Coq au Vin with Parsley Potatoes and Buttered Peas and Butter Spongecake

We have reached the end!! Actually we reached the end about a month ago, on December 17th, but I’ve had a crazy month. As I mentioned before, the girls were home for two weeks during the holiday break and then it took me another two weeks to get myself situated. I have attempted to sit and post for almost two weeks but my days have just gotten away from me so here I am. A month late. I know my posting has been sporadic for the past few months but to be honest, my heart has not been fully into this project. Things started to get really hectic around September and I think that’s when I started to lose a bit of interest in this. It’s just been hard to prioritize something that ultimately is just an option, a luxury. I’m grateful that I’ve been allowed to do this but when I look at the bigger picture it’s just not as important as other things in our lives. I’m glad I stuck with it but I’m also glad it’s over.

I ended up only doing two French meals for French week. I had originally planned on doing three but I forgot to marinate the meat for another dish so I just skipped it. This meal took a total of six hours to make so, you know, I think I can be forgiven.

We had our friends Jay and Rick over for dinner, as well as my cousin Robert. Jay and his friend Paul have a podcast,  Have You Seen This One? where each week they recommend a movie for the other to watch and then review the movies. A few months ago Jay and I got the idea to combine forces and watch an international movie to accompany my cooking. Originally we talked about doing it for Italian week but the three of us couldn’t get our schedules together. We settled on French week and chose The Absolutely Fabulous Movie. Jay and I are huge AbFab fans and the way we justified this movie for French week was that it takes place in the French Riviera. I know, it’s a bit of a stretch but both of us had already seen many of the other French movies we considered and, honestly, we just wanted an excuse to watch AbFab.

So the one thing I finally learned from this project was to plan ahead and to do as much prep work as possible beforehand. It happened too many times where I was like “Oh, that won’t take long because chopping the veggies will take five minutes and blah blah blah” and then it’s time to make dinner, guests are on their way, and I’m still chopping veggies after twenty minutes. Not this time! I made the dessert (a butter spongecake with chocolate-rum icing) and peeled the onions for the coq a vin the day before and early the morning of, I made the appetizer (roquefort cheese balls). I am positive this saved SO MUCH TIME. It also helped that James was home the day before so I was able to spend some much needed time in the kitchen. I also set the table almost seven hours before our guests arrived and that too helped.

I had never made a butter spongecake, or any kind of spongecake, before so this was fun. I think I’ve mentioned I’m not the best when it comes to baking because for some reason measured ingredients and I do not get along. I feel like baking involves a lot of chemistry and although I was pretty good at chemistry, I’m a D student at best when it comes to baking. I made the sign of the cross, lit a candle, and got to it. OMG, I was nervous. I think I read the recipe about four different times, kept reading every single step before and after completing it, and was just very thorough. As I poured the batter into the cake pan I thought to myself “If this doesn’t work, I’m breaking something.” The good thing was I had to wait until the next evening to find out if it worked out so nothing was broken that day.

Jay, Rick, and Robert were arriving at 7:30 so around 4, I started cooking my coq au vin. I had to cut up a chicken, which up until this point I hated doing because it always took me forever to do it, but I guess I’d done it so many times throughout the year that it literally took me five minutes to cut up the chicken. FIVE MINUTES! This was a huge ego boost for me and was a great way to start dinner making. I have a pretty good self-esteem as it is so you can only imagine how much “OH YEAH!” and dancing took place after this. It will remain one of the highlights of my year.

The coq au vin wasn’t too difficult to make, really. The most difficult part was lighting the cognac and shaking the Dutch oven until the flame subsided. James really enjoyed that and even filmed it for FB. I was just happy I didn’t burn anything or myself. Low expectations are the key to a happy life! To accompany the coq au vin, I made parsley potatoes and buttered peas. A note on the peas.

The recipe states “In France it is usually accompanied only by parsley potatoes; buttered green peas could be included if you wish a green vegetable.” I laughed when I read this because I could just hear the disdain in Julia Child’s voice. If you wish…just a little eye rolling there. So yeah, I made buttered peas and they were delicious Julia!

Instead of par-boiling the onions, which is an option and one many people seem to prefer, I baked them. I think this made the dish richer and more flavorful but I have no real evidence to back this up other than my happy tummy and those of my guests.

So I was done cooking everything, placed everything in their serving dishes, and I looked at the clock and it was seven. THIRTY MINUTES EARLY! I was so proud of myself! I know it doesn’t seem like a big deal but every single time I’d made food for friends during the year, I was cooking up until the minute they arrived or still cooking after they arrived. It made for a very frantic greeting and I think the food suffered a bit as well. I couldn’t give my guests or the food the attention they deserved and it was very nerve-wracking. But not this time because by now I was a pro!

The food was amazing! The cheese balls were very strong but that was expected because it was blue cheese. Pairing it with bagel crisps helped but I ate about three or four by themselves. I also love blue cheese so that might have just been me loving on the bleu. The potatoes? Yum. They weren’t too soft or too hard, they were the right texture and flavor. The peas? I love peas and I love butter so I ate a few spoonfuls. Now, what everyone really cares about: the coq a vin. If I were choosing the meals for my last week on earth, this would be Wednesday’s meal. Chicken Sekuwa would be Thursday’s meal, Moules Frites would be Thursday’s, and Frito Pie would be my last meal on Saturday. Hey, I don’t want to hear it. Frito Pie is fucking amazing and if you look down on it, it says more about you than me. That’s all I gotta say about that.

The onions and mushrooms were to diiiiiiiie for! The onions literally fell apart in my mouth; I barely had to chew them. They were so buttery and soft! I’m basically drooling just thinking about them. The chicken was so tender and juicy and my goodness, I want to eat this again. Everything was just perfection and it shouldn’t have been surprising because it’s one of Julia Child’s most famous recipes and this is why. It was just so freaking good!

This was the spongecake the day after. I forgot to take a pic of it that evening; let’s blame the six bottles of wine and two bottles of champagne for my forgetfulness…As you can see, nothing was broken so it turned out well. Even with it being a day old, it was surprisingly moist. I’m pretty sure that was because of all the butter and eggs.

So with full bellies and brains starting to float in booze, we sat down to watch AbFab. If you’d like to hear our review (and I know you do) please check out Jay and Paul’s podcast. My bit starts at the 45 minute mark.

So that’s it, my last meal! I’m going to start working on my Year In Review and with my track record, you can expect it some time next month. Also, it looks like I’ll have to post the actual recipes because I can’t find them online anywhere and that always takes forever. Until then!

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Ribollita

When I was meal planning for Italian week I knew I wanted to make a soup because we were expecting a cold front that week. I’m weird in that I prefer to eat soup when it’s cold outside. Eating soup when it’s warm or hot outdoors makes me feel really gross because I feel like it heats my insides to match my outside and yes, I know it’s crazy, but that’s how I feel. And don’t even get me started on cold soups. I don’t care how many great cold soups there are out there and how you think I’m missing out, I don’t buy it. Soup should be hot. End of story. Well, my story, at least. If you want to incorporate cold soup into your story, go for it, you’re the author. I’ll just skip that chapter when I’m reading your book.

So anyway, we were expecting a cold front that would lower the temps into the thirties so I knew it was perfect soup weather! Googling “Italian soup” brought up a lot of what I’ve seen at Olive Garden or soups with sausage but I was craving something veggie so when I found the recipe for ribollita, I was really happy! Ribollita, which roughly translates to “reboiled,” is another peasant dish that originated in Tuscany. It’s main ingredients are leftover bread, cannellini beans, and kale; preferably you would use Tuscan bread and kale but, yeah, use what you can! It’s also best eaten after it’s been sitting out for a couple of days but I obviously didn’t go that route. I had some the next day for lunch and I don’t think it was any better than the night before. Probs because I didn’t use Tuscan anything…

Since I knew I’d need days old bread, it gave me an excuse to bake my favorite loaf of bread, an Italian crusty bread. I first made this bread about four years ago and I found the recipe on some survivalist website. Don’t ask why I was on that website…Anyway, I bookmarked the recipe on my phone and always meant to print it out but never did. Then I got a new phone and lost it! I searched and searched and couldn’t ever find the exact recipe I used before but I did find one that was pretty close and have used it since. I love this bread mostly because I don’t have to knead it. I HATE kneading bread because I have zero upper body strength and I’m impatient. Kneading bread requires both strength and patience. So yeah, no kneading but you do need time because it has to sit and proof for twelve to eighteen hours before you can bake it. The recipe I now use is a little tougher than the first one but it makes the bread perfect for soups. So I baked my bread about two days in advance and then got to soup making!

It doesn’t get any easier than this recipe but it is time consuming. Thankfully it doesn’t require much attention so much of the time spent is just letting the soup boil but if you’re looking for a quick fix, this is not the recipe for you. I didn’t include chard like the recipe suggested but I doubt it made a difference. I also added cheese to my soup because I read “This soup is traditionally served without Parmigiano-Reggiano” as PUT ALL THE CHEESE ON YOUR SOUP.

This soup was perfection! It was so very cold that day and this soup warmed up the house and us and we were all so happy after eating it! Yeah, the girls even ate this! The four year old pulled out every piece of kale and mostly ate the beans, bread, and carrots but she ate it and that’s what counts! It was a little creamy and I think that was due to the pureed beans and the soft potatoes. It had a slight buttery flavor which, again, I’m putting on the beans and maybe even the kale. The kale really softened up and lost all of its tough texture, which was nice. I will definitely make this again and if I am on a time crunch, I’m gonna buck tradition and use canned beans. I’m sorry but, c’mon, how often do I have four and a half hours to make dinner???

Recipe, Recipe

Carbonara

*Spoilers ahead for Netflix’s “Master of None” so if you’re not caught up on that show or haven’t watched it (in which case, what’s wrong with you?!), skip this post until you have*

At the end of Netflix’s “Master of None” Aziz Ansari’s character, Dev, makes fresh carbonara and this leads to the discovery that he’s really good at it so he moves to Italy to learn how to make pasta. Ever since I saw that episode, the show premiered in November of 2015, I’d been craving homemade carbonara. I’d never even eaten carbonara but Aziz/Dev made it look delicious so I was like “I gotta get on that!” When we decided to embark on this project, one of the things I was certain about was I was going to make carbonara during Italian week. I had originally hoped to make the pasta myself, just like Dev (!), but after the ramen disaster, I decided to buy my spaghetti pasta and then just focus on getting the best ingredients.

Carbonara is considered a peasant’s dish and due to that, it’s very simple. It consists of pasta, eggs, cheese, and bacon. That’s it. I guess some people add cream to it but from what I’ve read, that’s a big no-no. Also, some people add peas? Gross. Peas are delicious but I don’t think they would work with this dish unless you get fresh peas and who has fresh peas?! Anyway, I couldn’t get fresh eggs because our farmer’s market is only open on Saturdays and I planned on making this meal later in the week so the eggs would lose their freshness; same thing with the cheese. With all that, I made it my mission to get the best bacon possible! Most of the recipes I saw suggested using guanciale bacon and I was going to drive into central Austin and buy some but then I remembered my HEB sells pancetta, which is a decent alternative, and my HEB is only two miles away. Central Austin, with traffic, is a half hour away. I think you know where I ended up…Well I should have made the damn trek because my HEB didn’t have pancetta, for TWO DAYS IN A ROW. I was very frustrated but not so frustrated as to actually drive into town so I ended up buying regular bacon.

The biggest obstacle in making carbonara is making sure the eggs don’t scramble when you add the egg/cheese mixture to the pasta. The way to avoid this is to stir very quickly and add water when needed. I followed the recipe exactly and I did not end up with scrambled eggs. Look at that! I’m a mini-Dev!

It was so good, so, so good! It was saltier than I expected and even though I didn’t used to be a fan of salty food, that changed over the course of the year. Because of that, I loved this dish, salt and all! It wasn’t overpowering but just more than I expected. It was creamy and I loved the crunchiness of the bacon here and there. The girls gobbled it up but I knew they would because it was pasta. Those girls love their carbs!

Definitely check out Master of None and then celebrate your binge-watching by making this dish. It will make all that time sitting on the sofa worth it!

Recipe

Manicotti

Seeing as how we had eaten so much Italian influenced food during Argentina week, it only made sense to follow it up with Italian week. We’ve had our fair share of Italian food so it was difficult to find things we hadn’t eaten. When I’ve had difficulty finding recipes in the past, I’ve turned to friends who have first hand knowledge of the cuisine so this go around, I contacted my friend Kym for some help.

I actually “met” Kym through her husband, Tim, and I “met” Tim through our blogs over ten years ago. Yep, we’re cyber friends! If memory serves me well, Tim and Kym weren’t even engaged when I met him but I think they got engaged shortly after. Regardless, it’s been awesome to see their journey and it’s probably been the same for them watching mine and James’. Now that I think about it, I’ve turned to Kym numerous times for advice on things like planning our wedding, getting things ready for the birth of the girls, and how to survive parenthood. Kym, you have been a fountain of knowledge and I appreciate you so much! Thank you!!!

This manicotti recipe is one Kym uses with a few changes.  For the filling she uses two pounds full fat ricotta, half pound shredded mozarella, a half pound pecorino-romano, and two eggs. She also adds oregano and basil to her mixture but did mention that’s not necessary if you’re using a flavored sauce. You can use pre-made tomato sauce but it’s really easy to make your own so I highly recommend it. I always make my own sauce from a can of San Marzano tomatoes (pricier but worth it for the flavor), garlic, S&P, and oregano and basil. If I’m feeling frisky, I add in shredded parmesan. Oh, and she also doesn’t use oil in the crepe batter. She said the key is to make the batter thin enough to where you can put a spoon in it and the batter pours out.

I’d never made crepes before but I made masala dosa (I will never stop bragging about that) and they’re basically one and the same so I wasn’t worried. My batter came out thin just from following the recipe and Kym’s note to not add oil so I was grateful for that. It took a few crepes before I got good at making them a decent round shape but once I did, I was on a roll. The recipe said it makes 24 crepes and it was not wrong, I got exactly 24. Then it was just a matter of filling them and baking them. I will note that the recipe says this will feed eight to ten people but there were only four of us so I halved the recipe for the filling.

So my manicotti didn’t come out looking like the pictures on the recipe but they were still delicious. When I posted on Instagram and FB, I mentioned they looked like enchiladas and Kym said they’re basically Italian enchiladas so yay, I got it right! The girls love tortillas, like LOOOOVE tortillas, so the way I got them to eat the manicotti was by telling them they were stuffed tortillas. I think they each ate half a manicotti and then asked if they could just eat the tortillas; they each ate about three.

These things were filling but they were so good! I thought they would be harder to make but it was actually pretty easy. Yeah making the crepes took some time but whatever, it wasn’t terrible. I had about twelve crepes leftover and I refrigerated them in the hopes of using them for breakfast crepes a couple of days later but that didn’t happen. But just so you know, you can refrigerate them for up to a week and freeze them for up to six months so it’s not a complete waste of food.

Thanks to Kym, the first night of Italian week was amazing! I’m definitely saving this recipe because it’s so easy and it’s way better than using the pre-made shells. Also, I learned how to make crepes.

Recipe

Choripan

So, I don’t have a picture for this meal. I apparently only took a pic for my Instagram account and for some reason my phone didn’t save the original picture. It’s not even in my Google Photos so either there was a interwebs fail or a phone fail. Clearly there was not a fail on my part because I’m perfect. If you want to see what I’m talking about, you can visit the Eat 52 Weeks Instagram account.

This was by far the easiest meal I’d made all year. At least I think it was, I made a lot of food and my memory is not good. But really, this could not have been easier. I’m still going to link the recipe but I’m also going to post it here because it will take me a minute:

– Heat buns

– Slice sausage

– Carmelize onions

– Put sausage and onions in buns

– Add chimichurri sauce

– Eat

To be honest, the chimichurri sauce took a bit of time but not that much. So if you want a quick, awesome, delicious meal, make choripan.

It gets its name from two of its ingredients: chorizo (sausage) and pan (bread). It’s one of the most popular meals eaten in Argentina and is considered a street food. Sidenote: I made a lot of street food last year and my question is, why doesn’t the US have all this awesome street food? You know what we have in Austin? Hot dogs. You can argue we have a lot more due to the ridiculous amounts of food trucks we have but no, you would be wrong. Street food is served from a cart, not a truck, and is not gentrified.

We loved it! Yeah I forgot to make sides so all we had that night was the choripan but we were okay with it. The girls didn’t like the chimichurri sauce but the baby kept asking for more sausage. And the four year old kept asking for more bread. Of course. I will make this during the summer and probably pair it with the Korean potato salad because awesome deserves to be surrounded by awesome.

Recipe

Fugazzeta

Day two of Argentina week and I think James was really excited about this meal because it involved a pizza. We love pizza (who doesn’t????) so when we’ve had opportunities to eat different versions of pizza, like during Turkish week with the pide, we jump at it. This meal involved me coming into contact with my frenemy, yeast, so I not super excited it about it. I was looking forward to trying something new but knowing my frenemy would be there did dampen my enthusiasm. I did some yoga that day and tried to get centered and peaceful before dealing with it. It was like drinking a beer before going to happy hour with your frenemy because you know you’re going to need some additional help in getting through it but you don’t want them to see you need the help.

This was another Italian inspired dish. It’s a stuffed pizza that is most popular in Buenos Aires. Quick little history lesson: the word fugazzeta is derived from “fugassa” which means “focaccia” in the Genoese dialect. An immigrant baker by the name of Agustin Banchero created a fugazza, a onion focaccia with grated cheese on top, and then his son, Juan, created the fugazzeta by stuffing it with mozarella cheese.

I will admit, I did fail in my first attempt to get my yeast bubbly. The recipe said to warm up the milk to 100-105 degrees but it was only a fourth of a cup so mine got very hot, very quick. Very hot liquid kills yeast so I chunked that mess and started over. The second time worked and I’m glad it did because I could already feel the yoga wearing off. After that it was just a matter of waiting an hour or so for the dough to rise and I think I spent that time doingmore yoga.

Yoga saves, y’all.

I thought I would have a harder time with rolling out the dough because I had to wait ten minutes in between each roll for it to relax but it went by pretty quickly. I did pour a little too much olive oil in my skillet so the dough got a little slick after a bit but I was still able to work with it. The hardest part was laying the top over the bottom because dough moves. Yeah, don’t know if you knew that but it’s not a solid object.

Aside from those minor irritations, the result was still fantastic. We were both surprised by how light the pizza was because, hello, it’s a stuffed pizza. Stuffed pizza is never light! But I guess most stuffed pizzas are, you know, stuffed with all sorts of meats and cheeses so that probably contributes to the lead like feeling after eating them. This fugazzeta didn’t have that because it was just stuffed with mozarella and provolone and the topping was very thinly sliced onions. Even with it being baked with lots of olive oil and being topped with onions, there was no heartburn afterwards so that was an added bonus.

We all ate multiple slices and I think there was maybe only one slice leftover. The girls even liked the onions and didn’t pick them off like I expected them. That was a win!

Recipe

Milanesa

Happy New Year!!

Sorry for the very long break. The girls’ Christmas vacation started on the 16th and they just went back to school today. It was iiiiiimpossible to get online and post during those two weeks because my days were filled with training for the half, visits to my Mom, laundry (so.much.laundry), and trying to stay sane. Oh, and of course spending time with family and friends and celebrating blah blah blah. Mostly it was the other stuff.

But I’m back and ready to get tell you all about the last three weeks of my year long food project! The fifth will be my one year anniversary so I’m pushing to be caught up by then. I have nine posts and two days, it will be done.

This milanesa was the start of Argentinian week. Argentinian? Argentine? It occurs to me that I never took the time to find out which is correct and what is the difference. Well, too late now! James actually chose Argentina because he’d read about how great the food was and that it was similar to Peru in its variety. To be honest, I didn’t really care either way, but looking back, I’m very happy we chose to eat Argentinian/Argentine food! I don’t want to spoil it for you though so now you must come back to find out why. Muahaha.

That was a pitiful “Muahaha”

Prior to this, I’d had milanesa but it was made with chicken; this version was made with beef. It was brought to South America by the, you guessed it, Italians during the first Italian diaspora of the 1860s. Based on the name, one can infer that it originated in Milan. It was also originally made with chicken but when the Italians got to Argentina, they quickly learned that chicken was viewed as an inferior meat so they altered the recipe to make it a beef dish. The milanesa I’d eaten before was eaten in a torta, a sandwich, and because I love it so much, I decided to go the same route with the Argentinian version.

At first glance it looks like a sandwich of fried meat but it is so much more than that! In between the fried meat and bread is a layer of super thin, delicious, amazing proscuitto. And on top of that? Cheese (I used Munster). And on top of that? Marinara sauce. AND ON TOP OF THAT?! Pickled peppers. The Mexican version do NOT have all that goodness, it just has fried meat, lettuce, and tomato. In the words of my four year old “That bored” She means “That’s boring” but she hasn’t figured out the whole conjugation thing yet.

I ended up making enough cutlets for about six sandwiches. I ate two that night. And another the next day for lunch. And I didn’t regret it for one minute! To be honest, I didn’t regret it because I had the foresight to take an Alka Seltzer immediately after dinner but still, no RAGRATS. The meat was probably the least interesting part of the whole meal but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t delicious. For as thin and as fried as it was, it was still very succulent, but I think the most flavor came from the saltiness of the proscuitto, the creaminess of the cheese, and the acidity of the sauce and peppers. It was an amalgamation of awesome!

So yes, we were very pleased with the first night of Argentina week. Even the kiddos ate it and it was not bored.

Recipe

Ramen

At the beginning of this project, my goal was to cook five times a week. That didn’t last very long because I quickly realized I don’t like cooking that much. I enjoy making food and putting meals together but I’m also a little lazy and often times (always) that laziness overpowers my joy. Well, it’s not so much I’m lazy as it is I don’t like working hard. That doesn’t make me sound any better…so anyway, depending on the difficulty of the cuisine, I make between two and four meals a week. There have been a few times I’ve made five, like Chinese and Indian weeks, but for the most part, I take the easy route. Technically Japanese week was an easy week with only two meals, however, this ramen took three days to make so I wouldn’t say it was super easy.

Okay, I’m kind of stretching the truth. It was pretty easy; at least the first two days were. The first day involved placing sheets of seaweed in water (kombu dashi) and making a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, and sake (tare). The seaweed used wasn’t your typical paper-thin nori seaweed, instead I used kombu seaweed, which is thicker. I would like to say it’s like bark but not exactly that thick. These two items form the basis of the stock, which was made the second day.

Again, this part wasn’t too hard because all I did was boil pork shoulder and some veggies. Oh, and chicken necks. I can’t forget the necks. The recipe said to also use spareribs but I didn’t want to, so I didn’t. I think my stock came out just fine without it. What was interesting about making the stock was using bonito flakes, which is just dried, fermented fish. This, along with the kombu dashi and tare, give the stock the umami flavor that is coveted in Japanese cuisine. Umami has become a big deal in the culinary world the past few years, so much so that it is now considered one of the basic tastes, along with sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, and sourness. The short answer is that it is the taste of savory, the long answer can be found in this great podcast by Stuff You Should Know.

The third day shouldn’t have been that difficult because all it involved was boiling eggs, reheating the stock, slicing the pork shoulder, and boiling the ramen noodles. The recipe said to use prepared ramen noodles but that was way too easy and as much as I enjoy taking shortcuts, every once in a while I get a hankering for the long, winding road. *sings “The long and winding road, the leads to insanity”* Those aren’t the correct lyrics but that’s where this long and winding road lead me because instead of taking the Insta-Noodles Road, I decided to take the Make Your Own Ramen Noodles Freeway. Unfortunately it’s a freeway and filled with all kinds of fast and crazy drivers. Drivers like Making Dough is Dumb and I’m Pretty Sure I’m Going to Get My Hair Stuck in this Noodle Maker and OMFG I Will Never Get All of This Flour Out of My Kitchen. Oh, and who could forget the best driver of them all, The Complete Fucking Fail of Ramen Noodle Making? I’m not bitter.

So yeah, noodle making was not fun. It’s really time consuming, it’s messy, and stressful. I’m just going to show you a picture. (Sorry for the big picture, Squarespace is being difficult)

Thankfully when I bought groceries for this meal, I bought some packets of instant ramen noodles just in case my noodle making didn’t work out. The top bowl are the instant noodles, the bottom is what I made. This was what came out of the colander when I tried to drain my noodles. They came out of the pot of boiling water as individual noodles but sometime between pouring them into the colander and then flipping the colander over, they turned in a big ball of mush. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know anything about noodle making and I haven’t bothered looking up what went wrong but my initial guess is that I didn’t let the noodles dry out enough before boiling them. I was supposed to let them dry for at least ten minutes but our guests were already on their way and I didn’t think it would make too big of a deal. Clearly it did.

So whatever, my noodle making was a disaster BUT if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this project it’s to have a back up plan so thankfully I bought those instant noodles!

And the ramen turned out great! The pork shoulder I bought was in pieces, not one big piece, so instead of nice round slices, we got bits and pieces but it was still good. It was delicious and I think everyone had more than one bowl so that’s always good. The kids ate cheese sticks, some noodles, and I think a fruit snack pack. You know, something very nutritious.

And that was Japanese week. I’ll make ramen again and I might even try making noodles but not any time soon. No, for now I’ll stay on North Lamar Boulevard, which takes me straight to Chinatown and all the easy ramen I can eat.

Recipe, Recipe

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

Shrimp Curry with Yellow Rice and Wambatu Moju

So I didn’t catch up on my blog posting over the weekend…In my defense, it was a holiday but mostly I was too lazy to walk into the office and sit at the computer. I’m going to stop giving myself a deadline on posting because there is just too much going on and I don’t need one more thing to feel guilty about. You’re welcome, me!

This was our second Sri Lankan meal and my favorite. I was little nervous about this one because of the shrimp. I know I’ve mentioned many, many times about how apprehensive I am about cooking with fish so I won’t bother getting into that again but know, I was worried. The recipe called for tiger prawns but I didn’t bother looking for them because Gulf shrimp is sold at my nearby HEB and that meant one less shopping excursion through Austin. It seems like my laziness paid off because I was recently reading about shrimp farming and I came upon this eye-opening, if not kind of depressing, article about tiger prawn farming. Keep in mind, the article is thirteen years old so things might have changed since its publication (I didn’t bother researching if it has because, lazy) but I do know that Gulf shrimp farming is sustainable and it’s a few hours away so, yay! Good for the environment and I’m supporting Texans! This curry was sweet and just a tad bit spicy but I loved it! I actually made it the following week but substituted chicken for the shrimp and it was just as fantastic so if you’re not into seafood, just know you have options.

I loved the curry but I could not get enough of the wambatu moju, which was eggplant. The recipe called for sprats, which are little fish, but I couldn’t find them anywhere. I asked the owner of the Indian market I frequent about them and he described them as salty so when I made the dish, I added a bit more salt and just a couple of drops of fish sauce. I don’t know if it made a difference or not but it didn’t make me hate it. It came out tangy and I think that was because of the green chilies. It’s been my experience this year that green chilies are what happens when a lime and a pepper mate (because that’s totally possible) but they really are a little sour and spicy. I have yet to encounter another pepper that does that.

I had the leftovers for lunch the next day and they were as yummy cold as they were warm. I don’t remember if the girls ate this or not but I’m pretty sure they didn’t. The baby is starting to follow in the four year old’s steps and pushing things away. She still eats a lot more than the four year old but if the older one shows disgust at something, the baby follows. Great.

Recipe, Recipe