About Laura

Earlier this year, my boyfriend and I scored an awesome deal on a trip to Dublin, Ireland. We spent five days exploring the city and eating our way around it. Yes, the Guinness really does taste better over there. It’s a little sweeter and has a lot less of an umami taste.

Temple Bar in Dublin

We had a great time in Dublin. When I got back to the U.S., I knew I had to make shepherd’s pie for the blog. I had so many variations there, with both beef and lamb, and I wanted to try it out for myself. I set out to look for a good recipe I thought might be similar to what I had over on the Emerald Isle.

Lots of ingredients in this one!

I stumbled across this one and thought it looked pretty good. I decided ground lamb was the way to make it extra shepherd-y.

Chopping veggies

I invited a bunch of friends over for a dinner party to help me eat the dish. Good thing I did; the recipe yielded an enormous pie. It could easily feed eight to 12 people.

Everything cooking up in the pan.

One other thing to note: this is definitely a weekend dinner. It took a couple hours to get everything together.

Dinner is served!

When I took my first bite, I knew I had found the pot of gold. It was an awesome, savory, gravy-filled bowl of potato-lamb goodness. This is a meal that is approachable enough for picky eaters (especially if you go the beef route, although… lamb is better!), and is also elegant enough to impress your guests. Try out this recipe for yourself, and enjoy a trip back to Ireland with me!

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On one of my business trips to DC, I was lucky enough to have three hours to walk around and get a good meal. My friend Jenn suggested that I enjoy lunch at a place serving food from Laos, so a friend and I decided to Uber over and check it out. We asked the waitress what dishes she suggested for us to have the most authentic Laotian experience, and she suggested mok pa, steamed fish.

Mis en place

When I stumbled across this recipe while searching for blog material, I remembered my awesome experience in DC, and knew I had to make it for myself.

Mixing everything together to prepare them for the packets.

As always, some of the ingredients were difficult to find. I had to sub out the padaek, for one (I used fish sauce), and I was kicking myself that I didn’t make this dish back when I found some banana leaves randomly at the grocery store. Still, I had a friend visiting who was on a diet, and I knew this light dish would be good to make for him.

The fish getting ready to take a hot bath.

For the fish, I used mahi mahi. It was fairly inexpensive at the store, and it is generally liked by people who enjoy eating fish.

Getting ready to take an umami-and-dill-filled bite.

The resulting dish was light, creamy, and full of umami and dill flavors. I served it with garlic and soy sauce broccoli rabe. But if my friend hadn’t been on a diet, I definitely would have added rice.

Mok pa — the finished product

This recipe is quick, easy, and flavorful. It’s great for a weeknight, and a lot of fun to cook in packets!

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It’s been a while since I’ve been able to find the time to devote to my blog. I’ve been doing a lot of actual traveling, which has curbed my ability to travel in my kitchen. I have a couple more meals up my sleeve for the next few weeks.

Slicing the Tillamook Vintage Cheddar to put in the food processor

Ever since I bought Cravings, Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook, I knew I wanted to do a mac and cheese-off with Chrissy Teigen’s recipe and John Legend’s recipe. My friend Melissa and I have been planning to get together for months to make this is a reality, and it finally happened.

Eggs and butter

Every single friend of mine (and, also, my boyfriend…) knows I absolutely love John Legend. I have every single CD of his since Get Lifted. He has been my ideal man since high school. I love his voice, his song writing, his piano playing, and his handsome looks. He’s the whole package.

Bowls and bowls of cheese after I shredded it in the food processor.

Needless to say, I wasn’t the happiest camper when Chrissy Teigen arrived on the scene, but she soon won me over with her hilarious Instagram and Twitter accounts, and then completel made me love her with her awesome cookbook. There is not one dish I’ve made from it that I haven’t enjoyed. I highly recommend her book, and I cannot wait for her second one.

Both recipes called for sharp cheddar cheese. I had a block of sharp vintage white cheddar from my visit to Tillamook last year, which I had been saving for an epic mac and cheese. I used the cheese in both.

Melting the cheese and adding the noodles for Chrissy’s mac and cheese.

Both recipes envision a different kind of mac and cheese. In John’s recipe, you toss everything into a baking dish and heat it in the oven. The result is a more solid, compact cheese dish. John’s dish calls for elbows.

John’s mac, from the inside

Chrissy’s mac and cheese, on the other had, is primarily cooked on the stove, and popped in the oven to brown the top. Her’s is a creamier version, and calls for shells.

Chrissy’s mac and cheese

Now that we had our scoops of mac, Melissa and I did a side-by-side comparison.

Chrissy vs John

It was an even split! I preferred Chrissy’s creamy dish, while Melissa preferred the more traditional casserole by John. (There was no one more surprised than I was that I would choose Chrissy’s over John’s). We needed a tie breaker, so I packed some up for Melissa to take home to her husband. He also liked Chrissy’s (Melissa told him he was wrong).

Chrissy’s awesome cookbook, Cravings.

This was a lot of fun, and it’s something I would like to do again with a bigger panel. So, friends in Northern Nevada, let me know when you want to have a mac and cheese party!

Chrissy’s recipe here.

John’s recipe here.

 

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One of the great things about deciding to start up this blog is that it encourages me, personally, to learn about other countries. I am very much a typical American when it comes to geography and general world knowledge (in that I possess very little). It’s a fact that I have been working on remedying in my adult life. When I was telling my boyfriend that I was making moussaka from Macedonia for dinner one night, he told me a little bit about the dispute over the country’s name, which sent me down a rabbit hole of research. Now I’m just a little bit smarter.

Everything you need to make moussaka

For those who don’t know, Macedonia declared its independence from Yugoslavia in the 1990s. However, it had a dispute with Greece over its name (Macedonia can also refer to the northern area of Greece), and it is officially referred to as the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) by the UN, NATO and EU.

My friend Lulu chops onions for mousakka

Moussaka is very simple, but also extremely satisfying. My friend Lulu and I had spent the day running a 5k with our local running club and decided to finish off the day cooking. She helped me chop and also provided laughter, good times and photography while we cooked.

Stirring up meat and onions

Like the pilaf-esque rice dishes I have made before on this blog, moussaka has a number of varieties. Some use eggplant. This one uses meat and potatoes, with milk and egg to provide moisture.

Lulu smooths out the meat layer in the baking dish

This is almost a one-pot dish; it can at least easily be characterized as two-dish — the dish to brown the meat and the dish to bake it up. Either way, it’s easy clean up.

Browned and finished

This was the perfect dish to refuel after our run. I can’t really disclose how much Lulu and I ate… but this recipe should feed four to six!

Ready to take a bite out of my plate of moussaka

It probably isn’t traditional, but Lulu and I squirted a little bit of jalapeno ketchup onto our plates. It added just a little more umph to the flavor of it. Try out this simple dish next time you need a good, filling meal!

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It’s always a great morning when you can travel to another country before changing out of your PJs. It’s even better when you discover an absolutely amazing dish you know you are going to make over and over again. That is true for makhlama lahm, Iraqi eggs with lamb and tomatoes.

Mise en place
Mise en place

Earlier this year, I made shakshuka, a hearty Israeli breakfast that fueled me through a hike with my friend Jonathan. makhlama lahm is similar, but with the addition of yellow curry powder and lusciously decadent lamb. I daresay that I loved it even more for a solid brunch.

Chopping up the veggies
Chopping up the veggies

Lamb is one of those meats that most people either love or hate. I happen to love the earthy taste of lamb meat, especially when cooked with the acidity of tomatoes. Top it with a sprinkle of curry powder, and I am in heaven.

This baby is ready to go in the oven.
This baby is ready to go in the oven.

Like shakshuka, makhlama is a one-pot dish that cooks up quickly to satiate your morning hunger pains. I’m a meat eater, so I loved that this version had even more protein to start my day off with a energetic push.

Enjoying makhlama with a bit of naan.
Enjoying makhlama with a bit of naan.

The only substitution I made (it’s a small one) were cherry tomatoes for larger vine-ripe ones. It’s what I happened to have on hand from my last shopping trip. I sopped up the egg yolk and meaty sauce with a bit of naan.

Part of a complete breakfast.
Part of a complete breakfast.

What I enjoyed the most about this dish was the use of the lamb, with tomatoes as the co-star. Try out this dish if you like ground lamb and breakfast food. The two make a great pairing.

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When I stumbled across this recipe for Swahili kuku, I knew right away it was going to be a good one. The ingredients on the list meant that I was going to be in for a savory, spicy, flavor-filled, warming dish. I was right.

 

Simple ingredients, big flavor.
Simple ingredients, big flavor.

Kenyans enjoy a variety of foods depending on the region. The western region of Kenya favors chicken, while other regions favor other proteins, such as goat or sheep. Generally, this chicken dish is served with rice or maize meal. I decided to keep it simple with rice.

Mise en place.
Mise en place.

I did make one adjustment to the meal (other than removing the cilantro). I subbed out the cream for coconut milk, since that is what I had on-hand at the time.

Cooking action shot.
Cooking action shot.

This dish has all the sorts of spices I absolutely love. Throw some turmeric, cumin, ground coriander, add some heat with peppers or cayenne powder, sweeten it up with clove and cardamom, and I am a happy camper.

Swahili kuku with rice.
Swahili kuku with rice.

This meal was delicious, easy, and warmed my belly. Try swahili kuku for yourself.

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I’ve made a form of Rogan Josh before, but never following a strict, authentic recipe. Generally, this is because lamb is expensive, and I usually sub it for beef. My boyfriend and I jokingly call this dish Josh Groban, and it is just as silky smooth as his voice.

Gathering everything together.
Gathering everything together.

I took the opportunity in writing this post to learn a little bit more about the territory known as Kashmir. Kashmir refers to an area that is controlled by China, Pakistan, and India. The influences of all three of the countries are pretty obvious in this dish. It features a heft of assorted delicious spices.

Look at those sexy spices.
Look at those sexy spices.

My boyfriend was in town, and I invited over a couple friends to enjoy this dish. It takes a while, but it’s definitely a great dinner party meal. And if you’re not going for complete authenticity, you can do what I have done in the past and sub out the lamb for beef if you have a picky dinner guest.

Lamb shanks soaking in a spice bath.
Lamb shanks soaking in a spice bath.

Luckily, my friends were only too happy to enjoy lamb shanks. One word of caution I would offer is to make sure you get good quality lamb shanks. I purchased two shanks from a high-end grocery and the other two from a bargain grocery; I didn’t think it would make a difference, but it certainly did. The shanks from the low-end grocery were cut very badly, resulting in still-tough meat even after all the stewing. I saved those bones to make some broth later on.

Melissa eating like a cavewoman.
Melissa eating like a cavewoman.

To round out the meal, I made rice, Nepali-style saag (ghee, garlic and spinach sauteed together), and heated up some pre-made naan (I’m so not good at baking). It turned out beautifully, and the house was filled with wonderful smells.

A complete meal.
A complete meal.

If you’re looking for an easy-to-prepare dish and have a little extra time to let it heat on the stovetop, give Rogan Josh a try.

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Picadillo Cubano

One of my oldest friends, Jenn, is half Cuban, half Puerto Rican. In college, I went to visit her at the University of Miami, and she took me to the only Cuban restaurant I have ever been to that I really enjoyed (there is more to this: all of the restaurants I ever went to in Vegas weren’t very good, she told me). The food was all delicious, but I absolutely can’t tell you what we ate, since Jenn ordered everything for me in Spanish.

Ingredients for Picadillo Cubano
Ingredients for Picadillo Cubano

Jenn often tells me she has meals she wants to send me to make for the blog, but that she makes everything just like her grandma: there’s no written recipe. (This is a common theme when I ask my friends for recipes). I stumbled across this recipe for Picadillo Cubano and asked Jenn if she’d ever had it. She laughed and responded she has some form of Picadillo Cubano every week, and while she doesn’t like to use raisins, this one looked pretty authentic. The mixture of salty and sweet intrigued me, and I just had to try it out.

Those look like orange slices, but they are actually bell pepper.
Those look like orange slices, but they are actually bell pepper.

I absolutely love olives. I am an olive fiend. I was excited to have a dish that used them very heavily. Plus, since this dish required white wine, that meant I automatically had an excuse to have a glass with dinner. Not bad at all!

Picadillo Cubano
Everything cooking up together in a pretty, colorful pan.

Not only does it have olives, wine, and that little something that made it sweet, Picadillo Cubano was quick and easy for a weeknight. I really can’t ever argue with something that means I get transported somewhere else on a weeknight.

Picadillo Cubano
The finished product!

The resulting flavor was just as I envisioned: salt from the olives, richness from the ground beef, and a touch of sweet from the raisins. It left me feeling satisfied but not heavy. This one is going to be a regular staple for sure. I know now why my friend Jenn cooks this up every week. Try it out for yourself.

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There is a cute little tea place near my office that has delicious food as well as an awesome, ever-changing selection of teas. One of my go-to lunches there is a twist on the egg sandwich made instead with Chinese tea eggs. The flavor is an awesome mixture of soy sauce, star anise and black tea. I spoke to Kat, the owner, about the traditional Chinese snack, and I was inspired to hunt down how to make these delicious concoctions. I found a great recipe online, complete with video.

Ingredients for Chinese marbled tea eggs.
Ingredients for Chinese marbled tea eggs.

The ingredients for Chinese marbled tea eggs are relatively few, but they are spices that pack a wallop. The star anise, in particular, gave off a powerful aroma as soon as it started heating up in the saucepan.

Cracked egg
Cracked egg

The first step is to hard boil the eggs, let them cool, and then gently tap the shells until they crack in pretty patterns. It was quite fun.

The shells looked a bit like chocolate. The taste was totally different.
The shells looked a bit like chocolate. The taste was totally different.

After cracking the eggs, I let the eggs boil slowly for about two hours. Since it was a Saturday, I made breakfast, then let the eggs simmer while I went about my late morning routine. The house filled with a heavenly aroma of licorice, tea, and soy sauce. After a couple hours, the shells turned a dark chocolate-brown color. It was beautiful.

Close up on the marbling
Close up on the marbling

The result of the slow simmer was a gorgeous marble. I paired the eggs with sauteed green beans and rice for a complete lunch.

Lunch is served!
Lunch is served!

The flavors of the tea eggs were amazing. It was a simple, but completely satisfying meal. If you’re looking for a good meal that doesn’t require too much hands-on time, try the Chinese tea eggs. It will be a mixture of flavors you’ve never experienced.

 

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,

I’ve had a whirlwind of travel and household guests the last two months, and the blog suffered as a result. But I’m back with renewed energy and ready to continue cooking my way around the world!

One culinary treat I discovered when I moved up to Northern Nevada is Basque food. I did not know a lot about the Basque, who primarily live in Spain and southwestern France, until I got up here and found out there’s a good number of Nevadans who claim Basque ancestry. With that comes no shortage of Basque restaurants, which I associate with several courses of hearty food and complimentary red table wine. (There’s also Picon Punch, which is our state drink, but I *gasp* don’t really care too much for it…) Ask anyone in Northern Nevada what their favorite Basque restaurant is, and you can get any number of answers. Suffice to say, I enjoy something about each of the restaurants I’ve tried up here.

Some of the ingredients for making Basque chicken and chorizo
Some of the ingredients for making Basque chicken and chorizo
There were any number of dishes I could have chosen to make for my Basque feast. Lamb is generally a popular choice because typically many Basque were shepherds. However, I have a particular fondness for Basque chorizo and determined that this dish was the way to go.

Prepping everything to cook up.
Prepping everything to cook up.
I’m not sure how difficult Basque chorizo is to get elsewhere, but up here in Northern Nevada, it’s pretty much at every store. The spices are slightly different than Mexican chorizo, and it usually isn’t as spicy.

Cooking up chicken and chorizo.
Cooking up chicken and chorizo.
I did make one substitution in this recipe. I didn’t have any dry sherry, so I opted for red wine instead. I researched a few versions of this recipe before settling on the one I used, and most of them used red wine, anyway (or even a combination of red and white). Cooking with wine means I have an excuse to enjoy a glass with dinner, which is always a major plus.

Voila!
Voila!
I wasn’t able to pull off the multi-course feast of the Basque restaurants in town, but I did enjoy a warming, hearty platter of chicken and chorizo. Try this out, and I am sure your tastebuds will thank you.

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