Category Archives: Michelle

#TJPTMIMOO

Sorry to do another post (and again without a recipe!), but I saw this earlier today, and realized that only you all could understand the joy that I feel knowing that our visa application is being considered, and that soon Alvaro and I will be in the land of TJs, and able to sample all of these products (TJ customers’ favorite products in 2013).

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http://www.traderjoes.com/productstories/

I’m confused about a few things- seriously, who is buying pre-packaged guac?  But some things, like goat cheese logs and that amazing looking kale and spinach yogurt dip, seem like no-brainers. I really love the caramelized onion cheese, and all of the spiced nuts. TJs, we’re coming for you (in 6 months to a year)!

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Peanut sauce tofu and broccoli rice bowl and other food musings

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I’m not sure who around here is eating tofu these days, but this recipe (also the source of the beautiful photo) pretty much combines my love for peanut sauce with my interest in getting some protein in my diet. I’d never thought to bake the tofu with the peanut sauce already marinating on the tofu, but it was delicious! I’ve also been using my bamboo steamer to steam veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, potatoes, corn), so when I invited my pre-dinner cocktail buddy to stay for dinner (I already had the tofu marinating in the fridge but no ideas for other parts of the meal), the easiest thing was to steam up some broccoli and add everything to some brown rice.

Since I had the steamer out, I steamed some small potatoes and roasted them up with some garlic, rosemary and thyme and smashed them for eating later in the evening, a la this recipe. I highly recommend this method of roasting potatoes because they’re both crispy and soft at the same time, but definitely urge you all: don’t smash as much as you think you should. The potatoes will fall apart!

I haven’t really made anything all that impressive lately, but because it’s Passover, I’ve been eating lots of beans and corn products, (aka less pasta and pizza than usual) which reminds me of my favorite polenta recipe that I made a few days ago. A friend brought it to a party and I asked her for the recipe, and it’s my favorite way to eat polenta. You cook the polenta according to the instructions with a 3:1 ratio of water or broth and milk (the original recipe calls for cream- that’d be great for you, Nuna!), and then you add real corn kernels near the end of the polenta’s cooking time (frozen or fresh are fine). The polenta should have a “gruel-y” texture at the end (not the thicker texture that you cool and cut into squares). Add some grated cheese (parmesan and some other melty cheese work well) and a tiny bit of butter and basil leaves, and your polenta is delicious! Top it with many spoonfulls of tomato/basil salsa- chopped tomatoes, a tiny bit of garlic, and a generous amount of salt, olive oil, and basil. You guys, this polenta is my new comfort food!

What else are other people eating? On my list for this week is a kale caesar salad (sans croutons if I make it before Passover is over, and with a modified version of the dressing and no bacon…basically, using the above recipe just as a template), this lemongrass tofu bowl (don’t read the text to avoid frustration at apostrophe errors), and I want to try making this vegan chili mac and cheese once Passover is over! Cashews are expensive here, but when used to make a fake cheese sauce over pasta, it seems like it’ll be worth it!

Pan de Yuca

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Photo from laylita.com: http://laylita.com/recipes/2008/01/14/pan-de-yuca-pan-queso. Check out her recipe too!

I did some quick research to see if this was a recipe that the limited dieters among us could consume, and I’m not totally sure. Pan de yuca (pronounced yoo-ka)  is a really common, delicious bread here in Ecuador- it’s made with yuca starch, grated fresh cheese, and an egg. Yuca (also called cassava, manioc, or tapioca) starch appears to be paleo (sorry Nuna, I didn’t do any keto research), although most places mention that yuca doesn’t have any particular nutritional value, so it should be consumed in moderation. A brief google search for “is fresh cheese paleo” brought up a bunch of different results, mostly of people saying “it’s up to you”. And I know eggs are paleo! So Sarah, this could possibly be a recipe you could make, depending on your paleo choices. And it’s bread, so obviously I know that Rach will love it.

I’m not sure where you can find almidón de yuca (tapioca starch)- my guess is probably at any Latin specialty store, and definitely online. It’s obviously non-perishable, so I might try to bring some back with me in August too! I just use the recipe on the bag of starch that I buy here- it’s basically 500 g of yuca starch and 500 g of grated queso fresco. I don’t usually use that much cheese, and a fresh mozzarella would make a good substitute for queso fresco. My go-to for Ecua-food recipes, Laylita Pujol (www.laylita.com) includes a entire stick of butter in her recipe, but my bag of starch just calls for one egg and enough milk to moisten up the dough. Yuca starch is a lot like corn starch- it’s hard if you punch it fast, but if you’re “delicate” with the dough, it “liquifies”. So slowly, carefully add milk to the grated cheese/egg/starch mixture- you want to make sure that when you form the balls that will become the yuca bread, that they won’t spread apart when you put them on your baking sheet. I probably used about 1/4 cup of milk, but use a bit less at first. The recipe is pretty forgiving, so just remember a 1:1 starch: cheese ratio plus a beaten egg and some milk, and remember that you can use a bit less cheese if you want.

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chewiness inside

Then shape the dough into small balls, and place in your oven at high heat (my gas oven doesn’t have a thermometer, I’d guess about 400 F) for 10-15 minutes until they’re cooked- you’ll see flecks of browned cheese. The breads are chewy (tapioca starch…)- that’s their glory! So don’t worry if they seem a little chewy (see photo above). I cooked mine on my silpat and they slid off no problem- I love the silpat! Serve these little guys at your next dinner party, brunch, or evening soiree as an appetizer. To add to your cultural capital, feel free to say that your “Ecuadorian friend” taught you the recipe. (These are also called pao de queijo in Brazil and are somewhat common in Argentina and Colombia as well, so you can improvise with the nationality of your international friend.)

Let me know if you find tapioca starch, and what you think!

Jumping on the cauliflower bandwagon

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(image from http://foodformyfamily.com/recipes/honey-roasted-cauliflower-with-pine-nuts-and-crispy-sage)

This is really just a quick link to a recipe I liked. I know that cauliflower is getting trendy (apparently it is slated to be 2014’s vegetable of the year? weird), and I’ve never really liked it unless in a 1:1:1 ratio with eggs and cheese and topped with pizza deliciousness, but I have finally learned that roasting it is truly the secret! I just made this recipe, and it’s amazing! It’s really simple, but I never would have thought to add the honey, and it takes the recipe up a notch. The sage makes it feel kind of fall-ish, but it’s been cold in the US lately, right? No need to rush into spring! I used a bit less of the honey than was called for, and thought that much more would have been too sweet- I think a 1:2 or 1:3 honey/olive oil ratio is better. I didn’t have any pine nuts, but I bet they would be delicious. Oh, and my sage leaves basically became candy with the semi-caramelized honey. YUM.

Also, I’m glad I can finally share a recipe that isn’t bean, bread, potato, or cheese based! Sarah, is honey paleo? I hope you guys can try this, although I bet you probably eat a lot of cauliflower rice and in other ways.

Muffin tin food

Alvaro got me a muffin tin for the holidays, and since in our “new” (we will have lived here for a year in March, I guess it’s not that new) apartment we have a real, non-toaster oven, I have been going crazy with the muffin tin food! Most of the food is more appropriate for parties, but since I work from home and my only in-country co-worker is a dog, I’ve been “going crazy” and eating muffin tin food for normal, non-celebratory lunches.

My first muffin tin recipe were cinnamon roll muffins baked for Christmas Eve. They were delicious! I eschewed the icing given my previous icing issue (immediate melting), and the butter, cinnamon and sugar is more than enough to make them delicious.

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Then, as part of our fondue New Years party, I made these muffin pan potatoes  that had me drooling over the muffin tin in the kitchen store before Alvi got it for me.  I bought whole milk and called it a decent heavy cream substitute. MAKE THESE POTATOES. I’ve already made them again for a friend’s brunch birthday party.

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Then, Rachel knows that I’d been drooling over these muffin tin hash browns forever (apparently I’m craving potatoes), so I made some and ate 3 for lunch on Monday. Squeeze out all of the liquid carefully (I used a cheesecloth-like towel) and heavily pepper these guys. These would be much better party food than lunch food, but hey.

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Then, today to (hopefully) wrap up my muffin tin obsession, I made these muffin tin tacos! (If/when I get another job, I’ll be bummed about losing my long lunches.) I used and a pizza cutter to cut out corn tortilla rounds, heated them up in the toaster oven on low heat (I’m sure a microwave would work) and then molded them in the tin and baked them for a bit in the oven sans other toppings to crisp them up and to avoid leaking. I seasoned black beans with taco seasoning spices, added diced peppers, onions, and some corn, and topped it all with cheese. They held their shapes perfectly! These would also be good party food! YOU GUYS SHOULD ALL HAVE A MUFFIN TIN FOOD PARTY (#TJwhateverthehashtagis)

I feel kind of like a child eating muffin tin food, but it’s delicious, fun, new, and good portion control for people who think that eating lots of hash browns is a bad idea (not me).

All of the photos included are from the websites linked with recipes- you should all check out the original recipes, plus my camera is out of commission for now.

Seasonless corn cakes #CVMIE (Come Visit Me In Ecuador)

You guys all have Trader Joe’s and nutritional yeast and cheap cashews, but here in Ecuador, we have ridiculously cheap produce all year round, and being along the equator means we don’t have to worry about pesky agricultural issues like “seasons”. (Sadly, I love seasons.) But that means that summer goods like corn, basil, tomatoes and strawberries are fresh, in season, and local all year round!

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One of my resolutions was to plan our meals better to avoid mindless pasta days (planned pasta days are still frequent, acceptable, and enjoyed) and to hopefully waste less food. My plan for today was these summer corn cakes with a tomato/avocado salsa. I wasn’t sure how they’d turn out, especially since I had to substitute normal milk for buttermilk and a rough ground, dry polenta for cornmeal since I realized that we didn’t have any. They were delicious! We fried with less oil than called for (more like a pancake amount than a latke/fried good amount), and they tasted fresh and surprisingly light(ish), especially with the tomato/avocado salsa (DON’T SKIP IT!). Unfortunately, I realized how delicious the corn cakes were after we ate them all (I halved the recipe and Alvi was hungry), so I don’t have a photo for you. The above photo is from here and encourage you to all make this recipe in about 6 months!