What We’re Eating This Spring (Fall)

I have been cooking up a storm this spring in Chile. I’ve been more adventurous with my recipes, and a trip to the Chinese supermarket in Recoleta/Patronato last month has brought a new flavor to our table: rooster sauce. I know, I know that it’s not sauce made from roosters, that it’s that spicy sauce with a rooster on the label that you always see in Chinese food restaurants (and which I’ve never tried in my life before October 2015).

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I was browsing the aisles looking for something completely different, and recognized Mr. Rooster and remember that a lot of Beth’s recipes on Budget Bytes use Sriracha. I don’t even remember how much it cost, I was just excited to find an important ingredient that I had seen in a lot of appetizing recipes of hers.

This was my first experiment with Sriracha, and it turned out DE-LI-CIOUS.

Honey Sriracha Chicken Thighs

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I made it once with boneless chicken thighs, and another time with boneless chicken breasts. Both great. Chicken thighs are juicier than chicken breasts, but I prefer chicken breasts for less random fatty pieces. You could also do it bone-in and would turn out great as well. The sauce makes the dish…otherwise it’d be some boring baked chicken. It’s spicy, but not so spicy that you can’t enjoy it. If you’re crazy for the spicy, add a little more sriracha. However, it also has honey and sugar (sweet) and soy sauce (salty), so you’ve just got a total flavor explosion when you sit down for dinner. I followed the recipe exactly and I recommend it 100%.

I had originally been to the Chinese supermarket to look for tahini, in order to make my own hummus. It all started when I shelled out nearly $7 dollars on premade imported hummus at the grocery store and it ended up being expired. Jumbo, the grocery store, had placed a sticker saying that it expired in October, but when I tasted it, it tasted all sorts of expired. It tasted like they had put Pop Rocks in it, I kid you not. I had a better look on the clear plastic top and very lightly printed (but readable), the original expiration date printed was a week before I had just placed that hummus in my mouth. Yuck. I felt scammed. But do you know what the worst thing was? I tasted it, and it was weird and fizzy like Pop Rocks, and I thought, maybe it’s just the red peppers. So I kept eating it because I REALLY wanted hummus immediately. I kept trying to force myself to eat it, and after the fifth bite, I googled ‘expired hummus taste’ and there it was…fizzy. (Mind you, this was before I found the original expiration date). I was so disappointed for two reasons: that I had to stop eating it because it was definitely expired, and also that in my denial, I had made myself eat expired hummus for five entire bites.

Since I was NOT going to be out 7 bucks, I marched myself back to the grocery store and demanded a refund. Because Chilean stores a more scammy than American stores, they never give you your money back, they give you a stupid store credit. I would have used my 7 bucks to buy tahini at Jumbo to make my own hummus, but it cost 14 bucks…no way José. I bought bread and avocado instead.

At this moment, I had such a craving for that damn hummus that I told Andrés that we should just make a trip out to Recoleta the next day and go to the foreign supermarkets to get tahini (and maybe some chicken potstickers…otherwise I doubt he would have been so enthusiastic to go with). You can’t really make hummus without tahini, and that was my only missing ingredient.

Again, didn’t even look twice at the price (maybe 4 bucks for a jar??) because I was so excited to make HUMMUS, and I had just gotten my paycheck too.

This was the recipe I settled on:

Basic Hummus Recipe

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I didn’t decorate mine all fancy like the picture, but rather just starting shoving pretzels into the blender and then directly into my mouth. On that note, I had to use my Oster blender because I am not fancy enough to have a food processor. It took a bit of stopping and starting and mixing with a spoon because that stuff is thick, but it’s doable. Next time I make it, I’ll add some ingredients to add extra flavor, maybe more paprika or roasted red peppers. This recipe makes a lot, so it’s good for someone like me who will eat all it in two days; or more realistically to bring to a party or a family gathering. PS – don’t ever judge someone for eating an entire bowl of hummus by themselves – you just may not appreciate the entire goodness of it.

Finally, my new recipe last weekend hopped over to the western hemisphere for some oven baked fajitas, yet another gem from Budget Bytes. I was looking for something not very difficult (because I want to make something really difficult for dinner! – says no one ever), and found my new go-to fajita recipe:

Easy Oven Fajitas

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Her homemade seasoning is EXCELLENT. Much better than any pre-packaged seasoning in my opinion. It’s also really great to know exactly what you’re putting into your mouth, because you prepared everything yourself (besides the optional sour cream). This pan made dinner for two hungry humans for two nights in a row. We live in Chile, so we HAD to include avocado along with the sour cream, but you can include anything extra to make it your own – salsa, lettuce, tomatoes… As I was eating it I was thinking, when is an acceptable timeframe to make this again? Friday night, it’s already been decided.

I am not a cook, but these recipes make me seem pretty talented…I could tell by the look on Andrés’ face while he was eating. That’s how well I know him.

Consumption With A Conscience

Last weekend, Andrés and I watched the documentary Fed Up as per recommendation of one of the most fabulous people on the planet, Lynne (ex)VB.

Fed Up is on Netflix, and I am passing on the recommendation. It really opened our eyes as to the quantity of sugar we consume daily versus what’s actually recommended as well as what happens in your body after your consume sugar. Just an FYI, it’s not great news. And consequently, not such great news for my relationship with Coke Zero. I won’t be the bearer of all the bad news, just watch it.

Besides replacing soda with water at all meals and drinking coffee with no added sugar/sweetener, I have started spending a significantly greater amount of time in the kitchen. Since moving to Chile nearly 3 years ago, I have recycled the same 4 or 5 recipes week after week, and as you may be able to see from this sad statistic, I’m not great at introducing diversity into our family meals (also a fierce creature of habit). My poor husband had grown used to chicken enchiladas, chicken tortilla soup, tacos, spaghetti and stir fry.

So, beginning in early June, I started trying some new recipes and found out that spices other than salt exist. I have now also discovered that the smell of cilantro takes me to my happy place.

My new go-to site is Budget Bytes, as she has tons of great recipes that also contemplate price.

I have made the following from her website (CAA – Curry Addicts Anonymous):

Curried Chickpeas with Spinach:Curried-Chickpeas-with-Spinach-bowl

Yellow Jasmine Rice:Yellow Rice side

Chana Saag:Chana Saag aboveI made the Chana Saag with lentils as we didn’t have any chickpeas, still very good. The evaporated milk was a little weird to dump into our dinner, but it mixed with everything else nicely. I read people have also substituted coconut milk with evaporated milk. I would try this again and add chicken.

This is my other favorite, I make it at least once a week:

Mexican Tomato Rice and Beansfc71iy049-02_xlgI’ve turned up the spice and added an additional jalapeño, and also included a chopped onion to the garlic and jalapeño, just because who doesn’t like a little extra onion breath, right?

Sometimes it’s hard for me to find everything (especially spices) that recipes require in Chile, simply because not everything is available, or the selection is limited. So, when I find a recipe that doesn’t use too many ingredients and all of the ingredients are available at the supermarket (at a reasonable price), it feels like I’ve hit the comida jackpot. Hence why I’ve repeated the same 5 recipes for 3 years.

The documentary does make a good point. It states that some people say that cooking at home is more expensive than eating out, but they show that it is usually to the contrary. Andrés and I would spend the equivalent of $30.00 for one dinner of sushi, but I have spent the same amount at the grocery store for at least 2 nights of dinner + leftovers. I have spent much more this month at the grocery store, but significantly less on takeout.

My next challenge is how to separate and cook a smaller portion of what I’m preparing for Joaquin, as most of what I’m cooking is pretty spicy and not so toddler-friendly.

My friends at Fitness Blender always tell me to eat real food and avoid processed “food”, and so far my greatest accomplishment is 1 week off soda. The last time I didn’t have soda for such a long period of time was probably 15 years ago. Talk about an abusive relationship.