Thursday, July 23, 2015

Recipe - Chimichuri

Chimichuri is like an Argentine pesto.  Apparently they dislike this comparison, but they shouldn't make something like pesto if they don't want it compared.  :)

Serve this on steak or with empanadas.


2 cups parsley
4 t dried oregano
8 garlic cloves
1/3 onion, diced roughly
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup good olive oil (seriously, splurge here, you'll be glad that you did)


  1. Puree or blend together
  2. Let sit overnight to let the flavors meld.


Recipe - Beef Empanadas and Corn Empanadas

In Chicago there was this amazing food truck and it would park a few blocks from my office every Thursday.  And thus Thursday became Empanadas Food Truck day.  I miss that.  But, these turned out pretty good too!  It's no food truck and it took a ton of work, but I made a huge recipe and froze 2/3 of them for lunches and snacks.

I served this with Chimichuri Sauce.

Beef Empanadas and Corn Empanadas  

 For the dough:

6 3/4 cups flour
4 t salt
3 sticks cold unsalted butter, diced (or, freeze it and grate it into the flour mixture...I know! amazing, right?)
3 large eggs
1 cups ice water
3 tablespoon of distilled white vinegar

For the beef filling:

1 pound of lean ground beef
2 onions, diced
2 T smoked paprika
2 T ground cumin
3 T red wine vinegar
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 T parsley, chopped finely
2 T capers, finely chopped
6 T olive oil
2 T butter
16 ounces tomato sauce
4 hard-boiled eggs, roughly chopped

For the corn filling

3 cups frozen corn (about one and a half bags)
1 T garlic
2 onions, diced
2 T olive oil
1 T butter
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
2 T half and half

2 eggs, gently beaten with a fork (for the egg wash)


  1. Let's start with the beef filling.  I did this at 3pm the day before I wanted to serve the empanadas.  It took me about an hour and a half, but it wasn't all active time.
  2. Heat the oil and butter and saute the onions for about an hour over medium heat.  About fifteen or twenty minutes into it, add the red wine vinegar.  Add the pepper and cook another 5 minutes. 
  3. Add the beef, spices, capers, tomato sauce and parsley. Cook until the beef is brown then crumble in the egg.
  4. Set this in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

  5. Now, the corn filling.
  6. Saute the onions in the butter and olive oil for about 7 minutes.  Add in the garlic and corn for another 5.  Then add the half and half. 
  7. Use an emersion blender and pulse a few times just so that the mixture is a little broken down, but you don't want soup or anything!
  8. Add in the cheese and let melt.  Add the cornstarch and stir just to incorporate.  Refrigerate for an hour or overnight.

  9. Next, the dough.  I actually did this after the beef, but it doesn't really matter. 
  10. Sift flour and salt into a large bowl.
  11. Use a pastry blender to work in the butter.  It should be mostly incorporated with a few pea sizes left
  12. In another bowl, beat the egg, water and vinegar with a fork.
  13. Combine into dry mixture, but be careful to not over mix.
  14. With floured hands, shape the dough into a ball then flatten to a disk. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least an hour.  I did this the night before.

  15. Okay, now we are ready to cook!  You want your oven at 400F.  
  16. Roll out your dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut into 4 inch disks.
  17. Place 1-2 tablespoons of filling in the center and fold the circle into a half moon.  Pinch and fold the edges to seal them and place the formed empanada onto a prepared baking sheet. Stab the top of the empanada to keep it from exploding. 
  18. Continue to do this with the remaining dough and filling.
  19. Once you’ve formed all of your empanadas, brush them with the egg wash. Bake the empanadas for approximately 15 minutes (until golden brown).
  20. I froze half the empanadas before baked and just defrosted.
I folded the corn and beef differently to remember what each was filled with.  Here are a few ways that you can try.


Recipe - Argentine Potatoes

Argentine Potatoes


2 lbs baby potatoes, diced into 1 inch cubes
1/4 cup olive oil
3 garlic cloves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1 diced red onion


  1. Combine vinegar, cumin and chili powder.  Add in the potatoes and let sit for about 5 minutes.
  2. Toss with olive oil and saute in a dutch oven.  Saute for about 20 minutes, stiring frequently.
  3. Add in the red onion.
  4. Move the dutch oven into your oven, preheated to about 350 degrees.
  5. Roast the potatoes until they are crispy on the outside and soft in the center, about 20 minutes.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Argentina - About

Argentina , or the Argentine Republic more accurately, is the 8th largest country in the world.  It's at the southern bit of South America sourrounded by Chile to the west; Bolivia and Paraguay to the north, Brazil to the northeast and Uragauy and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. On the western border, just before Chile, lay the Andes mountains.  To the east the land is fairly flat, perfect for raising cattle.

Unlike most of Central and South America, Argentina is almost entirely of European decent, 95% by some accounts. Nearly half the population lives in and around Buenos Aires.

Of all the places that we have discussed thus far, this one has been on my travel list the longest.  Wine, cities, Patagonia.  This place has it all!

Yeah, let's talk Patagonia.  It's a beautiful region spanning Chile and Argentina on the southern tip of South America and is some of the most beautiful hiking in the world.

The picture above is from G Adventures, who I went with to China.  They have a bunch of Patagonia hiking trips as does Intrepid Travel and REI.  Sometimes I visit those sites to see their tours.  There's many years before we even qualify for the family ones though.  So for now, I'll live through looking at their websites.

Intrepid Travel
But it's not all rugged landscapes.  Buenos Aires has been called the "Paris of South America"

And the Mendoza region makes some great wine.

Argentina is the reason why I've paused on my updates.  You see, we just moved and we don't have a grill.  And I feel that it's almost sacrilege to cook Argentine steaks on the stove.  But, that's what I'm going to have to do.

And, of course, no discussion of Argentine culture would be complete without a tango clip.


Sunday, July 19, 2015

Antigua & Barbuda - Menu and Overview

We actually cooked this meal back in March.  It was a ton of fun to bring a bit of the Islands to Chicago. 

This was one of my favorites.  It's always nice to have a signature cocktail at a dinner party and the Paloma did not disappoint.  Actually, none of the food did.  Even the two kids in attendance (Zander and my friend's three year old) really enjoyed the offerings.

I don't know why I never seem to take pictures of the people we invited over for the meals.  I'm a few behind at the time of typing this, but going forward, I'll get more people pictures.  Which means in a few more meals I'll have people.  The picture to the side shows the food half plated.  We let people top their fish and bean cakes to their liking. The picture below shows my plate just after I set it up.


Bajan Bakes
Black Bean Cakes
Palmoa Cocktail
Mango Avo Salad


Bajan Bakes
These Johnny Cakes were awesome.  I love cinnamon and while I'm not usually a fan of almond, it went really well in this little fried biscuit.

Black Bean Cakes
I often have leftover black beans after taco nights and I'm for sure going to be using this to revive the leftovers.  The toppings were really tasty and went really well with the beans, but maybe a bit more work than they were worth.

Palmoa Cocktail
I'm a sucker for tequilla.  Throw in some grapefruit soda, which I'm also a sucker for and we've got a winner.

Mango Avo Salad
Mangos and Avocado.  You can't go wrong.

Recipe - Bajan Bakes (Johnny Cakes, Barbuda style)

In Antigua & Barbuda they have their own kind of Johnny Cake.  It's very interesting with an almond flavor.  These are usually enjoyed for breakfast, but it's not wrong to eat them for dinner.  If something tastes this good how could it ever be wrong?

Bajan Bakes (Johnny Cakes, Barbuda style)


3 3/4 cups flour
1 T baking powder
3 T sugar
1/2 t salt
1 t cinnamon
1 t nutmeg
1 T almond essence
3/4 to 1 cup water


  1. Shift flour, sugar and baking powder together.  
  2. Make a little well in the center and add the water slowly, mixing until not sticky. 
  3. Kneed for about 5-10 minutes and make into a smooth ball. If the dough is sticking to your hands too much, that means that you added too much water in step two, so add a bit of flour.
  4. Cover and let rest for 15 minutes. Roll dough into a strip and then cut into about 18 smaller pieces.  Roll each piece into a ball then flatten with your fingers.
  5. Heat oil in a pan until it feels uncomfortably warm when you hold your hand over the pan. 
  6. Fry 2-3 minutes per side.  I did 6 at a time.


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Recipe - Black Bean Cakes

This is a wonderful vegetarian dish and could very easily be a main if you don't do meat.  All the flavors went together amazingly and everyone enjoyed assembling their cakes.


Black Bean Cakes

  • 2 cups cooked black beans
  • 1/2 cup diced onion
  • 1 1/2 t cumin
  • 1 T dice jalapeno
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup cornmeal
  • 2 T EVOO
  • 1 small serano pepper
  • 5 roma tomatoes
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 1 T EVOO
Yogurt Sauce
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 T chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 lemon


  1. Start with the yogurt sauce.  Mix the yogurt with the cilantro and the juice of the half lemon.  Put in fridge.

  2. Now on to the salsa. Halve the tomatoes and roughly chop the 1/2 white onion and the serano pepper.  Drizzle with 1T olive oil ake at 425 for about 10 or 15 minutes.
  3. Put the veggies in a pot and just cover with water.  Boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Blend with an immersion blender (or carefully transfer to a regular blender, blend, then replace).
  5. Simmer while you make the bean cakes.

  6. Rinse the beans.  Put in a food processor (I just used my immersion blender again) with the 1/2 cup diced onion, jalapeno and cumin.  Process until it's a paste.
  7. Mix in the egg to the bean paste mixture.
  8. Make balls from the bean paste mixture (about 2 T per ball) and roll in the cornmeal.
  9. Heat up the olive oil.  Saute the bean cakes about three minutes each side.
  10. Serve topped with the salsa and yogurt.

Zander approves.


Recipe - Island Palmoa

I am a fan of good tequila and I really enjoyed this simple little cocktail.

Island Palmoa


1 part Sparkling grapefruit juice (I used Izze)
1 part tequila
Squeeze of lime


Stir together and serve over ice


Recipe - Mahi Mahi in Creole Sauce

Apparently there is some debate if creole sauce is authentically Caribbean.  It's a fusion sauce for sure. It mixed French and African traditions with foods available in the region.  But, in all fairness, what really is authentic?  So much of the food eaten in many parts of the world aren't "authentic" but brought by other peoples as they came to or through the area.  Think Italy.  Pasta is from China.  Tomatoes are new world.

I saw this on several sites for Antigua & Barbuda so, obviously the people who live there eat it.  If that doesn't make it authentic, I don't know what does!

Mahi Mahi in Creole Sauce


Creole Sauce

  • 2 T EVOO
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped1 onion, finely diced
  • 3 roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 T minced garlic
  • 1 T peri peri sauce (or diced hot pepper instead)
  • 2 scallions
  • 4 T finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/2 t cinnamon


  • 2 T lemon juice
  • 4 salmon fillets


  1. Sprinkle salt, pepper and the lemon juice on the mahi mahi filets.
  2. Saute the green peppers and onions for about 8 minutes.
  3. Add in the diced tomatoes, garlic, hot pepper, scallions.  Simmer for about 25 minutes with the lid mostly covering the pot.
  4. Remove the lid and the bay leaf.
  5. Saute the fish in some olive oil 3 minutes per side.
  6. Serve sauce on top of the fish.


Recipe - Mango Avo Salad

I wasn't going to make this at first, because it's almost the same as the fruit salad that I made last week, but the baby loved it and we knew that our friends would enjoy the fruit.  So here it is!  If it wasn't for the baby and our friend who is pregnant, I'd have gone for this pineapple and rum salad.

Humorously, I made this so long ago that my friend has already had the baby weeks ago.  Hah.  Everyone loved this salad.

2 mangoes, cubed
2 avocados, cubed
2 limes, juiced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 T finely diced jalapeno

Rinse the red onion (it will make it less sharp).  Toss everything together.  Yum.

So, I forgot to take a picture of this so I grabbed on from Global Table Adventure to give you an idea of what it would look like.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Antigua & Barbuda - About

So, last week Anguilla teased me with thoughts of sun and sand.  This week it's Antigua & Barbuda, an island nation in the Lesser Antilles islands of the Caribbean.

I actually wrote this post and cooked this meal back in March while I was still in Chicago.  Chicago's March is, in my opinion, the worst month of the whole Windy City year.  It's usually not the coldest.  That usually goes to Janurary.  It's not even the snowiest.  But by the time March has come, all Chicagoans are just SICK of winter.

So when I saw all the beautiful beaches, great kayaking, snorkeling and rum, I was ready to go!  Average ocean temp is 79 degrees in March and the land would be around 83F.  In July it's 88F, which isn't too bad.

Can I go there now?

Barbuda only has two resorts.  Antigua controls most of the tourism.  It even has a harbor large enough to accommodate cruise ships.

Hum, a cruise would be okay too.

Okay, enough about my vacation fantasies.  But those chairs do look pretty lonely...

Sugar is grown on both islands, but as you can imagine by those pictures, tourism is a major industry.  So one more picture.

Antigua was named by Christopher Columbus himself after The Virgin of the Old Cathedral (La Virgen de la Antigua).  The Brits ended up getting the islands and it remained a British colony up until 1981.  Now it's independent but is still in the Commonwealth.

The vast majority of the inhabitants are descendants of slaves.  96% of the population identifies as African decent.  Antigua was the first British colony to completely do away with slavery.

When I hear "Carnival", I think of Rio's Mardi Gras, but in Antigua & Barbuda, it's a 10 day celebration of the abolition of slavery in July and August.

The official language is English, but most people speak a creole.

Most people are various type of Christian but some practice Obeah, which is similar to voodoo and descends from a conglomeration of various West African beliefs.

Many dishes are reminiscent of last week's Angola, which makes sense because many of the dishes were transplanted along with the people via the slave routes.  These foods include okra, eggplant and the polenta-like porridge, fungee.  Fungee is very similar to Angola's Funge, but it's made of cornstrach instead of cassava flour.


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Anguilla - Menu and Overview

This is my seventh meal on my family's challenge to cook our way around the globe.

We cooked this back on March 1st, but then I got sick and then we sold our home and then we moved...  So, I've been a little bit busy.  This was by far the easiest meal I've done and I think right up there as one of my favorites.  It's right up there with Afghanistan.  It's also the only meal that I've made multiple times (minus the cornbread).

The menu:

Pineapple Cornbread
Barbecued Fish Steaks
Diced Tropical Fruit
Johnny Cakes

I was going to make a chocolate pie, but never did.  I think that if I were to cook this meal again, I'd ditch the cornbread and add the chocolate pie.  I still haven't made it, but I hope to one day!


Pineapple Cornbread
I wasn't impressed.  I had an open mind.  But, alas, this didn't quite live up to my hopes.

Barbecued Fish Steaks
Orange on fish?  Really?  Wow! Yes, please!  This was amazing.  I'd never have thought that the flavors would go so well, but they did.   It was also super easy to prepare.  It would have been better on the grill, but was still wonderful pan seared.

Diced Tropical Fruit
I'm not sure how authentic this is.  But all the fruits are locally grown.  This was my second week in a row having papaya in the house.  It's officially the baby's favorite fruit.  He squeals with delight when he sees it.  It's almost the same sound that he makes when he sees me at the end of the day so I know that he really loves papaya.

Johnny Cakes
These were magic.  I love bread.  I love fried things.  So it wasn't hard to win me over.  It also wasn't too hard to make.  Pete suggested that we dust it with powdered sugar, but it's not really that sweet.  It's a little sweeter than your average dinner roll or biscuit, but not something that I'd call dessert or anything.  I had these all week for breakfast spread with jam.  Yummy.

As you can see, I had a lot going on and a very messy counter.  This is why I had to take a bit of a hiatus.

But, Zander misses the fun international flavors.  The papaya won him over.  And the Johnny Cakes.

He's so little there.  It was 4 months ago so he was only 9 months old.  It's crazy how fast he's growing up!  Now he's 13 months and all over the place!

Real Life Experience - Anguilla

We have a very special guest blogger today.  Shellecia Brooks-Johnson who is from Anguilla.  She is here to let us know more about her.  Please check out her blog,, which has tons of information about life in Anguilla.  Follow My Anguilla Experience on FacebookInstagram and on Twitter or email her at

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your hometown.

Hi. My name is Shellecia. I am passionately Anguillian and wholeheartedly optimistic. I share my love for Anguilla and island life through my blog

I love to smile and laugh. My favorite quote is ‘Don’t frown as you don’t know who is falling in love with your smile.’ I see each day as an opportunity to make a difference in some way.
Shellecia Brooks-Johnson
In my spare time, you can find me spending time with family and friends, working with the Optimist Club of Anguilla and Girls Brigade, teaching classes for Personal and Professional Development or doing freelance writing.
About Anguilla
Anguilla is 35 square miles with a population of just over 13,000 people so the entire island is my hometown. Allow me to take an excerpt from the Tourist Board’s website which captures the essence of Anguilla
A warm and welcoming island destination tucked away in the northern Caribbean.  Embraced by unrivaled white beaches and breathtaking turquoise seas, Anguilla is casual and easy, a unique blend of high style and low-key elegance, and the best of the good life set to a slow and casual island tempo.  Anguilla is an experience that captivates our visitors and creates friendships and memories that last a lifetime. You can enjoy our endless summer with near perfect weather, blue waters and balmy trade winds. Quiet, and low key, the island is yours to explore and experience’

What’s the best thing about your hometown?

I really enjoy the slow paced life that I enjoy in Anguilla. My drive to work is 15 minutes. My drive to the closest of our 33 public beautiful beaches is 5 minutes. I also love knowing so many of my family and friends are only a short drive away.
How has Anguilla changed over the past 20 years?

We are still considered a laid back and quiet Island. However over the last 20 years we have seen an expansion of our tourism product – more hotels and villas, restaurants, attractions. We have lost some of our traditions and the sense of a single community is not as strong as twenty years ago.

 How do you think that food impacts your local culture?  Who do you usually eat with?

Food is a big part of our local culture. Usually, when we socialize, we eat. Anguilla is known for its gastronomy, from five start restaurants to excellent roadside barbeques and food vans.  Many persons also enjoy cooking and some families still get together regularly for family meals.  I usually eat with my hubby but I go out for meals fairly regularly with friends.

Where do you shop for food?  Do you grow any yourself?

We have local farmers who sell produce on the street side and also to supermarkets. I shop primarily at supermarkets. I try to buy fresh fruits and vegetables when possible. In my back yard we have coconut trees, banana trees, pepper and sour sop.

What are some of the favorite foods in your household?

We love coconuts and coconut water. We also love apples. Hubby is pescatarian. Fortunately, I love seafood too!

What is your favorite food-related memory from childhood?

I grew up in the same household with my grandmother. She reared goats. Every once in a while she would kill a goat and the entire family would come over to eat. I still love goat meat and I miss how my grandmother prepared and cooked its liver and lites with rice and peas.

What are common celebrations or holidays in Anguilla and what do people do on those days?

Major holidays and celebration in Anguilla include Anguilla Day, Easter weekend celebrations and Anguilla Summer Festival celebrations. We ‘lime’ as we call it. During Easter we have a big seafood festival and boat races. On Anguilla day we have a ‘round the island’ boat race and during our summer festivals we have boat races, pageantry, parade of troupes, fairs and festivals and much more.

Do you have any recipes that you can share with us?  What memories do you have of these recipes? 

I love to eat but I don’t love to cook! Our national dish is peas and rice and fish. When I cook my meals are pretty simple. Fried, baked or grilled snapper with rice and peas, plantain and veggies, seafood medleys or banana fritters for a quick snack are some of my go to dishes. I love things like conkie dumpling, johnny cakes and potato pudding though.

In fact I had potato pudding today from Mabel who sets up a stall with local dishes each Saturday. If you are ever in Anguilla do check her out. I also had Johnny cakes and barbeque chicken for dinner from another authentically local place in South Valley; another must try when in Anguilla.

What do you want persons to know about the real Anguilla?
For us Anguilla is home. Yes, we live on this gorgeous Caribbean life but just like others in the rest of the world, most persons go to work, raise families and have aspirations. We just do it against a beautiful backdrop while also valuing and enjoying the simple pleasures life in the Caribbean offers.
Feel free to explore the entire island as we have nothing to hide and everything to offer. We don’t put on a show so what you see us doing is authentic as we go about our day to day life. Anguilla is still pretty safe but play smart as you would anywhere else in the world. Look your doors, secure your valuables, and don’t walk alone late at nightJ.
We truly do have some of the most friendly people here so don’t be afraid to ask questions. It could be the start of a beautiful friendship.