December 26th, 2008
I hope this post finds you with a satisfied belly, good family and friends, or simply a glass of eggnog and rum. I’ve had my share of each this past few weeks along with many fun mornings, afternoons and evenings of baking, cooking and eating out. One of my favorite things (…read more and get the recipe)
June 28th, 2008
Rachel and I always make a big breakfast (or brunch depending on how late we sleep in) on the weekends. Some mornings it’s waffles with fresh strawberries and real whipped cream. Other days I’ll come up with some topping or syrup to put on whole-meal pancakes. We love to start the weekend with a large meal and it adds a fun tradition to our week. (…read more and get the recipe)
June 10th, 2008
Who would have known, a 100% whole-wheat muffin recipe can actually be moist and delicious! Rachel and I typically have a big breakfast/brunch on the weekends and make a huge mess in the kitchen doing so. I woke up a bit earlier than Rachel and decided to make her muffins the other morning as part of our regimen. Now Rachel doesn’t usually like the whole-wheat goodness like I do so I wanted to do it right. Well, taking some hints from my chocolate chip-cookie recipe (they were also so moist and delicious!), I whipped some muffins up that topped them all! To help support local and more humane food practices you can try using milk from a local dairy, eggs from your local farmer’s market (or neighbor/co-worker as we do), and other locally produced goods as they are available near you. Here’s what I did: (…read more and get the recipe)
April 9th, 2008
This last weekend was my sister-in-law’s wedding. The wedding was beautiful and my wife especially looked hot! I wasn’t part of the wedding party, but I did have the pleasure of cooking breakfast for the “day of.” She didn’t want to put me out or have me do any major cooking in the morning, so we decided on muffins and fresh fruit. After going to Costco and looking for muffins I decided they looked WAY too unhealthy (sugary and such) for a bridal party and to last them throughout the morning. I definitely didn’t want anyone having a sugar high and subsequent crash.
My solution was to bust out the muffin tins, whole wheat and go light on the sugar! The result was about 100 delicious small muffins. I made both pumpkin and banana muffins with hazelnuts in each and raisins in the pumpkin variety. Everything turned out good, except I wish I would have had riper bananas and I might add a little more oil, butter or milk next time to the banana muffins.
My wife and I also had a discussion about the whole wheat flour. We noticed that the flavor of these and other things I’ve made has been turning out weird with this brand of flour I have. I usually buy King Arthur Whole Wheat Flour which makes for great bread making too (I know I owe you this recipe sometime!). I think, even though the prices of wheat keep going up, I am going to have to keep buying this brand due to the quality. Of course, I used my wife’s Stahlbush Island Farm Organic Pumpkin again with great success!
I’m going to share the Pumpkin Raisin Hazelnut Muffin recipe. Here’s what I did:
- 1 cup regular flour (mix and match to your taste)
- 1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 cup of raisins
- 1/2 cup to 1 cup of roughly chopped hazelnuts (walnuts work too) — try Hazelnut Hill!
- 1 can Farmer’s Market Organic Pumpkin (15-oz)
- 1/3 cup canola oil (or unsalted butter for a slightly richer flavor)
- 2 eggs, whisked
- 2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 1/2 cup of sugar (down from 1 and 1/4 in the recipe I modified!!)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- pinch of fine sea salt
- cinnamon and sugar sprinkled on top right before baking
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees f.
- Pour about 2 cups of boiling water over the 1 cup of raisins to plump them for about 5 minutes, drain well before using.
- Place muffin liners in your muffin tin (this will make about 20 average sized muffins or about 12 large ones)
- In a small glass bowl mix flours and baking powder, set aside
- Mix together remaining ingredients until combined well to create a pumpkin mixture
- Add flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture and mix only until just combined
- Fill muffin cups about 3/4 full and sprinkle cinnamon-sugar mixture on top of batter
- Bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on size) or until a toothpick comes out clean
- Remove from oven and let cool
I hope you enjoy them!
March 3rd, 2008
Food and coffee were, obviously, both very enjoyable portions of my trip to the Dominican Republic. Here I am a month later at home thinking back on what else I did there. We tried really hard to visit a lot of friends and even make new friends there. It was so enjoyable to walk to someone’s door and have them shrill ‘entre, entre’ (come in, come in). To have someone sincerely pull a chair out or laugh as they kick a younger brother or daughter out of their seat and say ‘Sientate, Sientate’ is such a great feeling. I was able to see a very different side of people compared to what we typically see in the U.S. For example, I don’t even know either of my neighbors and I’m sure I’m not alone.
Back to the food: My wife and I were able to visit each missionary (including one indigenous missionary) on the T.E.A.R.S. team during the two weeks we were there to cook! I made it my mission to cook a meal for each of them.When I left for the D.R. I felt miserable with a cold. When I arrived Jennifer and Luis Rodriguez(another T.E.A.R.S. missionary couple) had plans to have us over for dinner the night after we arrived. I still hadn’t fully recovered but Jennifer remembered my blog and was fresh out of Taco Seasoning packets. I was volunteered to come up with a substitute with the seasonings in the cupboard. Fortunately I had made this seasoning many times at home using cumin, pepper, salt, garlic, onions and ground beef. It turned out good and we had a great evening of sharing and games.
For Bau (a Dominican missionary living in Maria Auxiliadora, La Vega) we cooked one of my favorites — Unique Chicken Pot Pie. I was also able to share this meal with Tracy, a long-time missionary with T.E.A.R.S. Bau and his wife Adriana had never experienced a “soup” quite like that!
Tracy and I experimented with my pretzel recipe (and maybe I’ll teach you someday on this blog). That was an experience. Even finding the ingredients in La Vega was a challenge, not to mention baking in a tiny gas oven and kneading dough on a small wobbly plastic table. Good memories.
For Rod Davis (the Executive Director of T.E.A.R.S.), Twila (his wife), and two children I cooked one of my wife’s favorites: Linguine with Spicy Chorizo and Tomato Sauce. I combined this with a feeble (and unsuccessful) attempt to make French Bread for the first time. The bread tasted good, but I didn’t quite follow all of the directions. I forgot to roll out the dough and then roll it up so it just spread out and became very flat. When I got home I tried it again right away with great success. I’ll have to post on here how to do it right pretty soon.
One of my favorite evenings, yet bittersweet since it was our last night, in the Dominican Republic was when we stayed with Joy and Vidal Reyes. Vidal and I (the mighty men of the house) got to cooking. Due to the fact that it was about a perfect 75 degrees every day there Vidal fired up his BBQ. He figured we hadn’t had a BBQ since summer and cooked us up some delicious chicken and steaks. He was correct about that and it was so good to have BBQ. He also taught me how to make Spanish Rice Vidal style. It turned out pretty good and I’ve already experimented with my own back home. I’ll have to get it perfected and then blog about it too!
I was able to use fresh ingredients they already had in their house to cook some of my delicious pico de gallo salsa. I chop into small cubes tomatoes, onion, chilis, bell peppers (optional), cilantro and add fresh squeezed lime juice, minced garlic, and salt. We had a delicious meal that evening and also had a great time really getting to know Joy and Vidal.
All of the cooking I did there was quite an experience. Often times I was forced to improvise due to lack of a lot of the conveniences we are blessed with here in the states. While baking bread the power went out (as it often does) at the Davis’s house outside the barrio (Maria Auxiliadora, La Vega). Luckily, Rod has a generator! When I was preparing to make the Chicken pot pie the water was turned off (as it often is) to the Barrio. I used a bucket we had filled with water for such an occasion to rinse and boil the chicken. That was … interesting. Also, since hot water (from a tap) is pretty much non-existent in most places I never was able to wash my hands or utensils as I normally would. This sort of sicks you out, but you get used to it, especially after eating at someone else’s house where they’ll cut up chicken with the same knife they use to cut everything else up without even rinsing between. All in all the cooking turned out pretty good. The missionaries enjoyed some American cooking and Rachel and I got to have some great company throughout our trip.
In my next and final DR series I’ll talk about the no-bake cookies I cooked up in Travesia on the Fugon.
Thanks for reading!
February 5th, 2008
Above: Coffee Drying operation in the Village of Travesia
Coffee in the Dominican Republic, simply, is a way of life. My wife and I visited many friends in their houses during our two week trip. During every visit to a friend’s house we would be served a delicious cup of Dominican coffee. If you’ve read my last post, you know coffee also comes along with every meal. Needless to say, we drank a lot of coffee while we were there!
How it’s brewed:
Coffee is brewed in an Italian-style espresso maker they call a “Greca.” A little bit of since electricity there is fairly inconsistent — we had electricity about 1/2 the time we water goes in the bottom of the brewer. Some ground coffee goes into the “filter” area and it’s all screwed together. Almost everyone there uses a gas (propane) stove top to cook were there on average. The water is heated and boils through the filter (from underneath) and then up through a little spout into a reservoir.
How it’s served:
Once the water is all boiled into the reservoir it is removed from the heat and often poured into a serving carafe. About one-half cup of sugar is added for each pot (about 2-3 cups). This makes for one sweet cup of coffee! For drinking, you are served one very small cup (about the size of an espresso shot). I really enjoyed sitting on someone’s porch, taking in all the delicious smells, sights and sounds of the Dominican Republic while sipping on my sweet cup of “cafè.”
Often times the ground coffee is mixed with nutmeg, cinnamon and/or other spices during brewing for an extra layer of flavor. It is delicious!
Growing and Roasting:
Fortunately for me, I had the opportunity to visit a village where coffee is grown and roasted! The growing seemed fairly normal in the village of Travesia (a small village in the mountains above the city of Jarabacoa), but the roasting was quite unique.
First off, they grow it under the banana and orange trees all along the hill sides. As we were walking up the trail to the village I saw coffee growing everywhere along the trail. It’s picked and husked using a small husk-removing machine (see photo) . Afterward it’s dried on a cement slab under a plastic covering. It is raked into ridges about twice a day (ridges are alternated between length-wise and width-wise).
To Roast in the village they use a clay-oven top called a “fugòn.” It’s basically a clay base and sides with a small fire (see photos). The coffee and unrefined (natural cane — still brown) sugar added at the same time to a huge cast-iron pot. Its stirred with a wooden spoon and caramelized.
My theory is that this is done because the fugòn and wooden spoon can’t get the beans evenly roasted so the caramelization hides the roast. The end result is a really black bean (on the outside) but a delicious flavor when ground and brewed! I brought some home and it’s sitting in my freezer now! YUM! My mother-in law once brought back about 10 pounds on her carry-on of this stuff and we drank it all year.
I hope you’re enjoying this series on the Dominican Republic. Feel free to ask me questions on the comment sections or just leave comments.
January 31st, 2008
I recently returned from a two-week vacation to the Dominican Republic (D.R.). My wife and I have friends there we visited and stayed with during out trip. This was my second time visiting but my first time really visiting with the people and learning a little more about the culture.
Of course, this being a food blog and all, I have to talk about my food experiences. Over the next couple of weeks I am going to be sharing about some cooking I did while I was there and also cooking I experienced! I can’t wait to share it all and hope that you enjoy reading it!
I want to start with some typical meals that you might experience in some poorer parts of the D.R. I’ve got some photos of the market in La Vega below so that might give you an idea of some of the foods they get to eat (rice, beans, chicken).
The Meal line-up looks like this:
- For breakfast: Hot Chocolate with some really dry bread. The bread is a lot like a hot-dog bun and is commonly found around the country. They have three basic types, large hot-dog bun, regular hot-dog bun, and small. To them, it’s just “pan” (in Spanish) or “bread” (in English). The hot chocolate was really rich and really sweet. Just what you need to kick-start your day!
- Of course, as with every meal, you need some coffee! Coffee is absolutely a part of every day life in the D.R. The coffee is not quite like Starbucks, which is fine by me. They use the italian-espresso making device that they call a “greca.” It looks like you can buy them online. The coffee turns out really strong (like an espresso shot) but you wouldn’t find a Dominican drinking a cup without at least 1/8 cup of sugar in each shot! It tastes SO good with all that sugar, but you just know it can’t be good for you.
- For lunch, which is the most important — and largest — meal of the day, I ate well. Most of the time I had a plate full of rice and beans. They use a red pinto-like bean there and white rice. The rice is steamed (often with a plastic bag over the pan instead of a solid lid) in a ton of oil and a ton of salt. The beans are pressure cooked and then boiled for a bit with seasonings including (but not limited to): a ton of salt, oil, cilantro, garlic cloves, a type of squash and more salt! This meal is full of salt but that’s probably what makes it soooo good! YUM!Often I would have chicken (sometimes scrambled eggs) with this meal which is cooked in all the same seasonings as the beans plus sugar (for color — they say) and soy sauce (or in Spanish “salsa China”).
- Dinner is light, but full of starch. I ate with a few families in their homes while I was there and typically I had one (or more) of the following three boiled: Yuka, Plantains (Platinos), and bananas. Plantains are a very starchy — almost potato like — version of a banana. These are surprisingly good boiled! Along with the starch you had to have a protein which was one of the following: fried salami (again more oil), fried egg, or we even had freshly butchered pork one night.
I hope this gives you some insight into typical Dominican meals. In the coming week or so I will share some recipes (new and old) along with photos of me preparing food in some interesting places! Stay tuned…