Thursday, February 28, 2013

Beef Parsnip Stew

I've been keeping up with my get-veggies-first, make-weekly-menu-after plan.  And it has been EXCELLENT.

First of all, who doesn't enjoy spending time out in the sunshine, browsing the farmer's market?  It is a ten minute walk from my house and has become one of my favorite parts of my week.  Peace.  That's what I feel on the walk there, the exchanging coins and bills for fresh produce, the chit chat with others, listening to jokes about redneck vasectomies...

Ok, so that last one didn't bring me peace, but it did make me chuckle in a "I feel like I shouldn't laugh but I just have to" kind of way...  and laughter is the best medicine.

So, what seasonal/new thing did I get this time?  These guys:

That's right, parsnips.

I have never had a parsnip in my life until this week.  Actually, until about three months ago I thought they were called 'white carrots'.  Silly me.

Having no idea what to do with them, I turned to my favorite resource: Everyday Food.  One of my archived magazines had a whole parsnip section.  And one of those recipes called for other items I had already purchased at the farmer's market.

And that is the beauty of shopping like this.  Peace, yes.  But having things on hand that are fresh, easy, and cheap to try new recipes is the winning part.  I settled on a beef parsnip stew and the only thing I had to buy at the store was beef.  Everything else I already had on hand.  Score.

I continued to make my meal plan for the week this way.  Asking what veggies do I have on hand? first, and what can I make with these? second. Wanna know how much I spent for us to eat for the entire week, breakfast, lunch, and dinner?  $48.  That's nine dollars at the farmer's market, plus $39 dollars at Trader Joe's.  I was shocked.  Chalk up another point for my new plan...

As for the stew?  My husband immediately said, "This is a TEN!  Feel free to repeat this one anytime!"  And later, "Babe, you MUST make this when my parents visit from Brazil.  They will LOVE it!"

I guess low prices are not indicative of low taste, but rather quite the opposite.


Recipe from Everyday Food, October 2012


  • 1/4 cup flour
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • 2 pounds boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced medium
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste (from one 6-ounce can)
  • 1 pound fingerling potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-by-2-inch pieces
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, season flour with salt and pepper. Coat beef in flour, shaking off excess. In a large heavy ovenproof pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium. In batches, brown beef on all sides, about 5 minutes per batch. Transfer to a plate.
  2. Add remaining tablespoon oil, onion, garlic, and tomato paste and saute until fragrant, 2 minutes. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil, scraping up browned bits. Add beef and any accumulated juices, potatoes, parsnips, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Cover, transfer to oven, and cook until meat is fork-tender, 1 hour. Stir in vinegar and serve.

    COST: $13.22     COST PER SERVING (4): $3.31

Friday, February 22, 2013

Creamy Asparagus Soup with Chicken Sausage

There are some things I really stink at.  Like, I am terrible at these things.

Keeping my closet organized would be one of them.

I mean, I do get it organized again every week or so.  But in the meantime?  Eh.  Out of sight, out of mind.

Keeping up with my nails.  Oh man. You do not want to see them on a regular basis.  Broken, chipped paint, hang nails.  Sigh.  It is not (usually) a pretty sight.

Turning in paperwork on time.  Getting out of bed when my alarm goes off.  Sending thank-you cards.

All things I suck at.

But there is something I am really good at --> making soup.

Chop, toss, and cook.

Really, what can go wrong?

Hallelujah for soup!


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pack of chicken sausage, cut into 1/2 inch cubes    
  • 1 leek, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced and rinsed well   
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 2 small red-skinned potatoes (4 to 5 ounces total), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 4 cups chicken broth or stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 1/2 bunches asparagus (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut into 1/2-inch
  • One 6-ounce container plain yogurt
  • 1/4 whole wheat country loaf, for serving (optional)


  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat; add the sausage and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the sausage to a plate. Add the leek and garlic to the pot and cook until tender, about 2 minutes. Stir in the potatoes and chicken broth and bring to a simmer; season with salt and pepper. Cook until the potatoes are almost tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the asparagus and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  2. Scoop out 1/2 cup asparagus pieces and set aside for garnish. Using a blender and working in VERY SMALL batches, puree the soup. Return the soup to the pot, whisk in the yogurt and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle the sausage and asparagus pieces on top and serve with the bread.

COST: $8.50  COST PER SERVING (4): $2.13

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Living in a Dual-Cultural World: Belonging

Belonging.  It's a feeling we all strive for.  And in a 'normal' situation (if ever a thing existed) it is hard enough.  But you add a different culture to the mix and it makes it a little more tricky.

A fellow North-American-wife-of-a-Brazilian mentioned this in the comments when I put up the original post.  "Sometimes it can be bittersweet as you don't feel you fully fit in on either side."  Yes, this is a true aspect of it that I didn't talk about/think about last time.  The truth is it is easier for me.  I live in my country, around my family, speak my language, and eat my food.  I dabble my toes in the Brazilian life for a couple minutes here or a couple of months there.  And yes, there are times when I realize I do not belong.

Like when I try to communicate with someone at the store and it comes out "cute", when really I want to be able to fully express myself and taken seriously.  Or even here in the States at a Brazilian get-together and they laugh at jokes that make no sense to me yet do not understand my reference to Gilligan... (hey, Dude was wearing a red polo and a sailor hat, what was I supposed to say?).  Mostly simple things, but things that remind you that the people you are surrounded by do not have the same understanding as you.

It can be something as basic as mentioning  how much I love brownies or chocolate chip cookies -- and I am met with blank stares.

Yet I have the easy side of it.  I just pull out some ingredients and show what these 'cookie-things' are all about.  And then I step back into my world one month later/ten minutes later, and chalk it up to a fun cultural experience.

Making cookies with the family.  And yes, I visited Costco before we traveled ;)
My husband, on the other hand, lives in this constantly.  Sure, he speaks English and likes the food here, and yes, I do make him beans and rice every once in awhile. But there is more to it than that.  When you have spent the first 27 years of your life in one world and then change it in for another there is bound to be complications along the way.

I asked him about this the other day.  "It's hard," he said, "because my friends today cannot understand my past, or what makes me me.  And yet my family and friends that I have had my entire life cannot understand my life today and what I am living.  So I don't fully fit in in either place anymore."  As far as I can tell, this is the truth for any ex-pat.  It was true for me while living in Palau and Ebeye, it is true for Americans living in Brazil, it is true for a Brit living in Hong Kong. And it can be a hard truth.

Brazilian man and American grandpa enjoying checkers at the Cracker Barrel

However, it doesn't mean it is a bad truth.  He is happy where he is today.  And he works to build the bridge between the two worlds he inhabits, while I work hard along beside him to help make that happen.  Skype is well used in this house.  Plane tickets are purchased for us to go there or for them (those who can) to come here. Friendships are made based off of common interests today instead of what happened yesterday. Some of his closest friends today are American; some of my best girlfriends are Brazilian.  Trips are made the market in town that sells Guarana Antartica and then we head out for In n' Out.  We keep our mind open to new things. And in the end we remember this: we don't need to always belong out there, as long as we belong in here.   Because here, in our little family of two, we both fully belong.

Really, isn't that what marriage is all about anway?

(Original post for Living in a Dual Cultural World)


Monday, February 18, 2013

"We trust you..." {Sweet Potato Hummus}

I walked into Trader Joe's earlier today with a shopping list in one hand and bag with some return items in the other.  Up to the counter I went and started making my returns/exchanges.  You know, without a receipt, without a reason...  The beauty of Trader Joe's.

They took back the chips that I didn't like (because they were too crunchy for my taste) and made my exchange of coconut oil.  Not wanting to have to pay for the coconut oil again, I asked if I should keep it up there at the customer service counter.  Since I didn't have a receipt or anything... "No, just take it with you and tell the cashier you've already paid for it.  They'll be cool with it; we trust you."

We trust you.  

Three simple words.  And that's one of the reasons Trader Joe's has my business.  No having to prepare myself for battle; no one looking at me sideways when I want to bring something back.  They just take it, do whatever it is they do with it, and smile.

They trust me.

What would shopping -- or better yet -- the world be like if we all had that attitude?

Sure, I could have been dishonest. I could have eaten half of the bag of chips because I was hungry and then brought them back claiming I didn't like the texture or taste (which is, by the way, a totally acceptable reason to bring things back at Trader Joe's).  And they would have lost $2.  Two dollars isn't much, but if many people do that it adds up.  But they choose to trust, making me a more solid shopper, which will balance out what might be dishonestly lost.

They are making the right choice.  By trusting, they are not losing, but gaining.  I don't think life is much different... so I choose to trust.

Sweet Potato hummus

  • 1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Set a steamer basket in a large pot. Fill with enough water to come just below basket; bring to a boil. Add potatoes; reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to a blender.
  2. Combine the garbanzo beans, lemon juice, oil, cumin, and garlic in the food processor. Puree, about 1 minute; thin with water if necessary. Season with salt and pepper and let cool; refrigerate, in an airtight container, up to 1 week. Serve with pita bread or make pita sandwiches.  

COST: $2.07  (Makes four cups)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Viva Farmer's Market! (Carrot and Pea Soup with Dumplings)

Two weeks ago I found a farm stand on the side of the road on our way to the beach.  (Yes, farm stand and beach appeared in that sentence, and yes, two weeks ago was January.  Man, I love living in California!)  We have driven past it many times but always found some good reason why we couldn't stop.  Too cold from the ocean, too hot from the sun, too... lazy.  But we did, and it rocked my world.

$12.15 later, we walked out of there with bags and bags of produce... tangerines, sweet potatoes, leeks, garlic, onions, pears, apples, and more.  That week, instead of making my menu first and then finding the produce to go with it, I looked at what I had and thought, "What can I do with these leeks?  How about these sweet potatoes?"


Since we weren't going to drive past this farm stand this past weekend we walked down to the Farmer's Market.  In the last city we lived in the farmer's market was kind of hoity-toity.  Sure, there was good stuff there, but mostly it was orchids and perogies and $5 heads of lettuce.  But where we live today it is a whole different story.  It is what I truly want from a farmer's market -- fruits and veggies, honey and cheese, all grown/made in our own backyard, sold at a good price.  We walked out of there, once again, bags full of produce, pockets still full of money.

Radishes, beets, carrots, more sweet potatoes (as you can tell, I have a thing for them...), onions, cilantro, and whole lot more.  And once again I made my grocery list based off of that.  Broccoli beef stir-fry one night, sweet potato and arugula pizza the next; salads galore and fresh garlic cheese to munch on.  My grocery list for the store?  Nine items.  NINE.

My menu planning will never be the same.

One of those nine items on the list: peas.  That was all that was separating us from being able to make one of our favorite soups.  The farmer's market supplied us with the carrots, onions, celery, and parsley; my pantry provided the flour, baking powder, and vegetable stock.  And in the fridge we found milk, butter, and Dijon mustard.  Put it all together and we had ourselves some warm, hearty soup.  Perfect for these cold winter evenings.

And by cold I mean 45*F ;)

Carrot and Pea Soup with Dumplings
Recipe adapted from Rachael Ray Everyday, March 2011

  • tablespoons EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil)
  • tablespoons butter
  • carrots--peeled, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • rib  celery, chopped
  • medium onion, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • fresh bay leaf
  • rounded tablespoons flour
  • 1 32 ounce container  (4 cups) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • cup frozen peas
  • tablespoons finely chopped parsley or dill
  • 1 1/2 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (or milk +bit of white vinegar)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  1. Heat a couple of tablespoons EVOO, 2 turns of the pan, over medium-high heat in a large soup pot or dutch oven. Add the butter to melt, then add the carrots, celery and onion; season with salt, pepper and the bay leaf. Cover the pot and cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots soften, 7 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle the flour on the vegetables and stir for a minute, then whisk in the chicken (or vegetable) stock until thickened. Stir in the mustard and peas. For a thinner soup, add 1 to 1 1/2 cups water with the stock.
  2. Add the chopped fresh parsley to the flour, buttermilk, baking powder, and salt.  Mix well to form batter. When the soup is bubbling, form the batter into small dumplings using 2 spoons, then drop onto the surface of the soup. Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and cook the dumplings, gently stirring, until just firm, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer the soup and dumplings to shallow bowls; discard the bay leaf.

COST: $4.19  COST PER SERVING (4): $1.05

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Red Velvet (from beet juice) Cupcakes

It is the week of L-O-V-E!  And you know what?  I couldn't care less about Valentine's Day, honestly.

I know, I am such a February Grinch.

But you know all those years that you didn't have somebody to celebrate with except your girlfriends, going out together pretending that you would rather be with them than with some hot dude, all knowing you were lying to each other, but for the sake of the holiday, that lie must go on?  Yeah, that was me.  Forever.  And so at some point between passing out little grocery-store cards in elementary school and getting dressed up to pretend celebrate in college, I just gave up.

Of course, now I have my Valentine, and a forever one at that.  It does make the day seem a little more appealing... except all those people all trying to make dinner reservations for the same night, and all those expectations of roses and candy and cards and... AH!  It makes my head hurt.  Besides, Valentine's Day is celebrated on a completely different day in Brazil, so my husband would never even remember anyway.

But you know what we do remember, every single year?  President's Day.

Think about it: no crowds and you (or at least WE) get the whole day off, and it is close enough to V-day that you don't feel totally like a love-grinch.  And so, we celebrate President's Day.  I know, how romantic. ;)

In the spirit of President's Day - slash - Valentine's Day (for the rest of you), I give you kinda-red velvet cupcakes with no artificial coloring.  Ta-da!

For Sundays with Joy this week we were supposed to make her red velvet marble cake.  That sounded good and all, but I really wanted cupcakes, and not marbly ones.  And all that food coloring really just turned me off.  So I set out to see what I could do instead.  Google kindly informed me that beets were my go-to pigment changer and I just so happened to have some in the fridge, straight from the farmer's market.  Even though I didn't follow Joy's recipe, she did inspire me to create one that is amazing.  Very little sugar, no added colors, and a most-excellent taste.  PERFECT.  And just in time to celebrate President's Day... or Valentine's Day, if you are into that sort of thing.  :)

My Valentine.  (Ok, I guess I am not a total grinch!)

Red Velvet (from beet juice) Cupcakes
adapted from the Bake Cakery Blog

  • 2 large beets
  • 3 tablespoons cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 heaping teaspoon plain greek yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Wrap beets individually in tinfoil, unpeeled.  Bake on baking sheet for one hour or until you can pierce with a fork.  When finished, peel beets and cut into large chunks.  Reduce oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Put beets, lemon juice, and vinegar in blender and blend until a puree.  Add other wet ingredients and blend again.
  3. Mix dry ingredients in large mixing bowl.  Add beet mixture to dry ingredients and beat with cake beater until well mixed.  
  4. Pour into cupcake liners (2/3 full) and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until fork inserted in the middle comes out clean.

**For the frosting, I used this buttercream recipe and added the beet juice that pooled inside the tin foil to make it pink. 

**My cupcakes came out dark, but adding more lemon juice is supposed to make it brighter.  You can play around with that.  The color was bright pink batter, but dark pink/brown when baked with my amount of lemon juice. The taste was fabulous, though.

COST: $2.52   COST PER CUPCAKE (12): $0.21

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Living in a Dual-Cultural World

We fly two flags at our home. Not literally, we don't actually have a flag outside our front door, but in essence, we fly two flags.

My heart bleeds red, white, and blue.  But it also bleeds green and yellow, and yes, a deeper shade of blue.

Although you just see little glimpses of this here and there, mostly in regards to food, you would probably never really know this by reading my blog.  I write mostly about food, and we eat mostly American food because, well, I do the cooking. And he does the eating -- of whatever it is I put in front of him.

But if you were to see us live our lives in the day to day, things would appear a bit more multi-cultural.

Conversations are about futebol and football, personal independence and strong family ties, of living the 'American Dream' while enjoying life like a Brazilian...

Passports are filled with visas both ways, and travel plans are made around the need to spend time in Brazil with family.

Things that just make sense to me don't also make sense to him (you really should wear more than flip flops outside in December!) and vice versa (showers are for night time, always).

"I love you" is pronounced chee-ah-moo (Te amo) and we go through a nightly liturgy of sweet dreams and boa noite's, back and forth, each of needing to speak the language of our heart for it to really count.

The truth is, we are not an American family.  Nor are we a Brazilian one.  We are mixed.  And that is wonderful.

Before we got married, people told us two things: (1) Marriage is hard, and (2) marrying someone from another culture, especially one who moved to the states only when we got married, is even harder.

We listened to them, and we took their words to heart.  But then we sat down, talked it over, and walked up to that alter knowing that the odds were not against us, because we knew something they didn't know: We did not have to choose a culture, we could create our own.  It didn't have to be hard; it could be whatever we decided to make it be.

So that is what we set out to do.  Take the good from both, throw out (as much as possible) the bad.  We all know by now (or should!) that there is no perfect culture, no perfect country, but there are great cultures, great ideas, and when you take that greatness from both and mix them together, you really do live that cliche': You get the best of both worlds.  Beans and rice with mashed potatoes.  And it tastes so good...

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My New Fave -- Sweet Potato Tacos

Move over tortellini with butternut squash and sage, there's a new favorite in town!

From sweet potato hater to lover like that *finger snap*.

You cannot thank me for this, though.  All the credit goes out to Jess at CookSmarts.  She is a brilliant one, I tell ya, and if you are looking at this thinking, "Man, if only I could cook," look no further because she is here to help.  With her videos, easy recipes, and all these handy kitchen tips, you can't help be leave her site a little bit more handy in the kitchen.  Where was she when I needed her two years ago?!

Oh well, she is here now and so are these tacos.  Which I have had six of in the past twenty-four hours.  Dinner last night, lunch today, and now dinner tonight.  I guess you really can't have too much of a good thing...

Click here for the recipe for Sweet Potato Tacos.  I did it word for word, minus the cayenne pepper, and choosing Greek yogurt for my dairy.  Leave the dairy off and you've got a great vegan plate. And now I am hoping that my husband will say, "Yes, we can have them again, for the third time this week..."

COST: $5.97    COST PER SERVING (4): $1.50

Monday, February 4, 2013

Mashed Sweet Potatoes

I lived my entire life missing out on one of life's greatest food sources.  I can pinpoint the moment when I decided I knew that I didn't like sweet potatoes, one Thanksgiving years ago.  I tried candied yams and knew without a doubt in my 13-year-old mind that I would never eat yams or sweet potatoes ever again.  NEVER.

And I held true to that for 16 1/2 years.

The truth is, I would still be in that boat if I did not 'need' to make Joy the Baker's sweet potato cookies for the baking group I am in.  And I would have been fine, like a kid is fine the first year or two of their life when their parents vow never to give them sugar.  But then one day they have chocolate cake or a brownie and their little brain says, "Hey, why have you been holding out on me, huh?!"

That was the conversation I had with myself this winter after those cookies: "Why have you been holding out on me?!"

Sweet potatoes are GOOD! Really good. In fact, so good that you will be seeing at least three sweet potato recipes in the next week or two.  Why?  Because I want to eat them ALL. DAY. LONG.

And the easiest way to do that?  Mashed sweet potatoes.  Takes 15 minutes (mostly while you are waiting for the potatoes to boil) and tastes like Heaven on a spoon.  No more living in sweet potato ignorance for me!



  • 1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream 
  • 2 T. butter
  • 1/4 t. nutmeg
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the potatoes until soft when pierced with a fork, about 12 minutes. Drain return to the pot.
  2. Toss remaining ingredients into the pot and stir with a fork, until soft and creamy. 

COST: $2.20   COST PER SERVING (4): $0.55

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...