having fun, the baby got kicked out of the kitchen. I didn’t really mind, she was trying to eat the raw dough and I was getting tired of pulling out wet, sticky dough out of her mouth. Although, when I was cutting the dough into six balls and saw she needed to be entertained, I gave her a bit of dough and showed her how to roll it in her palm. I had a flashback to “helping” my grandmother make tortillas and her giving me my own ball of dough tokeep me out of the way. Thank you for showing me the way, Grandma Lupe.

Anyway, these bagels are hayooge! I am not exaggerating when I say they are as big as my head. They’re also tricky. At first bite, they seem really light so you end up eating an entire bagel. Ten minutes later, your stomach feels like it’s expanded by a few inches and you have problems buttoning your pants. We had a birthday party later that day and even three hours AFTER eating the bagels, we were penguin walking down Rainey Street from being so bloated from the bagels. I actually gave the birthday girl a bagel because I figured it would be a great way to soak up booze after an afternoon of day drinking. Aside from the bagel bloat, they were good. They were sweeter than traditional bagels but, duh, they’re sprinkled with sugar so that was expected.

Out of the three meals we had for Israeli week, I think this was my favorite. Yeah, it was even better than the shawarma. It was kinda like a comfort food and I just loved the ease of the entire meal. I love easy.

Because, like I said earlier, my life is so, so hard.

Grilled Chicken Shawarma, Mejadra, and Israeli Vegetable Salad

This meal, oh man, this meal was so good! *cue Penny from “Happy Endings”* suh guhd!

This wasn’t authentic shawarma because James won’t let me be great and buy a vertical spit to grill my meat but this was a close second. The recipe I used called for an outdoor grill but I decided to finally use the ceramic grill pan James gave me for Mother’s Day. My reason for not using the outdoor grill was purely selfish: I didn’t want to clean the grill and it was a billion degrees outside. Those ceramic pans live up to the hype in terms of clean up and my kitchen has a/c, it was basically a “Duh” decision.

I was a little worried that cooking it on the stove top would compromise the flavor but I still got great results. I think the key to making chicken shawarma in the non-traditional method is to use chicken thighs because you need that extra fat. Traditional shawarma is basted in its fat and juices so you need to replicate that any way you can, or at least the easiest way you can, and that means using a fattier cut of meat. If you’re really concerned about the greasiness of dark chicken meat, you can maybe do a mixture of both dark and white meat but just don’t use all white, it won’t turn out well.

I also got the veggie salad from the same site as the chicken. I didn’t dice my veggies as finely as needed but, oh well, what are you going to do? The baby really liked the salad but mostly enjoyed just picking the cucumbers out of it. The three year old didn’t touch it.

She did, however, touch the mejadra. I’ve actually made mejadra before but not this specific recipe. I didn’t realize I’d made it before until I was cooking it and honestly, I’ve made it a few times. I believe it’s in my Greek cookbook, the one that turned out to be less Greek and more Mediterranean, and it’s a pretty easy and straight forward dish. Themost time consuming part of this dish was frying the onions. Frying onions take for-e-ver! I recently made caramelized onions and was soooo bored. What is it that takes those suckers so long to turn brown???

Anyway, this meal made up for the frytastic meal before it. It definitely felt a lot healthier! One of the many good things about this meal is that I can make it over and over again and that each dish would compliment others as well; I wouldn’t have to always make all three together.

Actually, I think I’ll make the salad tonight. I’ll work on my dicing skills.

Kofta B’siyinah, Sumac Spiced Eggplant, and Falafel

This week we are eating Israeli food. As usual, there was no real reason for us choosing Israel. Actually, that’s not true. Our two options were Israel and Egypt and when searching for recipes, Israel won out because I found easier recipes. I’ve had a lot going on this week so I knew I would be short on time and patience. In order to preserve my marriage and sanity, I went with the easier option. Also, I was familiar with many of the ingredients after having already prepared foods from other Mediterranean countries like Greece, Morocco, and Turkey. The only additional ingredients I had to buy were the sumac for the eggplant, tahini, and pine nuts. Bit of advice on pine nuts: if you can, buy in bulk because you can control the amount and it’s significantly cheaper. I paid just under $3.00 for eight ounces of pine nuts; that’s typically how much you’d pay for a two ounce package. Thank you Davod’s Mediterranean Grocery!

Kofta B’siyinah and falafel made many of the Must Eat lists; the Sumac Spiced Eggplant was just found by browsing different dishes. I had some experience with kofta from Turkish week when I made bulgur and lentil kofta (they call it kofte) Kofta are meatballs. The recipe I used called for a beef and lamb mixture but I just used lamb. I thought I’d probably like it more than just regular beef meatballs. The kofta itself was enjoyable but I liked it more when it was dipped in the tahini sauce. It subdued the gaminess of the lamb, which is definitely less prominent in ground lamb but it still there.

I’ve also made falafel before. For some reason I went on a big falafel kick about ten years ago and made it almost weekly for two weeks. It’s really easy to make and my old recipe made it easier because I used canned chickpeas. The recipe I used this week said NO CANNED CHICKPEAS so I used dry ones. Um, I think Miss Tori Avey, whose recipe I used, knows what she’s talking about! This falafel was vastly superior to my old falafel! The texture was similar to a very crumbly biscuit whereas my old one was just flavored mush, well, at least compared to the new one. I probably won’t go on another falafel kick any time soon but I will save this recipe for the future.

The eggplant was meh. It takes a lot to make eggplant interesting and frommy experience, breading and frying it do not. It wasn’t anything special. I had never eaten sumac before, at least not that I know of, and I still can’t tell you what it tastes like. Supposedly it has a lemony, tart flavor but I didn’t taste that at all.

This was a lot of fried food for one meal and I should have planned it a bit better. Added a flippin salad or something…The girls had PB&Js because I knew they wouldn’t be into it. The baby tried the falafel and spit it out so I guess we won’t be taking her to Israel any time soon. Way to ruin my summer plans, kid!

Tamales de Elote

Along with the pupusas, this meal was the one I was most excited to make. I love, love, LOVE tamales! They are the definition of comfort food to me. Like many Hispanic households, my family would get into tamale mode a bit after Thanksgiving and we would stay there until mid-January. They were always available during that time, either through us making them or buying them from the many, many women who sold them back home, but the biggest consumption time was right around Christmas. Because of this, I always associate tamales with the winter and it wasn’t until a few years ago that I ate my first tamale in a month that didn’t require a coat. That’s right, I was thirty before I ate a tamale that 1. wasn’t pork and 2. didn’t help keep me warm. I vividly remember that Oaxacan black bean and cheese tamale wrapped in a banana leaf and eating it at a farmer’s market in downtown Austin about five years ago.

Up until then, I couldn’t fathom eating a tamale in the spring or summer. It’s a hot food and you don’t eat hot foods when the temperature outside matches the temperature of the food.  This is also why I don’t eat soup in the summer. Barbecue is clearly the exception here because, I don’t know, it’s amazing. I’ve said this once and I’ll say it again, I’m aware I’m weird.

So anyway, I was looking forward to making these tamales. I found the recipe online (that website is really awesome, by the way) and got to it. The last time I made tamales was for our New Year’s Eve party three years ago. I made almost fifteen dozen, ALONE, and it was painful. There’s a reason why there’s always an assembly line when making tamales: one person would develop carpal tunnel. My hands ached for a few days after but it was worth it because my tamales were the bomb.com. Luckily this recipe only made a dozen so I knew I could handle making a dozen on my own.

These tamales were different from what I’m used to because the filling, the corn, was actually incorporated into the masa. Typically you smear the masa on the husk and then put a dollop of filling in the middle but with this, I had to mix in the corn and butter directly with the maize and lard. The recipe said to steam them for thirty to forty five minutes but after forty five, they still felt soft, so I steamed them for another fifteen minutes. They still came out softer than usual tamales but my cousin, who was over for dinner, and I surmised that this had something to do with the corn being mixed in. I’m not a food chemist but I’m just guessing that the liquid the corn releases when being cooked had something to do with it.

Even with being softer than expected, they were fantastic! I had some rice and beans leftover from the day before so I whipped up some more Casamiento to go with it. The tamales were a little sweet and a lot lighter than what I’m used to but I still loved them. Spreading the masa wasn’t as easy as it is with pork tamales but again, I’m thinking that had to do with the corn. I’m also not the best at spreading masa. Growing up I was never allowed to spread the masa because I had a heavy had; my job was to put the meat in and wrap them. Translation: the crap job.

The girls loved them, the oldest especially, and since they were easy to make, I know I’ll make them again. Maybe when they’re older, the girls can help me and BOTH will be able to spread the masa because I will not allow them to grow up with a masa spreading insecurity.

Carne Deshilada, Casamiento, and Fried Plantain

I’m going to start off by saying that I loved this meal. The ingredients were easy to find, it was easy to make, and it was beyond tasty. There have been a few meals that I’ve loved but I know I won’t make them too often because it will require me going to a store other than my normal HEB. Methi Aloo, Chicken Sekuwa, and Stir Fried Chayote come to mind. This meal consisted of ingredients I almost always have in my kitchen so I know that if I’m looking for something quick and easy, I can always make this.

We had friends over for brunch on Saturday, the same friends who ate theSour Pot Roast, but thankfully this meal was a lot more palatable than the pot roast. I found the recipe online but also posted it in the Recipe section because the website where I found it is in Spanish. The Carne Deshilada reminded me of migas but instead of tortillas, there was meat. There was that same chewiness and the flavors were similar, however, the deshilada wasn’t as heavy as migas. I don’t know if it’s the same for everyone but I typically can’t move after I eat migas. Even with the Casamiento, which is basically El Salvadorean Gallo Pinto, I wasn’t completely incapacitated after this meal.

This was definitely one of my favorite meals so far. I feel like I’ve been saying that a lot lately, which isn’t really a bad thing. Also, the girls only ate the Casamiento and requested a side of dry Rice Krispie cereal, because of course.