Sunday, March 11, 2012

Week 9: Argentina

After Courtney drew week 9's selection, I received an e-mail from my mom saying "Don't cry--it's Argentina!" I certainly didn't cry--I was quite pleased with the selection! Although I was a bit disappointed with the first experience I had with Argentinian culture (seeing Evita on stage last fall), I was quite pleased to delve into Argentinian cuisine. It's a unique cuisine in that not only does it hold true to its regional characteristics (South American styles), but it also has a very strong tie to its European connection.

Courtney jumped in and researched recipes for Argentina and came up with some great options right off the bat. We knew that we had to try the Argentinian staple chimichurri sauce, so in addition to that Courtney found recipes for side items - Receta por Berenjenas en Escabeche (an eggplant side dish) and Ensalada Rusa, a European-inspired potato salad. She also found a recipe for empanadas that she really wanted us to try (a margherita version, which emphasized the Italian flavors of mozzerella cheese, fresh tomato and basil), but mom and I talked her out of it since we weren't quite convinced of its authenticity as well as the fact that we just had the Russian counterpart the week before. The menu we agreed upon was quite delicious though (I also told Courtney we could try the empanada recipe she found another time--don't let me forget!).

Chimichurri sauce

The menu we decided upon was Costillas Con Chimichurri, Receta por Berenjenas en Escabeche and Ensalada Rusa. Costillas con chimichurri (literally "ribs with chimichurri") I somewhat cheated with--instead of short ribs, I opted for top round steak. The berenjenas en escabeche (eggplant in brine) was a recipe we insisted upon since we've had an eggplant in our refrigerator since Japan week that had to be used! The ensalada rusa (Russian Salad) was an interesting find and tie-in to the previous week's fare and according to Courtney's research is hugely popular in everyday Argentinian fare. All of the ingredients were readily available at the local grocery store, so it's a very accessible menu for all who'd like to try it. Courtney found all of the recipes from From Argentna with Love, a food blog dedicated to Argentinian food. The one menu item we wanted to include but had a difficult time finding was mate tea, but the meal was quite satisfactory without it.

Peas and carrots for Ensalada Rusa

The chimichurri sauce was very flavorful and easy to prepare--while I used dried parsley and curled-leaf parsley, the flavors were still distinct and delicious! The most difficult part was chopping the herbs to the right size, which was not too difficult at all. The ensalada rusa was also very easy, as well--we simply had to boil the potatoes and the carrots and peas and mixed them with the dressing (in which we substituted sour cream for mayo--which we somehow were out of at the house--but the sour cream ended up working very well). The eggplant (berenjenas en escabeche) took the most work of the three dishes--first it had to sit in salt for an hour or so, and then simmered in water and vinegar. I actually ruined the eggplant by letting it simmer at too high of a temperature and causing all of the vinegar to be absorbed very quickly which resulted in a highly-vinegary eggplant concoction--I would STRONGLY advise anyone interested in the eggplant recipe to keep a close eye on it while it cooks and to simmer at a fairly low heat.

Simmering eggplant

The chimichurri sauce was a big hit--I enjoyed it more than the meat itself, actually--I would definitely recommend preparing the beef short ribs to have with it rather than the top round steak. The ensalada rusa was also a great hit--the potato and pea and carrot salad is a recipe I certainly plan on bringing to a church potluck in the future! As I mentioned before, the eggplant (berenjenas en escabeche) was an unfortunate victim to my hasty cooking, but the pickled eggplant recipe looked promising and I'd like to try it again. Overall, I would recommend this menu to you all--especially the chimichurri and the ensalada rusa--both would be exotic yet simple additions to your family's weekly dinner menu.

The completed meal

Week 10's selection, the Australian Outback, is coming up next--and no, we're not having "shrimp on the barbie"! Check back in soon to find out about our next stop on our adventure around the world!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Week 8: Russia

Although geographically nearby to week 7's Japan, the menu for week 8's Russia was quite different than the previous week's. And although I have stated in the past (in the Japan blog, actually) that I'm just plain weird about Asian food, Russia is the big (erm, yes, very big) exception--maybe because it's heritage is so strongly European in spite of it's location on the map. Wikipedia clarifies it's positioning as being in "Eurasia," which makes a lot of sense. To me, there's a certain romanticism to Russia and Russian culture--although the country's had its rocky points in its history, its roots go back as far as the 3rd century A.D. The countries to which I can trace my heritage always intrigue me the most, but Russia is, once again, an exception to the rule. The culture and countryside look absolutely beautiful in all of the pictures I've seen (seeing St. Basil's Cathedral is totally on my bucket list) and the culture intrigues me. Ok, so now you know how enamored I am of Russia and why I was so happy to see it after having Japan the week before!

Deep red beet juice

While deciding on the week's menu, we quickly came to the conclusion that our meal had to include borscht; a classic Russian beet soup (which is served hot, not cold like we initially thought). Although all of us were a bit nervous about the beets (having never tried them before), we were all curious to try the authentic Russian staple soup. The other item on the menu was pelmini, a meat-filled dumpling that's a cousin to ravioli and potstickers. Up to this point, Russia's menu has probably had the most accessible shopping list--everything on the shopping list could be found at just about any grocery store. While the borscht recipe called for fresh beets, we used the canned variety which worked quite well; the pelmini called for ground pork, but I opted for a finely minced pork chop instead (thanks for the hard work on that, Courtney!). *Another note about Russian food: much of the cuisine was reminiscent of some of the Czech and German foods I grew up with (featuring beef, cabbage, sauerkraut, sour cream, mayonnaise), so choosing menu items that didn't reflect those recipes we were used to too closely.

Shaping the Pelmini

The cooking/prep methods for the meal were not too complicated, but were a bit labor-intensive. I was in charge of the borscht, which was made up of several different steps of chopping and cooking vegetables in various pots and pans and then combining ingredients in one big pot eventually to simmer together. Also, while the recipe called for 1 lb. of beef with which to make a stock beforehand and then continuing to prepare the soup, I took the shortcut of using canned/pre-made beef broth and browning bite-sized pieces of stew meat that I simmered with the vegetables until tender. Mom and Courtney were in charge of the pelmini and did a great job with its very labor-intensive steps. Mom made the simple dough (which had to rest for at least half an hour) and then she and Courtney began the arduous task of filling 34 pelmini which had to be cooked in 6 separate batches. The work was worth it, though!

Borscht with sour cream & pelmini

We served both the borscht and pelmini with sour cream (as suggested/traditional), as well as brown mustard for the dumplings. We all (except Rick) loved the borscht with the sour cream (I added a bit of vinegar to mine which off-set the intensity of the beet flavor)--it was really not much unlike a vegetable beef soup that we're all familiar with. The pelmini were VERY tasty without the sour cream or mustard, but the sour cream put them over the top! While they were a bit rich (and too doughy for mom's taste), each pelmin was a tasty treat alongside the healthy borscht made with a variety of vegetables and lean meat (well, it was healthy until I put an inordinate amount of sour cream in mine--shhh, don't tell!). Overall, Russia's been another one of those menus I'd be happy to re-use throughout the year and would highly recommend to everyone!

Courtney's already drawn the selection for week 8--and for this week, we're jumping to another hemisphere yet again. This week's choice is Argentina--just from our brief research so far, we've found that Argentinian cuisine is a unique mix of Old European and South American flavors and traditions that'll prove to be some of the most interesting thus far for sure. Do you have any favorite Argentinian recipes?

Once again, thank you for reading the blog and being patient with me while catching up. As always, if there's a country you want to join us for, drop me a line and we'll make it happen! I look forward to hearing your input and recipe suggestions!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Week 7: Japan

For week 7, mom asked me if I wanted to draw--with a bit of nervous excitement, I drew, and let the whole family know exactly how I felt: "oh no--not Japan!" Not that there's anything wrong with Japan--not in the least--but for me there's just that something about Asian food that's so mysterious and unknown (and that I automatically associate with strong fish/seafood flavors) that leaves me reeling. The rest of my family seemed cool with the idea of Japan, though.

This week's menu was all researched by Courtney, and decided by all of us that the week should feature either tofu or (as I have feared) seafood. I'll admit that the thought of tofu vs. seafood was not too comforting to me, but I was bound and determined to try whatever we chose with an open mind. The selections that made up our menu were all chosen from a website Courtney found that documented authentic Japanese recipes and cuisine ( Our dishes were Aromatic Baked Salmon, Ochazuke and edamame with cherries. About half of this menu employed everyday foods for our family, and the other half was more exotic--actually, it may be more like 1/3 everyday ingredients and 2/3 exotic. The salmon dish had several special ingredients, including the main ingredient (salmon--a rare protein choice for our family), sake, mirin and yuzu. While we couldn't find the yuzu (we simply substituted with other citrus), we were able to find salmon and sake and I made my own mirin. The ochazuke was a fairly simple recipe that could be "jazzed-up" with each person's particular favorite flavors--at it's heart, ochazuke is white rice with green tea served over it and then topped with any of a various array of toppings. The edamame with cherries, as you might assume, was a pretty straight-forward recipe--although we don't usually have edamame or cherries in the house, they were easy to find at our local Harris Teeter (and while I found rice vinegar, I opted against spending the $6 for a bottle I might only use once and instead used good 'ole fashioned white vinegar).

Soy Sauce and Soybeans (mistakenly attributed as edamame!)

While discussing my family's plans for Japan week, my friend Brandi mentioned that Japanese food focuses on purity of flavors and that foods are not overly cooked or seasoned--I found that to be true with the prep and cooking processes for this meal. The fish rested for a few hours in a soy sauce/sake/mirin marinade and then simply baked in the oven for a short time. The rice was very easy--as simple as putting rice in the rice cooker and brewing a pot of green tea (which we all know I have quite the "stash" [you tea nerds will get the joke]). The edamame dish was also simple--all that we had to do was blend some of the beans with oil, vinegar and cherries and then mix in with the rest of the beans after they're heated through (in this case, I used dried cherries which I re-hydrated in cranberry juice the night before). The process for preparing this meal, albeit composed of several steps, was not at all complicated and was quite easy to follow.

Salmon in its marinade

As far as the end result--well, let's just say I had the right feeling when I drew Japan out of the hat in the first place! I was not much of a fan of the meal as a whole, personally. The salmon had a strong fishy taste (which, if that's what you like, is great--it's not my thing, however), but the flavor of the marinade was quite nice. The ochazuke didn't translate very well for me, either--I love rice and I love tea so I truly thought it was going to be a home-run success, but I wasn't a big fan; although had we used more of the traditional toppings like rice crackers or dried fish flakes (we opted for saltines [BAD IDEA! LOL] and fresh ginger [which I think overpowered the dish, actually]), we may have had a different opinion. I'd really like to give the edamame with cherries another chance--I actually purchased the wrong kind of beans for the recipe ("soy beans" in a can rather than straight-up edamame [another BAD IDEA! ha!]) which had a flavor very different than that of edamame (mom said the soy beans had a flavor similar to black eyed peas, which I don't care for much either). Overall, I would say that we learned a lot from the Japan meal experience--while I'd more than likely not prepare the salmon again, I might try it again with a less "fishy" fish and take another stab at both the ochazuke and the edamame with cherries. As shocking as it is for me to say, though, I think my favorite parts of the meal were (not-so-surprisingly) the cherries and the sake! The sake is a bit strong, but I truly like the flavor of it!


Thank you for bearing with me with my late blogging--I've been a bit busy these last few weeks, but it's truly important to me to share these ATWin52 experiences with you all! Coming up tomorrow (since I'm in catch-up mode) will be the blog on week 8's country--Russia! Although there was no vodka involved, we still had a great Russian meal experience--check back soon to find out about it!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week 6: Zimbabwe

To start, my apologies for posting the blog a bit late--it's been a whirlwind week!

As we sat down to dine on our African fare, The Lion King came on TV

For week 6, we chose Zimbabwe, a country located in southern Africa. We knew right away after doing our initial research that we simply had to include the Zimbabwean staple food, sadza but definitely steer clear of Mopane Worms (blech!). Sadza is a type of porridge made from white cornmeal that Zimbabweans eat with nearly everything--it's so popular that people refer to meals as "sadza" due to it's prominence. It is served with a stew or "relish" and is eaten in a unique way--by hand! We also learned quickly that in Zimbabwe, it's not just what you eat with your sadza, but also how you eat it--Zimbabwean custom dictates that those dining all sit on the ground in a circle with the pot of sadza placed in the center between everyone. After washing your hands in your personal bowl of washing water, you tear off a piece of the hot sadza, flatten it out, and scoop out your stew with it and eat. Another important point to note is that Zimbabweans only eat with their right hands (the last time mom tried to dine on sadza with her left hand, the dinner hosts simply took off her left hand--if you don't believe me, ask her!).

Spinach for the Dovi

Choosing the menu was theoretically simple--find a stew to serve with the sadza. After much research and some debate, we chose a recipe for dovi, a peanut butter-based stew (the debate was over whether dovi was original enough or not since mom had prepared a similar African dish in the past--peanuts and peanut butter are common ingredients in African cooking). Mom also decided to include a spinach side, which also included peanut butter. The ingredients for the entire meal were very easy to find--in fact, I think we bought everything from our local Harris Teeter, so it's a meal that's quite accessible to everyone; the recipes used familiar cooking methods, as well. Mom prepared the stew and the spinach with little to no trouble (I'd say the most time-consuming steps were prep work and allowing the stew to simmer for awhile) and I prepared the sadza. The steps for the sadza included mixing sadza with water and then simmering the mixture; after the brief simmer, add more cornmeal gradually and continue to stir until the mixture pulls away from the sides of the pot (which will wear you out--it gets thick!)--it only took me about 10 minutes to make the sadza. We served it warm alongside the dovi with spinach.

Eating our sadza Zimbabwe style

The flavor of mom's dovi was very tasty--the combination of peanut butter, tomatoes and chicken, although a departure for most American palettes, blend very well together--even Rick liked it! Although Courtney wasn't a big fan of the spinach (and Rick didn't even try it), it was delicious as well--wilted spinach cooked in peanut butter was a unique-for-us approach that I'd suggest you try. The sadza, which was met with some trepidation from mom (and myself somewhat) for fear it would be a soggy cornmeal mush-type food, was a hit--we added some salt when we cooked it which may have helped it along for our tastes; not only was the sadza a success, I think we all found ourselves indulging on too much of it! Overall, our Zimbabwean meal was delicious--a meal you can (and should!) prepare for your family at home.

We were also very pleasantly surprised to find The Lion King on TV just as we sat down to eat--how awesome was that! Yay Africa!

The Circle of Life

For Week 7, it's Japan--I won't lie, I've been a bit apprehensive about this one! Blog coming soon (since the fish is marinating as we speak ;-D).

Monday, February 6, 2012

Week 5: Thailand

This week, we ventured to Asia for the first time during ATWin52 while trying the flavors of Thailand. We followed the normal protocol of drawing a country out of the hat (rather than just picking a country without drawing as we did with Scotland last week). Thailand is one of those countries whose food I was anxious to try--it's a cuisine I've had some familiarity with (mostly through satay and through the assumption that it couldn't be much different from Chinese), but also a cuisine that offered a wide array of brand new flavors. My research of their cuisine quickly showed me the unique qualities of Thai food/culture, such as the beautiful characters in their written language, as well as the language itself which, while obviously Asian, translated into unique English phrases. The unique style of food preparation and ingredients also stuck out to me--Thai cuisine (what I've observed of it) is made up of many soups and rice noodle dishes (such as pad thai) with fresh ingredients including a variety of fruits and vegetables, herbs and spices, peanuts and lots of fish sauce; their cuisine is quite fresh and refreshing in preparation and ingredients.

After sifting through many Thai recipes, we opted for an American spin on two authentic Thai recipes. The "spin" was the classic combo of "soup and salad"; not that the two aren't eaten together in Thailand, but we thought it would be a nice change of pace from other cooking methods we've been using so far (yes, for those of you keeping score, we have had a soup--and a stew--already, but still ;-D ). Many Thai recipes are stir-fry in nature and recommend a wok for preparation (which we don't have), so that factor also played into our choices. Of the multitudes of Thai soups and salads to choose from, we opted for Tom Ka Gai and Som Tam. Tom Ka Gai is a spicy chicken soup with coconut milk (yes, this is the second instance of using coconut milk, but we thought it was okay since it's such a different interpretation than pollo con leche de coco) and Som Tam is a salad made with bean sprouts and papaya.

Thai Chilies, Baby Corn (which we DID NOT use) and Rice Noodles

The recipes we chose for the Tom Ka Gai and Som Tam both called for a few ingredients that we didn't have, so we either substituted or simply left out such ingredients as fish sauce, shrimp paste and basil leaves. The som tam called for a green papaya, but we settled for a regular ripe one. That being said, we might not have had the exact flavor experience as those in Thailand do, but we at least got a better idea of what the Thai people like to eat ;-D

Tom Ka Gai

The tom ka gai starts off with sautéing the garlic, ginger, lemongrass (a stalk-shaped herb that has a strong lemon scent) chilies and spices--the fumes from that mixture while cooking were intense! After sautéing the herbs and spices, we added chicken and onions and let them cook through; the next step was adding the water, coconut milk and soy sauce (instead of fish sauce) and letting it simmer for half an hour (note: while the recipe calls for a lot of fish sauce/soy sauce, it's not at all overpowering--if you're concerned about sodium content, consider using a reduced-sodium soy sauce variety). Truly the most difficult step of preparing the soup was chopping up the herbs/vegetables--quite the simple soup! I also cooked some rice noodles to eat with the soup, which I prepared separately by the advice of another tom ka gai recipe. To serve, I put noodles in bowls and then ladled soup over them. The salad was also easy to prepare, with the most difficult/time-consuming steps being cutting up the fruit and vegetables and preparing the simple dressing (oil/soy sauce [fish sauce/shrimp paste]/lime juice). While the recipes required a lot of prep work, the difficultly level/cooking times were not much at all.

Som Tam

Although Rick did not partake in this meal, those of us who did (me, mom and Courtney) absolutely LOVED it! Mom and I actually craved more salt for the soup in spite of the large amount of soy sauce in the recipe, but the flavor of the soup was great--a bit spicy but creamy from the coconut milk. The bok choy gave a slight taste of cabbage, but not to an overpowering extent (considering Courtney enjoyed the soup and does NOT enjoy cabbage). The salad was quite refreshing and was excellent with a sprinkling of crushed peanuts on top. I can definitely foresee this meal being made again and I'll be glad to have it (and share it with you, if you'd like!).

We've drawn for Week 6 tonight--we're going to Africa--Zimbabwe to be exact! I think we've already got some ideas for what we're making, and it's going to be very fun (and perhaps the most authentic experience so far)--who wants in?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Week 4: Scotland

In last week's blog, I mentioned that we weren't drawing for a country this go 'round since we already had a country in mind due to a special holiday. Only one person made a guess (nice effort, Meredith!) but no one guessed that January 25th was Robbie Burns Night. Why is that so special to let us bend the rules and not draw (and, erm, even make something we've had before)? The reason is that my sister and I  are a quarter Scottish--we love our heritage and love celebrating special days (for that matter, we need to take a look at some other countries' holidays--anybody know any Czech Republican/Slovak, Irish, or English holidays we should observe?).  In his honor, I'd like to take a brief paragraph to introduce you to Robbie Burns--the beloved Scottish poet.

Robbie Burns

Robbie Burns (1759-1796), the famous Scottish poet, was born on January 25--hence the celebration of his birthday every year on the same day. He was born in Ayrshire (the same region of Scotland my family's from--yay!) and lived in various parts of the country until his death at age 37. He is known for several poems, including some that you might know: A Red, Red Rose, My Heart is in the Highlands,  and Address to a Haggis. Traditionally, haggis is served on Burns Night in honor of his poem about the meal. <From Wikipedia> Visit the Robert Burns Wikpedia Page to learn more about "Scotland's Favorite Son," his works and the traditional Burns Supper.

Since there is a traditional menu for the Burns Supper, we worked from it to create our Burns Night feast. We decided to include several dishes: cock-a-leekie soup, haggis (vegetarian), neeps and tatties and Highland toffee. Cock-a-leekie soup is basically a chicken and leek soup. Haggis--well--let's say it's a Scottish delicacy! We weren't quite brave enough to try the real thing--and yes, Deidra, you're right--that's the whole point of the ATWin52 experience!--maybe next time I'll be able to convince my family to at least try canned haggis or even this beef "presentation haggis" (wow!). For those of you who aren't aware of what haggis is, here's a brief description: sheep's heart, liver and lungs with other ingredients cooked inside a sheep's stomach (read full description). Needless to say, that's a lot of "special" ingredients to procure, so we opted for the vegetarian version. "Neeps and tatties" is the Scottish phrasing of "turnips and potatoes"; both boiled and mashed separately and served alongside the haggis. The last item, Highland toffee, is a toffee dessert made with oats (while not necessarily a traditional Burns Night dessert, 'tis a traditional Scottish dessert so 'twas quite acceptable).

The soup is a fairly basic recipe which was not too difficult to make--it was time-intensive, though; it required making your own stock which was the most time-consuming part.We strayed away from the recipe's directions somewhat (by omitting bacon and prunes--whoops!). The soup turned out to be quite tasty and not very different than chicken-and-rice soup--the leeks did not carry a strong flavor. The haggis contains an array of ingredients including hazelnuts, oats and mixed spice. Courtney and I had this haggis recipe last year at Burns Night, so re-creating it this time around wasn't too difficult (albeit time-consuming); since we had church on Wednesday night, we did most of the preparation before church and finished it off in the oven after we got home. The veg haggis definitely has a unique flavor--it's similar to dressing/stuffing in both flavor and texture. The neeps and tatties were also simple to make--chop 'em up and get them each boiling in separate pots and then prepare like you would mashed potatoes (except no milk in the tatties). Courtney made the toffee (and did an excellent job on it!), which consisted of baking the oat mixture, coating with melted chocolate and letting it set.

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

Neeps, Haggis and Tatties

Highland Toffee

Everyone liked the cock-a-leekie soup--it was close enough to something we're used to that it was eaten without hesitation. The haggis, well, everyone tried it (way-to-go Rick!) but like I said before, it's quite a distinctive (and highly spiced) flavor--you should totally try it and let me know what you think about it! With the neeps and tatties, we all enjoyed the "tatties" part, which was pretty much good old fashioned American mashed potatoes, but the "neeps" were met with mixed reviews: mom absolutely LOVED them, Courtney managed to eat her portion, and I struggled through mine (only with the help of the bites of tattie and haggis that I put on the same forkful each time!). I honestly tried the "neeps" with an open mind, but the vegetable itself I did not care for--the flavor is reminiscent of cabbage (which I do like), but somewhat different--mom REALLY liked them, so don't let my opinion sway you on the neeps. The Highland toffee was a big hit and a great treat--the oaty flavor along with saltiness and chocolately/caramelly sweetness made it something I'll definitely want to try again!

I hope this week's adventure helped you learn a bit about the Scottish history that Courtney and I love so much--it's a pleasure sharing it with everyone! Props to Courtney this week for doing at least half the work on the feast and taking great photos as always! You did awesome!

We've already drawn our next country--it's definitely a different region than we've visited so far. This week's choice is Thailand. Bring on the suggestions! I think the only Thai food we've ever had is satay, so the opportunities are wide open! Thanks in advance for your suggestions and as always, thanks for joining us on our culinary adventure!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Week 3: Colombia

This past week's country was Colombia. A country that seemed somewhat in our comfort zones, but still exotic enough to make it exciting!

After Rick drew Colombia, I jumped right into the research and after a bit of digging, I found several things I wanted to try--like coconut rice, Colombian red beans and Papas Chorreadas (Potatoes with Cheese). I knew I wanted to try my hand at making plantain as a side dish, which was also something I was excited about (I LOVE plantain--and so does Courtney ;-D ). So this week, for the first time, we prepared a full menu for our country and not just a main dish: plantain as a side, as well as arepas and pollo con leche de coco (chicken with coconut milk thanks to for the authentic recipe name).

The recipes we chose came from three different sources, so you'll have to click each dish for each recipe: pollo con leche de coco | arepas | plantain. The ingredient list for the whole feast was a bit exotic but not extremely so. The plantains only required plantains and cooking spray (go figure!), the arepas just needed instant masa (as pictured below), butter and oil. The main dish was a bit more complicated, as it required two special ingredients that we don't normally keep in our pantry: coconut milk and Sazón Goya con Azafrán (also pictured below). Sazón Goya con Azafrán is a Hispanic seasoning blend popular in Colombian cooking containing saffron (azafrán). We were fortunate enough to find each of these special ingredients at our local Wal-Mart thanks to our large local Hispanic population.

Instant Masa, Plantain and Coconut Milk
Sazón Goya con Azafrán

The meal, although somewhat complex in composition, was not too difficult to prepare. Courtney prepared the marinade (with which she actually improvised a bit and it was great!)  for the chicken which we let the chicken sit in for the afternoon. Cooking the main dish was as simple as browning the chicken, sautéing the peppers/onions/garlic and then simmering them all with the coconut milk and sazón Goya. Courtney also helped me prepare the plantain, which was as simple as peeling/slicing/baking in the oven (make sure you don't get an under-ripe one like we did!). The most complicated part of the meal was the arepas (corn meal cakes), which required making dough and then carefully pan-frying and serving hot. The plantain were delicious, but we concurred that the recipe needed salt for next time. The arepas were quite a pleasant surprise--although Courtney likes corn tortillas, mom and I don't particularly care for them so we had a bit of hesitation with the arepas--but we both LOVED them--very tasty and quite a treat! The coconut chicken was, in a word, OHMYGOSH. It was scrumptious! The coconut milk was slightly sweet and cooking it with bell peppers, chicken and sazón Goya made it incredible. I think it's safe to say that Colombia week has been our favorite week thus far with the coconut chicken and arepas--and although I've said that we'd try the other recipes again, I can say with confidence that we'll definitely do this one again! If anybody wants to try it, shoot me an email and we'll make it happen! ;-D

Pollo con leche de coco, plantain slices and an arepa

Sorry for the late blog again this week--the family took a weekend trip to Atlanta (hi Ashley and Haley and Ron and Cindy and Howie and Zach!!)--now that we've come back home, I'm able to get Colombia's blog up ;-D Thanks to Colombian native Shakira for providing the music for tonight's blog-writing:

This coming week, we're bending the rules and will not be drawing a country because of a special holiday our family likes to observe (I'll give you a hint: it's on January 25th)--do you know which country it'll be?