Our African Souvenier.

|
Well hello friends!

How was the weekend?  Good?  I certainly hope so.  Mine was fabulous.  My little boy partook in a few "firsts" and made his Mama proud.

Just let me take a moment to brag and boast.

The little man had his first official swimming lesson:

First few moments in the water:


Kicking violently (and maintaining a death grip on my shoulder):



"Dad, I'm freezing."




Although the poor thing hated floating on his back he loved the water!

Another "first" was searching for Easter eggs:









I'm not quite sure he really "got" the egg-hunting extravaganza but the colorful oblong object was intriguing enough for his pleasure.

Anyway- yes, a very joyful weekend, indeed.

Now, onto today's post.

I realize I promised something Asian and delectable for you...but since I had such a fabulous weekend with the above mentioned little tyke, I thought it fitting to include a post sharing how he came to be.

NO, not that.  Don't allow your mind to go-a-wandering down that road, please.

Thank you.

And, actually, his story does deal with travels and other-lands.  Because, my friends, this little boy was made
in Kenya.  Yes, on the vast continent of Africa.  He's a little African baby...

What?  His blonde hair and blue eyes didn't give it away?

Ha.

But yes, certainly.  This little man came to be while my husband and I were serving in East Africa for a year post-college.  I was teaching, Mr. K was digging wells, and this little man's presence suddenly changed our lives forever.

Now, while pregnant (and in Africa, mind you), I had many-a-craving.  Unfortunately in the middle of the African bush, there aren't many Dairy Queens around to deliver your sweet fix.

Yeah, I had many a tearful "I need ice cream" moment at times.  Not gonna lie.

However, a few of my main cravings (thankfully) were things just beyond my door.

Things such as fresh plantains (a savory banana-type fruit):


Beans:



Banana's on-the-vine (they stay fresher when you
pluck the whole vine rather than an individual piece).


Mouth-watering papaya:



PINEAPPLE (my main, daily craving) & mangoes:



Ginormous avocados:



Fruits and veggies galore:
(sorry for the side-photo, grrr blogger)



Wildebeest meat:


Hahaha!  I'm kidding.  Nasty.

But we did eat this:


Yup.  We tasted some incredibly delicious teriyaki hippo.
I'm not kidding.
It was really, really good.
Did you know hippos are the most ferocious African animal?
Yeah.
They can snap a human in half in one bite.
Stay away, my friends, far away.

Want a few other fun photos?

Okay.

Ever feel like you're stuck in traffic?  
Think again:



Ever in need of a toilet when traveling and can't find a rest-stop?
Yeah.
Welcome to the bush bathroom!

This 12 week pregnant woman had many-an-issue with this one:



Try flying in one of these bad boys with a bun in the oven:
Morning sickness doesn't brush the surface.
Try motion sickness!



I made a valiant effort to hold it all in.



The hospital where we had our first ultrasound (in Nairobi):



There he is!



The first live-birth I witnessed in Eastern Kenya
(I was 16 weeks pregnant here):



Sadly, this precious girl only lived one year, 
she died a few months ago from an amoeba
(due to lack of clean water).  It was terribly sad.

Anyway- didn't mean to end on a tearful note.

Africa was quite good to us, indeed, albeit eye-opening.

Our little man will forever be our favorite African souvenier!







More on this crazy-adventure later.

I have many-a-culinary-story to tell and
recipes to share!




Around the World: A Brief Overview

|
I've been pondering lately (I do this a lot...ruminate and gnaw on things in my head, it's a joyous pasttime).

As of late I've wanted to share my international ventures with you all.  I haven't had many, only a few in the greater scheme of things, but the few experiences I have had, have been quite interesting.

Interesting enough to share.  Or at least I think so.

Maybe you will disagree.  That's your prerogative.

However, I will share regardless.

My hope is to feature a few recipes here-and-there of various places and cultures.  I may have visited these lands, or may simply dream about them now and then.  I dream a lot.  Ask my husband.

I have quite a few experiences and stories in this cavernous head of mine and before long they're bound to burst forth and spill all over the place.  Might as well let them seep out slowly.

Sorry for the visual.

A few places that I've been ever-so-blessed to visit are the vast continents of Asia & Africa, however I'll talk about the latter later (haha), today we'll focus on the former.

During college, I spent a month perusing and teaching in Wuhan, China.  Wuhan is located about an hour's flight south of Beijing, in the Hubei Province.  It is also known as one of the hottest locations in central China.

I chose to visit in late June.

I know, smart.  I didn't have a choice, really- that's when our group was scheduled to go and we dealt with it accordingly.  While in China I enjoyed the culinary fare immensely.  I can't express to you enough how amazing real, honest-to-goodness Chinese cuisine really is.  Beef and broccoli?  What the heck IS that?  They don't have it in China.  That is an Americanized dish, people.  Neither do they have sweet and sour chicken the way we're used to (heavily fried, with a miniscule shred of chicken within)- no, their sweet and sour fare is intensely sweet, tangy, with a crisp, thin breading and a large portion of juicy chicken or fish inside.

It's to. die. for.

The Chinese are a fun, hilarious sort- and boy does their food represent their vibrancy.

For example, if you are having chicken, they will include nearly all of it on the platter.  Yes, all of it.


That's a chicken head, people.  
Chinese don't skimp on the goods.
The reason they include both the head (and feet) is to symbolize
unity, a wholeness, a comprehensive relationship.

This is what I love about the Chinese, their food is
wholly symbolic.  It encompasses feelings, moods,
emotions, wholistic ideals.  

One of the best books I've ever read regarding Chinese
culture and culinary practices is this:


It's fiction, but extremely indicative of Chinese culinary arts.  
Incredible.

Another great book for learning about Chinese
culture in general, especially historical background
and the whole "foot-binding" era, is this:



Anyway, didn't mean to do book talks with you!
I adore reading, almost as much as I love cooking.

Back to China.

The Chinese, going with their symbols of unity
and eternity, always eat around a revolving, 
circular table:


Each person sits around the table, is given a pair of chopsticks
and a small plate.  The mid-section of the table is then laden
with various dishes and revolves, while you are required to
pick up a few bites here and there to nibble at while conversating
with the rest of the diners.  

The small plate you are given is not to load up with food,
but to deposit bones, fat, or anything else you do not 
choose to eat.  



You pluck-as-you-go.
I love this method because it forces you to focus on
your food (albeit actually getting it off the main plate
via chopsticks, a feat in itself), nibble at it, really taste it.
You aren't scarfing down huge portions, but rather
tasting a little of everything as you go.

My digestion got a whole lot better while in Wuhan.
No more details needed.

Chinese are also known for their beauty of presentation:



Now these are the lovely portions of Chinese cuisine.

There are some challenging, perplexing foods as well.

Like this:


Folks, you don't even want to know what I'm eating here.
It's curdled pig's blood.

Yeah.

Hey, try everything once, right?
Okay, maybe not.
But I did, and I lived to tell about it.

Apparently, the Chinese believe it purifies.
Not sure what I think about this so I'll just move on.

One food others have chosen to hate (without trying, most often)
is tofu:



Now I have to admit, I really like it.
The Chinese do it well, and it is darn good.
Tofu doesn't taste like anything, 
it takes on the flavor of whatever you add it to/with.

It's the consistency most people don't like.
I, however, had no qualms partaking.
I rather enjoy it these days.

The Chinese also make a mean mango smoothie:



They also make a great smoothie out of this:





Yep, the mung bean.

And guess what?

I loved it.  

They concoct imaginable dishes out of this bean.

Items such as soup:




Ice cream (yeah):


Face wash:

Who knew the Chinese green bean was so versatile?

Ha.  

I actually love the flavor and texture of these beans.
You can find them at your local Chinese grocery.

Anyway...

So yes, my Chinese culinary experience was incredible.
Simply incredible.

So, in lieu of the beginning of this Around the World series,
I am starting off my first recipe as an ode to Asia.

However you will have to stay tuned...

Muah haha.

Good Morning!

|
Well hello on this fine Monday morning!

I know, I know, I'm exceptionally perky this a.m.  Why?  Many reasons, my friends, many reasons.

First, my lovely friend is in-house and we have had many-a-fabulous conversation since she's arrived.  Second, it's sunny outside and robins are flying to and fro!  Spring might just be upon us and this is reason enough to be joyful, indeed.

BUT, third.  Oh third, you are never, ever last or least.

Thirdly, I made this:


Oh yes, oh yes.  Coffee cake, my loves.

And is it EVER good.  And, and, and, it's good for you!  Is that irony for you, or what?  

Well...maybe it's not entirely good for you.  I'm sure there are other options that would be much more beneficial to your health at 8a.m. but this is nearly guilt-free and for that I am giddy.

Here's the recipe:

Nearly-Good-For-You Coffeecake
This recipe is adapted from one found Cooking Light magazine, March 2010 issue.

3/4 C old-fashioned rolled oats, divided
Cooking spray
1 C all-purpose white flour
1/4 C whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 C honey
1/2 C brown sugar, divided
1/3 C butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp maple flavoring
1 C plain, non-fat yogurt (or sour cream would work as well)
2 Tbsp finely chopped walnuts
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 Tbsp chilled butter, cut into small pieces

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 350
2. Spread oats in a single layer on a baking sheet.  Bake at 350 for 6 minutes or until oats are barely fragrant and light brown.
3. Coat a 9-inch springform pan with cooking spray; set aside (you could also use a 9" cake pan as well)
4. Reserve 1/4 C oats; set aside.  Place remaining oats in a food processor or blender, process a few seconds until finely ground.  Measure out flours, oars, baking powder, baking soda, and salt; stir with a whisk.
5. Place honey, brown sugar, and 1/3 C butter in a large bowl.  Beat with a mixer at medium speed for 3 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Beat in vanilla and maple flavorings.  Add flour mixture to sugar mixture alternately with yogurt, beginning and ending with flour mixture.  Batter will be slightly lumpy because of oats.  Spoon batter into prepared pan; spread evenly.
6. Combine remaining 1/4 C oats, remaining 1/4 C brown sugar, nuts, and cinnamon in a bowl.  Cut in chilled 2 Tbsp butter with a pastry blender, or two knives until well-blended.  Sprinkle top of batter evenly with nut mixture.  Bake at 350 for 38 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, top is golden, and cake begins to pull away from sides of pan.  Cool cake in pan for 10 minutes; remove from pan.

  

Easy enough, tasty, and like I said:  nearly good for you!

Go enjoy a piece, sip some coffee, and have a great conversation with a good friend.

And Happy Monday!



Breakfast...anytime.

|
Today it's all about breakfast.

Breakfast ANYTIME.  Particularly for supper.  In this little family o'mine, we love ourselves some breakfast.  So much that we really don't discriminate or delve into the whens and whats.  My husband eats bowls of cereal like they're going out of style.  For example, last night (after a very hearty dinner of Chicken Corn Chowder and homemade rolls, mind you) he decided he needed a ginormous bowl of Cheerios.

Why?

Well, because, he says, and-I-quote "I forgot to have breakfast this morning."

Yes, that's how much we love our morning fare in this household.  If it's skipped, it just needs. to. happen. You understand, I'm sure.  In fact, I recall my husband saying that his favorite thing about college was the unlimited cereal buffet in the dorm cafeteria.

Yeah.

Anyway.  So yes, we enjoy breakfast at all hours, all times, all places.  It's a necessity.

That being said, today's recipe is a must-have around these parts.  And please don't pass it by once you hear what it is, thinking, "That sounds SO frou-frou," or, "there is NO way my husband/kids would eat that."

Trust me, folks.  Just trust, I tell you.  It's Mr. K's absolute favorite meal ever.  And that says something.  Because for all those who know this man, you know that he defines picky.  He doesn't touch greenery.  He stays thirty feet away from anything "gourmet" or flavorful.

But he loves this.  Loves it.  He begs for it.  He sings it's praises.  In fact, this is straight from the horse's mouth himself,
“Growing up in a world of meat and potatoes, there wasn’t anything better than roast beef, mashed potatoes, and corn.  But that all changed when I had my wife’s quiche.  It is by far my favorite meal, even if I don’t know how to spell it.” 
Haha.  I love him.  And yes, I asked for a review.  I'm not puffing myself up here, just stating facts.  It's true, the man loves this dish.

So what is this must-have?

Spinach & Crab Quiche, my friends.

Now don't get worried, it's easier that easy.  I've been making it since my green days as a new wife (back when I didn't know a fork from a spoon).  Just stick with me.

Okay, enough talking.  Let's get cookin'.

Spinach & Crab Quiche

Note: you don't have to stick with spinach or crab, I just like this flavorful combination.  You can swap out the crab for crumbled sausage or chunks of ham/bacon, and the spinach for peppers/onions/broccoli.  It's quite versatile.  However, if you are using ham, especially deli meat, be aware that it might contain a higher water-content and thus cause the quiche to be a touch more soupy (so you need to cook it 10-15 min longer).

- 1 deep dish pre-made pie crust (but not pre-baked)
- 2 Cups 2% milk or heavy cream
- half package imitation crab meat (or fresh, if available)
- 6 eggs
- grated cheese (your choice, I like Italian blend for this recipe)
- one handful spinach
- 1/4 tsp salt
- pepper, to taste

Instructions:
- Cover bottom of unbaked pie shell with cheese, on top of the cheese, place another layer of flaked crabmeat, on top of that layer, place the spinach leaves, cover with a small smattering of cheese, set aside and prepare your quiche base.
- Crack eggs and place in medium bowl.  Stir with a whisk until yolks are broken but not over-beaten.  Add milk/cream and stir to combine.  Add salt and pepper.
- Pour the quiche base over top the spinach layer, fill quiche until just below rim.  Dunk any spinach pieces with your fingertips so they are fully coated (this prevents them from drying out and becoming crispy in the oven).  Cover your crust edges with a pie shield OR tin foil, if you have it (this prevents premature browning). Place on cookie sheet and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.  However, set your timer for 35 minutes.  When timer goes off, take our quiche and cover the top with more cheese, place back in oven for 10 more minutes.
- When timer goes off, check quiche.  You will know it's done by shaking the pan a tad.  If the quiche wiggles slightly, but not sloppily (meaning very liquidy yet, and needs a few more minutes) then take it out.
- ALLOW THE QUICHE TO REST 10-15 MINUTES before slicing.  This is crucial.  It allows everything to set up properly.  Don't be temped to cut into it.  Patience, people, patience.

The food items you will need:


Here's the imitation crab meat:
I am not partial to certain brands, it's a toss-up for me.
Since I don't have access to a good fishmonger, I have
to go with imitation meat- if you can find fresh, go for it!
Imitation crabmeat can be found at any local grocery store.
And when you see "imitation," this doesn't mean it's fake fish,
it is simply a combination of a couple different kinds of white fish.
Just a tidbit of info for your day.




Grab yourself some eggs.  I now only use organic, free-range eggs,
after seeing this, commercial chicken manufacturers sort of set
my mind on edge.  
It's a personal preference.



Again, love these Pillsbury pre-made pie crusts!
Remember when I made this?
Yeah, they're great.
Just remember, in this recipe- don't pre-bake it.



Cover the bottom of the crust with cheese.
Ahhh, love cheese.  



Then a layer of crab meat.


Then the spinach.



Oh, and if you're a time-saver like me, go ahead and prepare
(in advance) some Rhodes Multigrain Rolls.  By prepare, I 
mean let them rise in time prior to getting the quiche ready.
Why?  Because they bake at 400 too.  Two things, same
temp, same oven.  Fabulous time-saver and great together.

So pop these babies in to your pre-heated oven for 12 minutes
while you prepare your quiche (or if you want them uber-fresh,
pop them in when you take the quiche out, while the eggs are
doing their 15 minutes of resting/setting up).
Either way, it's a bargain.



Set aside your pie shell with it's lovely layers of goodness and
move on to the quiche base.

Crack a few eggs into a bowl






Mix up the yolks a bit, just to break them up.
Then add your milk.


Milk with a greater fat content makes the quiche
far better.  I would avoid using skim, but if you
are super conscious of fat/weight schtuff, go ahead
and do what you want.
I am of the mind that I'd rather eat a smaller portion of something
tastier, than a larger hunk of something merely so-so.
But that's just me.




This is how it should look once mixed.
Remember not to over-beat.



Add your salt and pepper.



Grab your pie shell and add a touch  more cheese.



Dump in your quiche base.



Don't over-fill.  You don't want egg spilling over the side
and burning up all over the place on your pan/in the oven.
I've never done that.
Never.
Ahem.


Dunk the little spinach pieces that didn't want to get wet.



Place on a baking sheet to prevent spillage.



Now, my friends.  If you are like me and HATE burned crust.
Get yourself one of these:



They are incredible for saving your edges.  Love it.
If you don't have one, just cut some strips of tin foil and
crimp them over the edges.  That'll do just fine.
But this thingamajig is so much easier.



Take out those rolls and pop in your quiche.
Remember to set the timer for 35 min.



After the bell dings, take out the quiche and add a touch more cheese.
Or a lot more cheese, if you're like me.



Pop it back in for another 10-15 minutes, or until done.



Oh my.  Yes, we love our breakfast.
Oh, we do.
Remember to let this thing sit for a bit, it needs to gather its wits.
You know, because quiche are a witty breed, they are.
Or not. 
Whatever.



Mmmm, that looks about right.



After patiently waiting, slice into that fabulousness.



And go ahead- just enjoy your breakfast for the second
 (or third or fourth, or twentieth time today...)
I won't judge you.