Sunday, August 14, 2016

An Olympic Meal: Brazilian Pork and Black Bean Stew (Feijoada)

As I've shared in previous posts, I love the Olympics, and I enjoy creating meals around events. During the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, I shared our recipe for borscht, a Russian beet soup. For these Rio games, I did a little work to find a Brazilian recipe that we would enjoy. I settled on a pork and black bean stew. While this recipe is a little similar to the Cuban Black Beans & Rice recipe, I shared earlier this year, it also has its own distinct flair. The name of this stew is Feijoada and has been described as the national dish of Brazil. It can be made with either pork or beef. In Rio de Janeiro, it is most commonly prepared with black beans, other regions of brazil may use red beans. Feijoada also can include vegetables such as kale - we used collards, and it is often served over rice.

Before moving on to the recipe, here are a few fun facts about Brazil:

  • Brazil is the 5th largest country in the world in both area and population
  • Brazil's official language is Portuguese. Portuguese explorers first arrived in Brazil in 1500.
  • Brazil is divided into 5 regions. The north region includes the Amazon rain forest.
  • Brazil's plant and animal species are highly diverse. Over 1,200 species have been identified in the Amazon rain forest alone.

  • Rio de Janiero, the site of the 2016 Summer Olympics, is the second largest city in Brazil. The Christ the Redeemer statue is considered one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World. 

Here is our recipe for Brazilian pork and black bean stew. We've enjoyed it, and we hope you will, too. 

1 pound of black beans
4 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Large sweet onion, chopped - set aside about 1/4-1/3 of the onion to use later
1-2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 or 3 bayleaves, crushed
2 ham hocks - these really are going to provide flavor as much as anything so it's okay if they don't have a lot of meat on them
1 pound sausage - we used andouille, but you could use another smoked sausage such as linguica if you like
1/2 pound bacon
2 bunches of collards
Salt and pepper to taste

1. Soak the black beans overnight in cold water. The next day, drain and rinse them, cover with water, and cook until tender. As the beans are cooking, you can continue with some of the other steps. Note: do not drain the beans after they have cooked. 
2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté about 2/3 of the chopped onion along with the garlic. Stir in the crushed bay leaves and sauté a few minutes longer. 
3. Cover the ham hocks with water and add the remaining onion. Simmer until the meat is starting to fall off the bones. Remove the ham hocks from the liquid and allow them to cool until they can be easily handled. Pour the broth from the ham hocks into the beans.
4. Now to prepare the meat. Pull the meat from the ham hocks and discard the bone and fat.  Slice up the sausage and bacon and place all of the meat on a baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes at 375 degrees until the meat starts to become slightly crispy. Drain off any fat and stir the meat into the bean mixture.
5. While the meat is cooking, you can prepare the collards. I rinse them off well and then separate each leaf half from the stalk. I then stack up the half-leaves (will create several stacks) and roll them up tight like a cigar. Next, I make 1/2 to 1-inch cuts through the collard cigar. In a separate pot, heat another 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the collards to the oil and slowly sauté them. You can add the collards to the oil in stages, allowing some to cook down a bit before adding more. The collards will cook down quite a bit (well, a lot) as you sauté them. You can also add a bit of water if you wish to keep them from sticking to the bottom of the pan. I also covered the pot as the collards were cooking. After they are nice and tender, stir into the beans. You will now have a pot of stew that looks something like this.
6. Ladle your stew over some steamed rice and enjoy your Olympic dinner!

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Visiting States

I have always enjoyed learning about other places. When I was in my middle elementary school years, I could amuse myself for hours on end with a tablet of tracing paper and a set of encyclopedias. I enjoyed learning about different states and countries, and I particularly enjoyed tracing and coloring the maps. 
When I was in the third grade, I was in a combined class that included all of the third graders and half of the fourth graders. One of the fourth graders' assignments was to write a report on a given state. I decided that I didn't want to be left out and asked my teacher if I could write a state report, too. He agreed, and I was delighted to prepare a report on Alaska, the state where I was born. 
Fast forward nearly 40 years to late 2015. While visiting my local quilt shop, I learned of a Block-of-the-Month pattern that would be released in 2016. This project was a quilt made of fabrics featuring the state flowers of each of the 50 states. I very quickly put my name on the list to be included. 
From January through May 2016, each month I received fabric to make 10 blocks. At the end of May, I was ready to put the quilt together. As you can see from the picture at the top of this posting, this is a HUGE quilt. It measures 86.5 x 102.5 inches, so roughly a queen size quilt. The machine quilting was done by Kerrie Curtis from Utah Valley Quilting who did a great job with an all-over design that complemented the designs of the individual blocks.  
The fabrics used in this quilt featured art deco-style prints. The block pattern is the granny square block, a traditional quilt block pattern that has appeared in many quilts through the years. One of the nice things about this quilt pattern is that it didn't require additional sashing strips. As the blocks were sewn together, the white triangles on the outside edges of the blocks joined together to create full size squares that gave the look of sashing between the blocks. 
I thought I would share a few of the blocks with you. I've selected blocks featuring the state flowers of the states that we recently visited during our family's summer vacation. I'm starting with the Utah sego lily. 
From Utah, we crossed over into Wyoming, whose state flower is the Indian paintbrush.
After a long drive through Wyoming, we crossed over into Nebraska. Their state flower is the goldenrod.
The border between Nebraska and the neighboring state of Iowa is defined by the Missouri River. Iowa's state flower is the wild prairie rose.
After a brief drive through Iowa, we reached Minnesota, home to the lady slipper.
After staying for several days in Minnesota, we needed to head for home. Our journey westward took us to North Dakota, who also selected the wild prairie rose as their state flower.
Our travels also included a few days in South Dakota. South Dakota adopted the pasque flower, also known as the May Day flower as their state flower. From South Dakota, we journeyed back through Wyoming and then home to Utah.
Although this post has featured states as physical locations that can be visited, I would also like to reflect, for a moment or two, on non-geographic states. These "states" may be considered our state of mind, state of the heart, or even our spiritual state. I will readily admit that it is easy for us to allow these "states" to be influenced by our circumstances, including other people, the weather, finances, current challenges, uncertainty within our nation or the world - really about anything. In contemplating these "states," I've found myself reflecting on Paul's words in his letter to the Philippians in which he relates his state of contentment despite the widely disparate circumstances he experienced during his ministry years. Of note, too, Paul penned these words while in prison. Perhaps they, too, will challenge you as you contemplate your own circumstances and the "state" in which you are finding yourself.
Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. Philippians 4:11-12

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus … a great snack made with a pretty cool gadget

As I've shared in a few other posts, during the summer time, we enjoy foods with a Mediterranean or Middle Eastern taste to them. Previous posts have featured tabbouleh as well as a pasta salad that includes Kalamata olives. This month I thought I would write about hummus and how we acquired the kitchen gadget that we find useful in making hummus.
For those of you who may be less familiar with hummus, it is a spread or dip made from chick peas, also known as garbanzo beans. Hummus is actually taken from the Arabic word that means "chick peas." Archeological evidence suggests that chick peas have been part of humans' diets since about 6000 BC. Today, they are grown throughout the Middle East, southern Europe, north Africa, and India. Here is a picture of chick pea plants and pods. Note that the pods typically contain only 1or 2 peas.

In addition to being the main ingredient in hummus, chick peas are used in a number of dishes throughout the world. Chick peas are a nutrient-dense food and a great source of protein, dietary fiber, folate, iron, and phosphorus. Their protein quality is ranked higher than that of many other legumes and cereals so they are a great option for those of you who prefer a vegetarian diet. 
In addition to pureed chick peas, key ingredients in hummus include tahini, lemon juice, and olive oil. Tahini is a paste made of ground sesame seeds. You can generally find it in the ethnic foods section of the grocery store. It can be rather messy to work with, and I will share how I go about measuring it for this recipe. Depending on your tastes, you can add other spices and flavorings such as garlic. 
So, now for the story of how we got ourselves involved in making hummus …
A little over a year ago, my husband was marking his 15th anniversary with his current company. He wasn't going to pick out an anniversary gift, but I encouraged him to look through the catalog anyway. One of the choices was a nice Cuisinart food processor. I reminded him that our daughter enjoyed making smoothies and other similar concoctions during the summer months so it might be a nice choice. At that time, we had also made an attempt at hummus using our tiny food processor. Here is a picture of this gadget. Please excuse the Apple product power supply cables in the background.
Now, for the recipe and instructions for roasted red pepper hummus
2 red bell peppers
2 15-ounce cans of chick peas, drained. Reserve some of the liquid from one of the cans in case you want to add it to thin out the hummus mixture a little.
1/3 cup tahini
1/4 cup lemon juice (you may want to add a little more to taste after you have mixed the ingredients together)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons crushed garlic
salt to taste
sprinkling of cayenne pepper to taste

Step 1: Roast the red peppers. This is really the most time consuming part of the process. It's also a bit messy, but the end result is great so hang in there.
Start by brushing the peppers with olive oil, poking a few holes in them and then placing them on a pan under the broiler.
As they broil, you want the outer skin to get nice and charred. Turn them every few minutes so that all of the sides are evenly roasted. When they have finished roasting, they will look something like this.
Place them in a plastic bag and allow them to cool. This cooling process will also allow the skins to loosen. After they are cool enough to handle, peel off the outer skin, cut them open, and remove the seeds. Place the pepper strips in the food processor and puree.
Step 2: Add the chick peas, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, and garlic to the food processor and puree. Quick tip: here is how I measure the tahini. 
As you can see from this picture, the tahini is pretty oily and can be messy to work with. Often times, the oil will separate from the paste so you will need to stir them together before measuring. I have a long cake frosting spatula that I like to use for this purpose. Because the tahini is so thick, I don't want to bend one of my regular spoons. When I go to measure the 1/3 cup for this recipe, I get out the 1/3 measuring cup so that I can get a visual image of how much it is. I then use the spatula to scoop out the approximate amount and put it right into the food processor so that I don't have a messy measuring cup to deal with.
Step 3: Here is where you add additional seasonings as desired. I often add in another teaspoon or two of lemon juice, some salt, and a sprinkling of cayenne pepper. I don't want to overwhelm the hummus with too much spice, but a little hint of cayenne is nice.
Step 4: Eat and enjoy. You can serve hummus with about anything - flatbread, pita bread, pita chips, vegetables - whatever it is you prefer. 
I've had some complements on this hummus from two Middle Easterners who are rather discriminating in their tastes. I take that to be a good thing, and I hope that you will enjoy this recipe as well.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Summer Stitches

Rather than write about a specific project or technique, I thought I would share a few snippets from some of my current projects. For good or for bad, I do tend to be one who often has multiple simultaneous projects. (This is something that is true in my work life as well as my stitching life. I will leave it to my readers to determine the merits of this characteristic.)
Here in Utah, our northern quilt shops have their annual "Shop Hop" in early June. This is always a fun event that is based around a given theme. This year's theme was "Travel Through Time," and each shop was assigned a given time period around which the owners and staff would decorate their respective shops and design a quilt pattern. My daughter and I decided to take a road trip day to visit the shops and check out some local food along the way. Our first stop was Corn Wagon Quilts in Springville, Utah. I love the historic building where this shop is located, and they also always do a great job with their shop hop assignment. To get to the point of this post, my daughter found a display quilt that she really liked. Although the shop was out of the fabric (it turned out to be a fabric line from last year), we were able to buy the book that included the pattern. Fortunately, we were able to locate the needed fabric online, and I've gone to work getting the quilt done. Here is a look at one of the blocks from this "Floating Square" quilt. I will wait to share a larger picture when it is finished. In case you are wondering, I'm liking how it is coming together.
Moving on now to a project that has been in the works for a few years. This is actually a project that I have been looking forward to working on and getting completed. I had a lot of fun picking out the different fabrics to include in this somewhat scrappy looking quilt. The challenge has been just getting it done. A few weeks ago I was making some pretty impressive progress, but I seem to be losing steam again. My challenges have been twofold (I think): 1) the blocks require several stages of measuring and cutting as you go and 2) I need sufficient space for laying out the completed blocks so that I can get a sense of which fabrics I have been using the most as well as which combinations I want to put together. I've started and stopped this project about three times now, but it's on a list of 2016 quilting resolutions that I am being held accountable to complete. Here is one of the blocks. Like the previous project, I will keep you guessing until the entire project is complete.

Lest you think that all I do is start projects, here is a project that I actually finished this week. It's probably no big surprise that it is a sheep. In addition to my machine-pieced projects, I like having a handwork project close by for when I am traveling or watching TV. Yes, I'm one of those who can't just sit and not do anything while watching TV.
One of the fun things about this wool appliqué project was using different decorative embroidery stitches to embellish the individual pieces. Here's a close up featuring a row of stars and a modified herringbone stitch. I also created some blades of grass on the green hillside.
This photo lets you see some of the different textures in the threads I was using as well as some different stitches. The gold on the branch is an overdyed thread. If you look closely, you can see the variegated tones in it. 
I hope that you are finding the time to enjoy a few summer stitching projects of your own. I am looking forward to spending some of the hottest summer afternoons in my cool basement sewing room. 
For fun, I thought I would find a verse that addresses summer. Here is a simple verse from Psalm 74 that is a reminder of God's sovereignty. In the midst of times that can feel troublesome and uncertain, I find security and peace resting in His sovereignty.
You have established all the boundaries of the earth; 
You have made summer and winter. Psalm 74:17

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Sun Safe Salad - and a colorful one at that

 With summer now upon us, many of us are finding ourselves participating in summer gatherings of one sort or another. One of the great things about these gatherings is sharing food with friends. Unfortunately, one of the downsides of such gatherings is the potential for bacteria to be lurking about in food. These bacteria can certainly wreak havoc on picnic gatherers as temperatures rise and the right growth medium is present in the food.
The recipe I am sharing in this post is one that is is relatively sun safe in that it doesn't include ingredients that tend to serve as a growth medium for bacteria that can cause food poisoning. It also is one that is rather colorful and tends to be a crowd pleaser. It does include some raw red onion so younger children and those with more sensitive tastes may not enjoy it as much. Nonetheless, this salad has a bit of a southwest flavor and makes a nice addition to outdoor summer picnics as well as indoor gatherings. It is also very easy to put together.
Corn and Black Bean Salad
Combine the following together in a large bowl:
  • 3 cans of black beans (I like to use the low sodium kind)
  • 2 cans of niblet corn (The picture below shows what the bean/corn mixture looks like using the proportions I have stated here.)
  • 1/2 of a large red onion, finely chopped (You can use more or less depending on your taste preference. It is raw so be aware of the strong taste. Here is a photo showing how finely I chop mine.)
  • 1 large or 1.5 medium red pepper, coarsely chopped (As with the onion, feel free to use more or less depending on your taste preference. Because the pepper adds a "sweet" taste, I tend to chop more coarsely.)
Here's an idea of what all of the vegetables will look like when you stir them together:
Now for the dressing part. I just pour the following over the chopped vegetables and stir it all together:
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 or 3 splashes of Tabasco sauce
Stir it all together and give it a taste. Adjust the seasonings as you wish.

Since we are on the topic of summer foods, here are a few food safety pointers courtesy of the US Food and Drug Administration.
When packing and transporting food
  • Keep cold food cold - use ice or frozen gel packs with a goal of keeping food at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less.
  • Organize your cooler contents - consider keeping drinks in one cooler and perishable foods in another. This helps limit the number of times you will need to open and close the cooler with perishable food.
  • Don't cross-contaminate - keep raw meats securely wrapped to avoid juices from them leaking onto food items that are intended to be eaten raw.
  • Clean your produce - wash fresh fruits and vegetables before eating them.
When serving food 
  • The main thing is to keep cold foods cold and hot foods hot. In general, do not allow foods to sit out for more than 2 hours. Shorten this time to one hour if the outside temperature is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Cold foods - keep them refrigerated until it is time to serve them. You can also set dishes in a pan of ice to help keep them cool.
  • Hot foods - wrap them well and keep them in an insulated cooler until serving time. 
  • Avoid cross contamination do not reuse a plate or utensils that have been used with raw or uncooked meat, poultry, or seafood unless they have been thoroughly washed in hot, soapy water

Have a fun and healthy summer!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Patriotic Ponderings

My overarching sewing goal for this year is to work through projects I have started (I know, not the most specific goal, but it is what it is). This goal also includes kits that I have purchased and are still sitting in my sewing cabinet or in a drawer. One of these kits that had been lying around for over a year was the one for this patriotic-themed table topper that will be the topic of this post.
I picked this kit up at the Stitching It Up quilt store in Cedar City, Utah, a couple of years ago. I liked the shades of red, white, and blue that would complement other patriotic pieces that I have completed through the years. The center features a variation on the traditional windmill block. The white side triangles or "points" feature machine appliquéd flags. 
One of the key things I learned from putting this quilt together was a bit of a lesson in humility. Before I started sewing this quilt, I cut all of the pieces per the instructions. Unfortunately, the four center squares finished bigger than anticipated. As a result, all of the other pieces needed to be adjusted. Fortunately, the kit provided enough fabric to accommodate all of the adjustments. If you look closely in some of these pictures, you can see where I created some extra seams to meet the new dimensions. Fortunately, again, when you look at the whole, the individual flaws tend not to stand out.
Here are a few other patriotic creations from around my house. I keep the alpine tree up year round and just change out the garland and decor with the seasons. The stars are ones that I bought a few years back and use to accent the tree.
The pillow is from a pattern by Shepherd's Bush, and I picked up the bear at a gift shop in Philadelphia. My daughter aptly named her "Philadelphia."
In pondering these patriotic pieces and the flaws hidden within them, I am reminded of the need for humility, both individually and corporately as a nation. Although some good quilting can help cover some flaws in the pieced work, the flaws are still there. Likewise, our best efforts to conceal our flaws can not remove their existence. As the psalmist reminds us:
He [God] rules by His might forever;
His eyes keep watch on the nations;
Let not the rebellious exalt themselves. Psalm 66:7
The psalmist also reminds us of God's faithfulness to those people and nations who will seek Him:
Let the peoples praise Thee, O God; 
Let all the peoples praise Thee.
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy;
For Thou wilt judge the peoples with uprightness,
And guide the nations on the earth. Psalm 67:3-4

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Kentucky Derby Day … Hot Brown Sandwiches

Happy Kentucky Derby Day!
As I have shared before, I am not exactly the most knowledgeable person with regards to the Kentucky Derby, but I do enjoy the elegance and tradition of this event. I'm hoping to have the opportunity to attend the Kentucky Derby some day, if for no other reason than to dress up and wear an elaborate, but elegant hat. Here's a little peek at some of the hat tradition:
Hot Brown Sandwiches are regarded as part of the Kentucky Derby cuisine. The name, Hot Brown, actually refers to the Brown Hotel in Louisville, Kentucky. The sandwich's origins date to the 1920s when the hotel hosted late night dinner dances. The hotel decided to come up with a late night snack alternative to ham and eggs, and the Hot Brown was born. The Hot Brown is essentially an warm, open-faced turkey sandwich covered with a Mornay sauce. It is further enhanced with slices of tomato and bacon. 
At the Brown Hotel, Hot Browns are prepared in individual crock ware and use two slices of bread. We used a glass baking dish and made 6 smaller sandwiches.
Here's a look at the recipe we used and how we put ours together.

Sauce ingredients:
  • 3 tablespoons salted butter
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups heavy cream 
  • 1/2 cup Pecorino Romano cheese, plus extra for garnish
  • Pinch of ground nutmeg (we just used a slight sprinkle)
  • Salt and pepper
For the sandwiches:
  • 1 lb sliced roasted turkey breast (we used deli turkey and had it sliced thick)
  • 6 slices of bread (crusts trimmed - you can use Texas toast if you want, we used homemade bread)
  • 12 slices of bacon
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced into wedges
  • Paprika
  • Parsley
First to make the sauce: In a two-quart saucepan, melt the butter and slowly whisk in the flour until combined to form a thick paste or roux. Continue to cook the roux for 2 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring frequently. Note that this roux is going to be a light one.
Whisk heavy cream into the roux and cook over medium heat until the cream begins to simmer, about 2-3 minutes. Remove the sauce from the heat and slow whisk in Pecorino-Romano cheese until the sauce is smooth. 

Add nutmeg, salt, and pepper to taste.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Place the bread in an oven-safe baking dish. 

 Arrange the turkey and some of the tomato wedges over the sliced bread. At this point, you can put the pan in the oven for a few minutes to start to get the turkey and bread warmed through - you only need to put it in for about five minutes or so.
 Pour the sauce over the turkey, tomato, and bread. Arrange the remaining tomato wedges on top of the cheese, and place the bacon slices over each sandwich. Sprinkle each with some parsley, paprika, and some additional grated cheese.
 Broil everything for about 5 minutes or so until the sauce is nice and bubbly.

Our assessment of these sandwiches is that they are a success, and we will likely be enjoying them for next year's Kentucky Derby as well. Now that our pre-race meal is complete, it's about time to sing My Old Kentucky Home.