Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sometimes...Ya Just Gotta Look Up in an RV

 Some days, it pays to have a husband who walks around, glancing up from time to time.
 Thanks for coming to get me and my camera, Bob...
 keep scrolling down to see what Bob saw.
Gorgeous, huh?

He/She posed very stoically for me.

But...wait for it...keep scrolling.

He/She wasn't alone.

They stayed there for quite a few minutes.

I'm posting the blurry along with the clear.


Monday, February 9, 2015

Belarus in an RV

Tonight was the night for Belarus. On the menu: Draniki, Beef Stew in a Pot and Apple Pie. Click on each recipe name to be magically transported to the original recipe.
This is the Draniki batter. You want potato pulp, not shreds. It will be very liquidy. That's ok. I spooned off some of the liquid as mine were too liquidy.
The Draniki get fried up in a good amount of oil.
These are so good that it's ridiculous! These were used as a "bread" side dish for...
Beef Stew in a Pot. This recipe starts out with diced onion and chopped up mushrooms.
It uses quite a few mushrooms. I used double the amount called for in the recipe. We love mushrooms!
My good friends, John & Kathy Vale, gifted me with this awesome ceramic bean pot. I've yet to make beans in it, but I've made a whole lot of other things...and I used it for this recipe, as well. There's just something about cooking in a ceramic pot, in the oven, well...complete comfort food.
I also used double the amount of beef called for in the recipe, as well. I found this thinly cut bottom round steak on clearance at the store today. In total, the beef cost just over $4.
It gets seared in some hot oil. I used olive oil for this task.
Then you layer the beef into the bottom of the ceramic pot.
Top the beef with 4 cubed potatoes. Fill with water up to the top of the potatoes.
Then top with the onions and mushrooms that you cook down. I put 4 tablespoons of sour cream on top of it all and spread it evenly around.
I just popped the top on the pot and put it in the oven. I let this bake at 350 degrees...the recipe says a medium oven, so I made an educated guess as to the temperature.
Lastly, we have dessert. Belarusian Apple Pie, to be exact. Only, this is not your typical apple pie. I may never go back to enclosing sliced apples in rolled out dough again! I, of course, could not find Belarusian apples. I used Granny Smith.
This simple batter gets mixed up and...
poured over the apples. I did a few things different than the recipe. I added a teaspoon of rum extract and a teaspoon of cinnamon. Apples need cinnamon. And, as for the rum extract...well, everything just tastes better with rum. That's a fact! This got baked in a 350 degree oven for an hour.
Belarusian Apple Pie
This is another one of those recipes that is ridiculously delicious!
So, for the Beef Stew in a can serve it up in a bowl and...
Add a Draniki on the side. Or, you can...
Serve it on a plate. It's up to you!
Tonight's dinner gets 5 out of 5 stars from both Bob and me. It was truly THAT tasty. Total and complete comfort food at its finest!

After 70 years as a constituent republic of the USSR, Belarus gained its independence in 1991. It has retained closer ties,  both politically and financially, to Russia than any of the former republics.
Much of Belarus is a hilly lowland with forests, swamps and numerous rivers and lakes. There are wide rivers emptying into the Baltic and Black Seas. Its forests cover over one-third of the land and its peat marshes are a valuable natural resource. The largest lake is Lake Narach at 31 square miles.
It is a landlocked country in eastern Europe. Belarus borders Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. The capital and largest city is Minsk.  Belarus has a total land area of 80,155 square miles. The population, in 2014, was around 9.5 million.
About 70% of Ukraine's 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster entered Belarusian territory and, as of 2005, about one-fifth of the country's land, mainly farmland and forests in the southeastern regions, continues to be affected by radiation fallout. The UN, and other agencies, have aimed to reduce the levels of radiation in affected areas by using caesium binders and cultivating rapeseed. These are meant to reduce the levels of caesium-137.
The highest point in Belarus is Dzyarzhynskaya Hara at 1132 feet. The lowest point is on the Neman River at 295 feet. The average elevation of the country is 525 feet above sea level. Belarus is in the transitional zone between continental and maritime climates.

Don't forget to vote for the 101st country by scrolling up and looking under the Mt. St. Helens picture on the left hand side. There are 4 countries to choose from.
Well, you all voted and my 100th country (Belarus was number 99) shall be New Zealand. So, until we meet up there...peace!

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Paraguay in an RV

 Today was the perfect day for a Paraguayan dinner. It's raining out. It's pretty miserable, as far as the weather and the neighbor around here goes. I'll get to the latter of that last statement in a later blog post.
On the menu: Caldo Verde, Jicama & Orange Salad and Quinoa Pudding.
Now, the link for the Jicama & Orange Salad will take you to the Epicurious website...just type in the recipe name into the search bar. I'm not sure why the direct link doesn't work. For the other recipes, just click on the names and you'll magically appear there.

 This is the start of the Quinoa Pudding. Now, this is another one of life's little mysteries to me. I really, for many years now, hated how Blogger revamped loading photos onto blogs. I've made myself tired trying to get these dessert photos to go to the right place. They won't frigging do it, so I'll talk about dessert first. Dammit.
I plumped up some golden raisins for about 30 minutes in hot water.
Then I cooked some red quinoa. I got red versus white because the red was a buck cheaper than the white and I have never had quinoa before. What the hell do I know? I know I'm cheap. I went for the smallest package of red I could find. I didn't know if we would like this stuff or not.
 After you plump up raisins, chop up almonds and cook up red quinoa, you put it all together with a basic custard of egg, extracts and milk...
 Sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar...
 and bake it.
 This quinoa stuff ain't half bad!!
Now, onto the main dish of the evening...
 The Caldo Verde starts out with another one of those ingredients that I'm not to sure about: kale. I'm going to be honest and say that I'm not really a fan. I like a very small amount in the colcannon recipe that I make, but I sure as hell don't dig kale chips or stuff like that. If you like kale...well...knock yourself out. You can have mine. You won't get an argument out of me!
 The Caldo Verde start out with a chopped onion and 5 cloves of thinly sliced garlic getting softened in some olive oil. I added a pinch of sea salt to help things along...even though the recipe didn't call for it.
 I mean, do yourself a favor and get a really good, really sharp knife and shave the garlic! You want it paper thin.
Garlic is a funny thing. The more you chop it, the more garlic flavor you release. So, I like this recipe because I love garlic. I put garlic in almost everything! I never have less than 3 heads of it sitting on my kitchen counter at any given point in time!
 Then I peeled up 6 smallish potatoes, cubed them up and added them into the onions and garlic with a bit more salt (I'm talking small pinches, maybe 1/8 teaspoon at a time. Just remember, with salt, you can always add it, but it is hard as hell to take it out! I also added a bare pinch of crushed red pepper flakes.
This boiled in around 2-1/2 cups of water until the potatoes were super soft and I was able to mash some of them against the side of the pan with the back of my wooden spoon.
 Then I added in about 1/2 bunch of kale that I removed the center stems from. Some people like kale on the less cooked side. I'm not one of them. I like mine cooked and a bit mushy. I know that some would say that I overcook it and that's fine. I probably do. But, that's how Bob and I like it. If you don't like it cooked that much, add it in at the end.
I also added a bit more salt and some coarsely ground black pepper at this point.
Then other thing that I did was add another 2 cups of water, at this point, and then I added a packet of vegetable broth concentrate.
 Paraguay is a landlocked country in central South America. It borders Argentina to the south and southwest. Brazil is its neighbor to the north and northeast with Bolivia taking up residence to the northwest.
The Paraguay River runs through the country from north to south.
Paraguay was home to the indigenous Guarani for, at least, a millenium before the Spanish conquered the territory in the 16th century.
Paraguay has experienced a numerous authoritarian governments through the 20th century, with the last being a military dictatorship led by Alfredo Stroessner from 1954 to 1989. He was removed from power by an internal military coup and free multi-party elections were held for the first time in 1993.
In 2009, the population was estimated to be around 6.5 million, with the majority in southeastern region of the country.
The capital and largest city is Asuncion, which is home to nearly a third of the population.
Paraguay's climate ranges from tropical to subtropical. It only has wet and dry periods. The absence of mountain ranges allows for 100 mph winds to tear through the country.
The official languages are Spanish and Guarani.
The total land area is 157,048 square miles.

Delicious Caldo Verde

 Here is the start of the Jicama & Orange Salad. I juiced and...
 zested up a lime.
 The lime juice gets mixed with a good amount of salt, chili powder, cayenne and my own addition of a drizzle of olive oil.
 I got out my serrated knife and segmented up a few navel oranges.
 A good knife is a must for this kitchen task.
 Does that just look fantastic?
 I mean...doesn't that just look seriously fantastic???
 I'm super proud of this salad!

I had to scramble to find the chorizo for the Caldo Verde. I finally found it at the deli of a local supermarket. It was rather expensive, but it is Spanish chorizo. It's completely worth the splurge. Even with that, I still managed to maintain my $20 budget for tonight's meal.
Bob gave the Quinoa Pudding 4 stars out of 5. The Caldo Verde got 4.5. This fantastic salad got 5 stars from Bob. I'd have to say that Paraguay is in our top 3 most favorite meals, to date.
I loved the quinoa. I liked the kale. I loved dinner tonight.
There was a tie for the 99th country on this world cooking tour between Belarus and Canada. I turned to the people who follow the Baked Lava FB page and they voted and broke the tie. Country #99 shall be Belarus.
Please make sure to vote for the 100th country by scrolling to the top of the blog and looking to the left right under the Mt. St. Helens photo and choosing.
So, until then...peace!