#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

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#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

#161: Micronesia

The cure really is The Cure.
You feel me?

Sometimes you just have to jam out to music when you have to adult and don’t quite feel like it. That being said, I had my headphones glued to my ears all week long. It was that type of adulting this week (which is typical when coming off a holiday weekend). I hit the pop charts at a running start from Monday onward… and The Cure was the answer to all my problems. My mom often laughs at my mild obsession with this English band– but can you blame me? I learned my unquenchable love of British invasionists from her… I have long held this truth: “Lovesong” is one of the most romantic songs out there. Those lyrics are too good. Go ahead, google them and swoon. And while you’re at it, don’t stop there– live a little, the Brits were blowing up the social media with Harry’s engagement. Get down with your bad self and delve into the black hole that is British news right now. Next year will see a royal wedding and another royal baby. I had a friend mention to me this week that I was due for 2018 to be a spectacular year. At this rate, I think if I move to England I’ll already have hedged my bets on that one…

THE DINNER: While responsibilities had me pondering a trip across the pond, we took a culinary field trip to Micronesia for our blog this weekend. The respite was lovely, if I do say so. Something amazing about this time of year: all my weekends are full (read:jam packed) AND IT’S THE BEST! But getting to take a timeout to cook with my mom is probably even more magnified in the busy bustle.

Micronesia kicks off December for us. To be precise, it’s actually called “Federated States of Micronesia” and spans over 2100 islands divided into four states!! As one might suspect, this is a South Pac type of cuisine that bridges everything from French, English and whoever else settled and inhabited the islands in the course of it’s history. At the root,  it’s all taro, yam, bread-fruit, banana, and coconuts bringing together seafood, pig and chicken as main proteins. Rice is the staple carb and from there you find all manner of slow cooking methods from pit to spit. We chose to head that route for a Brovskyland favorite: BBQ. Polynesian/Micronesian/Indonesian pork ribs are slow marinated and then flame roasted for their version of BBQ.

Micronesian BBQ Pork Recipe: https://www.internationalcuisine.com/micronesian-bbq/

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Ease of prep and cooking: HALF STARS out of five this recipe!
After several weeks in a row of tough stuff, this was a relative cake walk… minus the cake, obviously, in favor of pork. It was all “throw it in a bowl, forget about it and then grill it up” kind of M.O…. and with that being the case, and no trips to a specialty market for meat or ingredients, this was half a star for difficulty.

Best dish of all time scale: THREE STARS out of five for this meal!
And thennnn it was just lack luster. I’m not sure where the train jumped the tracks, guys. We were poised for some really flavorful meat- what with the marinade looking the way it did. For the shear amount of vinegar and orange juice, the acidity should have done crazy wonderful things to the meat. Now, the acidity did seem to render the meat super tender, but as far as a flavor profile, it didn’t meet the mark. It was good still- just nothing to write home about. After all the insanely good meals we have enjoyed, we couldn’t give this one more than three stars in the blog presence of such food greatness.

Next weekend finds us gearing up for L’s birthday week and gearing up for #162 which will find us in Jordan. We are hoping this one leaves us a little more satisfied and is a lot more mouth watering.

“Whatever words I say… I will always love you”,
– L & K

 

 

#160: Venezuela

“Everyone should be able to do one card trick, tell two jokes, and recite three poems, in case they are ever trapped in an elevator” -Lemony Snicket

Side Bar for those not in the know: It’s a paramount fear of mine to be trapped in an elevator–nay, plummet to my death in said elevator. Is this irrational? Obviously. Does that make it any less stressful to ride in elevators? No. No, it does not. On this note, people at the hospital have gotten into this horrific, lazy problem of taking the elevator one floor… when you’re already nervous around elevators, this creates some unidentified rage that bubbles up less like champagne and more like hot caramel. Think: rolling boil as opposed to soft lovely glittery effervesce. So along those lines, I have been thinking about this quote from A Series of Unfortunate Events and while it’s funny in a dark way, it’s also not wrong. While I try to take the stairs as often as possible, I do work on the 8th floor. I’m now taking suggestions for card tricks as I’ve comfortably checked off the other boxes on that list.

THE DINNER: We ventured to Venezuela for the post-turkey weekend. The collaboration here is Italian, French, Spanish and Portuguese… yeah, we go big or go home. But we are home, so all kidding aside, it’s a melting pot of culinary styling. Obviously, you’ll see traditional foods like arepas, empanadas, asado and polenta. You’ll also see not so common place things like Lengua de Res (beef tongue in vinaigrette, anyone?).  Lots of rice, beans, plantains, corn, onions and eggplant.

It was tricky to nail down a recipe for this country. So many options, so little time in the day. We settled into making arepas which were tricky but well worth it and they were topped with a type of chicken salad and avocados. It’s all fun and games till the food coma sets back in…

Arepas con Pollo y Aguacate Recipe: https://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/corn-cakes-with-chicken-and-avocado
Arepa Recipe: http://homegrownandhealthy.com/homemade-arepas/

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Ease of prep and cooking: FOUR STARS out of five this recipe!
Two hard weeks in a row… whatever will we do with ourselves. It’s not so much the chicken part of this recipe as it was the homemade arepas. Those bad boys are every bit the reason for this four star review. It’s that they fry quickly and not so quickly at the same time and the size of the pour is really integral to the success of the arepa. All in all, once mastered, it was smooth sailing. None of the ingredients were from a specialty market, and no conversions were necessary.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR and A HALF of STARS out of five for this meal!
Call it the bird, but this weekend was fowl in all the right ways. Post Turkey coma, the chicken didn’t sound like a wonderful meal option but we persevered in the name of cooking! There was something really magical about this week’s meal– the corny, grainy and crispy texture of the arepa off set by the juicy lime, mayo infused chicken topped with creamy avocado. It just had all the best texture game. I think the real stars were the cilantro and the onion… and while we all added a round of hot sauce to these, we agreed wholeheartedly that it was wonderful “as is”. I wonder if this one was made on a different weekend if it would have scored better. Perhaps we were blinded by the bird this weekend but it was four and a half stars all around. Don’t let it fool you– it really was a great treat for a Sunday.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, but we will be setting sail to Micronesia for #161. Bring your appetite and your favorite Holiday movie!

Cheers,
– L & K

 

#159: Andorra

“Life’s a dance. You learn as you go. Sometimes you lead, sometimes you follow”

That’s about right. It’s a metaphor, obviously. But, this girl literally got her two step on this week. I love love l-o-v-e going out dancing…though admittedly (shamefully) in my adulthood, the times I actually get to go dancing are less and less. It’s at a point where we seem to be lucky if we get out of the single digits over the course of the year. Life gets in the way and many of my old dancing buddies are now married and otherwise occupied. To make up for this, I routinely dance in the car, lab and, yes, of course, the kitchen. This week’s trip to The Rose brought back this thing that my mentor, the incomparable Robert Pruitt, used to tell me all the time when I was working in DC, “It’s not always moving forward motion that makes progress. Sometimes you go one step forward… and two steps back…. and few steps sideways. KBrov, it’s not failure! It’s a marimba! Enjoy the dance.”

So, here we are. Enjoying all the steps and the missteps and all the twisty turns. I’m ready for many more trips around the floor. Dancing shoes are ready. Let’s boogie, baby!

THE DINNER: I had brunch with some of the gang today… it was lovely, utterly classy and all things adult. Pinky’s out. Now, speaking of classy. It doesn’t seem to get much classier than Andorra. Bear with me. This little nation happens to be the 14th OLDEST country in the world and is the first for life expectancy (read: 81 years average). They’re tiny. In fact, they’re so tiny that their militaristic budget is completely based on donation. Could you imagine? But they haven’t seen a war ever, so it’s probably very feasible for them all things considered. Andorra is nestled between France and Spain (we hit those countries in week #77 and #40 respectively). She is snuggled up in the peaks of the Pyrenees; and therefore, like we have here in the 303, there is no shortage of mountain sports like skiing and hiking. They’re also the highest capital city in Europe at 3300ft. It’s adorable, but we’re at 5280 here in Denver, kiddos 😉

One might expect that cuisine from this hidden gem would be both French and Spanish in collaboration and you’re not wrong. Last week we have a “collab” with England and France, so this falls into the theme of November so far in this blog. Look at all these super powers getting along so nicely…at least on a food scale. Armed with Google Translate magic, we picked a Andorran burger that features a country staple called “trinxat”. Think latke but with cabbage and ALLLLL the garlic. The burger is served on a bed of trinxat and topped with bacon, Camembert and tomato salad. If it sounds lovely, you should have smelled it.

Andorran Trinxat Burger Recipe: http://burgershereandthere.com/2011/02/05/andorran-burger-recipe/

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Ease of prep and cooking: FOUR STARS out of five this recipe!
This one was hard. I’m not going to split hairs over it. There were moving parts, conversions and lots of irons in the fire. So, to be fair here, make sure you’re on your toes and you’ve got what you need. I would be willing to bet, you can make the trinxat beforehand or early and it would go smoother all around if you’re looking for a work around. The best laid plans though, tend to work out well. We didn’t have to make any specialty market excursions, so that was a good spot in the process.

Best dish of all time scale: FOUR of STARS out of five for this meal!
We aren’t sure what’s not to like here… except some people might not be fans of thyme that’s a small component. There’s creamy, molten cheese; crisp sweet tomatoes; juicy pork; smoky bacon and all served on indulgent mashed potatoes with cabbage. When you really get down to brass tacks, it’s meat and potatoes. It’s rib sticking Sunday family meal. For all the bells and whistles, it really is more farmhouse cooking which would be appropriate given the position geographically of the country. There was a problem with saltiness, but once everything was mixed together, honestly, it reminded me of meatloaf. Which is both great and sort of a letdown because that’s hardly exotic. All that aside, it was delicious and earned all four of those shiny stars. We would make this one again (without any salt).

Heading into American Thanksgiving week, we will take a detour to Venezuela for the even #160. Coming off Veterans Day– to all the service men and women here and overseas. To the police officers and all branches of the military both active and retired: we are so incredibly overwhelmed by your often thankless sacrifice and that of your families/friends. Thank you for making it possible for all of us to rarely give a second thought all day about our safety, freedoms and happiness. You have given everyone the immeasurable gift of “peace of mind” for which no amount of gratitude can repay. May we all be so mindful of this more than one day a year.

Happy Veterans Day and thank you all for your service,
– L & K