Thursday, September 29, 2011

Cameroonian Fishrolls

Hey guys! So this is one of my favorite finger/party foods. It's pretty simple to make if you have an eye and feel for cooking in general. I pretty much taught myself how to make them after eating them a few times and  by looking at the color, flavor and consistency of it and I was quite lucky to have found the perfect combination of ingredients. They were excellent and my husband was really impressed since it was my first time making it. They were better than the ones we had ordered for our wedding or any of the ones I had tasted sofar, so I will pass along the recipe and pictures of the process If I get requests for it.

Cameroonian fishrolls are eaten as a snack and are a popular appetizer. In the community there are always baby showers, baptism parties, send-off parties, engagement parties (all of which start at night until dawn which great music, alcohol and a dance floor) and fishrolls are great to bring to share with other guests. 
Note that for us, a lot of the parties are like big pot-lucks. Everybody cooks and brings something and often there is enough to feed a couple hundreds people with consistent left overs! It's just a great way to support each other and you can be guaranteed that if you organize a party, although you do have to plan and cook for your guests, you can be almost certain that you will never end up in a situation where there is not enough food for people to eat. The women will almost always each bring one or a couple of big aluminum trays filled with delicious dishes.

So here, enjoy the sight, while I enjoy the taste and the smell!!!

Jollof Rice/Ris Gras

Alright, So I have gotten compliments on different versions of my fried rice, Jollof rice, Ris Gras (for us french speakers), however you refer to it, rice cooked in a stewy sauce with veggies and/or meat/poultry/fish or seafood.

Depending on my mood and what I have on hand I make it rich with a lot of ingredients or simple. What I try to never compromise on is the taste!

This is curry rice; curry is mainly for the color. I use the spanish curry because I find  the carribean curry to be too strong in terms of flavor, savor and odor and a little overpowering and overwhelming over the other ingredients that I use to spice my rice. So this rice has a slight hint of curry with the great color of it and you can still taste everything else.

I served this particular one with lamb stewed in spicy onion sauce and a simple salad.

Sorry guys, this picture is certainly not the best (was taken from my old phone...).

Dada's Pina Colada Watermelon Smoothie

Alright guys so any of you ever wondered why you would have to pay $4 for a small sized smoothie? Simple, most of the time they are worth it right? They are simply delicious!!! How about you add up the number of smoothies you are likely to buy/drink over the course of a given summer and invest in some tasty exotic syrup, an ice tray, a blender and some good quality in season fruits? 
Then you can have your made to order exquisite smoothies with combinations limited only by your imagination and creativity (and not by how much you are not willing to pay). And guess what? You didn't lose a penny extra than the price of the ingredients!

Well, so one day, a few weeks ago, I came back from work after my husband. I'll nickname him Nemy for the blog lol. Thats the nickname I have always wanted to give him but he firmly and forcefully rejected it and rebuked it!!! LOL. He doesn't answer to it at all. Actually no, let's use Dada, that's what my sisters call him. Anyways, so i came from work after Dada, tired. Went straight to the kitchen and there was standing my dear Dada, holding a large Rhinelander and the content was ohhh sooo appealing !!! 
Listen, I'm african girl, I don't care for flowers and I won't pretend like I can smell how good they smell because I really can't. I haven't developed that skill yet and probably never will LOL. But give me food (in this case a drink)  or anything that can please my mouth (oops keep it straight ok, I mean food or drinks, not whatever you dirty people might imagine) and fill my stomach and I fall in love with all over again...! Sad... I know... LOL.

So for Dada's Pina Colada Watermelon smoothie you need: 

- A blender
- A few slices of sweet watermelon (Dada somehow knows how to pick the delightfully sweet ones. The one I get are always just "ok")
- Ice cubes
- Pina Colada syrup (any from the grocery store will do, but please don't pick the cheapest one... but you don't need the most expensive one either)

A little trick: I found that to get the consistency that you want, with the little teeny tiny ice crystals that melt almost instantly on your buds, you wanna fill the blender with as much ingredients as you can. When the blender is not full, it tends to "overblend" the ingredients, or maybe there is too much room for the liquid to move around, too much moving around releases heat that melts those little ice crystals (kinetic energy I think... maybe?! lol don't laugh, I'm really not trying to sound smart LOL) and you end up with something that feels and tastes more like melted milkshake --- and I'm sure you don't want that!

This is not that clear of a picture... sorry. I'll post a few better ones. But yeah, it's delightfully good!!!

Recipes - Sasi's basic Pastry Crust

Ok, so I had been struggling with baking for the past few years mainly because I had focused my attention on cooking. It's all visual, and it's happens right there and then! Who doesn't like instant gratification? With baking it's a lot of technique, careful measurements (not good at that, would rather eye my quantities - hey I'm an african woman, what can I say?!), and then just waiting for the chemistry (hopefully the right one) to do its magic...! 
Ever since I decided to learn to make bread and mastered the recipe, I kind of want to make again; and bake perfectly (I'm definitely a perfectionist when in comes to making food).

Anyhow, this recipe is not mine, and I have not changed it from the way I got it. It was given to me by my Nana, my "soul grandma" (hey if there are "soul sisters", there should be other "soul" relatives too, me thinks), Doris, who makes amazing pies, and amazing classic American food in general. 
She is a wonderful person, a devoted Christian and woman with a beautiful heart who ever since we (my sister Martha and I) met her, has supported us in any way she ever could and even the least expected! 
Under her bed or in one of her drawer, (can't remember lol), she keeps a cute little box that contains little pieces of paper on which she has written (or asked people to write) prayer topics, for which she prays regularly. She has a spicy sense of humor just like I do sometimes and a fun personality; she is definitely a "cool" grandma (she is on facebook!!! I had to stop her from getting on Twitter!!! Nah I'm lying lol but yeah she rocks on facebook!) who never forgets to remind you of the love of God, and His purpose for our life. 

We have had long chatty evenings, beautiful chilly nights around bonfire with melting marshmallow sticks, fun movie nights with your classic sandwiches and chips, and holiday dinners with her amazing family (2 children, and 4 grandchildren and 3 step-grandchildren).
She loves making food even tough she does not believe that she is that good of a cook. She is an amazing cook, believe me! And that's coming from an African girl. And of course with a grandma nurturing spirit, she an excellent hostess.
About a month ago, I had gone to drop my sister at her house. I spend the night there since it is 6 hours away from where I live and I had to come back the next day. When I came downstairs, ready to leave, this is what I found all packed up for me!!

All that for a 6 hours trip, and because she wanted to avoid me having to stop and buy food on my way. Yup thats the type of woman that she is!!!!

Hopefully I can get her to contribute directly to the blog as she is also a very good writer and editor (she worked on editing a friend's recipe book).

Anyways so I'm sharing here the recipe she originally gave me for her delicious fried apple pies (which my husband absolutely loves, and he is rather picky when it comes to food!) -- actually for the "crust part" of the recipe.
I renamed it Sasi's basic pastry crust because it is an excellent and very forgiving recipe which is going to be my main crust recipe when it comes to pastries. Now, I know that pastry crust, at least the european and american way, is supposed to be light and flaky without completely falling apart. Well I cook the African way so most recipes for pastry crust or even the ready made from the grocery store does not really work for our samousas as the crust is not supposed to be flaky at all; rather slightly crusty, thin with some consistency and a little chewy. 
This particular recipe works perfectly and it's the one I use for my Samousas, and they turn out perfectly!!!

So enough of the talking, and thank you Doris!!! Here we go!
You need:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder; cut in butter. add eggs milk; mix to form a soft dough. Take the dough to a flat, clean, floured surface (such as the kitchen counter or a chopping board), knead the dough for a couple of minutes (not too long of it becomes hard), adding a little bit of flour at a time to reduce stickiness if you need to, then form the dough into a ball and use it right away or cover with plastic film/wrap or a clean kitchen towel to prevent from drying.
You can also wrap it in plastic wrap and keep in the fridge for using later (I have successfully done that).

Continue reading the Samousas recipes
View pictures of the Samousa at Sasi's kitchen table, ready to be eaten.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Recipes - Samousas au Poisson (fish filled)

Alright so here are a few more pictures just like I promised outlining the process for making fish filled samousas.

Let start by saying that I am not really good at putting down recipes. I usually eye my quantities if I'm familiar or if I "feel" what I am making. And a lot of times I add or skip a few ingredients depending on what I have or my inspiration.

So for this particular recipe you need some fish. You can get the frozen fillet from the grocery store or you can do like me and get some fresh fish (1 medium size tilapia). You need to boil the fish in water until cooked (it really doesnt take long at all). I boiled my whole cleaned tilapia, then used a fork to get only the flesh from it and discarded the rest.

To spice my filling I blended: onion, garlic, parsley and cilantro, a little bit of ginger, a habanero pepper and a couple of seasoning cubes.

Mince a small onion, brown the onion in a little bit of oil, add your spice mixture and let it cook, when it doesn't smell "raw" anymore, add your fish and mash it in the mixture.

 Now from your crust (you can find the recipe for the crust here), cut little squares, at the center of which you will spoon a small amount of your filling, fold it over, seal the edges with your fingers and secure the seal using the moistened (water will do) teeth of a fork just like in the pictures below.

Finally brush your samousas with some egg wash for a golden brown "shine" or simply with some melted butter (like I did just so it doesn't dry out too much). They ready for the oven. I had them at 300 degrees Farenheit for 15-20 minutes but see what works best with your oven. I always have to bake at a lower temperature than what most recipes recommend, not sure why...

It's ready!!!

Read the recipe for the crust

Monday, September 26, 2011

Samousas au poisson (fish filled)

So today I wanted to make something light and different for dinner. Wasn't sure what to make. I remembered that we had a fish left in the fridge, a tilapia to be exact. We usually only buy fresh fish for one purpose: my husband's roasted tilapia. Exquisite!!! Usually with some roasted or fried plantains, a spicy sauce to dip, and a lil mojito ice ;-)

Anyways, back to my menu. I haven't made samousas in a while so I just thought it would be a good idea to have them for dinner. Now for those who do not know, samousas are as African as they are Indian and I am sure they are probably popular in different versions in other places in between or around Africa and India. We grew up eating either the fish filled samousas or the beef (usually spicy groundbeef) filled samousas. I have always liked the fish filled better. And if you know African food, and I mean real African food, tasty, hearty, spicy African food, and you have had spicy fish filled samousas, then you'll agree.

Alright it is 12:17am, and I don't think I'll have the strength to post the recipe. I'll share pictures of the end result. Then I'll update a little later (another day) with the recipe and pictures outlining the process. I have bread rising in the oven right now anyways and yeah that wasn't too smart especially when I'm tired and sleepy, but I'm trying to let my bread rise slower and longer as it improves the overall taste of the bread in the end. How did i got get started talking about bread? :-/

Update!! You can view the recipe for Samousas here
And the recipe for the crust to make the Samousas is here

We had samousas with some grass ;-) a spicy tomato sauce and pina colada watermelon smoothies (created/invented and manufactured by my dear other half - didn't think the watermelon would go with the pina colada but thats the another post of its own lol!!!)

See the spicy fish mixture in there? Yummy!!!

Continue reading the Samousas recipes
Read the recipe for the crust

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pork Stew with Spinach

My husband and I are not from the same country (but both African) so although some of his and my cultural dishes are similar or slightly different versions, others are or at least were completely unfamiliar to me and same with him when we started dating.
This particular pork stew is something that my mom used to make, but she would use beef instead. I realized that I liked it better a lot "hotter" (as in spicy) than my mom made it and I swapped the beef with pork chops. 
The story is that it is not an easy task to find good meat with some bone (the flavor is in the bone they say) at a reasonable price and I am not about to pay $5 or $6 for a pound of beef. Pork is cheaper and depending on how you cook can be even tastier. 

So back to our couple being "multicultural", for some reason I tend to believe that he wasn't sure if I could cook or no. Then I realized maybe he thinks I can cook but nothing out of the ordinary, probably he was wondering if I could make tasty meals. Well for those of you who are not African, let me tell you, in the mind of most African men (and women) a woman who cannot cook (and especially who is not willing to learn) is a disgrace... and that is one the key criteria when looking for/"choosing a wife"... But I wasn't necessarily in a hurry to show him or my in-laws my skills just because I thought  than I didn't really have anything to prove... and that was a "defensive" move. You know how we women get, anytime we think or suspect somebody is doubting our "womanly" or feminine qualities... 
Anyways, this is the one dish that I made and that I know for sure wiped most of his doubts away. Notice I say "most of his doubts" because maybe me knowing how to make good food was most of his concern in that area. The other concern I believe was "can she make home food just like someone from my area would make it?". Now again African culture is quite macho but hey this is who we are and in certain instances we do love being that way!!!
So as a woman especially from a different area than my man, the burden lies on me to prove that I can feed him properly (meaning being able to make those meals that he grew up eating and loving) and not just him but also my many "husbands", meaning here my in-laws or anybody that would visit us. 
Well, I don't know if this is all in my susceptible feminine imagination but all I know is that I am fully trusted in that department and this Pork Stew contributed to it!!

Basically it's a tomato based pork stew to which I added spinach. So I spiced up my pork chops which I had cut in smaller pieces and brown them in a little bit of oil. Once golden brown I added minced onion. I blended half an onion, 2 habanero peppers (that might be way too much heat for some people, you can do 1 or a half), some garlic, 2 tomatoes, some ginger root and added that mix to my pork and onions. I let it cook stirring often for about 10-15 minutes on medium heat. Then I added 12oz can of crushed tomato, my seasoning cubes and a cup of water, covered my pot, and let it cook for about 30 minutes or so. I then adjusted my seasoning (you can skip if you are ok with your seasoning) and added about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of frozen spinach (you can use fresh cut up spinach if you so choose).
I would have eaten it with medium riped boiled plantains if I had any but since my husband could eat anything under this sun with rice, I went with rice!

I'll make sure that next time I make it I have pictures outlining the process.

Chicken Stir Fry

So on evenings like these ones when you don't feel like cooking and have no inspiration to make anything dishes like these are a lifesaver or rather an evening saver. I was roaming around in my kitchen not knowing what to cook yet craving for real food, no fast food, no pizza, no chinese takeout. 
I was looking through the cabinets when I realized I had this new stir-fry pan that I had never put to use so far. 
I had onions, bell peppers, garlic, spices and boneless skinless chicken (the only kind my husband really likes which is kind of weird for being a typical african man...). I decided to make a simple but tasty stir fry.

The pictures do not do justice to how appetizing it really looked but hopefully that gives you a little bit of a sense... and convinces you to make it one of these evenings when you just wanna relax and enjoy some simple, light, tasty food.

So here we go. I cut my chicken in cubes and boiled with a little bit of water until cooked through (about 10 minutes). I heated a little bit of oil, then added my pieces of chicken with some seasoning cube, ground black pepper and garlic paste. I let my chicken brown a little, taking in the flavor of the spices. I then minced onions, red/green/yellow bell peppers (I did all 3), and a habanero pepper, added them to my pan and kept stirring. That's it!!!

And since I had some of my homemade wheat bread, decided to serve the chicken stir fry with it along with a very simple salad, just romaine lettuce, tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs and balsamic vinaigrette dressing which is really the only dressing that we buy (I usually make our own dressing).

My husband loved it!!! He said it was simple, healthy and very tasty and suggested that should be one of our main weekdays dinner meals. I agree!!

Hopefully you get inspired to make the same meal or modify it to your taste! 

Homemade Wheat Bread

So in the past few weeks I have been stumbling across a few blogs and internet articles about frugal living after I was completely amazed watching "Extreme Couponing" (and saving a few episodes on my DVR). Over a $1000 worth of food and pay less than $200 for it??? It takes planning and effort that most people don't have time doing; coupon hunting in all sorts or weird places including garbage, saving and sorting the coupons, comparing them, printing them, asking about different store coupons policy, keep track on the coupons expiration date and sales for different stores... not sure how they do it and and yes they live on a tight budget but it doesn't prevent them from adopting this great positive attitude of confronting reality with whatever they have.
Anyways so back to my frugal living readings and inspiration, I realized that I could learn to make a lot more things than I do now from scratch and not only save money that way but also eat healthier.
My husband and I have decided that we were going to be more serious about healthy living in general and being African, a lot of our life's pleasant experiences is related to... EATING!! (amongst other things such as music and dancing lol).

My series of Homemade healthy foods starts with a staple in most households: Bread!! We only buy and try to stick to eating whole wheat bread so I decided to learn to make delicious wheat bread. After a few trials, I think I got it down pretty well (not mastered yet though). I have had family, friends, and co-workers taste it and they all love it! We have decided not to buy bread from the store anymore as I can make about 3 loaves at a time and I have been making bread about 2 to 3 times week. I have also learned that it keeps the freshness and the taste really well for up to 3 months if kept frozen within a day or 2 of being made.

I was actually asked by co-workers who liked a few slices of the bread to make a whole loaf. So my challenge tonight is to make 12 loaves of this bread, 10 for co-workers and 2 for ourselves. I'll let you guys know tonight or tomorrow how it goes! Stay tuned!!
So here is my delicious Homemade Wheat Bread on the 3rd try!!

 This time instead of just brushing melted butter on the bread once done, I added a teaspoon of sugar in the melted butter, let it melt and then brushed the bread with that mixture. It prevents the bread from drying, keeps it soft, gives it this beautiful gloss and gives a slightly sweet taste... Toasted peanut butter and jelly sandwich? So yummy!!! BLT?? Excellent!

 I have to give credit to the poster (Nita Crabb) of this recipe that I got (and modified a bit) from 

 Here are a few more pictures on my 1st try.

 I added some oatmeal on the bread once it was done and although I had brushed the top of the bread with some butter it did look dry and definitely not as yummy as the second try.