#168: Moldova

“Kisses are a better fate than wisdom” – E.E. Cummings

Yeah, I know it’s sappy. I also give exactly zero damns about it. I had my first Valentine’s Day date EVER and it was perfect. So I’m basically on cloud nine a whole lot of the time these days. I’ve turned into that gushing, ridiculous girl that last year me would have rolled her eyes SO hard at. I’m not even sorry, only letting you all know that it’s now a thing and I’m now a thing… and I’m smitten AF. So to all you people out there that think (slash downright know) that I’ve done lost the remainder of my marbles: “There is always some madness in love. But there is also always some reason in madness.” I guess my man, Nietzsche, really understood a girl. Now let’s all just lose our minds and find our souls!

THE DINNER: Similar cuisine to Romanian and eastern European nations of the same, the food of Moldova features beef, pork, potatoes and cabbage. Our sweethearts in check, our sweet tooth needed some loving too. For this reason, we picked Cusma Lui Guguta. This is a crepe style cake that is filled with tart cherries. It’s like a Swiss roll meets black forest pancakes dressed up with some vanilla creme… it’s all light and fluffy and sour.

There’s quite a lot of symbolism and folklore with this week’s dish. Allow me to extrapolate. The shape of the cake is like a hat. It’s based on a children’s character naked Guguta that is taught in many primary school lessons, and wears a pointed hat like the shape of this cake. The closest thing I can compare it stateside is the hungry caterpillar cakes that are popular with grade school parties. Anyway, it’s endearing and charming and reminds people of childhood; so it’s beloved in Moldova.

Cusma Lui Guguta Recipe: http://www.fantezieinbucatarie.ro/2011/10/cusma-lui-guguta.html

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: 10 STARS out of 5 this meal!
Was it in Romanian? Yes, indeed, it was. Was it tricky to make all the individual swiss rolls? You guessed it, yes it was. This one was a whole lot of patience… 4 hours + worth of patience in fact. And it took two days. And it was a total “shit show”– but all that aside, there were no strange ingredients and we were able to actually make the damned thing… so if you’re in it for some free time to burn, you’re absolutely going to be able to tackle this one like Von Miller (6’2″ sack monster).

Best dish of all time scale: 4.75 STARS out of 5 for Meal!!
We had some guest judges for this one, guys, so hang ten for the reviews. At family dinner on Sunday night, we all were able to dig into this one. It was a truth universally acknowledged that it was delicious and beautiful. We wanted it to be more something… boozey? Sweet? Chocolatey? All in all, it was flaky and tart. It was sour creamy and it was definitely smooth thanks to the homemade whipped cream. It wasn’t a black forest cake, nor was it was cherry pie. It fell into this odd middle ground and for that it earned it’s score. Not quite a pie, not quite a cake… not quite a 5 star.

Next posting will take us into #169  which makes this 26 countries from the end! That country will be Equatorial Guinea and after this cold snap we are in, it’s going to be a welcome vacation! I’ll be in New Mexico, but L has this one wrapped up solo like the bossy that she is!

Happy Valentines, lovers! 
– L & K

 

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#167: Qatar

Time flies when you’re having fun!

Hey friends, if you hadn’t noticed, we are already 1/12th of the new year down and it’s flying by because we are certainly having a blast. With our shortest month underway, it’s no surprise that February seems to be a favorite month around these parts. What’s not to like? Munching on chocolate and Eskimo kissing sweethearts; cursing till you’re blue in the face at the Pats during Superbowl Sunday; Mardi Gras parades and stout month all rolled into a nice 28 day package. From start to finish, this traditionally is one month that packs a serious punch. Don’t blink– you’ll miss it for sure.

THE DINNER: We ventured from our frozen stateside hideaways to the Middle East to rack up number 167 this weekend– Qatar! Now, to be honest and fair, this is one country I ALWAYS pronounce incorrectly. “Cut-ur” is how it’s said and yet I’m that annoying person that calls it “cay-tar” **insert eye roll here**

Some fun facts I learned about Qatar this week:

  • Qatar will host the men’s World Cup in 2022
  • Qatar National Sport Day celebrated on the second Tuesday of February (which is tomorrow, guys)
  • Qatar’s per capita GDP is $127,600… all those natural-gas and oil reserves, I suppose.
  • One of the top 20 most obese nations
  • Male to female ratio is two to one
  • Most urbanized nation in the world, with 99% of the residents stating they live in a city

Like any warm blooded Middle Eastern state, this one loves lamb. So that’s exactly where we took our pots and pans! To the batmobile in search of a lovely Qatar Lamb recipe!

Qatar Lamb Ribs with Mint Relish: https://www.donnahay.com.au/recipes/dinner/slow-cooked-lamb-ribs-with-mint-and-malt-vinegar-relish

 

OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: ONE STAR out of five this meal!
No trouble here. In point of fact, it was pretty much a cake walk (lamb walk?). Ingredients were a cinch and the whole process was low and slow, set it and forget it kind of business.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and A HALF STARS out of five for Meal!!
I don’t care what yuppie you reference, anyone and everyone will tell you that lamb pairs with mint (and a cold American Pale Ale or Old Ale, but you didn’t ask me that). This anachronism held true– mint and lamb go together like Laverne and Shirley. There was a staggering amount of malt vinegar on these babies… and while that stuff most certainly smells like feet, it tasted like heaven. The vinegar broke down the meat in such a lovely way. I realize that lamb ribs are often called “lollipops” and this really settled in with me– I could have just pulled it off the bone like a sucker. It was everything moist, tender and juicy. The mint relish was not overpowering and I commented that in essence we could have substituted honey for the brown sugar/malt vinegar duo and the mint with cilantro and achieved a very similar taste profile. All in all this was a great Sunday lunch.

I’m not sure what February has in store for you all, but we are headed to #168 with a little visit to Moldova! This will mean a little pre-Valentine’s Day food loving and whole lot of pre-Mardi Gras partying (including a little beer review outing with Maggie to Call to Arms for their Mardi Gras)

Happy Those DAMN Pats Lost!
Well Played, Eagles!

– L & K

 

#166: Burundi

Alright, I’ve finally seen the Star Wars.

Yes, all of this time I hadn’t seen any of them, which drove my SW loving friends bonkers. I now am totally hooked. They’re amazing. I would like to take this opportunity to eat some crow to that effect. All this time, I was missing out. Glad to be part of the party. HUGE thank you to my amazing boyfriend for making time to check this off my to-do list. He’s fantastic and I’m just the luckiest girl. (sorry, had to gush just a tad).

Next order of business, I have gotten to write for an amazing local beer review (The Denver Hopper)! As many of you already know, I’m super enthusiastic about drinking local craft brews– so this was such an awesome opportunity for me to contribute to the brewery scene I so often find myself immersed in. I wrote up Barrels and Bottles in Golden, so feel free to check that out (Barrels and Bottles- a Hoppily Ever After Beer Review)

If you would have told me a year ago- hell, six months ago even, that I would have TWO blogs I love in my life (read: food and beer) I would have thought you were in need of medical attention. AND YET here we are! I am so excited to be part of the hoppy family over at The Hopper. Fun things are certainly streaming in for 2018… and sometimes, I have to find myself asking, “Is this my real life?? Damnit, I’m happy.”

THE DINNER: Burundi is a landlocked nation in the middle of Africa… and for that, we can relate since the big C-O is landlocked as well. The main method of cooking in Brovskyland is probably grilling, but for Burundi it’s either boiled or stewed. Like many of it’s African neighbors, their main staples include plantains, legumes and maize. Stewed beans the most popular and common side dish and can be eaten as much as with every meal including breakfast…wow. Protein packed you ask? Sure thing– but it’s a rarity. They are mostly a vegetarian nation. If they do eat the meats, chances are it’ll be chicken or goat. Remember when we tackled goat meat for Kenya like 66 counties ago?! It was in fact a food adventure for our tummies on that one.

We picked a fish stew! Now, I gotcha, I did say it was landlocked, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t streams, rivers and fish available. Colorado is known for it’s amazing trout, despite being landlocked as well. This adventure included pairing this river fish with tomatoes and onions– which aren’t typically something I put in with my white fish. So hang tight, we are off to see how this one pans out! Out if the frying pan and into the fryer, so to speak anyway… this one is actually poached.

Burundian Mukéké Stew Recipe: http://globaltableadventure.com/recipe/fish-in-tomato-sauce/

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Ease of prep and cooking: ONE STAR out of five this meal!
This was miles easier to traverse than our last several weeks adventures. There were no strange ingredients, except substituting the Mukéké (larger mackerel type fish) for a similar white fish like cod or mackerel or halibut.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and A HALF STARS out of five for Meal!!
Typically this is a lunch dish in Burundi, so we obliged that tradition here. It was warm and surprisingly hearty for a lighter fish dish that didn’t have cream. We were astonished as how insanely spicy it was… though in full disclosure, it was of our own design and we took a small liberty with the recipe to get there. Instead of allowing the habenero to “poach” with the fish and take it out like a bay leaf, we decided, let’s just “go big or go home” and cut that bad boy up. We don’t shy away from spice here in Brovskyland… and boy was it all that and a bag of spicy chips. Lemme tell you! Dad didn’t even fisnish his portion- mom and I had seconds. It was a brow sweating and sinus clearing kind of meal. We loved every minute of it. Initially, we gave it a four and as we continued to burn off our faces, that number we up. The tomatoes and onions worked so well with the fish, not overpowering but accompanying. The fish was firm but flaky and light. The whole meal was a delightful dish. We might need to catch the rains down in Africa with Toto though to quench our singed tongues.

Off to #167 in the middle eastern nation of Qatar!

Cheers!
– L & K

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#165: Republic of Mauritius

Compassion will always hurt if you’re doing it right.

It should rattle your gilded cage a little and make you remember even in the midst of your self pity that you have it oh so good. I get it– and it’s not a guilt trip. Maybe it’s just this time of year when everyone is concentrated on “me” that sticks in my craw… “my new years resolution/ the new me / the improved me / the better me” and it’s all well and good, but what is this new and improved you 2.0 doing for humanity this year? Now, before you get bristly about it, yes, I too have lost track of the good I wish to do for the world. But, let’s make sure we stick it to the man this year. I don’t care which man we stick it to, but please make sure you’re invested in making the world better while you’re making you better in 2018. We can all use a little help from our fellow humans. Let’s face it, it’s not fun to face the mess we make of one another; but in the end I believe that love is the best cure for that which ails us.Throw kindness around like confetti. It costs nothing to make people smile

So, I suppose I’ll take a reality check (up) with my gym membership this year, please and thank you. Rant over. Happy belated MLK Day and thank you to those that attended The Women’s Marches all over the nation this weekend 😉

THE DINNER: This little gem is a) hard to pronounce and b) not located where my brain initially thought it would be. Let me address item “a” first. It’s pronounced “Maw-ree-shuhs” (for those French ex pats: République de Maurice was the OG name for the island). Now for item “b”… over Tuesday pho, the boyfriend mentioned taking a vacation to a white sandy beach someplace. LORD HELP ME, my mind has been pretty fixated on that idea. As irony would have it, this country is in the Indian Ocean right off the eastern coast of Madagascar (recall those Peri Peri Prawns back in week #38? We do too, guys. We do too). Mauritius is known for their pristine oceans and mountainous hiking. It’s basically paradise. Let’s hope the food is just that too.

Doing my typical recipe hunt this week, we stumbled across a lot of Asian and French inspired food as well as Indian influence. Not surprising at all given the location. The recipe we settled on is a kin to Chinese Lo Mein — shrimp/chicken and stir fried goodness awaits! Can’t say no to a good noodle dish around here, now can we?

Mine Frite Au Poulet Recipe: http://confessionsofafoodaholic017.blogspot.com/2013/05/mauritian-fried-noddles-mine-frite-au.html

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: THREE STARS out of five this meal!
There was translation involved here, and there was a lot of “mise en place” (which I learned on Kid’s Baking Challenge). Was there as much as Morocco in week #2? Not even remotely. But it did add time and patience to the meter. We also had a special trip to H Mart to procure noodles, etc, so it was not a cake walk– but worth it. See below.

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Meal!!
The snow had us jonesing for something warm and inviting… typically since it’s football day, that means chili on days like this– but wow, did this one hit the mark like a well placed dart. The noodles held up phenomenally against the stir frying and the protein packed dance (shrimp and chicken!? holla at your boy, friends). Then there was the cabbage and veggies that added lovely texture. I have to admit, as did mom and dad, that the egg was the best part. What a great spongy little addition to the mix! With all things considered, we wanted for some chili sauce for a little spice (but that was in the recipe, so we weren’t stretching our culinary legs much).

For the next fun sized portion of foodie madness we will dive into #166 with a visit to Burundi. Can’t wait to see what there will be in terms of food for this one. I feel like classic African food is most certainly in our future though.

May the Force Be With You!
– L & K

#164: Cape Verde Islands

May 2017 find you at war with your vices and at peace with your virtues.

I’ve got to confess, so far this year is off to the exact right start. Now, now, now! I hear you in the back row. Yes, I am aware we are x amount of days, hours, minutes into this thing– but talking from a place of “the last two years were totally awful”, I can already feel a marked change in the tenor of this one. I’ll be damned if it isn’t already vastly better. Heading into the belly of National Western Stock Show season and on the brink of spring soccer, it’s all starting to align. I usually dread this time of year to be honest. You’re sort of coming off the proverbial holiday hangover. The lights aren’t twinkling and the magic feeling has left with the chime of NYE midnight just like Cinderella warned you it would… and yet, from where I’m standing- it’s still champagne and rose colored glasses. Which, knock me over with a feather, is pretty unnerving in all the best ways. So, yeah, best year ever so far, amiright?

THE DINNER: Rolling right along, we picked up an African country for a little island culinary love. Kicking this new year off on the correct, right, true north as best we could– we wondered how this last year of cooking was going to treat us. We have a mere 31 countries to tick off the meter. That’s a staggering 86% completion of our three year cooking project!!! WOWZERS, kiddos. That’s a lifetime in puppy years.

#164 took us to the Cape Verde Islands for a little Portuguese number involving peppers, chicken and saffron ❤ oh, how we love our little saffron star of the show around here. It’s not unusual as we have found to have Portuguese inspiration for territories and islands inhabited by the motherland… here we find nothing different.

Chicken and Peppers with Saffron Recipe: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/4535-chicken-breasts-with-peppers-tomatoes-and-saffron

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: TWO STARS out of five this meal!
High brow recipe pull from The New York (freaking) Times affords that we didn’t have to lift a neuron to translate, convert or compile anything for this one, ladies and gentlemen! Three cheers for some laziness for once as this is a gravity not seen here on this blog often. There was a grand total of “60 min” allotted to the recipe and that seemed about correct when all was said and done, though the recipe says “30 min”. Overall, we decided two stars was probably on par for the elements encountered here.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR STARS out of five for Meal!!
This was really yummy, so don’t let the four stars buck you off the bull (sorry, rodeo on the brain from this weekend’s adventures). It was flavorful, though we wanted more spice. It was saucy, though we wanted it to be thicker. While it wasn’t exactly on the mark for several components, it was satisfying and hearty. The peppers held up to the chicken nicely- and I’ll be a monkey’s aunt if we don’t love some saffron up in Brovskyland as well as our favorite little secret weapon shallot <3. It’s hard to complain about a nice meal, so I will leave you with that. I mean, it wasn’t a home-run, but it probably rounded third base.

With the National Western Stock Show in full swing, we will make sure to have our boots polished and our hats on for a little trip to #165 for the Republic of Mauritius.

Cheers!
– L & K

#163: Palau

It’s a cold one, Mr Grinch!

Well, I’ll be damned if this year isn’t closing out on some pretty amazing surprises! We got a white Christmas unexpectedly in the Mile High City; and I’m looking forward to spending NYE the way they do in Holiday Inn… “Kissing the old year out, kissing the new year in”.  Typically, my inner Type A personality isn’t a fan of surprises– but the pleasant ones can always find welcoming arms from this Colorado girl. I better not say too much on the topic as my “optimist” is showing through again. I thought 2017 had taught her a lesson, and yet, here she is— bright eyed and bushy tailed.

As I find myself looking forward more than I tended to do in 2017, reflection on the year is inevitable… lots of firsts, lots of lasts, lots of heartache and so much fun. It was exactly how I like my life: Rollercoaster perfect. So if nothing else, we are right on track. All aboard.

THE DINNER: Nestled in the south Pac, we have hit Micronesia as well as the Philippines which are neighbors of our country this week, Palau. It contains approximately 340 islands. This little country went through Spanish and American occupations before becoming independent. Palau ONLY employs 18 marine police officers to patrol the nation’s 230,000 square mile territory… just take a hot minute to soak that in… EIGHTEEN. That’s IT. So, you gotta believe these hard working people are gonna seek some serious sustenance.

We tackled what can only be described as “fritters” stateside. To be exact, they were akin to shrimp and veggie fritters. So savory, but corn and shrimp do have an innate sweetness to them already. The recipe did not need to be translated and all in all, we made this for lunch on Christmas eve (nestled between dinner at my grandma’s with Tom’s famous soup and all the cowboy’s football…)

Palau Shrimp Patties Recipe: https://chamoritamommaskitchen.com/2013/07/27/chamorro-shrimp-patties/amp/

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OVERALL COUNTRY SCORE:

Ease of prep and cooking: THREE STARS out of five this meal!
Alright, folks. It wasn’t hard to make the “dough” but it was tricky deep frying things… this star count is to draw attention to the severity of operating a fryer. So take heed! Lest ye be ringing in 2018 without eyebrows 😉 beyond that, of course, no strange ingredients to hunt for and no translations or conversions. It was a walk in a winter wonderland park.

Best dish of all time scale: FIVE STARS out of five for Meal!!
I barely got past what I am calling “nose feel” before giving this a five star review. IT WAS THAT YUMMY. My nose was just in love with it from the get go. Then the taste! WOWZERS. It was crispy and gooey in all the right ways– thanks for the gooey condensed milk! We were in love with the texture. Doughy, but not dough. It was light and fluffy but heartier than tempura. It was lovely. We ate ourselves a little silly with this one… we also halved the recipe in hopes of preserving our tummies for Christmas Eve feasting at The Foster House… and yet, we couldn’t stop. The salt and seasonings were excellent. I didn’t even really want to put any hot sauce on these (which is saying SOMETHING… though to be fair, spicy jalapeno ranch would make an excellent dipping companion. As well as an IPA).

Off to Africa to ring in the new year!! We will be celebrating Auld Lang Syne with #164 in the Cape Verde Islands.

The best things happen while you’re dancing!
– L & K

#162: Jordan

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”

This week was Olde Town Arvada’s 26th Lagniappe. What in the Sam Hill is “Lagniappe” you ask? Well, friends, it’s this darling, quirky Arvada tradition where vendors and businesses give out Lagniappe– or “tiny gift”. This gift is something given gratuitously by way of good measure. And isn’t that the way, guys? Arvada goes all out for their show of gratitude and love: fireman chili cook-off, cider and egg nog competition, choirs and tree lightings. If you were trying to be a Grinch, good luck getting past the 7yr old in a bear hat handing you free hot coco in Olde Town Square. Bah Humbug never took a nose dive in such quick order. Every damn thing in Denver is twinkled with twinkle lights and wrapped in holly and dripping with Christmas music. Sometimes, I know, it all starts to feel heavy and “a bit too much comfort and joy” but remember that it’s only a few weeks a year and then it’s gone. Give in already! Be dorky, cheesy and ridiculous about all the childish wonders that are bombarding you. It’s oh so good to feel that warm fuzzy feeling of Fuzzy’s Tacos and remember that there is a magical thing about this time of year- in fact, you and 1000 of your closest Arvadans were there witnessing it together. So, hell yeah, Virginia, there really must be a Santa Claus and he’s living in all those smiling faces. (Now, for the love of the ghost of Christmas present, cue the snow it’s been way too warm here!)

THE DINNER: We picked Jordanian food for our sojourn this Sunday. I’m gearing up for what will undoubtedly be the busiest week of my year. EVERYTHING is happening in Brovskyland this week. I’ve been dealing with customs in Jordan’s neighboring country Israel and since we’ve already done the other neighbor Lebanon, it fell to Jordan this week to make an appearance.

Turns out, Jordanian food is exactly what you’d geographically expect– but I did learn some notable things about this one in my research. Ahem, please take notes. Mainly, the people of Jordan, eat very succinct meals and for most of them, Foul is present. Foul (pronounced “fool”) is very akin to hummus but made with fava bean instead of chickpeas. It’s a spread, a dip or a condiment to everything including breakfasts. We were celebrating L’s birthday, so a nice light lunch of foul sounded like the perfect foodie adventure.

Jordanian Foul Recipe: https://landlopers.com/2011/06/16/learning-make-foul-jordans-oldest-important-dishes

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Ease of prep and cooking: HALF STARS out of five for this recipe!
Well, hells bells, this one was a great follow up from last week’s equally easy recipe. Now, now, don’t mistake me– just because something is simplistic, doesn’t mean it’s not complex in flavors. I would even argue that simplicity is the best thing food can be. Along those lines, this one was a five ingredient wonder and took under an hour from boiling to taste buds. Not too shabby for a very busy weekend.

Best dish of all time scale: FOURish STARS out of five for this meal!
Ask and ye shall receive! We wanted to be satisfied and we were! In SPADES. Also we asked for the Broncos to knock it off with the losing already. Bonus points for that.

Alright… I’m gonna level with you- it’s hard to evaluate this one (or even ones “like this”) in that it’s so simple- how does one stack this up against #77: France? That was a five star but was off the scales on difficulty. No, to be fair, in comparison, it’s not close to being in the same league, but this was really delicious. It was sort of a game changer for the hummus crowd- it’s silky and smooth and buttery. It’s everything one might want in a dip. On that note, it’s easily five stars, but in context it’s more like four or three. So let’s split the difference and meet in the middle. I’m all about compromise, after all 😉 We decided we could have endless options for tweaks to this one: it bears mentioning that we would throw some hot sauce in there for a spiced up version or throw in onion for a kicked up version … now excuse me while I make a fool of myself with the leftover Foul.

Next weekend marks 8 sleeps till Christmas and while everything is still holiday hustle and bustle, we will venture to #163 for a little Palau foodie fun.

Dreaming of a White Christmas (& a HAPPY HAPPY birthday for L <3),
– Kris