Sunday, September 14, 2014

SA Sunday: Johannesburg & Pretoria

Fiance and I saved enough cash for one other adventure in Africa during our stay in Cape Town. After some serious thought and maybe a little debate, we ended up deciding to go to Victoria Falls (posts to come!) because it would allow us to see to more African countries, Zimbabwe and Zambia, and the falls are one of the most gorgeous natural landmarks in the world.

On our way there we had to fly out of Johannesburg, so we decided to make the most of it and spend a night there and see a few of the sights. Fiance had the foresight to look into cab costs, and we ended up deciding to rent a car. Since our hotel was in Johannesburg, we wanted to visit Pretoria, and the airport is super far away from either of those places, we really did save a ton of money. If you're visiting any city in South Africa, I highly recommend looking into a rental car and bringing your own GPS. Public transportation isn't very widely used and isn't recommended for tourists. Europcar was really great for us during our short visit!

Straight from the airport we went to the Union Buildings in Pretoria. Another bonus about a rental car- you have a place for your luggage until you can check into your hotel! Especially important if you're doing a 24 hour excursion like Fiance and I.

South Africa has three capital cities: Pretoria, Cape Town, and Bloemfontein (BLOOM-fawn-teen). Pretoria is the executive capital of South Africa, so where the president works. The buildings where he and his staff work are called the Union Buildings. The Union Buildings were built in 1913.

They sit on top of a large hill in Pretoria called Meintjieskop, giving the buildings an excellent view of the city.

In 2013, this giant bronze statue of Nelson Mandela was erected. We've seen a lot of Mandela statues since we moved to South Africa, but this one might be my favorite!

For some scale, here I am standing with the statue.

The Union Buildings are so beautiful and I'm really glad we chose to make this stop. I let Fiance pick all of our activities in the Johannesburg area, and he did good!

Our next stop was to the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria, which we could see from the Union Buildings. There's actually a law that says any building built between the two can't be so tall as to obstruct the view.

The Voortrekker Monument is one of the more interesting (and controversial) landmarks in South Africa, so we knew we had to stop and see it. South Africa is a very multicultural place and this monument represents a very specific version of part of its history. The monument is a huge granite structure dedicated to the Voortrekkers who left what was then the British-controlled Cape Colony (which includes the Western Cape, where Fiance and I live) to settle in the northern and eastern parts of what is now South Africa in the mid-1800s.

The bronze statue you see in the center is of a woman and two children. It was built to commemorate women's efforts to what they called the Great Trek.

You enter into a huge domed room called the Hall of Heroes. There are relief sculptures all along the walls that tell the story of the Great Trek, starting on the left and wrapping around the entire room.

The sculptures depicted some of the more significant events of the trek, including battles, as well as daily life.

The floor underneath the Hall of Heroes holds a cenotaph (an empty grave) dedicated to those who died during the trek. On December 16th at noon, the anniversary of the Battle of Blood River which was called the Day of the Vow until 1994, a ray of sunlight shines on the cenotaph from a hole in the ceiling. The Battle of Blood River was a battle between the Voortrekkers, who were Afrikaaners, and the Zulus, which the Voortrekkers won. In 1994, at the end of apartheid, it was renamed the Day of Reconciliation in the hopes of creating a national unity day.

The Day of the Vow refers to a vow made by the Voortrekkers to God the day of the Battle of Blood River. The Voortrekkers promised that if God helped them win the battle, they would build a church in his honor and forever honor the day. Here is the text of the vow outside the monument:

The room that held the cenotaph was lined with flags of the different Voortrekker Republics as well as tapestries depicting the Great Trek. The tapestries were reminiscent of depictions of westward migration in the US (the Oregon Trail) I encounter at home.

The lowest floor was a museum with some artifacts from the trek. After we explored that, we went all the way to the top of the monument, which Fiance insisted on taking the stairs to instead of just hopping on the elevator. I guess it's good for me. The stairs may have given me jelly legs, but the view was worth it. You can stand on the roof of the monument and get a great view of the city.

In the fields surrounding the monument, we spotted a few zebras and wildebeest, which was fun! Wildebeest really are the ugliest African animal.

From there, we headed to our hotel in Sandton, a suburb of Johannesburg. After getting checked in and Fiance spending half an hour trying to figure out how to park our car (which he claims wasn't his fault... Just kidding, Fiance!) we went to dinner at Mandela Square.

After exploring the shops a bit and getting a few drinks at a worldwide restaurant chain that shall remain nameless because I'm too ashamed to say it, we got dinner at The Butcher Shop and Grill. Great wine, good food, although I keep getting undercooked steaks every time I order them. Sorry, dad, I'm going to have to start asking for medium.

Overall, it was a great quick trip to Gauteng! There's obviously still so much we could see there, but we got to take in some fantastic cultural sights. Next week, I'll be sharing our trip to Victoria Falls!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Fettuccine with Goat Cheese, Bacon, & Cherry Tomatoes

I've learned so, so much during my six months so far living in South Africa. One of those smaller, less consequential things is that there are so many foods out there that I have yet to try. Cape Town has introduced me to a love of curry I didn't know I had, new seafood, ostrich, coriander, and countless other incredible foods.

Although my palate has grown leaps and bounds since college, I keep coming across seemingly ordinary foods and realizing that I've never tried them. Recently, one such food was goat cheese. We were served an incredible goat cheese salad during our stay at Inverdoorn for our safari and I realized it was something I hadn't eaten before! Why?! It was so creamy with just a touch of smoky, and I fell head over heels.

Since we're at the end of tomato season in the US, I've been seeing tons of gorgeous tomato-pasta dishes on Pinterest. I really wanted one for myself, so I came up with this fettuccine. It's packed with cherry tomatoes, bacon, goat cheese, tons of garlic, and fresh basil, thyme, and rosemary. It's fresh and hearty and so many of my favorite things.

Oh, and when I say tons of garlic, I mean a lotta garlic. Like have breath mints at the ready amounts of garlic. Like it might be best, for your coworkers' sake, to not bring leftovers to work for lunch amounts of garlic.

And bacon because everything is better with bacon. The sweetness of the cherry tomatoes with the smokiness of the goat cheese and saltiness of the bacon is the combination to beat all combinations.

You can use whatever shape of pasta you like. I typically go for short noodles like fusilli because they're so much easier to eat, but I felt like swirling the fettuccine would give a better guarantee that I'd get plenty of the other pasta components in each bite.

Hurry and make this while you still have your last few tomatoes!

Fettuccine with Goat Cheese, Bacon, & Cherry Tomatoes

Serves 3-4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp chopped rosemary
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

8 strips thick cut bacon
1 tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp chopped rosemary
1/3 cup goat cheese, chopped into small cubes

250 grams or 9 oz fettuccine pasta

3 tbsp basil, chopped chiffonade (into thin strips)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Toss the cherry tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon chopped thyme, and 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary. Roast in preheated oven for about 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and have started to collapse.
2. While the tomatoes are roasting, cook the bacon over medium heat in a skillet. Reserve the fat and drippings while cooking. Crumble bacon roughly with your fingers and set aside.
3. Without washing the skillet, add 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat and drippings to the skillet. Over medium-low heat, add the minced garlic cloves and cook until fragrant and starting to brown, about a minute. Add the remaining chopped thyme and rosemary and cook for another minute. Set aside.
4. Cook the fettuccine according to package directions for al dente pasta. When done, reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and drain.
5. Add the cherry tomatoes, goat cheese, and bacon to the garlic herb mixture in the skillet over medium-low heat. Stir together and cook for about a minute, then add the cooked pasta and toss, cooking for another minute. Add reserved pasta water if the sauce needs more liquid, but this shouldn't be a saucy pasta.
6. Serve with plenty of chopped basil on top.

Notes: Pepper bacon would be fantastic in place of regular bacon! Want to learn how to chiffonade? Check out this Youtube video for help!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies

People. My best friend did a terrible, terrible thing.

She got pregnant with her first baby, the first baby between the two of us, a week before I went off and moved to Cape Town for almost a year. We didn't know she was pregnant when we tearfully said goodbye, also known as me sitting around shocked, dazed, and useless because of our stressful departure and not believing I was actually moving to South Africa. Instead, I found out when I'd been here for two weeks over a crappy excuse for a phone call because our internet is just oh so awful.

So I missed my best friend's first baby shower, which I should have thrown, I don't get to cook her a single thing during her pregnancy, I don't get to see her big belly, I don't get to shop with her, I don't get to jump up and scream with excitement with her, I didn't get to help her and her husband move into their first house and decorate the nursery, I don't get to be there for my best friend during her labor. And worst of all, I don't get to meet this precious little girl who is already so special to me until she's already two months old.

I really meant that to sound silly and whiny, but now I'm totally bummed out. I couldn't be happier that Fiance and I made the decision to come to Cape Town and am so grateful we even got the opportunity, but man oh man. I'm definitely sad I'm missing this.

So, instead of walking by baby stores and saying, "Ooooh, let's go look!" and having Fiance retort, "No, we don't have any money," I decided to contribute in a different way. Here's what I would have baked for my best friend had I been able to throw her a baby shower. Or just for her to munch on while finding an hour or so to relax in her now very busy life. Because nothing makes the heart sing like peanut butter + chocolate.

These super fudgy, soft chocolate cookies come from Sally's Baking Addiction. And they are totally the tastiest. I added the pink candy pearls in the spirit of baby girl, but you could just use sprinkles or nothing at all. They won't be as fun, though.

The filling is made of peanut butter whipped with powdered sugar: easy, yummy, and fluffy. Muster some self-control before making it- if you're a peanut butter lover like me, you'll be hard pressed to not just dip some apples in there and eat the bowl.

Although I have yet to be pregnant myself, I can't help but think I'd love the brownie-like fudginess and creamy peanut butter that is these cookies. Really, these cookies have a few alternative titles: "Cookies for Kimberly" (my best friend) or "Pregnancy Hormones Tempered by Chocolate" (it's a play on "Death by Chocolate"... get it??? get it?! Okay, Fiance didn't laugh, either) would definitely suffice.

So make these for your pregnant friend, your pregnant self, or just for your non-child-carrying-you because you also deserve some chocolatey goodness in your life.

And Kimmy, I hope you can enjoy just feasting on these with your eyes for now... I'll make them for you in a few months!

Double Chocolate Peanut Butter Sandwich Cookies
Cookie recipe adapted from Sally's Baking Addiction
Makes 8 Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp milk
1 cup mini chocolate chips (regular are fine, too)
Candy pearls or sprinkles (optional)

1 cup smooth peanut butter
1/4 cup powdered sugar

1. Use a handheld or standing mixer on medium speed to beat the butter until lighter in color and fluffy, about 20 seconds. Add the sugars and beat until creamed together on medium speed, for another 30 seconds. Beat in the egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary.
2. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Over medium low speed, mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. The dough will be very thick. Mix in the milk and chocolate chips by hand.
3. Cover the dough with saran wrap in a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour, up to 36 hours.
4. After the dough has chilled, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
5. Roll the dough into balls a bit larger than a tablespoon each and arrange a few inches apart on the prepared baking sheets. You should have 16 cookies. Press them down just a bit and press pearls or sprinkles into the dough, if you're using them. Bake for 12 minutes. Cookies will be soft and fudgy. Let cool for a few minutes on the baking sheets then remove to wire racks to cool completely.
6. In the meantime, using a handheld or standing mixer, whip together the peanut butter and powdered sugar until completely combined and fluffy, about a minute.
7. When cookies have cooled, spread about two tablespoons of the peanut butter mixture onto the bottom of a cookie and press another cookie on top of the peanut butter. Set the cookie aside and continue working until all cookies are sandwiched.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Spiced Yogurt Chicken

A few weeks ago, I made a discovery: marinading chicken in yogurt makes it so moist and flavorful. I'm way behind on this, I know. The hundreds of pieces of chicken I've prepared and consumed since fending for myself have totally missed out.

If you've been following my blog for awhile, you know that lately I've been using a lot of ingredients and influences that have never made an appearance here before. It's a weird thing for me to keep plain yogurt in my fridge that I don't intend to cover in honey and berries. But I just can't get enough!

I've also been using a lot of chicken drumsticks lately. If you prefer thighs or breasts, hey, that's your call. Any cut will work just fine for this recipe, but if you're using boneless, skinless cuts, reduce the cooking time a bit.

For the marinade, toss yogurt, tons and tons of parsley, cumin, paprika, garlic, salt, and pepper into a food processor and blend until those parsley leaves are finely chopped.

Add the marinade and the chicken to a big ol' plastic baggie or a bowl and rub the marinade into all the chicken's nooks and crannies. Make sure to get it under the skin, too. Let it sit for at least a half hour, up to 24 hours in the fridge.

Cooking time! This recipe calls for cooking the drumsticks in the oven, but you could totally grill them. They'd be so tasty on the grill. I roasted broccoli and brussels sprouts on the same cookie sheet to make sure we get green things in our diet.

Cook for about 25 minutes, flip the chicken, and cook for another 15, or until the skin is nice and golden. You might need to broil them for a few minutes.

We had our chicken legs with the tasty veggies you saw and plenty of naan and feta cheese. This chicken + homemade naan = crazy tasty meal. Seriously, make yourself some naan to go with this. It's not that hard and I posted a recipe for it this week!

Have fun gobbling this up! And prepare to become just as enthralled with yogurt marinades as me.

Spiced Yogurt Chicken

Adapted from Taming of the Spoon
Serves 2-3


4-6 chicken drumsticks
1/2 cup plain yogurt
2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 cup parsley leaves
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Feta cheese & naan for serving (optional)

1. In a food processor, combine the yogurt, garlic, parsley, cumin, paprika, salt, and pepper. Process until well combined and parsley is finely chopped.
2. Add the yogurt mixture and the drumsticks to a large ziploc bag. Rub the marinade around the chicken legs, making sure to get it under the skin.
3. Marinade chicken for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.
4. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C). Arrange drumsticks on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove from oven and flip the chicken legs and bake for another 15 minutes, until cooked through and skin is golden brown. If necessary, broil the chicken for a few minutes to brown the skin.
5. Let chicken rest for five minutes before serving. Serve with feta cheese and naan, if desired.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

10 Fall Apple Recipes

Fall is here. Fall is finally here. Well, for all you people back in the northern hemisphere, anyway. Here in Cape Town, we're entering spring. We just bought our plane tickets back to the US (<<< experiencing every emotion under the sun about this) and although we'll be back just in time for Christmas, we're going to miss my favorite season in Portland: fall. The rain doesn't really start until mid-October and Portland's bountiful supply of trees go all kinds of gorgeous during these few months.

Anywho, if I were in Portland right now, countless pumpkin and apple treats would be making their way out of my oven. Here are some of my favorite apple recipes and a few other delicious looking ideas from other blogs!

Cinnamon Apple Scones. These scones make a brunch appearance at least every other week and I think I'd be safe in saying that these are Fiance's new favorite breakfast. I also have a peanut butter variation, in case you need a break from apples. Although I don't know what kind of person would.

Hot Cross Bun French Toast with Apple Compote. This one might ring a little more Easter-y, but the french toast would be great with any kind of fall bread. Inspiration: pumpkin bread french toast with this apple compote??? All the best fall foods in one dish!

Upside Down Apple Cake. I love upside down cakes. Is there anything tastier than fruit caramelized in butter? And I also get cake?! And this apple one is so light and and fluffy.

Hard Apple Cider Sangria. This recipe from So Good Blog is perfect for fall- I can't help think how yummy this would be for sipping on game days!

Fried Apples. As everyone knows, anything deep-fried is awesome. And apples already awesome. So I can't imagine how good these deep fried apple rings from Travel for Taste must be!

Green Apple Smoothie. Not only does this smoothie from Healthy Seasonal Recipes have plenty of apples, it's also got ginger and coconut. What a yummy way to start the day!

Caramel Apple Cupcakes. Okay let me break these cupcakes from Wild Wild Whisk down: an apple cake filled with dulce de leche and topped with cream cheese caramel frosting. I can hardly wrap my mind around all that deliciousness. These have suddenly jumped to the top of my baking list.

Apple Butterfinger Bars. These blondies from Inside BruCrew Life look amazingly sweet, crunchy, and caramely. I love the mix of flavors here!

And now for some savory apple options, because apples are good in everything.

Chicken Quesadillas with Apples and Gruyere. Apples and cheese are BFFs. Especially creamy, flavor-packed cheeses like gruyere! I can't wait to try this quesadilla from Healthy Nibbles & Bits to mix things up a bit.

Curried Chicken Salad with Apples and Raisins. Curried everything has become my new favorite way to cook. Although I've mostly been sticking to traditional stuff like Tikka Masala, I love the sound of this chicken salad from Bowl of Delicious! Such a good lunch idea.

I hope you have SO much fun in your kitchen this apple season and you've found some inspiration here! What are you planning to use all these delicious fall apples for?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Homemade Naan

I've been cooking a lot of Indian and Middle Eastern inspired cuisine in the last few months. Like a lot. Like suddenly various curries make an appearance on every week's menu. Before we came to Cape Town, I hadn't even stocked my spice drawer with spices like turmeric and curry powder, let alone delved into dishes like Tikka Masala.

Even though most of these dishes have thus far been comprised of meat, rice, and occasionally vegetables, I knew that naan and other flatbreads were in my baking future. Grocery store naan is always so dry and disappointing.

Homemade naan, though. Homemade naan is... magical. "Yummy" just doesn't cut it here. It's more than that. Homemade bread is always better and this flatbread is no exception. It's made with a bit of yogurt and gets brushed with a little ghee (clarified butter) for supafied deliciousness. Yes, I've resorted to making up words in order to to truly describe what this naan can do for your life.

If you've made your own bread before, this'll be a cinch, and even if you haven't it's still a very easy recipe to follow. The dough starts with the standard yeast-sugar-warm water mix, then gets ghee, salt, yogurt, and flour added to it. Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.

Then after some kneading (I know, I know, the worst part of baking- but it's worth it) and some rising, you divide the dough and roll it out into eight inch discs. I don't have a rolling pin here, so mine are a little lumpy and lopsided. It's okay. They're still tasty.

Aaand no more rising! Note: don't be like me and just stack these on one another. Put some paper between them or lay them out. Otherwise, they'll stick to each other and you'll be super annoyed because you have to re-roll them. Boo.

Brush some ghee on the naan pieces with a very heavy hand. Then just grill 'em, broil 'em, or fry 'em. It's totally up to you. The broiler on our oven doesn't get all that hot (or at least, it takes ages to, and I have no patience) and we don't have a braai (grill, in local Afrikaans!) so I panfried and it worked perfectly.

I have no shame and will admit that we had no trouble gobbling up all six between us with dinner. Because, as I said, they are magical.

Homemade Naan

Adapted from AllRecipes
Makes 6 Pieces

2/3 cup warm water
1 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 tsp white sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup ghee, divided (melted butter will work, too)
2 tbsp plain yogurt
2 cups flour

1. In a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your standing mixer, whisk together the warm water, yeast, and sugar. Let sit for about 10 minutes, or until yeast is proofed and foamy.
2. Add the salt, half of the ghee, and the yogurt to the to the yeast mixture. Knead in the flour a half cup at a time with the dough hook attachment on your standing mixer or with a wooden spoon and then by hand when it becomes to difficult to stir. Knead for 5-8 minutes or until dough is elastic. It will be sticky.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl. Add the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 45 minutes to an hour, or until doubled.
4. Punch down the dough and knead for another five minutes. Divide into six evenly sized pieces and roll into 8 inch wide discs.
5. You can cook these on your grill, under the broiler in your oven, or on the stovetop in a fry pan. Preheat your appliance of choice and cook each naan for about two minutes on each side or until they puff up and brown spots just start to appear.

Here are some dinner ideas to go with your naan!

Chicken Tikka Masala! This might be my new favorite food. I mean it.

Chicken and Pineapple Curry. Tropical and all things yummy.

Citrus Spiced Chicken. This chicken helped me discover a love for chicken thighs I didn't know I had.