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.


2 green plantains
oil for frying

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.”

January Recipe Challenge: Asia

The lovely fella lives in the Silicon Valley.  The first time I visited him here was when I had just gotten back from India in July of 2009.  I kept noticing a ton of Indian markets, restaurants and shops.  I’m not sure if it’s because I had India on the brain or there are legitimately just a lot of Indian places!  Apparently, the Silicon Valley (or the South Bay in general?) has a large Indian population.  So for yet another addition to the January Recipe Challenge, I decided to make something Indian!

Indian is probably one of my favorite foods, I love everything from curries to dosa, but I’ve always been too scared to make it as it seems really daunting. With the availability of Indian products and the January Recipe Challenge as my impetus, I sucked it up and decided to try making something Indian.

Tonight, I actually made two recipes!  Palak Paneer (Spinach and Cheese) and Channa Masala.  Both are fairly common at any North India/Punjabi restaurant.  They are also vegetarian!  Actually in case you didn’t know… A lot of people in India are vegetarians for religious reasons.

I found two great recipes from Manjula’s Kitchen.  I really liked her site because she had videos of her making the recipes!  This inspired great confidence in her!

Just as in the Swedish recipes I made earlier this week, I had to make due with the appliances the lovely fella has, which means no measuring cups or spoons or a blender which was kind of necessary.  I had to eyeball it all but surprisingly it turned out really well!  So here are the recipes with the tweeks that I made to them (remember I eyeballed these amounts).

Palak Paneer

Inspired by Manjula’s Kitchen Palak (Spinach) Paneer

4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
6-7 oz store bought paneer
1/2 can tomato puree
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1-2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
salt to taste
2 tbsp all purpose flour
1/3 cup heavy cream
1/2 tomato, sliced for garnis

Ingredients all together:

Can you believe they have Goofy on the spinach package?! Not sure how I feel about this...

First we quickly browned the paneer in a bit of oil and then set aside.

Then we added a tad more oil (probably a total of 2 tbsp, you really don’t need to add more in my opinion…) and added the spices (coriander, turmeric, cumin seeds) and cooked those for about a minute.

Then we added the tomato puree and ginger and let that cook for a few minutes.  Once the tomato sauce reduced by half, we added the spinach and a little bit of water (I saw her do this in the video that’s why I did it too) and covered it and let it simmer on medium/low heat for about 10 minutes.

In the meantime, we combined the cream and flour in a small bowl.  After the spinach mixture has simmered, we added the cream mixture and let it cook for a few minutes.  Then cover it again and let is simmer for about 5 minutes.  Then added the paneer back and and let is simmer for a few more minutes! Then it’s ready to eat!

Ours didn’t look quite right but I think it was the lack of blender.  It still tasted great!

Next we made the Channa Masala.

Again we didn’t have all the necessary equipment (mainly a blender and measuring spoons so I eyeballed it all and just finely chopped all the ingredients).  Also note that the channa masala is also vegan!

Channa Masala

inspired by Manjula’s Kitchen’s Chola (Channa Masala)

1 can (15oz) garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 can tomato puree
1 tsp finely chopped ginger
1 small green chili (use less for less picante!)
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp garam masala powder

I forgot to take a picture of all the ingredients for this one but they were kind of similar to the Palak Paneer ingredients.

First, we heated the oil in the pan.  Once the oil was hot, we added the cumin seeds and cooked them til they made a cracking noise.  Then we added the flour and cooked it for about a minute. Once that had cooked for a minute or so, we added the tomato puree, ginger, green chili, coriander, turmeric and red chili powder.  This simmered for about 4 minutes.

Then we added the garbanzo beans plus 1/2 cup of water and let that simmer for about 7-8 minutes, stirring every so often.

Lastly, we added the cilantro and garam masala and let that cook for a minute and it was all ready! Serve with rice, naan, raita, tomato slices or anything else you like!

We enjoyed these two fabulous dishes with some Naan we got at Costco (the Costco here sells a ton of India products… large Indian population I guess…).

Of course, it was eaten with fingers not silverware…

I thought this was very delicious!  The lovely fella liked it too!  The Channa Masala was a little too spicy for him but nothing a little water couldn’t fix.  We actually realized we pretty much doubled the green chili, so it was extra spicy.  I thought it was perfect but I really like spicy food.

I know Indian food sounds intense and complicated (or at least it did to me) but give it a try!  It really wasn’t that difficult, just requires a bit of ingredient hunting!

Tomorrow I’m headed back to LA then Friday I go back to Ithaca!  I don’t want break to end, but I have a little bit of a blog revamp coming when I get back to Ithaca so stay tuned for that!

Have a great night!

January Recipe Challenge: Europe

The lovely fella bought a Swedish cookbook at Ikea last week.  So I thought it would be a great for the January Recipe Challenge.  Again, I don’t know much about Sweden other than its neutrality in WWII, they have a lot of immigrants and Alexander Skarsgard is from there… so I have no idea how authentic this is but it looked delicious and vegetarian (which seems rare in Swedish cuisine from looking at that cookbook!).

We decided to make Forest Mushroom Soup (Soppa på blandsvamp).

The only difficulty in making this recipe was finding the right mushrooms and the fact that the lovely fella doesn’t have measuring tools.  So here’s our tweeked version (estimated as we couldn’t actually measure):

Forest Mushroom Soup/Soppa på blandsvamp

inspired by Ikea’s Swedish Cooking

2 tbsp butter
8oz cremini mushrooms
3.5 oz shitake mushrooms
6 oz portabella mushrooms
1 onion
1 garlic clove
3-4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons red wine (or really just a splash!  The recipe called for sherry but we didn’t want to spend money on it so we decided to use red wine instead… not the same… I know but it was still really good!)
3 cups low sodium vegetable broth
about 1/4 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste

We enjoyed a glass of wine while we cooked!  The lovely fella got me this bottle of wine for Valentine’s Day last year with the intention that we would drink it then but it didn’t happen and he’s had it ever since.

It was very tasty, especially after it aerated for 20 minutes!  So we gathered the ingredients:

Then cleaned and sliced the mushrooms then chopped the onion and garlic.

From what I’ve heard… Mushrooms should be wiped with a damp cloth or paper towel not run under water.

We melted the butter then sauteed this all for about five minutes.

Then added the flour and stirred it.  Added a splash of red wine.  Next we added the broth, cream, salt and pepper and let it simmer for a few minutes.

Then we served and enjoyed it with our wine!

This recipe was quick, easy and delicious!  The mushrooms were fantastic and made it really “meaty.”  It was a perfect light meal!  It would be great with a big hunk of crusty bread (unfortunately we ate our fair share of bread and cheese while the soup simmered!).

Then we went to see It’s Complicated, which was hilarious!  I won’t spoil it but I really enjoyed it!

Tomorrow, we’re headed to Napa for wine tasting and all around fun!  Hope you had a great weekend!  Goodnight!

January Recipe Challenge: Africa

In undergrad, I was a Development Studies major.  In other words, I studied the political economy of developing nations.  You’d think I would know a bunch about Africa (since it is the least developed region of the world), but honestly I don’t.

In searching for a recipe for the January Recipe Challenge, I wanted to stay away from Moroccan food, which I think is the African food that most people are (or at least I am) most familiar with.

In my search, I came across a recipe for West African Vegetable and Peanut Stew, which sounded delicious!  So in keeping with my peanut butter filled day I decided to give it a try.   I’ll be honest and say that I have no idea whether or not this recipe is authentic.  As I mentioned earlier, I know very little about Africa, aside from some political/economic history. This recipe just sounded interesting and from the little research I did, seems to have West African flavors.  I also liked how many vegetables it had: sweet potato, carrot, okra, green beans, onion… oh my!

In case you’re curious, the countries considered part of West Africa (as defined by the UN) are:  Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Cape Verde, Ghana, The Gambia, Nigeria, Togo, Mali, Sierra Leone, Benin, Senegal, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Mauritania and Niger.

West African Peanut Stew

From Food & Wine

3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 jalapeños, seeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1 1/2 tablespoons curry powder
One 14-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, chopped, with their liquid
4 cups water or canned low-sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth would work too)
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
2 cups frozen whole okra or 6 ounces fresh whole okra
1 cup frozen green beans or 1/4 pound fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch lengths
1/4 cup cilantro leaves (I thought we had some, but we did so I left this out)
1/4 cup chopped salted peanuts
Lime wedges, for serving

First gather all your ingredients

Even super old curry powder should be okay (fresher is probably better.  I wouldn’t be surprised if this stuff is older than me)

Chop the onions, jalapenos (if you want this dish spicier then leave some of the seeds), ginger and garlic.  Word to the wise: don’t touch your eyes after chopping the jalapeno.  It hurts… Also make sure you don’t have any cuts on your fingers.  My finger is still burning!

Then sautee it in the oil for about 5 minutes or until the onions are translucent.   Then add the curry powder, stir and let it cook for a few more minutes (about 2).  Then add your peanut butter, tomatoes and water (or vegetable broth, I used water).  Stir and cook for about 15 minutes.

In the meantime, peel and chop your carrots and sweet potato.  Then add it to the soup.

Simmer for 20 minutes.  Lastly add the green beans and okra and simmer for another 10 minutes.

Garnish with chopped peanuts, cilantro and a lime wedge!

The recipe said it can be served with rice, which sounds delicious!  Enjoy!

I thought this soup was pretty delicious!  It was also vegan in case you were wondering!

The flavor combination was really interesting and surprisingly creamy (probably from the peanut butter).  The carrots and sweet potato added an interesting sweetness.  Next time, I would make it a little spicier (maybe I would have tried using that spicy peanut butter from PB and Co… one of my many peanut butter jars that needs to be used) and cut my green beans a little smaller.

I know a lot of people don’t like okra, but seriously… try this!  It’s not slimy at all!

Have you tried any other types of African food?

I’ve had Ethiopian and Moroccan!  Both were REALLY good!  The lovely fella didn’t appreciate the Ethiopian much but I thought it was delicious (I can really appreciate any time I can eat with my hands)!

January Recipe Challenge: Food Around the World!

The December Recipe Challenge was a ton of fun!  I loved trying new recipes full of veggies!

I want to continue this but with a new flare, a global flare.

The goal will be to make a recipe from each continent!

1. North America
2. South America
3. Europe
4. Asia
5. Africa
6. Australia
7. Antarctica (not sure how this is going to work out just yet as Antarctica doesn’t actually have a human civilization to my knowledge, except scientist).

This means I will do around 2 recipes per week!  I’m pretty excited to try new things!  Just like the December recipe challenge, these recipes will be vegetarian and veggie filled!

If you’d like to join me (vegetarian or not), write a post on your blog and I’ll link you!  If you don’t have a blog, not to worry, you can do a guest post! Just e-mail me at

Also, if you have a recipe/dish to suggest, I’d love to hear about it and try it out!

Come back soon to see new recipes!