Saturday, April 14, 2018

Aw Hell Yah Potato Salad

Last week, Chadwick Boseman hosted Saturday Night Live. While on it, he did a skit as his character, T'Challa, from the movie Black Panther. If you have not seen Black Panther yet, do yourself a favor and go see it while it's still in the theatre. It's worth seeing it on the big screen. In the skit, as you can watch for yourself in the above video link, he references potato salad in conjunction with the stereotype that white people generally under-season their food. "Aw hell naw, Karen!" has become the new viral catchphrase on social media platforms.

While I generally try to steer clear of stereotypes as much as possible, I have to admit to being a Karen at times. I have definitely been guilty of under-seasoning my food. And I went to culinary school! So, in order to not be a Karen, I decided to create my own potato salad recipe that would hopefully not be "bland-ass". And definitely wouldn't have any raisins...! And apologies in advance because this isn't a measuring type of recipe. You just go by what you have and what seems right. So I present to you, my recipe for:

Aw Hell Yah Potato Salad 
Russet potatoes, scrubbed, poked with a fork like you would do for baked potatoes (I used 3 good-sized potatoes for this)
Eggs (I used three. Two for in the salad and one for the garnish)
Bacon (I used the very thick-cut regular bacon from the butcher's counter at my grocery store. Three slices. Two for in the salad and one for the garnish)
Dill pickles, chopped
Dill pickle juice (I used 3-4 Tbsp.)
Black olives, sliced
Green onions, sliced (I used the white and light green parts for in the salad, and the dark green for the garnish)
Mayonnaise (about 3/4 cup)
Sour Cream (about 1/3 cup)
Yellow Mustard (about 1-2 Tablespoons)
Hot Sauce of choice (to taste. I was going to use Tabasco but my bottle was really old so I used a bottle of habanero pepper sauce I had on hand instead. I used about a half teaspoon but it could have used a little more.)
Dried dill (to taste)
Black pepper (to taste)
Cayenne pepper (to taste)

Paprika for garnish (this is not optional)

Place the scrubbed, poked potatoes and eggs in a large pan of salted water, over high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat a little to avoid boiling over onto the burner. My potatoes took about a half hour to cook, but remove the eggs after about ten minutes of boiling to avoid overcooking. Just use a spoon to remove them and place them in cold water and set in the fridge to cool down completely.

At the same time, cook the bacon. I usually do the thick-cut bacon like this in the oven. From the above picture, you can see that I put it on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper. I cooked it at 325 degrees for about a half hour, turning it over halfway through and draining off the oil before putting it back in the oven.

When the bacon is cooked, remove it from the pan and let it drain on paper towels. Place in the fridge to cool down.

When the potatoes are cooked through, turn off the stove and remove the potatoes to a large plate. Let them sit a few minutes to cool off a bit before placing in the fridge to cool even more. Don't cool them completely, just get them to the point where you can handle them with your hands without burning them. At that time, use a knife to peel the skin off and cut the potatoes into chunks. Place in a bowl that will be large enough to fit all the ingredients and be able to be stirred without dripping, as well. While the potatoes are still warm, pour the pickle juice over them and mix well, trying not to break up the potatoes too much. (I got the pickle juice idea from a coworker who likes to add pickle juice to her devilled eggs. I thought this might be a good way to season the potatoes themselves and really let flavor absorb into them.) Place the potatoes in the fridge and allow them to cool completely.

For the dressing, mix the mayonnaise, sour cream, mustard, dill, hot sauce, cayenne, and black pepper together in a smaller bowl. When the bacon is cool enough, chop up two of the slices and add them to the dressing. Mix well and refrigerate until ready to use. Note: In spite of T'Challa's disgust that Karen's potato salad was only seasoned with a little bit of salt, do not put salt in the dressing. Trust me on this one. There's enough salty elements in this salad that it's not needed.

When everything is chilled, you can assemble the salad. Peel the eggs, chop two of them and add to the potatoes. Add the chopped pickles, green onions, and sliced black olives. Mix well. Pour the dressing over and mix well. Adjust the dressing ingredients to make sure the potatoes are well-dressed. I ended up adding a little more mayonnaise and hot sauce. Mix just enough to blend everything, but not enough to break the potatoes down.

Slice the last egg, chop the last slice of bacon, and top the potato salad with them. Sprinkle with paprika. Top with the green onions. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours to allow the flavors to blend together properly.
This is what I ate with my dinner tonight and it was fantastic! I think the pickle juice on the potatoes really helps season the potatoes. You can dress potatoes with highly-seasoned dressing, and most of the time you can still taste the blandness of the potatoes underneath it. This helps combat that. Mixing the bacon into the dressing allowed the flavor to really permeate it. It would be less flavorful just to mix the bacon with the potatoes. I highly recommend doing it this way. And the sour cream adds a depth to the dressing that would otherwise be lacking if I'd just used mayonnaise. This is how I make devilled eggs, so I had a feeling it would work well in potato salad as well. I'm definitely sold on that.

I was really happy with this potato salad! I'm going to give some to my parents tomorrow and I'll probably share some with coworkers on Monday. Beside that, I'm going to eat it all myself!

I would like to think that T'Challa himself would enjoy this potato salad, but unless he comes to visit, or I get a chance to go to Wakanda, I'll just have to speculate! But you can try this out and let me know what you think. And if you come up with even better ideas, let me know!

Happy Eating!

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Women's History Month Dinner

So, March is Women's History Month and I wanted to acknowledge it. My friend and I came up with an idea to entwine women's history with my food blog by doing a meal in honor of the month. But how to do it? Well, I decided to gather five women from history and do a meal in their honor. Have you ever watched those shows where people from different walks of life gather at a dinner table and they just record whatever is said? It's always interesting, and that's what I had in mind. My friend chose Mae Jemison, and from there I assembled a group of women who worked well with her. Then I planned a meal based on the times and locations they were from.

The women at my "dinner party" last night, were:
Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African American female astronaut. Medical doctor, and Peace Corps member, prior to joining NASA. Born 1956, Decatur, Alabama. Still living.
Katherine Johnson, one of the African American women who helped integrate NACA/NASA, and helped derive the mathematical equations needed to send John Glenn into space, and later, to send the first astronauts to the moon. Born 1918, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Still living.
Valentina Tereshkova, the first woman in the world to go to space, in 1963. Born 1937, Maslennikovo, Russia. Still living.
Nichelle Nichols, an actress best known for her role as Lt. Nyoto Uhura from Star Trek and the subsequent movies. Born 1932, Robbins, Illinois. Still living.
Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly across the Atlantic, unaccompanied. Possibly best known for her disappearance during a flight that has never truly been resolved. Born 1897, Atchison, Kansas. No known death date, but based on her birthdate, I doubt she'd still be alive today.

Why these particular five women? Well, this is how I connected them together: Katherine Johnson and Valentina Tereshkova are both part of the Space Race of the 1960's. Nichelle Nichols and Star Trek's success wouldn't exist without the Space Race. She also became an ambassador for NASA and helped draw people of color to the organization. One of those people, was Dr. Mae Jemison, who was so inspired by Star Trek that she actually guest starred on Star Trek: The Next Generation. And none of those women would have been able to do what they did, if pioneers of aviation like Amelia Earhart hadn't started it all with airplanes. I can only imagine that they'd have a fascinating conversation if they'd ever had a chance to get together.

What do you serve a group of women such as these icons? I didn't want to do freeze-dried space food, because it's gross and you can't actually do that much with it. Since most of these women were associated with the Space Race, I thought that focusing on foods of the 1950's-1970's would be best. I scoured the internet and my own recipes and came up with a whopping five recipes! An entree, a starch side, a dessert, an appetizer, and a beverage! And though it wasn't a recipe, I did do a veggie side as well. I was in the kitchen from about 1pm, to 7pm working on all of it! Two of them are my own recipes from my collection, with no sources listed. I will write them out here. The other three are from the internet and I will provide links to those recipes, as they aren't my own.

Sparkling Strawberry Lemonade
1 pt. strawberries, leaves removed, chopped
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 4 lemons-worth
3/4 cup superfine sugar(superfine really is the better kind of sugar for this recipe as it dissolves more easily. The mixture isn't heated, so regular sugar wouldn't dissolve in it.)
Seltzer water, unflavored, chilled

Puree the strawberries with the lemon juice and the sugar.

You can refrigerate this mixture until ready to serve. When you're ready to serve it, pour some of the lemonade concentrate into the bottom of a cup and top it off with the seltzer water. Adjust to your tastes by adding more water or concentrate, if needed.
This one is suuuuuuper delish! It's bubbly and tangy and just sweet enough. I was really happy with this recipe.

Next up, is Shrimp Salad on Cucumber Slices
This is a pretty basic shrimp salad recipe. You use celery, dill pickle relish, green onions, chopped shrimp, and mayonnaise. I used the medium-sized, 51/60 shrimp, as opposed to bay shrimp because I don't think bay shrimp has much flavor. My grocery store sells it already cooked, fresh, in the fish section, so I bought a handful and cut off the tails before chopping them up.
I put some of it on cucumber slices, as the recipe calls for, and some on Ritz crackers. Both worked great!
I used dried dill as a garnish and that just made the color pop even more. This is a really simple, but elegant appetizer. Next up, was my entree...

Easy Baked Chicken Kiev

6 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/3 cup seasoned Italian-style bread crumbs
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. dried oregano, divided
Black pepper
2 Tbsp. butter, softened
1 Tbsp. finely chopped parsley
1 egg, beaten with 1 Tbsp. cold water
3 oz. low-fat Monterey Jack cheese

1.) Place breast halves, one at a time, between two sheets of plastic wrap. With the flat side of a mallet or with a small heavy frying pan, gently pound breasts until each is about 1/4" thick. Set aside.
2.) Combine bread crumbs, Parmesan, 1/2 tsp. oregano, and a little black pepper. Spread on a plate and set aside.
3.) Mash together the softened butter, parsley, and 1/2 tsp. oregano; set aside. Whisk egg with water, pour onto a plate and set aside.
4.) Cut the cheese into 6 sticks, measuring about 1.5"x2". Set aside.
5.) Spread a little of the seasoned butter on each chicken breast. Lay a piece of Jack cheese about 1" from lower edge. Fold lower edge of breast up over cheese, fold in sides and roll up to enclose filling. (Note: I ended up having to use toothpicks to secure them. Just make sure to remove them before serving.)
6.) Roll each bundle in egg mixture, then in bread crumb mixture, until evenly coated. Place bundles, seam-side down, without touching, in a 9"x13" baking dish.
7.) Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 425 degree oven about 20-25 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center.
As you can see, I only did two instead of six, but it turned out really well! If you have never had this dish, as I hadn't, it's the same basic concept of Chicken Cordon Bleu, but without the ham, and a different type of cheese. I chose this dish because I feel it would have been considered the height of sophistication for the time period at which I was aiming. I took the toothpicks out and cut the chicken into slices to display the melty cheese. It felt even fancier that way!

For my starchy side, I chose this recipe: Minute Rice Pilaf. Why Minute Rice? you might ask. Because it's the food of the future! It's science and it's food! And it cuts down on the amount of time it takes to cook, thus giving the average 50's-70's housewife more time to do other things than housekeeping. She can have more time in her day to pursue her interests outside the home! What we today in 2018 might scoff at as "cheapo" or "lazy" food, was revolutionary when it came out. Women didn't have to worry as much about coming home from work(if they were one of the ones who worked outside the house) and having to spend hours preparing dinner for their family(because of course they were still expected to keep house and tend the children).

I must admit, I was skeptical at first of the idea of Minute Rice. I think I'd tried some in the past and haven't cared for it. This particular recipe is a rice pilaf, slightly akin to Rice-a-Roni(don't be a food snob, you know you eat the stuff!) but it actually cooked faster! It had less powdered ingredients, and more natural ingredients. I used chicken broth, but fortified it with a sodium-free chicken bouillon packet to keep in the spirit of the recipe. I also used the dried parsley flakes because I think fresh parsley is generally a huge waste of time that doesn't really add much to the final outcome of a dish, besides being a pretty bit of green on top. I happened to have the slivered almonds on hand, and I threw some in as well. If you have some, I highly recommend it. It adds flavor and texture.
Here are all the elements, prior to being fully cooked. I was really pleased with the outcome of this dish. It was flavorful and the rice tasted just like any other rice. The texture was great. And it only took five minutes!! It's really quite incredible. I highly recommend this recipe.

For my veggie side dish, I had a mixture of green beans and asparagus. I sprinkled them with dried tarragon, salt, and pepper. I poured on a little olive oil and mixed it all on a sheet pan and roasted them. The tarragon works really well with these vegetables. It all just tasted like spring! And it was quick and easy.
Here's the meal, in all its glory! As you can see, I cut the chicken into slices and the cheese is showing. The flavors of all these items worked really well together. It was filling, but not heavy, and it all looked so elegant! I was extremely happy with all of it. I would eat any single one of them again!

Now, onto dessert. So far, everything felt centered on the people from the 60's, so I wanted to have something dedicated to the time era of Amelia Earhart. I turned to the 30's and looked around for recipes, and found this gem: Grandma's Great Depression Cake. This was a fun one because most of it was actually cooked on the stove! And it involved some food science!
 You start by boiling most of the items on the stove. It sounds wacky, but it works!
Post boiling. You can see that the raisins have absorbed some of the liquid.
This is the fun science part! Baking soda and salt are mixed with water before being poured into the slightly cooled mixture and it bubbles and froths! This is where the leavening comes from.
 Baking powder and flour get mixed and then added to the frothy liquid.
 The final batter before it gets poured into the pan to bake. It looks like a cake mix to me!
 Freshly out of the oven! Mine needed only about 50 minutes to bake, so I recommend testing it after 45 minutes and seeing where it stands, baking-wise. When it cooled down, I sprinkled it with powdered sugar.
This was my piece for dessert last night. It's really dense and moist and tasty! It's like a gingerbread cake, but there's no ginger. It was still wonderful the next day when I shared it with my family for Easter dinner. The rest will be going to work with me where it will probably be eaten in ten minutes!

This whole meal was incredible! I loved every bite of it and every moment of preparing it. I have plans for more meals next March to do this again, hopefully at least twice. So, if you liked this post, stay tuned for next March where I will do more posts like this!

Looking for something to watch while you eat this amazing meal? Here are a few suggestions:
-Hidden Figures, the story about Katherine Johnson.
-Night at the Museum Two, featuring Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart.
-Any episode of the original Star Trek series.
-Episode 6.24 of Star Trek: The Next Generation, guest starring Dr. Mae Jemison.

And if nothing else, watch this hilarious Drunk History story of Nichelle Nichols and how she integrated not only science fiction, but all of space!

I hope everybody had a lovely Women's History Month. I'll see you next year!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Irish Culture Appreciation Day 2018

I found and tested three recipes on Saturday. Two of the three turned out well and one of them, not so much. I will talk about the two that did, and we'll just forget the one that didn't, because it was that bad...! I was going to write about this earlier but the "luck of the Irish" ran out on me Saturday morning when my internet died and it took until Monday to get it back up and running! So here, at long last, is the post!

Entree: Dublin Coddle with Pearl Barley, courtesy of this website. I don't eat beef, so corned beef and cabbage is out for me. Besides, it's a very popular dish for this day and I wanted something different. Bacon, sausages, potatoes, and barley all cooked in one pot? Now that sounds fantastic to me! I had to try it. It totally worked.

Two kinds of breakfast meat and two kinds of carbs in one entree? Yes, please! Here is the obligatory, "prepped food before it's cooked," shot.
Post sausage and bacon browning. The barley has been mixed in, the onions are on the bottom, and the bay leaf is somewhere in the middle of it all.
The layer of potatoes on the top. Chicken broth is added and it cooks everything! I found it a little dry, the barley absorbed all the liquid. If you want it more "stewy," I would suggest adding more broth than it calls for.
This is the finished product! It's not fancy or that pretty to look at, but it is hearty and tasty! The flavors are simple and not highly seasoned beyond the salty/smoky of the bacon and the spices in the sausages, but it's still good. I ate all the leftovers over the next few days. It reheats well, but I wouldn't recommend freezing it. Potatoes never freeze and thaw well. This is a great change of pace from corned beef and cabbage, if you want something new, yet not complicated for next year!

Now for the dessert: Irish Shortbread, from here. Every year at Christmas, I make Scottish shortbread. It's delicious and impossible to mess up. I was very curious to see how Irish shortbread differs from its Scottish counterpart, so this was the perfect opportunity to try it out. It turns out, they are similar, but also very different, at the same time!

The cornstarch really changes the texture of the shortbread. With Scottish shortbread, you have to knead the dough with your fingers and my hands are so tired by the end of it. The cornstarch in this recipe keeps the dough from really coming together. It runs a little dry, but it's ok. It does come together a little bit, so you can knead it into a ball, but don't put too much effort into it. This is a really easy recipe!
Here it is, post baking. It bakes for a really long time on a really low temperature and one of my coworkers who tried a piece said it tasted caramelized to her, which makes sense with how it's baked. From here, I cut it into pieces while it was still warm and in the pan. I carefully moved them to a cooling rack when they started cooling down a bit.
 I added powdered sugar to the top because I think it's pretty. Here is the post-cut version.
And here's a close-up of the cookie from the side. It's dense, and slightly crunchy. It's really rich and a little goes a long way! I splurged and bought Kerrygold butter for almost $4 for a half pound and that was on sale!!! Normally I would never, ever spend that much money on that small an amount of butter, but I decided that since it was a special day, and this recipe calls for so few ingredients, that I should make those ingredients really count. I don't know for sure if it made it taste better, but it was definitely more yellow than American butter, so it looked prettier!

The leftover cookies were scarfed down very quickly at work on Monday! It was definitely a winner. I want to make these again at Christmas and try them side-by-side with my Scottish shortbreads. So, to those if you go to Christmas Eve/Day with me, look forward to trying this one out!

Both of these recipes were fun to make and eat. I would definitely make them again. If you're looking for something new to try next year on March 17th, give these a try. You won't regret it!

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Pi Day 2018

So, this year I planned ahead, picked out a recipe, and actually baked the pie the night before Pi Day so I'd be ready to eat pie on the actual holiday. I am very proud of myself! I chose a recipe card from my collection that doesn't have a source listed, so I have no clue where it came from, but it probably came from a magazine of some sort. Here is the recipe, along with my pictures and notes. Enjoy!

Marquis Old-Fashioned Cream Pie
Crust: 12 whole graham crackers, broken
2 Tbsp. sugar
6 Tbsp. butter, melted
Filling: 2/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 cups cold milk
4 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1 Tbsp. butter
Fresh berries

1.) For Crust: Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, blend graham crackers and sugar until finely ground. (Note: I did this later in the evening and didn't want to deal with the noise, so I put the graham crackers in a gallon-size bag and crushed them with the bottom of a heavy cup and also a rolling pin and then I mixed in the sugar. It did just as good, although the crumbs were probably a little bigger than if you'd done it in a food processor. It held up just fine though.) Add butter and pulse until combined. (I dumped the crumbs in a bowl and just mixed the butter in with a fork) Reserve 1/4 cup crumb mixture for topping. Press remaining mixture into bottom and sides of a 9" pie pan. Bake until lightly browned, about 7 minutes. Cool while preparing filling.
This is post-baking.

2.) For Filling: In a 3qt. saucepan, whisk together sugar, salt, and cornstarch. Add milk and egg yolks and whisk to combine. Heat mixture over medium heat, whisking constantly, until mixture begins to bubble. Cook 1 minute longer.
(Note: This takes a lot of upper arm strength. It does take time for this to come to a boil and start to thicken, but stick with it, because it will work and it's worth it! Also, this will create a thick layer of froth while it's heating and you'll probably be concerned about it, but it will disappear when it thickens.)

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla, nutmeg, and butter; place over an ice bath to cool slightly before pouring into baked crust.
I thought the nutmeg was a little too strong, for my tastes. I would cut this 1/4 tsp. down to 1/8th next time. Nutmeg is a classic flavoring with dairy-based sauces, though, so don't skip it entirely!
This was my idea of an ice bath because I don't have ice cube trays in my apartment. It worked pretty well, actually. I recommend this method if you too, don't have ice cubes readily available!
This is the cooled filling after it's been whisked over the ice bath.
Here is the nearly finished product. Before being covered with plastic wrap.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 5 hours or overnight. Sprinkle with reserved graham cracker crumbs. Serve cold with berries.

Makes 6 servings (Note: The recipe says it makes 6 servings, but I think that's not accurate. I'd say 8 servings is correct because 6 pieces would be gigantic!)

I used a combo of blueberries and blackberries because that is what my store had on sale! Raspberries would be fantastic with this as well. Strawberries might work, but you'd need to cut them into smaller pieces. The top of the pie is slick so the berries might slide around a bit, but the graham crackers help keep them in place.
My piece!

I took the rest of this to work the next day and when I set it out on the counter on my morning break, it only took about 10 minutes for it to be devoured!

This was a fun experiment and I'm really glad it worked out so well. I usually don't have luck making homemade pudding-type foods, to the extent that I was actually banned by my parents at one point in time from trying anymore, when I still lived at home. I guess I was wasting too many ingredients! But nothing was wasted on this pie. If you're a cream/custard pie fan, this is the pie for you!

Happy Baking!

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Wakanda Forever

I saw Black Panther when it came out opening weekend a couple weeks ago. I loved it so much, I went and saw it the next weekend too. Aside from all the incredible and timely political and social messages of the movie, the film itself is visually stunning. It's nice to see Africa portrayed as more than just the savanna or the desert. The clothes, hair, and make up are just as stunning too. There was so much attention to detail, except for one area: food. The only food we see in the film is something that looks like chicken cooking on a grill, and plates of food at an outdoor cafe. None of the main characters ever eat or have a dining scene. As a foodie, I was sad that I had nothing to draw from to envision how people in Wakanda eat. Food is how I see the world and understand people and cultures, so, I decided to figure it out for myself!

The first step was to find where Wakanda is. According to the movie, it's on the eastern side of the central part of the continent, near Kenya, Uganda, South Sudan, and Ethiopia. I researched recipes from those countries and contemplated certain issues like, what sorts of ingredients do they use in Wakanda? New World ingredients like tomatoes, corn, and beans, are prominent in a lot of African recipes, but don't come from Africa. Because they come from the New World, they are a symbol of colonialism, which we know Wakanda was not subjected to. But those ingredients are so prominent, and with me being in Seattle, I have limited ability to get my hands on foods native to that region of Africa, so I decided to partake of those ingredients. Wakanda never had to deal with colonialism, so they could freely enjoy the foods of the New World without the history behind it, if they wanted to.

I chose four recipes, and will write about my experiences in cooking them. I will not be writing out the recipes, because I want to promote the sites I got them from, because these recipes are definitely not mine! I'm just enjoying them and signal boosting. I was very happy with the results and I'm sure you will be too!

Here is one of my favorite types of pictures: the grand total of ingredients before they've been prepped. It took about three hours to prep and cook the meal last night, and about two hours this morning for the dessert that I ran out of time to do, but I guess I shouldn't be too shocked it took that long with this amount of ingredients!

Up first is Ndizi na Nyama, aka, Plantains with Meat. The recipe can be found here.
After the original shot of all the ingredients, I separated them out by recipe and did a smaller one for each recipe. This is what I needed for the Ndizi na Nyama. The original recipe calls for beef, but I chose chicken since I don't eat beef. Any meat that you like most will work. And if you didn't want meat, you could probably use canned garbanzo beans. I think the texture would work pretty well with the plantains.
Here's all the ingredients, prepped and ready for cooking. The plantains took a lot of effort to get out of their skins. I don't know if it was because they were as green as they were or what; I don't have much experience with plantains. But be patient and ready to dig them out with your hands if you need to. Don't worry, I was wearing gloves the whole time!
This is what the stew looks like when it's done. The chicken is cooked separately from the vegetables and coconut milk, and then it's all mixed together at the end. The tasted great, not very spicy, but very flavorful. It was even tastier reheated the next day for lunch. 

Next up, is East African Rice Pilau, courtesy of Immaculate Bites. I'm sure we're all well acquainted with rice pilaf, some of us eat it in Rice-a-Roni form rather often(guilty as charged). The recipe originated in the Middle East, so how did it end up in Africa? Well, just as the western side of Africa had trading with Europe and the Americas, the eastern side had trading with Asia and the Middle East. They're all connected via the Indian Ocean, after all. It makes a lot of sense that recipes would be traded along the way as well as ingredients.

 The pre-prepped pile!
 Post prep!
Just like Rice-a-Roni, this pilau starts off with frying the ingredients. We start with the cashews and spices. The aroma from this was incredible!
 Then we add the rice and veggies and fry those for a bit.
I used a combination of chicken stock and coconut milk for the liquid. I had the rest of the can of coconut milk from the Ndizi na Nyama recipe, and poured that into a 1 cup measuring cup. It ended up being about 3/4 cup. I rounded that out with chicken stock and then did 3 more cups of stock. If you wanted, you could use vegetable stock and this would be completely vegan.
This is what it looks like while it's cooking. I had the wrong kind of rice for this, so it needed a little more stock than it called for. Just taste it when it's nearly done and see how it tastes. Add more liquid if it's too crunchy still. The recipe calls for basmati rice, and I bought basmati rice in bulk from the grocery store. But the next day, when I opened the bag, I could smell the rice and saw it was in fact, jasmine rice, not basmati. The store had put the wrong kind of rice in the dispenser!!! The two are totally different kinds of rice! I'm generally not a big basmati fan, but I would like to try it in this recipe. 

This rice is a little spicy from the jalapeno, but it works well with the coconut milk. And don't underestimate the amazing inclusion of the cashews. That was brilliant! I also forgot the tomato for this recipe, but I fished some out from the Ndizi na Nyama and tossed them in with it so at least there were a few. I knew I was bound to make a mistake with attempting three big recipes like this simultaneously, but at least I found a bit of a work-around for it!

Today I ate some of the rice reheated with the Ndizi na Nyama mixed in with it. The flavors really mesh well, so I recommend eating the two together like this. The rice says it makes 5 servings, but I don't know, I think it made way more than that. I gave some to my parents to try and I have enough for a least two more lunches and will be able to share some with coworkers who want to try it out tomorrow.

My vegetable side dish was Sukuma Wiki, or stewed collard greens, via
 And after!
An action shot as it cooks on the stove. Very exciting with the steam!

This recipe could be made with any combination of collard greens and/or kale. I opted for only collard greens, and I found it too bitter for my tastes. The next time I do this, I think I'd try it with kale and see how that works. The baking soda was a brand new trick for me and I really think it worked well. It made the greens super soft and didn't make it taste salty at all like I thought it might. This is a great trick, a little baking soda in your greens to help them cook down faster!

This was the finished product. I plated everything separately because I didn't want the flavors to blend at first. I wanted to taste each item for its own flavor profile. Everything was amazing! The plantains were soft like potatoes, the pilau was an explosion of spices but no one spice took over the dish. The coconut milk tempered the heat. And if you look closely, at the top of the plate is one of my Africa ornaments I bought from Etsy. This ornament currently lives on my ancestor shelf, and was in my pocket when I went to see Black Panther. I thought it was appropriate for it to be in this picture!

But wait, there's more! I ran out of time last night for the dessert, so that became breakfast today. My final recipe was Kenyan Coconut Mandazi, courtesy of

I got up early this morning to make sure these would be ready by the time my parents dropped by so they could try some. This is the first step of the recipe. Flour is measured, water/sugar/yeast mixture is thickening, and the coconut milk/oil/sugar/cardamom mixture has been stirred together.
All of those are combined and then kneaded into dough. I found mine to be very tough and a little dry at first so I added a couple spoons-full more of coconut milk and that helped. Just keep kneading for a while until it's smooth and elastic. I did not need the full ten minutes. And I discovered the best place to let this rise. In the oven! Just turn your oven to Low, cover the bowl with a towel, and set it in there for the last half hour or so of the rising time. Prior to that, I let it sit on top of the stove, above the burner with the stove outlet on it.
After you punch down the dough and divide it in half, you roll it out. I was happy with how well it rolled out without bouncing back like you see a lot when you roll out bread dough.
The original recipe calls for these to be cut into 8 per half, but I couldn't justify something that large. I think mine rolled out way bigger, so I did 16 per half.
 They fry really quickly and are not heavy and greasy at all. They are akin to a beignet, but way lighter and less greasy. Sometimes you eat a beignet and feel like you've eaten bricks by the time you're done. This was quite the opposite, actually...They are light and airy and you sort of forget how many you've had after a while...You just keep going back for more.
My parents ate some, and so did my sister and I have had well beyond my fair share of these delectable treats. I won't tell you how much are left, but there's a lot less than this picture portrays...It's the cardamom that makes it. I sprinkled a little bit of powdered sugar on them and they are perfect!

Making this food was a lot of work, but it was a labor of love. I spent three hours yesterday preparing the dinner. I went into a bit of a trance, as I often do with large amounts of prep work. There's something comforting and soothing about the repetition of movements with chopping and slicing.
With every collard leaf I washed, watching droplets of water roll off their backs like ducks, I thought about the ancestors. Those who grew and ate them in Africa, in freedom, and those who were forced to grow and eat them in the US, while enslaved. The ingredients and recipes bridged the divide between the motherland and the new land from which there was no return.

Spices from all around the world filled the air of my kitchen and tickled my nose, making me sneeze(not into the food!). I could see India, Madagascar, and the Middle East all swirling around in the Indian Ocean and making their way to Africa on the ocean currents. The west, the east, and the center of the world all found their way to my plate last night and it was beautiful and delicious. I felt privileged to have been able to try these recipes. I would eat every single one of them again.

I also thought of Wakanda and what T'Challa, Shuri, Nakia, and Okoye would think of the meal. I hope they would enjoy it! Hopefully in the next Black Panther movie, we can get a meal scene and find out exactly what sorts of foods they eat. But until then, try these recipes out, or look up others from the region and see what you think. If you are a fan of big flavors, you will not be disappointed!

Until then...