Homemade Chicken Pad Thai

I have this problem where I pretty much always want to be on vacation.  Not just at home with time off, but I want to be in a foreign country walking around and trying all the foods.

But that’s probably true for everyone, right?

I’ve been lucky enough to visit my fair share of countries.   Since we’ve been togetherJesse and I have made it a point to go on a trip once a year. We went to China, Peru and Thailand/Cambodia (along with Mexico and Guatemala, do those count if we were visiting family?).  Our 4th year together is looking to be a vacation-less one, since there’s a major expense coming up next year: wedding.

In both Peru and Thailand, we took cooking classes, which has become one of my favorite things to do on vacation.

In Thailand, there are tons of cooking classes.  We went with the Thai Farm Cooking School in Chiang Mai, because some friends (they have an awesome travel blog!) we met while hiking to Machu Picchu had done it and recommended it.

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It was definitely worth it.  Now that it’s been about 7 months since our vacation, Jesse and I had an itch to make some of the recipes in the cookbook we were given.   So we hit up a local Asian market that I learned about at my new job (yay for supporting small business!), gathered all our ingredients and made this:

pad thai 1

Isn’t pad thai everyone’s favorite?  It’s also pretty easy to make too!  We added chicken to it to make it more of a complete meal, but you can also omit the chicken (or the tofu) if you’d like.

Here’s what you’ll need to serve 2 or 3…

Chicken Pad Thai

80g rice noodles
2 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
1/2 cup sliced tofu (optional)
1 piece of chicken breast, sliced
2 shallots, chopped
1 egg
1/2 cup grated carrot
1 cup of mung bean sprouts
2 tsp tamarind paste (or white vinegar)
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar (or palm sugar if you have it)
1 tbsp fish sauce
1/3 cup water
1 tsp molasses
Pinch of chili powder (or a squirt of sriracha)
Salt to taste

1 tbsp green onion (green part only)
Chopped peanuts and lime for serving

Soak noodles in warm water for 30 minutes until soft.  In the meantime, prepare your sauce.  In a bowl combine water, fish sauce, brown sugar, tamarind paste and molasses.   (Note: Here I found a tamarind paste that was basically the whole tamarind, so I had to blend it but in Thailand I used a paste that dissolved.  If you blend, just be sure there are no tamarind seeds in there).  Set aside sauce.

pad thai ingredients

Heat oil in a wok (or large pan if you don’t have a wok like me), until it starts to smoke.  Add chicken, shallots and tofu.  Toss until chicken is cooked and tofu is crispy.  Move the chicken, shallots and tofu to one side of the pan.  On the other side of the pan, scramble the egg.  Once scrambled, toss them all together and add the noodles, carrots, bean sprouts and sauce.  Mix until the noodles are cooked and all is well combined.  Try a noodle and see if you think it needs salt.  Salt as needed.

pad thai 2

Serve with chopped peanuts and a wedge of lime.

Jesse and I devoured this yesterday.  I’m almost a little bit embarrassed to tell you how much we ate.  Ok not really.  We doubled this and ate about 3/4 of it.  Enough said.

pad thai 3

We also discovered that we seriously want a wok.  We made it in a dutch oven pot, which was fine but I think it would have turned out better (texture wise) in a wok.   But it still turned out great.

Since we bought a ton of basic ingredients we’ll likely be making tons of Thai recipes this week.  I can’t complain about that.

What foreign food do you want to learn how to make?

Mexico

Sometimes we all do things we regret.  This week I did a few, or maybe  just one.

I didn’t tell my parents I was going to Mexico.

Big mistake.

They freaked out after not hearing from me for days.  My mom called the Cornell Police Department to report me missing.  It was a fiasco.

But I don’t regret going to Mexico.  It was pretty much amazing.

I seem to have anxiety attacks prior to flying, but luckily I had delicious Ghiradelli Chocolate from Foodbuzz Tastemakers to calm me down.  Definitely don’t regret eating those.

I also don’t regret spending my fall break doing research.

I met interesting people.

Tried interesting things… like Pozol… Corn and Cocoa beans milled together, then made into a dough that is then dissolved in water to make a thick drink.

I definitely thought I would regret drinking that after I saw where the water came from.

Also saw some crazy things

Saw thought provoking things

and some really beautiful things

and in the end, I’m glad I went.

Let’s hope our report isn’t a complete failure.  I’m thoroughly concerned for a whole slew of reasons I really don’t want to get into.

Let’s just say, sometimes I think I care a little too much.

Indian Feast!

I’m back!  I went to Florida for a few days to visit some friends, cousins and an aunt!  Fun all around!  Beach, lots of food and family!  It was a nice break from the internet and taking pictures of food, but I’m ready for more blog fun!

Before I left last week, the Biscotti Queen and her fella came over to help me eat some vegetables before my trip.  Here’s another little known fact about the Biscotti Queen: in India, the little boy she lived with called her the Chapati Queen.  I had to put that nickname to the test.

What is chapati?  Everytime you go to an Indian restaurant, you probably order naan or roti, right?  Chapati is a similar flatbread, cooked on a skillet.  Only a few simple ingredients: whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt and water.

Mix 1 cup whole wheat flour and 1 cup of all purpose with a 1/2 tsp salt.  Add 3/4 cup water, knead until smooth.  Divide into 10-12 balls and roll into thin circles.

Cook on an ungreased, hot skillet for about 30 seconds each side.  You can also toast it on the stove like such

Then brush with butter and sprinkle with salt.  Mmm sooo good!

Serve it with something tasty like Baingan Bharta and Fennel Rice for a quick and easy Indian inspired meal!

Baingan Bharta

from Manjula’s Kitchen

1 medium eggplant
2 tomatoes
1 jalapeno or green chili
1 bell pepper (I used a strange yellow variety)
1 tsp ground ginger (or 1/2 tbsp fresh chopped)
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp tumeric (I completely forgot to add this and it still tasted good)
1/2 tsp cayenne
salt to taste (or about a tsp)
1/4 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

Microwave the eggplant 8-10 minutes, until tender.  Allow to cool then peel and dice.  Set aside.

In a blender, blend together the tomatoes, jalapeno (or green chili) and ginger.  Set aside.

Heat oil in deep pan or pot.  Once oil is hot, add diced bell pepper and sautee for 2 minutes.  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.  Next, add cumin and coriander to oil and stir.  Add in the blended tomato mixture, add tumeric and cayenne.  Add eggplant and bring to a boil.  Using a wooden spoon, mash the eggplant along the side of the pot for about 10 minutes.  By the end you should have a lumpy mash.  Lastly, stir in garam masala and cilantro.

Serve with Chapati and Fennel Rice with Raisins!

Eating with your hands is recommended!  After our delicious feast, Biscotti Queen and boy were pooped.  Aren’t they adorable?

BUT that didn’t stop us I from finishing up something we’d been wanting to make for a looong time!  Stay tuned for that!

Pão de Mel (Honey Bread)

My first Portuguese teacher was named Mimi (Miriam); she was from São Paulo.  On the last day of class, she brought a delicious, Brazilian treat for the class.  It was sweet and spicy.

Honey,  spices and chocolate, an interesting combination.  Ever since, I’ve wanted to make it.

A few days ago, I stumbled upon a blog and while perusing the recipes, I came across it!

Pão de Mel (Honey Bread)

from The Cookie Shop

2 cups flour
1/2 tbsp baking soda
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup oil (I used coconut oil)
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup milk
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Whisk together dry ingredients.  Add wet ingredients and combine well.  Put batter into a greased and floured baking dish and bake for 30-40 minutes.    As soon as you take it out of the oven, sprinkle with chocolate chips.  As the chocolate chips melt, spread with a spatula.  Allow to cool and serve.

I’m not sure why I love this stuff so much!  Probably because it’s crazy sweet and has an interesting flavor combination.  Let’s call it sweet and sassy.  Reason enough to try it, right?

It’s a beautiful day out here!  And it’s Friday!

Have a great day!

World Cup Waffles

This morning I packed up some stuff to have some waffles with my world cup

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I ran across the street to watch the first game, Mexico vs South Africa, with this fella

That’s Daniele.  He’s pretty.

He also made a bet that South Africa wouldn’t win a single game…reason enough for me to betray the latinos and root for South Africa.  They tied.  I can be happy with that.

So while I watched in rather agitated fashion, I enjoyed this:

Rhubarb Waffles

adapted from Eating Well’s Rhubarb Waffles

5 stalks of rhubarb (cut into 1/4 inch pieces)
1 cup sugar
1 1/4 cup milk
1 1/2 tbsp oil
1 tsp vanilla
3 egg whites
1 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 tbsp baking powder
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt

In a pot, combine rhubarb and sugar.  Cook for about 10 minutes or until rhubarb is tender.  Remove 1 cup of rhubarb and set aside.  Continue to cook the rest of the rhubarb for another 5-10 minutes, until rhubarb breaks down and thickens.

Combine remaining ingredients and reserved rhubarb to make the batter.  Cook in a heated waffle iron for about 10 minutes.   Serve with rhubarb sauce.

This made 4 fat waffles and wayyyy more sauce than necessary.

Thanks Liz for letting us borrow your waffle iron!!

Okay I’m off to burn off some of these waffle calories.  Have a great day!

Peruvian Ceviche

Ready for a super simple, super delicious fish recipe?

Here’s another recipe from my sister and her multi-cultural friends: Peruvian Ceviche. Apparently in Peru (according to my sister’s Peruvian friends), this is commonly eaten for breakfast!

If you make this, please make sure you use fresh fish!  But really you should do that anytime you eat fish.

Some of you might question the safety of this for a few reasons, but we made this for my parent’s birthday party, many people ate it and no one got sick.

Instead, everyone was so pleased, the ceviche was gone in less than 10 minutes!

Peruvian Ceviche

3 lbs raw tilapia, cut into small cubes
4 lbs of key limes (or enough juice to cover all the fish)
2 celery ribs, finely chopped
2 tsp yellow hot pepper paste (aji amarillo o chile guero)
1/2 tsp sazon (this is really just MSG, if it’s a huge issue for you, you can probably just use salt)
1 red onion, thinly sliced

Cut the tilapia into small bite sized pieces and place in a serving bowl with chopped celery.

This recipe requires a ton of key limes

A lemon/lime squeezer makes this a whole lot easier.  Press your key limes, you want enough juice to cover your fish completely.

Pour over fish, then mix in your yellow hot pepper paste (use more if you want it spicier) and sazon.

Lastly, top with thinly sliced red onions.  Refrigerate for half an hour and serve!

The citric acid in the limes cooks the fish!  Then you have a super quick and easy light dish!   I definitely recommend giving it a try.  My mom was apprehensive because she thought it was raw (even though it’s not) but ended up loving it!

Any foods scare you?

Tofu used to freak me out… still not a huge fan.

Guatemalan Rellenitos

One of the best parts of being home is the food. I’ll be honest, my mom is a lovely woman, but she’s not much of a cooker. She most definitely can; she simply chooses not to. My aunt on the other hand loves to cook. Lucky me, she’s visiting!

So I’ve been following her around the kitchen the past few days trying to get some Guatemalan recipes to share with you all.

I guess the first warning is that a lot of these things are cooked to taste, so the measurements may vary but I’ll give estimates of what she used.

The first thing we made was rellenitos.

rellenitosedited

Rellenitos are mashed plantains stuffed with sweet black beans then fried to create tasty little dumpling type things.  They’re usually eaten as an afternoon snack or dessert.  They’re a little labor intensive but totally worth it.

Rellenitos

1/2 lb cooked black beans (cooked like the Guatemalan Black Bean recipe I posted before)
1/2 tbsp cinnamon
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup canola oil
10 ripe plantains
1 cinnamon stick
oil for trying

This recipe will make a few dozen rellenitos, so adjust accordingly.  I know it sounds sort of weird but you start with salty beans cooked in garlic and onion.  Put them in the blender with cinnamon and sugar (you might have to do it in batches). Taste to make sure they’re sweet and not too cinnamony.

Then put the blended beans in a deep skillet with oil and bring to a boil.  Simmer for a few minutes then transfer to another container to cool (they’ll thicken as they cool).

You want your plantains to be ripe.  The riper they are, the sweeter they are but also harder to work with.

Cut your plantains into 2 inch pieces, leaving the skin on.  Put them in a large pot with cinnamon stick and fill about half way with water (plantains won’t be completely submerged).  Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes until plantains are starting to soften but not so soft that they fall apart.

Peel and put in a container to mash.  If you have a potato ricer or food mill this will be a whole lot easier, we had neither so we used a mug, some forks and a masher to get out all the clumps.

Now comes the shaping part.  Once the plantains have cooled.  Take a palm sized amount and shape it into a thick pancake/tortilla shape.

Place about a 1/2 tbsp to 1 tbsp sized amount of beans in the middle and close the pancake/tortilla shape.

Pinch the edges together and smooth with your fingers into a roundish egg shape.  Repeat until you run out of beans or plantains.

Heat oil in a skillet.  Place rellenitos in hot oil and fry all around.

Once they are golden brown all around (okay if a little burnt), place them on a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

Serve with sour cream and sprinkle with sugar.

Delish!  Definitely not the healthiest way to eat a plantain but probably one of the best.

If you made a ton don’t worry about finishing them all at once.  While chances are they will get eaten, if not you can wrap them in aluminum foil and freeze them and when you’re ready for a treat just unwrap them and microwave for a minute or two and ta-da! Ready to go!  My family actually brings them frozen from Guatemala since my mom isn’t big on cooking 🙂

Anyway, tonight we’re having a birthday party for my dad since he was in Guatemala on his actual birthday!  More fun recipes and hopefully pictures to come!

Hope you’re having a great weekend!

Tostones

Since I last posted… I’ve finished finals, packed some stuffed, said some sad goodbyes and flown across the country.  But before that, I went to a small potluck.  As I was trying to use up everything in my kitchen, I made tostones from 2 green plantains I had sitting in my kitchen.

Tostones are fried green plantains eaten throughout the Caribbean.  This recipe is courtesy of my sister who lived in the Dominican Republic for 3 years.

Tostones

2 green plantains
oil for frying
salt

Peel and slice your plantains into 3/4 inch-1 inch rounds.

Heat oil in a pan.  Fry rounds until golden

Transfer to a paper towel lined cutting board (or on the counter is fine, it’ll just get oily).

Cover with another paper towel or two and using your hand mash into a thin circle.  You can make them as thin or thick as you’d like.  I like them pretty thin.

Fry again.  Once they are golden transfer them to a paper towel lined plate and salt.

Serve on their own or with ketchup (or really any dipping sauce).

Fun, easy treat for a small gathering.

Coming up soon… another unhealthy way to eat a plantain!

Have a great night!

African Recipe Semi-Fail but Still Delicious

Yesterday my schedule got all turned around!  I intended to go to class then work for an hour, go to an another class and stay on campus to study til 4 then come home a cook.  However, the second class that is usually at 12:20 got moved to 3:00 and went almost til 5:00!  I still managed to get a lot done in between but I was not prepared to stay on campus til past 5!

Anyway, when we last spoke, I was soaking black eyed peas…

Here’s why:  Rhoda, my friend who pops up around here all the time, is moving to Africa!  She threw a Rhoda is going to Africa party, where we all made recipes from her future home, Burkina Faso!

So I made Savory Bean Cakes! Not the healthiest but these could definitely be made healthier while still tasting delicious!

Burkinese Savory Bean Cakes

adapted from Savoury Beancakes

200g dried black eyed peas (I actually ended up using about 220g… not a big deal)
1 carrot, chopped
1/3 onion, chopped
salt to taste
1 egg, beaten
oil for frying

Cook and peel the black eyed peas.  Allow to cool.


Put all ingredients in the food processor and process until smooth.

At this point, I would allow your dough to cool.  I think this is where mine went wrong.  Form them into ball and flatten, essentially into patties.

Fry for about 10 minutes.

I guess I should also say that I’ve never fried anything before, so I don’t really know how to.  I think of myself as a pretty able cook for the most part but when it comes to frying… oh jeez!

Some were burn (oil too hot).  Some broke apart (should have let the dough cool… I think).

But they tasted great!  Beany and delicious!

Even though they weren’t fabulous looking, I took them to Rhoda’s for our Rhoda is going to Africa celebration.

There was a ton of tasty Burkinese food! Check out the spread:

Rhoda made this DELICIOUS Stew!

Served with cous cous

This stuff was dense!  I was full the entire night! (My two helping of dessert probably had something to do with that too!)

She also made a millet porridge for us to try!  I thought it was tasty!  Rhoda was apprehensive but she’s going to be eating it a lot in the next couple years apparently!

Julie made the same recipe as me!  Coincidence!  Guess there aren’t too many recipes from Burkina Faso out there.  She made hers with black beans.  They were delicious!  Amazing how two different beans can taste so different!

Liz made a tasty mango chutney to complement it all!  I believe she used this recipe.

My plate (definitely had seconds…)

Dessert were Sara’s brownies with fruit and hazelnuts!  Delicious! And Anna’s apple crisp (which I’m bummed I forgot to take a picture of!)

Sooo good! It was really fun to try out these new recipes!  Even if some of them didn’t turn out as expected… Are you a fan of trying to make things you’ve never heard of or do you prefer to have a point of reference (i.e. you’ve eaten it before) when you make something?

After dinner, we headed to a party at Sara’s house.  I danced it up a bit (Beyonce came on and you better believe I was all over it), but pooped out at about 12:30am.

Today is another sunny day!  Any fun weekend plans?

Have a great day!!!!

International Food Assistance

Now that I’m back at school I remembered that I do actually like and care about something other than eating! Hard to believe, right?

In case you’re a new reader, I’m interested in global food security.  I started this blog to combine my passion for healthy living and international issues.  Recently, I’ve been slacking on the food security end of the blog.  In the past, I’ve written about the causes of food security (four parts) and the environment.  If you click the tag “Food Security” on the right sidebar, you’ll find all my food security related posts to date.

Image from Google Images

Today, since the recent crisis in Haiti, I thought it would be a good idea to give a little history of global food assistance and little introduction to the United Nations’ World Food Programme.

Before the establishment of an international organization (i.e. the United Nations), food assistance was distributed from one nation to another (bilaterally).

The United States, since the 1950s, is the largest donor of food aid through Public Law 480 Title I (P.L. 480), now known as Food for Peace managed by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID).

Food being sent abroad by USAID (from Google Images)

P.L. 480 began as a scheme to relieve some of the surplus agricultural products produced in the US.  This assistance from the US government comes in three forms:

  1. Trade and Development Assistance:  “government-to-government sales of U.S. agricultural commodities to developing countries on credit or grant terms.”
  2. Emergency and Private Assistance: “the donation of U.S. agricultural commodities to meet emergency and nonemergency food needs in other countries, including support for food security goals.”
  3. Food for Development initiative (recently inactive):  “government-to-government grants to support long-term growth in the least developed countries. Donated commodities are sold in the recipient country, and the revenue generated is used to support economic development programs.”[1]

Bilateral food assistance proved to not be the most effective solution to food insecurity as it depends on surpluses in donor nations and generally serves the interest of the donor nation.  I don’t mean this as a judgment of the US or any other nation that provides food assistance, but it makes sense that you donate what you have extra of.  You don’t produce specifically to give away.

The result of food programs like P.L. 480 was the “dumping” of agricultural products into the markets of developing nations, undercutting local producers (since this food was free or cost next to nothing) and creating more poverty and food insecurity in the long run.

Therefore, an unbiased organization was needed to deal with issues of food assistance…

This is where the United Nations comes in…

Next time: United Nations involvement in global food security and the formation of the World Food Programme!

Please don’t be shy!  Let me know if you think this is interesting!  What do you think of food assistance at home or abroad? Is there anything you’d like to know more about?


[1] USDA: Foreign Agriculture Service. “Public Law 480, Title I.” http://www.fas.usda.gov/excredits/foodaid/pl480/pl480.asp