Thursday, April 28, 2011

Pesto Pizza-- Guest Recipe

Steaming hot Pesto Pizza
This recipe comes straight from the kitchen of my father-in-law.  They recently got a new house and he has thoroughly enjoyed experimenting in his new kitchen.  This is one of the many yummy dishes he has come up with.

Pesto Pizza

1 pizza crust
4 oz pesto sauce
4 oz fresh mozzarella cut into 1/4 to ½ inch thick slices and 1 to 2 inches square
1-2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1-2 cloves of garlic chopped
8 oz fresh baby spinach
¼ tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 red bell pepper
fresh ground black pepper
¼ cup of black olives halved or sliced
1 oz shredded parmesan or other cheese of your choice

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Heat oil in large pan.  Add garlic and saute until just slightly browned. Toss spinach in pan.  Add salt, pepper and crushed red pepper.  Cover and reduce heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally until spinach has wilted.  Drain the liquid and set spinach aside.  Cut red pepper into strips.  Lightly coat pepper and grill with oil. Grill until tender, turning if occasionally.  Sprinkle strips with salt and pepper.  Remove from grill and set aside.

To assemble the pizza, spread pesto sauce evenly over crust leaving a 3/4 inch rim, so oil does not drip while cooking.  Distribute mozzarella, spinach, red peppers and black olives over the pesto.  Sprinkle parmesan cheese on top.  Place pizza directly on oven rack or use a pizza stone.  Bake for about 10 minutes or until center is hot.  Raise oven temperature to broil and brown the cheese for 1-2 minutes.  Remove let cool slightly then serve and slice.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Mediterranean Oregano Chicken

Mediterranean Oregano Chicken 

I had a hectic week, but I still wanted to make a special dinner on Friday so I decided to whip up one of my favorite dishes.  I  made a quick run to the store for the feta cheese and olives, but everything else I had on hand.  This flavorful dish is surprisingly simple to prepare and it's both healthy and delicious.
I served it here with a simple side of fresh baby spinach.

Mediterranean Oregano Chicken
6 Chicken breasts
3 cloves garlic chopped
2 tomatoes sliced
1/2 cup sliced onion
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/2 cup Kalamata olives chopped
8 oz feta cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley chopped
3-4 sprigs fresh oregano leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
sea salt
1/2 cup red wine (optional)

Preheat oven to 350.  Spread a little olive oil in the bottom of a large baking dish.  Rinse chicken breasts and pat dry.  Place in the baking dish and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.  Lay onions around chicken.  Drizzle chicken with a about 1/4 cup olive oil.  Bake in oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven.  Lay tomato slices on top of chicken.  If using wine, add at this time. Sprinkle with garlic, fresh oregano, parsley and olives.  Then crumble feta cheese over everything.  Raise oven temperature to 375.  Cover baking dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake about 20 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in the center.


Saturday, April 9, 2011


Bangladeshi Chicken Biryani & Brussel Sprouts with Naan and Channa Masala 
After a couple weeks off to tend to my husband and his reconstructed knee, we officially reinstated our Foreign Food Fest Friday.  Last night we chose Bangladesh for country number 53.  I decided to make a Bangladeshi Chicken Biryani and  Brussel Sprouts.  Don't let the long list of ingredients scare you away.  It is well worth the trip to the store to buy some extra spices.  I've never had too much luck making recipes from the subcontinent taste authentic.  But these two dishes brought back memories of when my husband and I were rafting down the Ganges River.

Chicken Biryani

1 lb chicken breasts cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup plain yogurt (I used Greek style)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp coriander
1 1/2 tsp salt
pinch cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic
2 saffron threads crushed
1/2 inch piece ginger chopped
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 cup frozen mixed vegetables
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
3-4 T ghee (clarified butter) or butter
1/2 onion sliced
pinch cinnamon
1/2 cup cilantro
2 cups Basmati rice rinsed

Place chicken in a glass dish.  Mix turmeric, cardamom, coriander, salt, garlic, cayenne pepper, and saffron in a small bowl.  Stir yogurt into chicken, then add mixed spices.  Mix well.  Cover chicken and marinate overnight.
Cook 2 cups of Basmati rice according to package directions.  In a large frying pan, heat ghee or butter over medium heat.  Add cumin seeds and cook about 2 minutes or until they give off a slight fragrance.  Add chicken and yogurt mix to pan.  Cook until chicken just begins to brown.  Add onion slices, crushed red pepper, and ginger. Add more butter if needed.  Add cooked rice to chicken mixture.  Incorporate rice into mixture so that it absorbs all the sauce and is an even light yellow color.  Add frozen veggies.  Continue cooking until all liquid is absorbed and bits of rice and chicken are browned.        

Bangladeshi Style Brussel Sprouts

15- 20 Brussel Sprouts cleaned and halved
1 cup  baby spinach chopped
1/2 onion sliced
1/4 tsp fennel seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper
1/8 tsp mustard seed
1/8 tsp fenugreek seed
1/4 inch ginger chopped
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of 1/2 lime
olive oil or butter

Heat oil in a saute pan over medium heat.  Add fennel, cumin, mustard, and fenugreek seeds.  Cook for about 2 minutes.  Add onions and cook until they start to soften.  Turn heat up to medium high and add brussel sprouts, adding more oil if necessary.  Don't crowd the pan.  If necessary, cook in two batches.  Saute brussel sprouts until they start to brown.  Add ginger, salt, pepper, and chopped spinach.  Turn off heat and let spinach wilt.  Add the lime juice and stir.

Serve Biryani and Brussel sprouts with Dal and Naan bread.  I cheated, and bought Tandoor Chef brand frozen Naan and Channa Masala.     It turned out great, except my son's first reaction was, "Wow that's a little spicy."



Thursday, April 7, 2011

Balsamic Black Bean Salad

Balsamic Black Bean Salad
I love beans.  I never did as a kid, but I guess my palate finally matured.  Now as a mom, I'm always trying to find new ways to infuse fiber into my family's diet. These tasty black beans do the trick.

Fun Fact:  Beans originated in the ancient America's some 8,000 years ago.

Balsamic Black Bean Salad

2 cans black beans drained and rinsed
1 tomato diced
1/2 cup green pepper diced
1/2 cup red pepper diced (can use orange and yellow too)
1/4 cup red onion diced
2 cloves garlic
2 scallions finely chopped
1/4 good balsamic vinegar
1-1 1/2 T sugar
1/2 tsp salt
pepper to taste
about 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup flat leaf parsley chopped
1/4 cup cilantro chopped

Put beans, peppers, onions, and garlic in a large mixing bowl.  In a smaller bowl whisk together vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper until sugar is dissolved.  In a slow stream whisk in olive oil.  Depending on the strength of the vinegar you may need to adjust the amounts of oil and sugar slightly.  Once oil and vinegar are thoroughly mixed (in suspension), pour over beans.  Stir in cilantro and parsley.  The salad can be eaten right away, but it is more flavorful if you let it sit in the fridge for at least 15 minutes.    


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Chicken Enchiladas

We still had a lot of our home made salsa left over, so I decided the best thing to do was to make chicken enchiladas.  They aren't a 5 minute meal but they are so worth the effort!
 Alyssa made the guacamole while I made the enchilada filling.  Then she helped me roll the tortillas.  Her first few turned out a little bit short, but soon she was learning to make them long and skinny.  We also made up some quick Spanish rice (from a box) and refried beans.

Chicken Enchiladas

1 lb chicken diced into small cubes
2 cans enchilada sauce
1/2 pablano pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 can black beans drained
about 1-2 cups baby spinach rinsed and chopped
14 tortillas (depending on how full you fill each one)
shredded cheese (I use the Mexican style)
sour cream (I always use plain yogurt instead--the Greek style is especially yummy)

Fry the chicken in the pan until it starts to brown.  Add the drained beans, pepper, and garlic.  Cook for about 5 minutes.  Add about 1/2 of 1 can of enchilada sauce.  Cook down until sauce is thick, about another 5 minutes.  Add the spinach and cook until just wilted.  Add the about a cup of the shredded cheese.  Stir until melted.
Spread a couple tablespoons of enchilada sauce into the bottom of a rectangular baking pan.  Take a scoop of filling and lay it in a line on the tortilla.  Fold in the sides and then roll it tightly so it is long skinny roll.  Place in pan seam side down.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas, placing them tightly together.  Pour remaining enchilada sauce over the tops and spread out to cover them.  Sprinkle with shredded cheese. I use about 1 1/2 cups of cheese, use more or less as you like.


2 ripe avocados diced
1 tomato diced
1/4 cup red onion diced
2 cloves garlic finely chopped
Juice of 2 limes
jalapeno diced (optional)
1/4 cup cilantro chopped

Mash avocados until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and stir thoroughly.


Monday, March 28, 2011


My son has been asking me to get out my new food processor.  He's only 6 but he loves to help me in the kitchen especially when it involves a cool appliance.  He loves our juicer too.  So when I decided yesterday to make fajitas, I figured it would be a great time to make some homemade salsa.  He put the processor together for me and locked everything into the right place, while I was still reading the directions.  I had to quarter the tomatoes quickly to keep up with his enthusiasm.  He tossed all the ingredients in, locked the top, and pushed the ON button.  Everything happened so fast....we almost had tomato soup.  I pushed stop and realized we should have used the "Pulse" feature instead of turning it on full.  Oh well I know that now.  Luckily I had a couple more tomatoes that I could throw in to give it a little more chunkiness.  He was happy with the results and then disappeared to go play a video game with his sisters.

Chicken Fajitas with salsa, guacamole, peppers and yogurt

Chicken Fajitas:

1 lb chicken breasts
1/2 cup cilantro
2 cloves garlic
1 T olive oil
1/4 cup chicken broth
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cinnamon
juice of 1 lime

1/2 onion- thinly sliced
1/2 red pepper- thinly sliced
1/2 green pepper- thinly sliced
salt, pepper, and olive oil
Flour tortillas, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream (I use plain Greek yogurt instead).

Put cilantro, garlic, broth, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, lime juice and olive oil into small bowl of a food processor.  Whirl until smooth.  Rinse chicken, pat dry, and place in a bowl.  Pour cilantro sauce over chicken and let marinate for at least a half hour.   Heat a skillet over medium high heat.  Saute peppers and onions in olive oil until soft and browned, about 12 minutes, adding more oil if necessary.  Remove from pan.  Place room temperature chicken in pan.  Cook until a nice golden brown crust forms and chicken is cooked all the way through, about 10 minutes depending on thickness of breasts.  Remove from pan and let rest.  Slice across grain into thin slices.  Warm tortillas wrapped in foil in a 350 degree oven for 5 minutes.  


This made a huge amount of salsa.  You might want to cut the recipe in half.


Our soupy salsa, still yummy though :)
6 large tomatoes
1/2 onion
1 jalapeno seeded
1 tsp salt
Juice of one lime
1 cup cilantro
2-3 cloves garlic
Put all ingredients in a food processor and PULSE until chopped but still a chunky texture.



Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Burgers with a Kick!

After my husband's knee surgery, he went through a spell where no food sounded good.  It was strange because he has always been the most adventurous eater. (This is also the reason for my lack of posts recently.) Then he began craving tomato basil soup.  Finally, almost 4 weeks later he has moved onto a craving for hamburgers.  So as I was walking through the grocery store trying to figure out how to make a better burger, an idea came to me.  I created Spicy Gruyere Gourmet Burgers. They were a hit with everyone except my son.  He opted for raw sliced button mushrooms and only nibbled at his burger.

Spicy Gruyere Gourmet Burgers

1 1/2 lb lean ground beef
1 cup shredded gruyere cheese
1 tsp worcestershire sauce
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup steak seasoning rub
Hamburger buns
Fresh herb salad
Preheat grill.  Put the beef in a bowl.  Mix the cheese, worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper into the beef with your hands. Form into patties.  Pour steak seasoning into a shallow bowl.  Roll the edge of the burger in the seasoning.  Place on hot grill.  Cook until medium rare or to your liking. I cooked them about 5 minutes on my panini grill which was just a touch too long for me. Add tomatoes, onion, a handful of herb salad and enjoy!


Monday, February 21, 2011

Sri Lankan Curry and Dal

Sri Lankan style Beef Curry and Dal
I got lost in the cookbook section of the library the other day.  There were so many books calling out to me, wanting to be read.  Books with brilliant colors of exotic lands, beautiful people, and their edible works of art.  I wished I could bring them all home, but I thought I better leave some books on the shelf for the next wandering soul.
Mangoes and Curry Leaves, Culinary Travels Through the Great Sub-Continent by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid, jumped out at me.  A couple of years ago my husband and I traveled in India and ever since, I have been fascinated with the region.  The book took me back to the gates of the Taj Mahal and I could hardly wait to start cooking.  For our 51st Foreign Food Fest, we chose to travel south from Agra to experience the rich coco-nutty flavors of  Sri Lankan Beef Curry and Dal.

Sri Lankan Beef Curry adapted from Mangoes and Curry Leaves

11/2 pounds beef stew meat sliced across grain into bite size chunks
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 onion chopped
1 green chile
3 cloves garlic chopped
3 cups water
4 chopped prunes--here the original recipe calls for Tamarind pulp
11/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp Demerra sugar
1 T coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick-about 1/2 inch
Seeds from 2 cardamom pods
Cilantro chopped

Brown beef in olive oil.  Add onions, salt, and chile.  Cook until onions begin to soften about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for another minute.  Add water to cover meat and add chopped prunes.  (I didn't have any tamarind pulp, I chose prunes as a substitute for their sweetness and fibrous texture.  I'm sure it didn't give quite the same flavor but for us it had to do.)  Bring to a boil, cover and turn heat down.  Simmer for 1-2 hours or until beef is tender.  While beef is simmering, mix coriander, cumin, and cardamom seeds with cinnamon stick and gently heat in a dry frying pan.  Heat until seeds release their fragrance, only a minute or  two.  At this point I was supposed to grind the seeds into a powder, but the mortar and pestle grinder that I had ordered 2 months ago still had not arrived so I tried smashing them with the back of a spoon.  (That did not work too well, mostly the seeds jumped out of the bowl I had them in.  I just put them into the curry mostly whole).  Add the coconut milk and spices to the beef.  Let simmer uncovered for about another 30 minutes or until the liquid thickens slightly.  Stir in sugar and add more salt if needed.  Add chopped cilantro and serve over hot basmati rice.

Sri Lankan Dal adapted from Mangoes and Curry Leaves

1 cup red lentils
4 cups water
3 cloves garlic
1 shallot finely chopped
1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp coriander
2 red chiles
11/2 cups coconut milk
red pepper flakes- optional
2 tsp salt
cilantro for garnish

Rinse and drain lentils.  Put in pot with water and 1 tsp of salt.  Bring to boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer about 20 minutes.  Add more water if necessary.  In a separate frying pan, saute shallots in a little olive oil.  Add  garlic, curry powder, coriander, and chiles. I only added 2 chiles here because my son has a low tolerance for spicy foods, but next time I would add 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper to give it a little kick.  Cook only for a minute or two until fragrant.  Pour in coconut milk. I love the flavor of coconut milk, so I pour it with a heavy hand.  Simmer until thickened, about 5 minutes.  Add the coconut milk mixture to the lentils and continue to cook on low until the lentils have lost their shape and have the consistency of mashed potatoes.  Add up to 1 tsp of salt if needed.  Garnish with chopped cilantro.  Serve with rice or naan. *Ryan was rather skeptical of the Dal, but once he could eat it on naan he was ok with it. (He loves bread from any culture!)

Check out Naomi Duguid's website at and her blog  at


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Hometown Russian Adventure

My friend Lily inspired a dinner from Russia this week.  I decided to make Borscht.  She told me I had to go to a nearby Russian grocery store for a special dark bread that is a delicious accompaniment to the hearty soup.  I took the kids with me.  At first they didn't want to come in.  "Can't we stay in the car?" They asked.  I told them they might find some interesting items in there.  Alyssa decided it might be fun and eagerly headed for the door.  Jessica and Ryan dragged their feet, but they came in.  Once inside they perked right up.  I heard, "ooh look at this.  Can we try this mom?"  I told them they could each pick out 1 item to try.  I found the dark bread called Borodynsky and put it in our basket.  The kids immediately found the freezer section displaying different types of filled dumplings.  We picked a package of chicken filled perogies.  We looked through every aisle examining different packages to see the beautiful Russian script and guessing at the contents inside.  We ended our Russian grocery trip in the chocolate area where we grabbed a big bar of dark chocolate for our dessert.

Jessica learning how to chop Borscht veggies 


1 celery stick diced
1 carrot diced
2 cloves garlic crushed
1/2 large head green cabbage shredded
2 medium sized beets diced
64 oz beef or vegetable broth
About 4 cups water
1/4 red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
olive oil
Parsley chopped
plain yogurt or sour cream

Finished Borscht with dollop of yogurt
Heat olive oil in a pot.  Add celery and carrots and cook for a couple minutes.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant.  Pour in beef broth, cabbage, beets, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.  Bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and let simmer until cabbage is very tender 1-2 hours.  Add water as necessary to keep cabbage fully covered.  Add chopped parsley.  Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream on top and a piece of toasted Borodynsky bread (if you are lucky enough to have a Russian grocery store nearby).

Mushroom, Wheat Berry, and Brussel Sprout Salad

1 cup wheat berries
Brussel Sprouts, Wheat Berries and Mushrooms

2 cups water
1/2 tsp sea salt
2 shallots chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
10 Brussel sprouts halved
4 oz wild mushrooms chopped
1 tsp sherry
1/4 cup water
 salt and pepper

Prepare wheat berries in salted water according to package directions.  If water is evaporated and they are still tough add more water and continue cooking until they begin to be tender.  Saute shallots in olive oil add wild mushrooms.  Saute mushrooms and Brussel sprouts until they start to brown.  If needed add a little more olive oil.  Add sherry to the 1/4 cup of water and pour into mushroom mixture.  Add cooked wheat berries, salt and pepper.  Stir to combine.  Simmer until liquid is almost all absorbed and serve.

Borodynsky bread, Chicken Perogies, Wheat Berry Salad and Borscht-- a Russian delight! 


Friday, February 11, 2011

Moroccan Lamb Tagine --Country #49

Lamb Tagine with Sauteed Spinach and Beans.

The kitchen was filled with the aroma of slow roasted lamb and dried fruits.  I could hardly wait to have a taste, but I first had to make our side dish of sauteed spinach and white beans and Basbousa cake.  Tonight was all about the rich sun baked flavors of Morocco.  (We would have to ignore the 4 feet of snow outside our door.)

Moroccan Lamb Tagine

2 1/2 lbs lamb cut into chunks
Lamb in olive oil and spices.
1/2 onion chopped
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp paprika
10 saffron threads crushed
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
15 prunes
15 apricots
1 1/2 T butter
5 cloves garlic chopped
1 c chicken broth
4 c water
11/2 cinnamon sticks
Cilantro chopped

Put lamb chunks in medium bowl. Mix ginger, turmeric, paprika, saffron, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.  Pour spice mix over lamb and mix well. Add olive oil to coat lamb.  Cover and let sit for about an hour in the fridge.  Heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a large pot over medium high heat.   Brown lamb in pan.  Add onions and cook until they start to soften.  Add water, chicken broth, garlic, and cinnamon stick. (Next time I think I would put in the cinnamon stick half way through the cooking.) Bring to boil.  At this point, I poured it into a crock pot and let it cook on high until I got home from work which was about 7 hours.  Instead of using a crock pot you could simmer for 2 hours.  Add cinnamon stick, and simmer 1 or 2 more hours or until lamb is melt in your mouth tender.
While lamb is cooking, put prunes and apricots in a saucepan.  Pour hot water over them until they are just covered, add 1/2 a cinnamon stick.  Simmer over low heat until fruits have absorbed most of the water.  Remove cinnamon stick.  When lamb is finished, pour fruits into stew and stir gently. Add butter and cook for about 10 more minutes.  Add chopped cilantro and serve over couscous.

Sauteed Spinach with White Beans

2-3 cups baby spinach washed and chopped into ribbons
3 cloves garlic
1 can white beans drained (Cannelini or Great Northern)
1/2 lemon juiced
1/4 cup kalamata olives sliced
1/4 cup red onion sliced
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 cup  fresh parsley chopped
2 T chicken broth
olive oil
salt and pepper

Over medium heat, saute onion in pan until it starts to soften.  Add cumin and chicken broth.  Turn down heat to medium low and toss in spinach.  When spinach begins to wilt, add garlic, lemon juice, and beans.  When most of the broth is evaporated add olives and parsley.  Stir until olives are warm and parsley has wilted.  Add salt and pepper to your liking.  Don't overcook spinach or it will lose it's vibrant color.  (I turned away to help the kids with something and returned to find it a little darker than I would have liked--still was yummy though.)


1 cup semolina
Basbousa before cooking
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup demerara cane sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
3 1/2 T melted butter
1/2 cup French vanilla yogurt
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk


1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1 tsp orange zest
thinly sliced oranges and yogurt (optional)
* I recommend doubling these amounts.  I ended up making a second batch of this syrup because the cake was not moist enough with just one batch.  I might also add 1/4 cup white sugar as I felt the cake needed just a tiny bit more sweetness.

Preheat oven to 350.  Butter a 9X9 pan and set aside.  Mix semolina, flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add egg and incorporate.  Stir in yogurt and buttermilk.  Pour batter into pan.  Cook for about 25 minutes or until the top is golden.  Prepare syrup.  Put honey and water into small sauce pan and bring to boil.  Simmer a few minutes.  When cake is finished, poke holes all over with a toothpick and pour warm syrup over the top.  Let syrup soak in for about 15 minutes, top with orange slices and yogurt if using and serve.

Basbousa with yogurt and oranges.
We served ours with orange zest and mint tea.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thai Chicken Wings

Thai Chicken Wings, 3 Pepper Stir Fry, and Herb salad
Today my daughter had to do a science project dissecting a chicken wing.  Of course I couldn't find just one wing for her so I bought a whole package.  The trouble was that I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of them.(I had only made wings one other time and they didn't really turn out well... though they had been frozen for a while.)  I was watching her cut off the skin and inspect the tendons and joints when I got an idea.  I had a lot of Thai ingredients left over from an Asian soup I had made so why not use them for Thai Chicken Wings.  Here's what I came up with.
Thai Chicken Wings      
About 15 chicken chicken wings (if whole wing, seperate at joints and save tips for other use)
Juice of 2 limes
2 T soy sauce
3 T honey
1" piece galangal root coarsely chopped
1/2" piece ginger root chopped
3 1" pieces of lemongrass
1 T olive oil

 Teriyaki Sauce:
4 T mirin
4 T soy sauce
Juice of 1 orange
1/2 tsp grated ginger
3 T sugar
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

Teriyaki sauce
Preheat oven to 425.
Mix all ingredients except chicken into a flat bottom baking dish until honey is well incorporated.  Add chicken wings and turn to coat.  Marinate 6 hours.  Take chicken out of fridge and bring to room temperature.  Make sauce.  Put all sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to slow boil.  Turn down heat and let simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
Wings just before sauce is poured on

Lay a sheet of aluminum foil in a baking sheet and spray with cooking spray.  Arrange chicken wings in single layer in pan.  Cook for about 25 minutes or until well browned.  Remove from oven and lower heat to 350. Place chicken in a baking dish and pour 1/2 the sauce over wings.  Return to oven and bake about another 10-15 minutes.

3 Pepper Stir Fry
3 Pepper Stir Fry

1 red pepper, thinly sliced
1 yellow pepper, thinly sliced
1 orange pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 cup red onion chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sesame oil
1 T sesame seeds
1 tsp teriyaki sauce from above      
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
Saute peppers in olive oil until they begin to soften.  Add onion, salt, and pepper.  Add sesame seeds, sesame oil, and teriyaki sauce.  Simmer until peppers are tender but not mushy.

Serve the wings and peppers with a fresh herb salad and enjoy.  Even my son liked them except when I dipped his morsel in more teriyaki sauce.  He grimaced and asked, "Uhhhh is there some sauce on this?"


Monday, January 31, 2011

Cuban Empanadas

I happened across a wonderful Cuban cookbook in the library last week.  The vivid pictures of Cuban food and landscapes made my decision to choose Cuba as our 48th country quite easy.
Our menu included Chicken Empanadas, Black Beans and Papas Rellenas.  I served them with fresh guacamole and salsa.
4 of our 5 family members quickly finished their first helping and went back for more.  But my son struggled to eat the empanada. He told me I tricked him when he saw the tiniest bit of guacamole on it. (He's not fond of any type of sauce.)  I don't think he touched his Papas Rellenas (he doesn't like potatoes either). Eventually, he finished most of the empanada and tried a bite of beans. It was enough to fill his bird-like stomach.  I figure, the more often I put new foods on his plate the sooner he will come to accept them.

Chicken Empanadas 

3-4 chicken breasts
1 cinnamon stick
1 T Kosher salt
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 onion diced
1 tsp chili powder
1 T sugar
1 Roma tomato diced
2 hard boiled eggs
1/4 cup chopped green olives (I used garlic stuffed)
2 T chicken broth

2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp sugar
7 T butter
2 eggs
1/2 cup water
egg wash

Fill a large pot with water and cinnamon stick, bring to boil.  Poach chicken breasts in water for about 15-20 minutes or until cooked through.  Remove from water and let cool.
Prepare dough.  Combine flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl.  Cut in butter until resembles a coarse cornmeal.  Add eggs and mix.  Add water and stir until it comes together as a dough. Form into a ball. Cover and let rest while filling is prepared.
Shred cooled chicken.  Saute onion in olive oil until soft.  Add paprika, chili powder, salt and pepper.  Cook 1 minute.  Add tomato, shredded chicken, olives, and  chicken broth.  Simmer until sauce consistency.  Remove from heat.
Take about golf ball sized portion of dough and roll on a floured surface.  Roll out to make about a 5 inch circle.  Place a spoonful of chicken mix onto center of dough.  Fold dough over and crimp edges with a fork.  Lay empananda on a greased baking sheet.  Repeat with remaining dough and chicken.  Brush tops with egg wash and bake on 350 for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Cuban Style Black Beans

2 cans black beans drained
3 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 green pepper, halved
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cumin
cinnamon stick
1/2 onion
1/2 green pepper diced
2 hot chili peppers seeded and chopped
1/4 tsp cumin
olive oil

Pour beans into a saucepan with garlic, halved pepper, salt, cumin,  and cinnamon stick.  Pour just enough water in to cover the beans.  Bring to boil.  Turn down heat and let simmer.  Meanwhile, saute onion, diced pepper, and chilis in a saute pan until soft.  Add cumin.  Cook until fragrant.  Put onion and pepper mix into a food processor with 1 cup of beans.  Process until almost smooth.  Return to remaining bean mix and simmer, stirring frequently until sauce is thickened to desired consistency.

Papas Rellenas

Potato exterior:
2-3 large potatoes diced
1 stick butter
panko bread crumbs
3 eggs

Bring water, salt and potatoes to a boil in a large pot.  Cook until potatoes are soft.  Drain and mash.  Add butter and cool.

Make filling:
1 lb ground beef
1/2 onion diced
1.4 pepper  diced
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
fresh oregano chopped
salt, pepper
vegetable oil

Saute onion and pepper in a pan with olive oil.  Add garlic.  Cook 1 minute then add beef.  Brown beef until no longer pink.  Add cumin, oregano, salt and pepper.  Cook until most liquid has evaporated.  Let cool.

Mix 1 beaten egg into potato mixture and form balls of potato with your hands.  Press a spoonful of beef mix into center.  Cover beef with more potato.  Roll balls into flour and coat.  Tap excess flour off.  Roll into bowl with 2 beaten eggs and then roll in panko crumbs. Heat vegetable oil until hot.  Place a few balls in oil at a time.  Turn gently when browned on one side. Cook until browned all over, just a few minutes.  Remove from oil with a slotted spoon. Sprinkle some salt and pepper and serve hot.
This was my first time making anything like this.  I don't think I quite got the consistency of the potatoes correct because it was difficult for me to keep them in a ball shape, maybe they just weren't cold enough.  I ended up making a huge mess all over my hands and the counter, but they came out looking ok and tasted great.  I will definitely try to make these again.

For more information on authentic Cuban cuisine check out Eating Cuban by Beverly Cox and Martin Jacobs.
Also take a look at these Cuban recipe websites :


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Laos--"Best Dinner Ever!"

Laotian Or Lam Stew over rice with fresh veggies and Mango dessert
Country number 47, Laos, officially called The Lao People's Democratic Republic.  I learned that a typical Laotian meal can consist of a stew type dish, fresh veggies, soup, and a grilled dish.  I chose to make Or Lam (a stew), because it sounded like I could adapt the recipe and let it cook in the crockpot while I headed off to work.
I decided to serve Belgian endive and other assorted fresh vegetables as a side dish. I chose endive because of its slight bitter quality.  I read that in Laos they prize bitter foods for health. For dessert I prepared a simple dish of sweetened sticky rice with sliced mangoes.

My in-laws joined us in our Laotian experience.  My son who normally picks at his dinner like a bird, exclaimed, "Best dinner ever!"  after he tried the Or Lam.  Maybe he was just excited to have Grandma and Grandpa over but he did eat everything on his plate.

Or Lam
The original recipe that I found at Traditional Recipes of Laos was written by the Royal Cook of the Royal Palace at Luang Prabang in the late 1800s.  The stew which he called, Or Lam Sin Kuay, was made from the meat and skin of water buffalo.  The recipes states that there are many ways to make Or Lam and it can include many different types of vegetables and mushrooms.

This is my version.

1 lb. lean beef stew meat thinly sliced
2 shallots chopped
1 inch piece ginger root chopped
1 inch piece galangal root chopped
3 pieces of lemon grass stalk
4 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 cup shiitake mushroom tops sliced
6 cups water- more if needed
1 T fish sauce
1 eggplant sliced
2 scallions
2 hot chili peppers, seeded and chopped
1 bunch basil chopped
fresh dill chopped
1 T cornstarch (optional)
Juice from 1/2 of a lime

Heat olive oil in a large pot.  Brown beef.  Add shallots, garlic, chili peppers, ginger, garlic, galangal, lemon grass, salt and pepper.  Cook over medium until fragrant.  Add water, shiitake mushrooms and fish sauce.  Bring to a boil then add eggplant slices.  At this point I had to rush to work so I threw everything in the crockpot, but it could also be kept on the stove and simmered for about an hour, or until the beef and eggplant are tender.  Remove eggplant and put in the bowl of a food processor.  Mix until thoroughly processed.  Return to eggplant to the stew.  Continue to simmer until liquid is reduced and sauce thickens.  If it is not thick enough, add 1 T cornstarch mixed with 1 T cold water and bring to boil again.  Add basil, dill, lime juice, and scallions.  Serve over hot rice.

Mango Rice Dessert

1 1/2 cups cooked short grain rice (the stickier the better)
3/4 -1 cup coconut milk- not light
2-3 ripe mangoes
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 sugar
1/2 tsp salt

Put coconut milk in pan over low heat.  Add sugar and salt.  When sugar is dissolved add cooked rice.  Simmer over low heat until liquid is mostly absorbed.  Add cinnamon.  Peel and thinly slice mangoes.  Fill a small dessert cup or ramekin with hot rice and lay a few slices of mango on top.



Monday, January 17, 2011


Clockwise from left: Macedonian Sarma, Tavche Gravche, and Zelnik
This week we were fortunate to have my Mom, Dad and Grandpa join us for Country #46, Macedonia.  It's always fun to have my Mom helping me in the kitchen.
I chose to make 3 different dishes, Sarma (cabbage rolls), Zelnik, (spinach pie), and Tavche Gravche (beans).
It was interesting to see which dish each person liked the best.  The beans were the first to disappear, and the rest quickly followed.

Tavche Gravche:

I knew I would be pressed for time around dinner so I made the beans ahead of time.  I used canned cannellini beans instead of using dried beans.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2 cans white beans
3/4 cup onion chopped
1/2 shallot chopped                  
1/3 cup red pepper chopped    
1 clove garlic chopped            
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1 tsp paprika
1 T flour
1 cup water

Saute onion, red pepper, and shallot in pan with olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and saute another minute or two.  Add salt, pepper, paprika, and red pepper flakes and mix well.  After 2-3 minutes add flour and cook about 2 minutes.  Then add drained beans and stir thoroughly.  Pour water into the pan and stir until a sauce like consistency.  Bring to boil.  If mixture gets too dry add more water. Turn down heat and simmer for 10 minutes.  Add the chopped parsley.  Transfer mixture to an oven-proof dish and cook on 350 for about 45 minutes or until bubbly and a nice crust has formed on the top.


About 15 large cabbage leaves*
1 1/2 cups cooked rice
1/2 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic
1/4 red pepper
1 lb ground beef
1 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 cup Kalamata olives chopped
1/2 cup fresh parley chopped
1/2 cup fresh mint chopped

*Many of the recipes I found called for pickled cabbage leaves which I could not find. Instead I boiled the leaves in a pot of water, 1 tsp salt, and 1/2 cup of vinegar.  Boil them about 5 minutes until soft.  Cook rice according to package directions.  Saute onion and red pepper in pan with olive oil.  Add garlic and ground beef.  Cook until beef is no longer pink.  Add paprika, salt, and pepper and olives.  Mix in cooked rice, parsley, and mint.  Take 1 cabbage leaf at a time and fill with 2-3 Tablespoons of meat mixture.  Fold leaf in around mix and roll.  Lay in a baking dish lined with some extra cabbage leaves to prevent sticking.  Repeat with rest of leaves and filling.  Pour boiling water over rolls and bake in oven.  (I think this is where I made a mistake.  The cabbage was still slightly tough.  Next time I would cover the dish with foil so the steam could soften the cabbage more.) Bake on 350 until tender.


I discovered that Zelnik can be prepared using a variety of ingredients.  I chose to make a spinach leek feta Zelnik and it was delicious!

1 small leek chopped (white parts only)
3 cups fresh baby spinach leaves, chopped
8 oz feta cheese
1 clove garlic
1/2  roasted red pepper
1/2 pkg phyllo dough
 2 sticks butter

Mix leek, spinach, feta, garlic and red pepper in a bowl.  Prepare phyllo layers: Brush one sheet at a time with melted butter and layer them on top of one another.  After layering about 10 sheets, spread filling over dough and roll.  Lay around the edge of a round cake pan.  Continue this process until all spinach mixture is used.  Brush the tops of the phyllo rolls with more melted butter.  Bake in 350 degree oven until crust is nicely browned about 20 minutes.  


If you want to find out more about Macedonia and it's cuisine check out these sites:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Chilean Pastel de Choclo or Shepherd's Pie

Chilean Enchantment
For our 45th global culinary adventure a we chose the country of Chile.  My husband's friend Juraj, gave us recipes for his favorite dishes. These are the foods he eats when he returns home.  I love finding recipes this way. For our first taste of Chile he suggested, Pastel de Choclo which is similar to Shepherd's Pie, Sopaipillias, Chancho en Piedra (a tomato sauce),  and a bottle of Santa Ema Reserve Merlot from Chile.

Personally, I don't think Shepherd's Pie is anything special, but the Pastel de Choclo was a taste sensation.  I was surprised by the seemingly random ingredients like hard boiled eggs, grilled chicken, beef, corn, and raisins, but their flavors complemented each other perfectly.
Pastel de Choclo adapted from

1 lb ground organic beef
1 T olive oil
1/2 cup raisins
1 onion peeled and chopped
3 cloves garlic chopped
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives, halved
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3 T water
Salt and pepper
2 hard-cooked large eggs, sliced
1 chicken breast thinly sliced and sauteed
3 cups corn kernels, frozen or fresh
3/4 cup whipping cream

Soak raisins in hot water until plump about 10 minutes.  Hard boil 2 eggs and saute chicken breast slices.  Preheat oven to 450.   Heat oil in saute pan.  Cook onions until softened.  Add garlic, paprika, cumin and water.  Add ground beef to pan and cook until no longer pink.  Add olives and raisins and remove from heat.  Process corn kernels and cream in food processor.  Add salt and pepper.  The original recipe said to divide beef mixture into individual oven proof crocks which I do not have, so I spread the whole mixture into a casserole dish.  Then layer the sliced eggs and chicken on top.  Spread out the corn and cream mixture until it covers the entire top. Bake on 450 for about 15 minutes.  Then raise temperature to broil.  Watch carefully and broil until tops are browned, about 4 minutes.  Serve with Santa Ema Reserve Merlot from Chile

Sopaipillias, fried dough, were a whole new experience for all of us.  In Chile they are served as either a bread with a tomato based sauce or a pastry with a sweet sauce.  The dough is a simple mixture of  flour and zapallo squash which I had never heard of.  I found out on that it is similar to a Hubbard squash.

 Sopaipillias-- based on recipe from

1/2 a Zapallo squash or Hubbard if you can't find Zapallo
About 5 cups of flour --I used more than the original recipe, but maybe my squash was bigger
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
10 T melted butter
oil for frying
Making Sopaipillias

Peel the squash and chop into large chunks.  (This is much more difficult than it sounds!  If you have any squash peeling tricks let me know.  'Cause this step took me about a 1/2 hour)  Once this is done boil squash in a large pot of water, until soft.  Drain and mash.  Add butter.  Mix flour and remaining dry ingredients.
Mix dry ingredients into squash.  Knead until it forms a nice dough consistency, keep adding flour if it is too sticky.  Let rest for about 15 min.  Roll out with a rolling pin to 1/8 inch thick.  Cut rounds using a circular cookie cutter or the top of a glass.  Put them on a plate and poke with a fork.  Heat oil in a deep frying pan until hot.  Carefully place several rounds into oil and cook until golden brown on each side about 3 minutes.  Remove from oil and drain on paper towel.  These are best eaten immediately so have your sauce or powdered sugar already prepared and eat them as soon as they have cooled slightly.

I made tomato based sauce called, Chancho en Piedra, to dip the sopaipillias into.

4 tomatoes
1 clove garlic
2 T olive oil
sea salt and pepper to taste

Chop tomatoes and garlic and place in food processor bowl.  Add olive oil, salt and pepper.  Let sit for 10 min.  Process mixture until a saucy consistency.  Refrigerate until ready to use.

I ran out of time to make Leche Asada a baked milk custard dessert.  That will have to wait until our next adventure with Chilean cuisine.   I want to thank Juraj Vlahovic and Mitzi Chiple for suggesting and finding these recipes for us to enjoy.


Monday, January 3, 2011

Delicious Danish New Year

Our New Year's celebration began with a traditional Christmas feast from Denmark.  We had Roast Duck with Red Wine and Prunes, Braised Red Cabbage, and Ris a l'amande (rice pudding with almonds and cherry sauce).  I found the recipes at  Here are the specific links to each recipe:  Roast Duck and Braised Cabbage  and Rice Pudding with Cherry Sauce
I would definitely make the duck again but with a few changes to the recipe.  I had never made a duck before and the recipe didn't state some basics of roasting ducks.  Later, I found out that it is important to dry the skin, score it, and prick it all over before putting it into the oven.  I would also sprinkle the entire skin with coarse sea salt and pepper.  I just found a great blog which has pictures of each step in the preparation of a duck. Visit The Hungry Mouse for step by step instructions. I wish I had seen this on Thursday, oh well.  I'll know for next time.
I made a few slight adjustments to the rice pudding but overall it was great.  It called for a vanilla bean which I did not have so I used 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract.  I also added 1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 tsp cinnamon.  It's interesting how many different variations of rice pudding there are. It appears most countries have their own special version of it.  My kids seem to like them all.


For general information about Denmark and Danish cuisine check out