Stamppot

Two weeks behind; I’m getting there!

This was the beginning of Dutch week. To be honest, I’ve never had an interest in the food from the Netherlands but we do have a friend who is Dutch and I did this for him. Hi Bob! Bob and his wife, Nicole, currently live in South Carolina but we met them a few years ago through mutual friends when they lived here in Austin. Through the years they have become some of our favorite people and I always look forward to seeing them when they come down to Texas. They usually make a couple of trips a year, one earlier in the year and then another later in the year. They came down during the summer but I had already booked the Netherlands for the winter so I told them I’d cook for them when they came back down. And that was the plan.

Well, then Nicole went and got herself a lucrative contract with a gallery in New Orleans and now they can’t travel as much. Way to go, Nicole! Of course I’m kidding, it was/is an amazing opportunity for Nicole and we are so very proud and happy for her! My friend is famous! If you’d like to check her out (and you really should!) please visit her website or The French Art Network, with whom she works. Saying Nicole is talented is an understatement and I’m constantly in awe of her work. I bow down at her abilities. I am not worthy!

But I am worthy of this meal! Stamppot was a suggestion made by Bob, who said that unfortunately the Dutch aren’t known for their food. We had other friends live in Amsterdam for a bit and they agreed, their favorite food to eat while living there was actually Indonesian. Well I had already done Indonesia so “boring” Dutch food it was.

This was far from boring! It’s really easy to make because all you do is boil and them mash veggies. A child could make this. Well, a child with a good handle of cutlery because you do have to chop up a lot of veggies beforehand. The cool thing about stamppot is that it’s very versatile. From what I gather, you just need to have a couple of root vegetables and a green and you’re good to go. I used potato, sweet potato, turnip, carrot, leek, and cabbage. Bob made a kale stamppot a few days later that look amazing so I will definitely try it kale next time. The recipe called for rookworst, which is a Dutch sausage, but I couldn’t find it so I used kielbasa. Bob suggested smoking it next time to get a richer flavor and to also use a sausage made by Salt Lick, a local barbecue place.

I ate multiple servings of this and I was stuffed afterwards. The girls did eat this as well. The four year old picked at the stamppot but really enjoyed the sausage; the baby stuffed her mouth with both. James also liked it but said it was heavy. It was but that didn’t stop me! I ate it for lunch the next day, and the day after that, and was sad when it was gone. I had planned on incorporating it into our Thanksgiving dinner but I forgot about it until later. Whoops! This would be perfect for the cold weather weare (finally!) experiencing here in Austin so I’ll probably be making this again soon. I’ll just have to make sure I go for an extended run beforehand so I don’t go into a carb coma.

Recipe

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Breaded Pork Cutlets, Noodles with Cabbage, and Tomato Salad

Now that I’ve gotten all of the feels out of the way, it’s back to posting about food! I was going to apologize for being a Debbie Downer but feeling bad about feeling bad is part of the problem! Moving forward.

This was the second and last meal I prepared for Hungarian week. There was a reason I only did two but I can’t remember what it was, it was over three weeks ago…We actually drove up to Sun City and prepared this meal for James’ grandparents since his grandmother is Hungarian-American. Cooking in another person’s kitchen was an experience. James’ grandmother was very accommodating but taking over someone’s personal space is weird. It felt odd rummaging through cabinets and drawers, looking for a certain pot or spoon, like I was going through their underwear drawer. My kitchen is my space, it is one of the few rooms in the house where I claim complete ownership, and I don’t like people messing with my stuff. I don’t even like James messing with my pantry because he always puts things based on where he thinks they should go and, no! It’s my room! So I was extra respectful of the space I was in and made sure to put everything back from where it came.

Everything turned out great, though. The cutlet recipe said to not crowd the pieces together or to use two pans if necessary. I didn’t want to create an even bigger mess so I stacked the chops on top of each other and followed the rest of the recipe to a T. I think this created some additional moisture and as a result, the chops came out exceptionally juicy considering they were fried. I didn’t really know what to expect with the noodles and cabbage. I’d never had that combination before but I had a small inkling that it would be very bland. Um, it was not. It had a nice richness to it and I think that was because I had to brown sugar in oil beforehand. Had the sugar been missing, I think it would have been pretty forgettable. The tomato salad was fine, nothing exceptional, but it was easy and tasty so I will save that recipe.

Everyone enjoyed the meal, even the girls. James’ step-father took home seconds so I took that as a good sign. GrandMary also asked for some leftovers and believe me, that’s a pretty big deal. I’ll post the recipes tomorrow. Right now I just want to go veg out and watch Empire. I need to know what happened to Andre!

Spicy Cold Buckwheat Noodles, Spicy-Sweet Shredded Squid, and Soy and Sesame Spinach

This week we are eating food from Korea. I love Korean food. I say that with having only eaten beef bulgogi, bibimbap, kimchi, and japchae BUT I love everything I’ve eaten. My cousin’s wife is from South Korea and every time she posts their meals on FB, I’m left drooling and wondering if moving back to Uvalde would be worth it just to be able to eat dinner with them on a weekly basis. Fyi, it wouldn’t be. Based on what Sujin has posted and the few meals I’ve eaten, I knew we had to do Korean food for this project. James and I were giddy about it all weekend.

Koreatown: a Cookbook came out earlier this year and I’ve had my eye on it since. It got on my radar when Food 52 named it one of the best cookbooks to come out this year and honestly, the cover is what got me. I totally judge books by their covers, literally. I don’t do it with people so I at least have one redeeming quality. But yes, the cover of the book is very simple yet appealing. Look at it! Very basic black, no crazy font or a chef holding a bowl of rice, it really lets the food speak for itself. I loves it. And I mean it, I really love this cookbook. It’s the first book during this entire project where I’ve sat and read through the entire thing. Well, not the entire thing, there were some interviews that bored me, but I’ve read most of it. The tone is very conversational and it doesn’t treat cooking or food as something precious. There’s no pretension about it, they are making food that you like to eat because it’s good. Not because it’s trendy or has some hard to find ingredient, it’s just good food. I cannot recommend this enough.

Which is why I won’t be sharing the recipes. I really want people to check this book out. It’s not terribly expensive, $30 at Barnes and Noble, and I think it’s a great book to have if you like cooking and like eating. If you are really not into buying it, check out the preview on Google Books. I’m not saying you can Google the names of the recipes and they come up on Google Books. I’m not saying that at all.

This meal was kinda just thrown together. I ran out of time this week and didn’t plan my meals but I did earmark all the recipes I wanted to makein the book. I was running short on time Tuesday because I spent so much time grocery shopping so I just went through the book, found three recipes that didn’t require marination or a two hour fermentation, and made them. I’ll be doing the same today because, ugh, you don’t care why. So yeah, these meals were pretty quick. Most of the work was in the prep. I had to chop a good amount of veggies so I’ve decided my next tool purchase will be a mandolin slicer. I also forgot to set the rice cooker to the “Quick Cook” option when making the rice so it took a little longer than usual to get our rice. If I use the “White Rice” setting, it takes over an hour to make two cups of rice. Hello rice cooker? I need rice now! Haha, I need it rice now! Lame joke.

The buckwheat noodles were good but they did remind me a lot of the Indonesian Gado Gado in terms of fresh veggies. Although instead of a delicious peanut sauce, we ate a molten lava based chilie sauce. Gochujang does not mess around! The spinach was fine as well but it wasn’t anything special. The belle of the ball was the squid. Oh man, I loved that squid so much! I didn’t know what to expect with dried squid because I’ve never had squid except in bento boxes. It’s very chewy and I can’t say it’s my favorite. I don’t like it when my jaw hurts from chewing so hard. The scent from stir frying it wasn’t all that appealing either; my kitchen smelled very fishy and at one point James walked in and said “Oh, wow, um, that’s strong…” and walked out. When it was finally time to eat, I took a deep breath and shoved some squid in my mouth.

The burning. So.much.burning. I know I’ve mentioned it before but I’m not a fan of spicy food. It’s not that I don’t like the flavor or that the heat bothers me that much, I just physically can’t take it. “You just said the heat doesn’t bother you” It doesn’t hurt me but it does numb my mouth. Seriously, anything hotter than a banana pepper and my tongue and lips go numb so I’m not able to enjoy the full flavor of the food. I recently looked into this and apparently it doesn’t happen to everyone so that explains why some people can eat a ghost pepper and continue eating while I eat a quarter of a jalapeno and have to chug warm water just so I can taste the rest of my meal. Also, if you are eating spicy food, drink warm water, not cold. Warm water lifts the oils off your tongue while cold water sets them in. Science!

The squid was delicious! It was spicy and sweet and so, so chewy! But it didn’t make my jaw sore! The only way I can describe it is that it’s like the small nuggets of batter in General Tso’s chicken. You know what I’m talking about. The itty bitty pieces of batter that always get thrown in with the rest of the chicken and are crunchy yet chewy? That’s what this squid was like. And I can’t wait to make more of it. I’m not joking when I say this will be a snack staple from here on out. It took all of fifteen minutes to make and it was amazing. You need this squid in your life.

And if you’re wondering, the girls ate sandwiches. I was not in the mood to hear about how spicy everything was.

I can’t wait for the rest of the week!

Ceebu Jen

When we decided on doing Senegalese food, I don’t think either one of us knew what to expect. I have little to zero knowledge of Senegal; James probably knows more because he’s an encyclopedia. I really hope the girls inherit his thirst for knowledge…Anyway, the only thing I did expect was to eat fish since it borders the Atlantic Ocean.

I think I’ve mentioned this before but seafood always makes me nervous. I grew up in southwest Texas and the seafood we ate was mostly catfish and shrimp from the gulf. I’m sure we ate more because my dad loved fishing but all I remember is catfish and shrimp. Catfish is not good. I mean, it’s not bad, but there are few people who would choose catfish when presented with fish options. And there’s only one way to make catfish: fried. You know why? Cause you have to fry all the crap out of it, literally. Shrimp is a little more versatile and I love me some scrimps so I will not say anything bad about shrimp. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve tried many different kinds of fish but deep down, I’m still that little kid from Uvalde, grossing out over another catfish fish fry. I lived in Austin for almost six years before I ate my first fish taco for crying out loud!

Fish can be gross.

I really hoped that would not be the case with this meal. Ceebu Jen is considered the national dish of Senegal but just because the Senegalese like it, didn’t mean I would. I am seriously a fountain of positive thinking. Constantly shooting out positive energy into the universe.

I had nothing to worry about. This was one of my favorite meals in a looooong time and as the picture shows, the baby liked it a lot as well. I had barely put the plate down when she started scooping out food. And she didn’t stop. It already called for plenty of veggies so the only thing I added was red bell peppers. It reminded me of paella, which it basically is. My rice burned a bit because I forgot about it but it didn’t affect it too much. I never cook rice on the stove top, I use a rice cooker, so when I do, I almost always forget about it. I loved the texture of the cabbage, eggplant, and squash; everything was just so chewy.

We had a good amount of leftovers because the oldest refused to eat it so I had the pleasure of eating it for an additional two days. Let me tell you, it.held.up. I’m a weirdo who likes to eat leftovers cold (I’ve actually analyzed this habit and it’s way too complex to get into) and it was really delicious even cold.

So this is completely unrelated but it’s a pretty big day for us. Four years ago today, our oldest came into our lives. She is now THE four year old and not the ALMOST four year old. She is quite possibly the most stubborn child I have ever met and as a parent, it drives me crazy because sometimes (always) I don’t need to be told why she can’t or doesn’t want to do something, I just need her to do it. I know this will work for her benefit someday and that’s why I’m as patient as I am, which is not very. But her strong opinions have helped me as a person and with this project because as she makes it very clear, I am not the best at everything and not all the food I make is awesome. She keeps me humble and grounded and for that, I am appreciative.

Happy birthday you difficult, wonderful little girl!

Recipe

Maafe

We are in Senegal this week!

We chose Senegal because it’s in Africa and so far we’ve only done two African countries, Morocco and Israel. I wasn’t aware that we’d done so little in Africa until I started marking off the countries we’ve “visited” on a map of the world. We’ve done plenty in the Mediterranean, Central America, and southeast Asia but the Africa on our map is a little bare. I don’t want Africa to feel left out so we looked at the map and settled on Senegal. Well, we looked at the map for ideas, Googled the cuisine, and then settled on Senegal. We looked at other countries but their cuisines didn’t seem all that appealing or included a lot of yucca and I’m tired of eating yucca. I mean, there is only so much you can do with it, fry it or boil it, and it almost never results in something super good. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the yucca fries from El Salvadorian week but I don’t need to keep recreating them with different spices. I get it, yucca is good!

Quick aside. I use “we” a lot when writing on the blog or when explaining to people what we’re doing. Many people have asked me to clarify who “we” are and when I say that it’s James and I, they ask what exactly he does. First of all, rude. Secondly, he doesn’t have to cook to be considered a contributor.  He helps choose countries, researches meals, helps decide which recipes would work on what days due to time constraints; his input is very important. He also watches our girls while I’m cooking so I can cook with little to no interruption. That right there is probably the best thing he does to help out because those girls be cray sometimes. The second best thing he does is pay for all of this, which he does without complaint. I’m not working so he funds this entire project and doing this is not cheap. For whatever reason, meat and fresh produce are hardly ever discounted, even though they are unbelievably healthier for you than pre-packaged food, so our grocery bill varies from $60 to $200 per week. That is not a complaint, I am fully aware this is a choice and we are by no means obligated to do this, but it is a huge factor. So yes, he is a partner in this and what he does is no less important than what I do.

Now that I’ve talked about how great my husband is, let’s talk about this meal!

This meal was pretty easy to make and the ingredients weren’t hard to find at all. I’ve said it before and I will continue to say it, these types of meals are my favorite! The sauce was made up primarily of tomato and peanut butter. Yes, I was curious about that because those two are not typically paired together (at least I’ve never paired them) so there was some slight hesitation about that. The recipe I used seemed to lend itself to improvisation because it was pretty lax about what vegetables to use. I liked this a lot because I could 1. use veggies I liked and 2. use veggies I could find easily. I ended up using okra and cabbage because I like okra and cabbage. Easy enough.

We all really enjoyed it. The tomatoes gave the peanut butter a little tartness which was interesting. Ginger was optional but I did use it because I love ginger. It was very present but not overpowering, which I think was due to the acidity of the tomatoes. I’m just guessing here, I have absolutely no knowledge of food chemistry. For that, you can turn to J. Kenji Lopez-Alt. The meat was also surprisingly tender for a stew, for which I once again credit the tomatoes. Tomatoes are super fruits for a reason.

This was a pretty great introduction to Senegalese food. It made me hopeful for the rest of the week.

Recipe

Gado Gado

Last night was the start of Indonesian week for us. Irish, Jamaican, and American week had their fair share of fried foods so we wanted get some roughage in us and give our arteries a break from being clogged.

So I made fried tofu and potatoes. I mean, if you’re going to eat fried food, it should be fried tofu, right? That makes it a little better, doesn’t it? No, no it doesn’t. So it goes.

We originally wanted to do Balinese food but when searching for recipes, I kept encountering Indonesian food. This left me perplexed. Does Bali not have their own food? Why is their food classified under a neighboring country? Why can’t Bali be great????

Bali’s food is classified as Indonesian because Bali is a province of Indonesia. Yeah. We thought Bali was its own country…so not only am I learning about food, I’m also learning about geography. The lessons abound in this project! Just this morning I was telling the almost four year old that she should strive to learn something new everyday. We’re having issues with her wanting to read books at night because she’d much rather watch My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Friendship IS magic but so is reading! I tried to explain that by watching tv, her brain is turning to mush and reducing her ability to learn because she isn’t taking the time to observe or analyze things. She then said “Momma, the light is red.” I should really listen to myself sometimes. I’m going to take my own advice and make an earnest attempt to learn something new every day; yesterday was that Bali and Indonesia are NOT two different countries. I haven’t learned anything new today.

Moving on.

From my extensive research, a.k.a I read two articles, Gado Gado is one of the most popular meals in Indonesia. It’s a veggie salad, plain and simple, however, the peanut sauce is what makes it exceptional. Everything I read, all two articles, mentioned how the key to a great Gado Gado was the peanut sauce. I did everything the recipe said in making the sauce but mine came out a little chunky and I say this just based on the pics I saw online. I don’t think it made a huge difference, it just meant that the sauce didn’t spread as easily across the whole plate.

I had to blanch the vegetables and James was curious as to the purpose of doing it. I don’t have a lot of experience with blanching so I told him that I thought it was to cook the veggies and retain their natural, crisp texture. This wasn’t entirely accurate. According to el interwebs, blanching is used to preserve the nutrients and color in veggies before freezing them. It also helps when stir frying veggies. If you blanch denser veggies, like broccoli, you can then add them to the stir fry with less dense veggies and they will all cook at the same time. This is actually something I’ve encountered when stir frying carrots; I never know how to get them to cook evenly with the other vegetables.

There’s my lesson for the day!

The salad was delightful and I had multiple servings. James took leftovers for lunch and I think would be a great lunch to prepare ahead for the week. My shrimp chips burned a little so it changed the whole flavor of them. I wasn’t a fan of that. I’ll do better next time and there definitely will be a next time!

Recipe

Jerk Chicken, Quick Fried Cabbage, and Cornmeal Fritters

This was our last Jamaican meal. I saved it for last for two reasons: it had to marinate it for up to 24 hours and I wanted a fabulous meal to accompany the Game of Thrones season finale. Marinating meat isn’t very hands on but I wanted to be able to turn the meat every few hours and I didn’t want to get distracted with regular work week stuff.  Had I done this during the week, I could have easily forgotten about the meat sitting in the fridge and then been super annoyed with myself when I took it out and only one side was marinated. So free time was a big consideration but the biggest was filling my belly with delicious food to prepare myself for the GoT finale. That show can be super intense and I typically run the gamut of emotions so I need some sustenance to get me through it. Also, my cousin usually comes over to watch the show with us and I like feeding him good food.

When deciding on meals, I knew I had to do a jerk recipe. Making jerk food is different from my usual being a jerk but like being a jerk, making jerk food was pretty easy for me. What took the longest and was most uncomfortable was making the fire in the grill. It was like ten billion degrees that day and being around direct heat like that was NOT fun. Thankfully the meat came out great. I used chicken thighs instead of cutting up a whole chicken because I really dislike cutting whole chickens. I was surprised by how succulent the meat was since it was on the grill for almost two hours and I don’t think it was just because we were grilling thighs, which are very juicy to begin with. It wasn’t very spicy and from what I read, it should have been. I used habanero peppers which are slightly less spicy than the recommended Scotch bonnet but not by much. I was okay with that since I don’t like my mouth to be on fire.

The cabbage was cabbage, no big deal there.

For me, the true bell of the ball was the cornmeal fritters. I’ve had cornmeal fritters before and they are usually hard, grainy, and taste like cornmeal. So appetizing…These fritters were so far from that and I think it was the inclusion of the coconut milk. Just like it put some glitter on the dull red beans and rice, the coconut milk livened up the fritters. They were a little spongy, light, and with a twinge of sweetness. I had one a couple of days later and it was a little hard even after heating but the flavor was still present.

This was a great way to end Jamaican week and it’s something I will make again. I might try to do a dry rub next time and see if that reduces the marination time.

The older one is telling me I need to get off the computer and I must obey my master.

Recipe, Recipe, 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

Breast of Chicken Theresa, Sardine Fritters, and Cabbage Salad

First things first: if you’re watching your fried food intake, step away from this meal. It’s not for you.

Secondly, I don’t get the name of the chicken dish. Like, is the chicken named Theresa? Or should it just be Chicken Theresa? No se. (that’s Spanish for “I don’t know”)

This was my favorite meal by far! Everything was amazing and even though two of the dishes were fried, I didn’t hate myself afterwards. There are some meals that do that! They’re so good but you know they aren’t good FOR you and you’re left with conflicting feelings of joy and remorse but not this meal. It was, literally, all good.

Also, all these recipes came from the All Along the Danube cookbook.

Everything was so good! The chicken was crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside because of the cheese. I had expected the sauce to be very rich but it was perfection! I was a little worried about the sardine fritters because sardines are very fishy but the taste was very sublime. And the cabbage! The cabbage was sweet but not in a bad way. It was sort of like a cole slaw. And everything went together amazingly. It was a fast, easy, delicious meal. My favorite!

Recipe

Smoked Pork Chops with Spiced Red Cabbage, Spatzle, and Black Forest Cherry Cake

So based on the title of this post, you can tell I was a little ambitious with this meal. This was our second German meal for the week but it should have been our third. My husband, James, prepared the first meal and will be posting about it someday and I was too tired the second day to cook. Our oldest came home early from school with a fever, which required a doctor’s appointment, and after doing all that I was beat. I can’t even remember what we ate that night.. For this meal, we had dinner guests so I kinda went a little crazy with the cooking.

What I learned from this meal and throughout the rest of the week is that German food isn’t as labor intensive as the others. The food looks a lot more complicated than it actually is. That’s not to say I still didn’t mess up, I totally did, but it still worked out well.

I also didn’t take many pics. The oldest kiddo was home because she still had a slight fever from the day before and like a good mother, I put her to work in the kitchen. What’s that saying? Feed a cold, make your slightly feverish three year old work in the kitchen since it’s better than allowing her brain to turn to mush by watching cartoons all day? I think I saw that on a t-shirt once.

Oh hey, what do you know? My husband did take a pic of the chops before they went into the oven. Teamwork!

I was like “It’ll be fine, it’ll be fine!” It was not fine. You see that hump? Well, when I turned it out, it turned out it was concave. Yep, I had a chocolate cake bowl. So I did what any normal person would do: I filled it with cherries and whipped cream. Success! I am not good at baking, obviously.

Aside from that pretty big hiccup, the meal was fantastic! The spaztle had a nutty taste, due to the sesame oil, and I think I’ll continue making it that way. The pork chops and sauce were super yummy! The sauce thickened a little too much but I still enjoyed it. The cabbage was also really good and I just remembered that I had some the next day and it was even better then. Maybe that’s why you should let it sit a day…my cake turned into one big brownie and that’s never a bad thing.

Recipe