Roasted Coconut Pumpkin Curry and Yellow Rice

I’m slowly catching up with the blog and am now only two weeks behind! Progress! Thankfully this week is Thanksgiving and I’m only cooking twice for the blog so I should be all caught up by this weekend. Or maybe next weekend. Or maybe never.

This meal was prepared for the first night of Sri Lankan week. Sri Lankan food probably isn’t on a lot of people’s radar and up until four years ago, it wasn’t on ours. What changed four years ago? The oldest started attending a Montessori school run by four Sri Lankan women. It’s not like all of a sudden we were immersed in their culture or anything but we became more aware. Such is the beauty of meeting people from different backgrounds…take note new administration!

Every Thanksgiving they prepare food for the parents to take home and I always look forward to that meal. The first year it took me by complete surprise and I was beyond giddy to try what they had prepared. At the time I was working in south Austin and usually had an hour plus commute home so James would always pick the kid up from school. He called to tell me that when he picked her up, they had a buffet out and had told him to take as much as he wanted. I remember him saying he only took a couple of pieces of chicken and I exclaimed “WHY?! That chicken sounds amazing!” I was very upset and I hadn’t yet seen the food.

Side note: I was already pregnant with the baby so, you know, I was emotional and hungry.

Side-side note: I’m no longer pregnant but I’m still emotional and hungry.

I still remember that meal. It was a chicken curry, yellow rice, samosas, a veggie salad, and some sweet cakes. I loved that rice! I LOVE that rice. I look forward to it every year and always mean to ask for the recipe but never do.

Well, I found it! And I made it! And it was not as good as the teacher’s!

My yellow rice was good but it was missing something. I didn’t add the cashews or raisins because I forgot them but I don’t think that’s what affected the flavor. The cashews and raisins mostly add texture and I typically remove the raisins anyway. The recipe called for pandan leaves and I couldn’t find any so I think that’s what was missing. I know where to get pandan leaves, I cooked with them during Thai week, but I was being lazy and didn’t want to make an extra trip to the Asian market. Unfortunately my rice paid the price for my laziness. So it goes.

The curry, however, was spectacular and made up for the not so great rice. I don’t have a lot of experience cooking with pumpkin aside from making pumpkin pie and pumpkin empanadas so this was new territory for me. I mean, both of those items call for canned pumpkin but I’m not even sure if that can REALLY be considered pumpkin. I’ve cooked with many kinds of squash so I don’t know why I was nervous about cooking with pumpkin; I guess it was just fear of the unknown. You would think that by now I would be a lot more confident in the kitchen, and I am compared to how I was in January, but I still doubt my abilities. I need to get over it…Anyway, I was a little disappointed that the coconut flavor wasn’t stronger but that’s the only complaint I have about the dish.

The girls didn’t eat the curry but they did eat a lot of rice. The love they have for rice never ceases to amaze me and it also tugs at my heartstrings. I, too, adore rice so seeing how much they enjoy it is like watching genetics in work. You could argue that looking at their faces is like watching genetics work but they look more like their father than me. Although, sometimes, in the right light and with the correct scowl, it’s like looking in a mirror.

Recipe, Recipe


Mole Poblano, Arroz y Frijoles, and Tortillas

It’s been two weeks since I last posted and I apologize for the long absence. I originally hadn’t planned on taking an off week until this week but then our dog got sick and after four weeks of continuous cooking, I needed a break.

Niko is our almost eleven year old husky. In November it’ll be ten years since he became our dog, even though he was only supposed to be a foster. At the time we already had a dog, a Rottweiler named Lars, who ruled our world. Niko was abandoned by his owner, who was our neighbor at the apartment complex where we were living, and when management called me to ask if I knew who the dog belonged to (I had previously worked for the company and the manager was a friend), I told them we’d take the dog until we could find an owner. He’s been a pain in our ass since.

I’ve never met such a stubborn dog in my life! From day one, he has been an ornery s.o.b. He suffered from major separation anxiety for the first couple of months we had him, which meant coming home to turds all over the floor, shredded hardcover books, or DVD cases that became chew toys. Sometimes all three! It took years, YEARS, to break him of jumping on people and to not yip and howl at us whenever he wanted something. Actually, I don’t think we did anything, age did. But throught it all, we kept him because 1. I’m a sucker for animals and 2. I knew no one else would tolerate him and I didn’t want him to be adopted and then returned over and over again. Niko has never been our dog, we’re his people.

And it probably would have stayed that way but then we had the Four Year Old and the day we brought her home, Niko found his soulmate. He never left her side for the first three years of her life. Wherever she was, he was close to follow. He slept next to her or in her room every night up until nine months ago, when he got sick.

Nine months ago I noticed a growth on his neck. At the time it was just a growth under the skin that didn’t have fur and it didn’t seem to bother him so I ignored it. Months passed and it didn’t go away. I hesitated taking him into the vet because I knew it wasn’t going to be good news. At his age, it would most likely be the big C and I couldn’t handle it. I’m aware how selfish it was of me.

Well then it started bugging him and he started scratching it, which made it bleed, which made it hard for me to ignore. So I took him in two weeks ago. It’s a mast cell tumor that was about to rupture (apparently they start to itch before they explode) so it was perfect timing. Luckily his blood work was great so whatever caused the tumor hadn’t spread. We didn’t have the tumor tested because, honestly, had it been cancer, we couldn’t afford to treat it and he’s eleven, what’s the point?

So they cut open his face, removed the tumor, and stitched him up. I’ve spent the past week tending to his every need and yep, he’s still an ornery s.o.b.

And that’s why I took last week off. Tomorrow I’ll post why I’m taking this week off.

And since this post is long enough, the food review will be short. My mole was good but not great. My rice was uh-mazing! My beans were semi-crunchy even after being soaked for four hours and cooking for two and my tortillas were delicious!


Arroz con Pollo

This is the third time I’ve made arroz con pollo. The first was during Costa Rican week and then during Cuban week. This is also the second time I’ve used those sentences. I am anything if not original.

This week’s arroz con pollo recipe is Colombian. I chose Colombia because one of my favorite people on the entire planet is Colombian. Hola Caro! I’ve known Caro for eight years and we met when we were both working at a property in south Austin. I was pretty sure she hated me when we first started working together but then I learned that unlike me, she takes a while to warm up to people. I’m one of those annoying people who thinks every person they meet is going to be their new best friend because who wouldn’t want to be best friends? Best friends are great! Caro, like normal humans, gets to know people to feel them out and figure out if they’re worth being let in. I will literally tell you my whole life story within ten minutes of meeting you if you ask. Sometimes I do it without even being asked.

Once she warmed up to me, which took all of a month because I’m persistent in my friend making, we became very close friends. Since then we have spent many nights drinking wine and scotch (cause we’re fancy), having M.I.A dance parties, been in each other’s weddings, and have watched each other grow into women (which is probably the best part). Our oldest daughters are three weeks apart and this November she’ll have another daughter, whom I’m still hoping she’ll name after me. The currently named Baby Eelan will be a Scorpio, just like me, and will also be born in the year of the Monkey, just like me. She’s due at the end of November and I’m not typically keen about sharing a birthday with other people but I’m making an exception for Eelan and am hoping she will come early and be born on the the second.

Even though I’ve never been to Colombia, I feel a connection to it through Caro. I had hoped to do Colombian week when she and her family were visiting a few weeks ago but they were so busy doing so much in their short time here that I didn’t bother. Up until then, Caro and her family were living in Vietnam, where she and husband were teaching ESL. They came back to the States for a month before moving to Qatar, where they will be for the next two years while her husband teaches. I was really hoping they would stay this time but the world calls and they must answer. Until then, we’ll just have to survive through FB and WhatsApp phone calls, one of which we have today. I’ve been looking forward to it all week!

So this week is dedicated to you, my CaroLINDA.

And because this week’s decision comes from a place full of love and respect, it hurts me to say this recipe did not do it for me. It wasn’t that it was bad but the meat was kinda dry. Okay, the meat was very dry. I had to boil chicken breast and make a stock, which I was hoping would help make the breast juicy, but it did not. The rice part was great and I liked the addition of the green beans but that meat was so dry! I will try to make this again though because I think I can trick the girls into eating veggies this way. The four year old did pull out every single piece of green, including peas, beans, bell pepper, and cilantro, but she did eat the rest. The baby gobbled it up but that wasn’t a surprise. Maybe next time I’ll add more broth to the mixture when mixing the chicken in with the rice and there will be a next time.

Even though this didn’t work out, I’m hopeful for the rest of the week. And maybe Caro will give me some insight into what I did wrong but I have a feeling she’ll say what I did wrong was cook with chicken. She doesn’t eat anything with feathers because, actually I don’t know why she doesn’t eat birds. I’ll have to ask today.



Beef Rezala and Bhuna Khichuri

Welcome to Bangladeshi week! Actually, it was last week but some appointments took longer than expected and it threw my entire week off. Also, weather. 

As I metioned last week, the Four Year Old became the Four Year Old last Wednesday and we planned a pool party for her the following Sunday. James just happened to check the weather forecast on Thursday and saw that there was a 90% chance of rain on Sunday.

Rain. In August. That almost never happens.

The next couple of days were spent checking the weather every four hours, sending out multiple group texts to our guests, and ultimately deciding to cancel the pool party and hosting a smaller version at the house. The Four Year Old still had an amazing time and even got a piñata, which she wouldn’t have had at the pool and it was the one thing she really wanted anyway, so yay! Birthday success!  

I learned two things from that event. Number one: I really need to buy an umbrella. I don’t know why I don’t own one but I need one. It’s been raining for the past four days and I’m tired of getting wet. Number two: I need to be more flexible. I’ve always prided myself in my time management skills and I still believe that they are essential but I need to make room for unexpected events. Too often I plan down to the minute and I get frustrated when I get thrown off. There is no reason to be so stringent because I end up disappointed and why put myself through that? Life is too short to be so annoyed with myself. 

I’m taking this week off from cooking so I can catch up on posting. I’m actually taking the week off from everything. James is home all week so instead of trying to fit in errands, running, yoga, housework, craft projects, and cooking, I’m filling it with Orphan Black binge watching with my man during the day and fun family time with the girls in the evening. I think it’s much more worthwhile than all the other stuff.

And now for the beef rezala. A rezala is a white spicy curry from Bangladesh. Yes, curries are typically a little spicy anyway but rezalas are spicier because they include whole chilies. They also get their white color from the inclusion of yogurt or milk. Rezalas are similar to kormas in that sense, however, unlike kormas, the meat is not braised. Very slight difference. This beef rezala is different in color from other rezalas due to the spices used but mine didn’t come out as red as I think it should have. My beef released a lot of water so I think that didn’t allow the spices to coat and stick to the meat as well. I was afraid that since it released so much water, it would come out tough but it was surprisingly tender. It also wasn’t as spicy as I expected it to be but that wasn’t bad because it made it more edible for the girls. And yes, both girls ate it. They also ate the bhuna khichuri, which I preferred over the rezala. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it forever, I love rice and beans! 

What I enjoyed most about the meal was being able to use two new tools. After  Indian week, where I scorched my arms from frying spices or worked my arms sore from grinding spices, I decided to invest in some tools that will make life easier. The first is a vaghar vadki, a spice roasting spoon. It’s basically a tiny skillet, about four inches in diameter, with a long handle that fries spices in seconds. The smaller diameter speeds up the process since the heat doesn’t have to be distributed to such a large area like with a regular skillet and it’s ideal for measurements under a cup. I was able to fry up the cumin in less than thirty seconds and had more control over how dark I wanted it to get. The other tool is a spice grinder, although I bought a coffee grinder but it’s basically the same thing. I’ve been using a mortar and pestle, which isn’t terrible except both my mortars have grooves so the spices often get stuck in them. This results in an uneven texture unless I put some real elbow grease into it. The grinder I bought has three different settings, coarse, medium, and fine, and it took maybe a minute to grind my spices into a nice fine powder. Technology is amazing! It was super satisfying and I wish I would have bought one sooner but so it goes.

Recipe, Recipe




Poulet Yassa

When I settled on what Senegalese dishes to make, I was most excited about this one. I love any kind of chicken-rice combination but this recipe also said I could throw in some olives, which is what I was really looking forward to. I will take any opportunity to cook with olives because there aren’t many! I’ve always loved olives. My cousins used to make fun of me because when we’d eat dinner at this very fancy restaurant called Golden Corral, I’d always load up on olives at the salad bar. I only ate from the salad bar at Golden Corral, which I’m sure my mom appreciated because having a child that enjoys eating vegetables is a rarity but now that I’m older and I know how dirty they are, I’m surprised I’m still alive. Maybe that’s why I rarely got sick as a kid; I was basically exposed to every germ in Uvalde by eating from that salad bar. Thanks Golden Corral!

This was pretty easy to make and I avoided burning the rice by being able to use my rice cooker. Yay! I broiled the chicken to avoid having to fry it and it did give it a nice browning but I should have left it in there a little bit longer. I did not use a whole chicken because I really hate chopping up a chicken. Instead I used chicken thighs and a cut up breast just to have some variety. Every time I eat chicken thighs, I’m amazed it took me so long to become a dark meat convert. I always disliked what I considered the slimy texture of dark meat and that weird gristle on drumsticks so for as long as I can remember, I stuck to white meat. It wasn’t until about four years ago that I decided to try dark meat. A co-worker was talking about how much she loved it because it was so flavorful and then I read an article where they, too, extolled the wonders of dark meat so I decided to try it. The bad part was I was three weeks pregnant and greasy food did not agree with my first trimester of pregnancy so I promptly threw it up and avoided it for another year. I tried it again later on, hoping I wouldn’t barf it up, and realized I’d been missing out! Also, I didn’t barf it up. That was the true victory.

I didn’t have as many onions as the recipe required, even when halving it, but I don’t think it affected it too much. I did add the optional mustard and I think that made a huge difference when paired with the olives. It gave the whole meal a great vinegary taste and many people aren’t fans of that bitterness but I love it. The rice soaked up the grease perfectly so much so that it reminded me of a sopa. The literal translation of sopa is soup but when my mom made sopa de arroz con pollo, there was a lot less liquid and more rice and chicken.

We all loved it. Well, James and I did. The girls weren’t very hungry for whatever reason so they just had yogurt for dinner. Regardless, we had three great meals for Senegalese week. Every meal was super enjoyable and I’ll be making all three again.


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!


Roast Pork with Rice and Peas

I have started this post about six times in the past two weeks and am hoping today is the day I get to finish it! Last week was an off week for cooking and I had hoped to catch up on my posts but one thing after another came up and by the end of it, I just wanted to sit on the sofa and zone out. There were many distractions: kids who wouldn’t nap, my dysfunctional extended family, the Fourth of July holiday, and the disastrous state of race relations in this country.

Of the four, my kids not napping was the only one I was prepared for. The oldest stopped napping a couple of months ago but the baby still takes a two hour nap on the days she’s home with me. Even then, there are days when she decides that napping isn’t necessary until five p.m. so because of that, I don’t make plans to post on Mondays and Fridays, when she’s home from school. So yeah, I am prepared for fussy kids who demand every ounce of my attention. The others? Ugh, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans, right? I know I say that often but it’s true.

The last one left me especially drained the past three days. I wasn’t directly affected by it but I think that like a lot of people, I’m tired. I’m so tired. I don’t even have the energy to get into how tired.

But this is a food blog, not a place to whine about the things that bug me. That’s what Facebook is for!

This meal totally made up for the not so impressive meals that preceded it. It was another easy meal, didn’t require a ton of attention, and it was very, very palatable. The pork was delectable although a little dry. I keep running into this when roasting pork shoulder so I need to figure out if it’s something I’m doing or just the way the cut itself roasts. I’m thinking it’s something I’m doing because pork shoulder is used for carnitas and carnitas are anything but dry, however, it is roasted in a thick sauce…yeah, something I need to figure out. Yes, I think/type aloud when I post.

The rice? Oooooh, the rice was goooooood! When preparing it, I didn’t even think about how the coconut milk would contribute to the overall flavor so it was a welcomed surprise when I sat down and ate it. If you removed the coconut milk, it was just basic red beans and rice and not even the cool Cajun kind. Like, literally red beans and rice. Ain’t nothing special about that! But adding in that coconut milk just flipped that thing on it’s backside and went to town! It was smooth and buttery and just mm! I was eating leftover for days!

Both girls ate this meal, I think. It was two weeks ago. I’ve had to process a lot mentally in the past two weeks so unless it was a major meltdown or life defining elation, my memory has not made room for it in its vault. I need my memory to make more room for the latter and tell the former that “Sorry, no vacancy.”

Recipe, Recipe

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

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.

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.