All posts filed under “BECKETT’S FAVES

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PERU: Sopa Minuta

PERU: Sopa Minuta

IMG_3945We were super excited to draw Peru out of the cup just a couple of weeks before we were to leave for 3 weeks in Peru!   We had a FANTASTIC time and saw, learned, and experienced so much – including hiking the Inca trail where the boys earned from the various guides on the trail the nickname “Alpacitos” (baby alpacas – as opposed to baby goats) as they scampered along.

While the boys love exploring Cusco – a city full of Incan history, colonial balconies, and (very) thin air…IMG_3580…they both REALLY loved Lima – a city full of gorgeous buildings, ceviche, public parks, and (the pièce de résistance) an arcade in the mall across the street from the hotel we stayed in.  They want to move there… to the hotel that is.    I wouldn’t mind either.  (Shout out to Christian from the JW Marriott… if you’re reading this – you made our stay in Lima so fun!  So fun connecting with another foodie!)


See that flag above the boys? It’s on the hostel I stayed in 20 years ago. We stopped in to see if they still have peacocks on the roof. Yes, they do. Also, the boys were beyond fascinated by the crypts under the yellow church (Catedral San Francisco) and the hundreds of thousands of bones on display. Boys.


One of the highlights of our trip was visiting a small farming village about an hour outside of Cusco where 32 families live and farm at 14,000 feet elevation.  The primary language is Quechua (the language of the Inca) and many of the children don’t have the opportunity to attend school as they are busy working the fields.  That said, there is an organization there now that has set up a fantastic school (one room, 40 kids ranging from 6-16, one teacher!) where the kids are learning to read and write in Spanish and English, taught computer skills, and provided a safe space to learn and study.  It was amazing and humbling to see what the teachers and kids are able to accomplish with so little.  That said, they need so much and we will be publishing a list of their needs and how you can help these kids.  Stay tuned for more information.


The boys in red next to Beckett are the same age as him.  Look how TALL Beckett is by comparison! The local boys were fascinated by the “giant boy in glasses”.



Meanwhile, Calvin made quick friends through the universal language of drawing cartoons.



While we visited the school, the moms prepared a lesson for us in sheering sheep + alpacas, making yarn, dying the yarn and lastly weaving the materials.

If any of your are planning to travel to Peru with your kids, I have so much advice!  Just send me an email and I’ll send you all my thoughts.



2014_12_soop_peru-15Alrighty, on to the soup.  We chose “Sopa Minuta” a classic soup loved throughout much of Peru for it’s ease, simplicity, and speed.  It is found on menus all over the country and know by most everyone.  That said, as we traveled through different parts of the country, the boys would make new friends and chat them up about our soup project and the response was invariably, “oh yes, Sopa Minuta is good, but you should really make……”.   In fact, one hotel we stayed at, even surprised us by giving us a recipe to add to our roster.  So sweet!

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 3.54.39 PMSo, we just might have to repeat Peru a few times until we find our favorites.  We’ll have to add “Quinua Soap” (aka Quinoa Soup), Chupe de Quinoa, and Moraya (dried potato soup).  Look for those soups at some point during this project.

Anyway,  like I said, Sopa Minuta is made all over the country and is made differently by each household- much like chicken noodle soup here in the US.  We had it a few times in different places in Peru and it was drastically different – some include tomato sauce, some milk; some include ground beef, others chunks of sirloin.  That said, the common ingredients are noodles (I use rice noodles to make it GF), beef, oregano, and a Peruvian chile paste made from aji panca.  If you can’t find it in any of your local Hispanic markets, you can purchase it online.  It is not spicy, but provides THE flavor for the soup.  There is no substitute, so do yourself a favor and find a jar somewhere because once you try this, you will want to make it over and over.  Plus, you can use it in the “quinua soap” recipe above.  🙂

This soup comes together in about 15 minutes and is hearty and filling enough for a quick weeknight meal.  Pair this with a little salad (and maybe a pisco sour or two) and you’re all set!

2014_12_soop_peru-1Sopa Minuta
Serves 4


  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil – sunflower,  canola, etc
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves  garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons aji panca paste
  • 1 pound ground beef  – or sirloin cut into cubes if your prefer
  • 1/2 tablespoon of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 6 cups hot water
  • 2 tablespoons GF tamari – or regular soy sauce if you can eat it
  • 1/2 pound angel hair pasta (I use THIS brand and cannot tell it’s not regular pasta).
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream


  1. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and saute about 8 minutes or until golden brown. Add tomato and aji panca pastes and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.2014_12_soop_peru-5
  2. Crumble the beef into the onion mixture and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through.2014_12_soop_peru-8
  3. Pour hot water into the mixture and add soy sauce simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the noodles and cook for 4 minutes.2014_12_soop_peru-11
  5. While noodles are cooking, crack eggs into a cup and stir until well blended. (Make sure you don’t accidentally get shells in there!)  Then gently stir eggs into soup – stirring continuously.  Eggs will form long thin noodle like strings (like an egg drop soup).2014_12_soop_peru-9 2014_12_soop_peru-102014_12_soop_peru-12
  6. Remove from heat season the mixture with oregano and salt + pepper (to taste).2014_12_soop_peru-13
  7. Add cream and serve.

Cook’s Notes

This recipe ended up on all of our favorites list and will be on repeat at our house frequently.  It’s very savory and comforting.  My #1 of all so far!

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BULGARIA: Supa Topcheta (Bulgarian meatball soup) Супа топчета

BULGARIA: Supa Topcheta/Супа топчета

2014_11_soop_bulgaria-13Here’s what we learned about Bulgaria in  our research this week:

  •  Yogurt is extremely popular in Bulgaria and eating it is believed to give you a longer life.
  • Bulgarians shake their heads to mean yes and nod for no.
  • Bulgaria is the oldest country in Europe that hasn’t changed its name since it was first established in 681 AD.
  • Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook) is named after his grandfather (Marko) who emigrated from Bulgaria in 1940.
  • Many believe that wine has been produced in Bulgaria since the stone age!

I had the great fortune to attend a singing workshop with the lovely ladies of Kitka Vocal Ensemble where I learned how to sing in the Eastern European style.  The technique involves a different use of my throat/nose than I had ever been exposed to and the harmonies are haunting.  Here is a gorgeous song by Kitka.  I honestly don’t know if it’s Bulgarian, but it sure is pretty.  And here is a Bulgarian group singing in traditional Bulgarian costumes.


Calvin found this recipe on pinterest and was sold the minute he saw the word “meatballs”.  We love us some meatballs in our house – from Italian wedding soup, to Vietnamese beef balls in our pho, spaghetti and meatballs – we love them all.  And now we have a new favorite meatball that is also GLUTEN FREE!!  Whoo-hoo!  In Bulgaria, they add rice to their meatballs instead of bread and, I’m telling you we will be doing the same henceforth in our house.  I was a little confused by all the recipes I found online because none of them told me whether the rice should be cooked or uncooked when adding them to the meatballs, so I rolled the dice and opted for uncooked which was correct.  Phew!

Supa Topcheta can be made about as many different ways as our own Chicken Noodle soup, so this recipe is an amalgam of various recipes found online with a few of our own ideas tossed in for good measure.  In the end, it was a winner.  All thumbs up!2014_11_soop_bulgaria-11Apparently, it was “everyone wear red” night at our house.  I didn’t even notice until processing the photos.  Funny.  Also, if you don’t like losing, never play Yahtzee with Calvin.  He is a ringer.  You have been warned.

2014_11_soop_bulgaria-1Supa Topcheta (Bulgarian meatball soup) Супа топчета
Serves 4-6


For the Meatballs

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 cup white rice, uncooked
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon dried savory
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup gluten free flour (I used Pamela’s)

For the Soup

  • 4 cups water
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small celery root, cubed into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (not fat free)
  • 2 egg yolks
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Prepare the meatballs by combining all the meatball ingredients EXCEPT the flour in a large bowl and mixing well by hand.   Allow to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes (more for better flavor) to allow flavors to meld. Once meat has rested, roll into 1 inch meatballs.  2014_11_soop_bulgaria-2
  2. Roll each meatball in gluten free flour and shake off any excess.  2014_11_soop_bulgaria-6
  3. Bring the water and beef broth to a boil in a large soup pot.  Add salt.  When water is boiling vigorously, add meatballs in batches – maintaining a solid boil.  Once all meatballs have been added, add carrots, celery root and tomatoes.  Reduce heat and simmer 20-25 minutes until the vegetables are tender.2014_11_soop_bulgaria-8
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk egg yolks until smooth.  Add yogurt and lemon juice and whisk well until smooth.2014_11_soop_bulgaria-7
  5. Add 1/2 cup of the hot broth from the soup pot in a thin stream – stirring constantly.  If you add the broth too quickly, the egg/yogurt will curdle, so make sure to go slow and steady as  you add the hot broth to the egg/yogurt.  Once you have added 1/2 cup of hot broth, slowly pour the egg/yogurt into the soup pot – again going slowly and stirring constantly
  6. Finally stir in the chopped parsley and serve.



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SOMALIA: Oat + Goat Soup (Shurbad)

SOMALIA: Oat + Goat Soup (Shurbad)


Here’s what we learned about Somalia in  our research this week:

  •  Somalia has a huge nomadic population and they eat primarily goat and camel meat.
  • The northern part of Somalia declares itself independent as Somaliland, but is unrecognized by most of the rest of the world.  That part of Somalia was ruled by Britain until 1960.
  • The southern part of Somalia was ruled until 1960 by Italy.  Therefore, pasta is incredibly popular in Somalia – some even suggest that pasta is the national dish of Somalia!
  • Somalia is 99% Muslim – the vast majority being Sunni.
  • Ramadan is observed throughout Somalia whereby fasting is observed during daylight hours for close to a month.  Upon breaking the fast, many Somali families eat a very filling and hearty soup of goat and oats.
  • Doing a Google search of images of “Somalia kids” is not advised unless you (a) have tissues at hand, (b) are prepared to answer a lot of questions from your kids about starvation, and (c) can stomach it.
  • The recipe we chose would traditionally be eaten with hands by using a pancake like bread to grab little handfuls.  I couldn’t find (and honestly, didn’t have the gumption to try) a gluten free version of this bread, so we went with rice instead.  If you can eat gluten, here’s a great looking  recipe!


So, it turns out that finding a Somali soup that can be verified to be a true and traditional soup of Somalia was quite a challenge.  There are many wonderful Somali cooking blogs out there, but I couldn’t find a “official” source of Somali recipes to cross check any of the recipes I found online.  Which led me into an interesting line of thinking about how the internet works and what people find online tends to be taken as gospel truth simply because it was found online.   And I then realized that once I post this recipe out there on the interwebs, I will, in fact, be just as much an authority on Somali soups as anyone else who has ever put a recipe for Somali soup online.  Wacky.

Anyway, I finally settled on two recipes I could vouch for the authenticity of and gave Calvin a choice between lamb shoulder stew and goat + oat stew.  I was surprised when he chose the goat + oat, worried about how it would come out, and nervous about our friends coming over to join us with their two little boys.  I should not have worried:

soop_somalia_oct14-25The enthusiastic response was immediate and all 4 boys went in for 2nds and one went for 3rds.  Plus, my two boys had leftovers in their lunch boxes yesterday and both ate every bite while bragging to their friends (and intentionally grossing out the girls) about eating goat stew.  Which reminds me… you don’t have to use goat.  It is the traditional meat for this dish, but you could also use lamb or beef if you desire.  If you’re really not into goat, don’t let the goat stand in the way of making this incredible soup – go ahead and use a different meat.  I won’t tell anyone.

This soup is simultaneously simple and complex; hearty, but not rich.  It is easy to make (once you’ve made the spice mix) and quick enough for a school night dinner.  We served it with Somali rice, spice encrusted goat, and a DELICIOUS coconut hot sauce.  For a quick an easy dinner, I might make a simple salad of cucumber and tomato to eat with this soup and call it a night.  We will be making this one again for sure.soop_somalia_oct14-30

Oat + Goat Soup (Shurbad)
Serves 4-10 depending on whether served as an appetizer or main


    • 2 tablespoons canola oil
    • 1 pound ground goat meat (you can use lamb instead if you desire or beef if you don’t like goat or lamb)
    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon salt
    • 1 cup diced tomatoes
    • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon xawaash spice (see recipe below)
    • 2 boullion cubes (preferrably HerbOx)
    • 8 cups water
    • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats (Trader Joes and Bob’s Red Mill have gluten free versions)
    • Juice of one lemon


  1. Heat oil in large soup pot.  Add goat meat and brown.  Add onion and cook until the onions are translucent.  Add garlic, tomatoes, and xwaash bariis- stir for 2 minutes.soop_somalia_oct14-19
  2. Add water, boullion, and oats.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring frequently.soop_somalia_oct14-20soop_somalia_oct14-21
  3. Using an immersion blender or a regular blender blend soup until smooth.soop_somalia_oct14-23 soop_somalia_oct14-24
  4. Add lemon juice and check for seasoning adding more xawaash bariis or salt as needed.  I mixed a little olive oil and xawaash bariis to make a sauce I could drizzle on top for a little color.

Cook’s Notes
All adults and 2 of the kids at the table though the coconut hot sauce (recipe below) brought this recipe to the next level.  Feel free to use a different meat if you desire.  I won’t tell anyone.

Somali Spice Mix (Xawaash Bariis) 
Makes about 1 cup



    •  1/4 cup cumin seeds
    • 1/4 cup coriander seeds
    • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
    • 1 small cinnamon stick
    • 24 cardamom pods
    • 1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    • 1 tablespoon turmeric powder


  1. Add all ingredients except last three to small frying pan and heat, stirring constantly, for 4-5 minutes until very fragrant.  Cumin seeds will burn quickly if not attended to.soop_somalia_oct14-13
  2. Place all ingredients in a spice grinder (I use a coffee grinder) and grind into a fine powder.soop_somalia_oct14-14
  3. Pour into a glass jar and add ginger powder, nutmeg and turmeric powder.  Place lid on jar and shake until all spices are well incorporated.

Somali Coconut Hot Sauce (Basbaas Qumbe)
Makes about 2 cupssoop_somalia_oct14-16


    •  1/3 cup dried coconut, unsweetened preferrably
    • 3 large jalapeños, stemmed (seeded too if less spicy is desired)
    • 2 large cloves garlic
    • 1 small onion
    • 1/4 cup white vinegar
    • 1/4 cup canola oil
    • 1/4 cup water
    • 1 tablespoon salt


  1. Soak coconut 15 minutes in boiling water to remove any sweetener and soften coconut; changing water at least once. Drain well.
  2. Add all ingredients to blender and blend well.

Xawaash Encrusted  Goat Meat (Hilib Ari Duban)
Serves 6-8


    •  Goat shoulder or leg (approximately 3 pounds)
    • 3 tablespoons xawaash spice
    • 3 tablespoons canola oil
    • 4 large cloves garlic
    • 2 tablespoons salt


  1. Preheat grill or oven to 300 degrees (we used a Traeger smoker grill).
  2. Mix oil, xawaash, garlic and salt in small bowl.  Spread mixture all over goat, making sure to get spices into every crevice.
  3. Wrap goat tightly in aluminum foil at least 4 times – making sure every seam is well closed.  (If steam escapes, meat will not cook properly.)
  4. Allow goat to rest and marinate at least one hour.  Marinate in the refrigerator overnight for best flavor.
  5. Put on grill (with door closed), traeger, or in oven for 3-4 hours.  Because all the moisture stays inside the foil, it is nearly impossible to over-do it.
  6. Remove from heat and allow to rest for 20 minutes before opening foil.
  7. Pick meat off bones and serve.


    Sorry there is no before photo… the problem was it smelled so insanely good when it came off the grill that all 4 adults dove in before I remembered that we needed a photo. Oh well – we’ll just have to make it again.


Somali Spiced Rice (Bariis Iskukaris)
Serves 8 as a side



    •  2 cups basmati rice
    • 4 tablespoons ghee (or olive oil)
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 tablespoon xawaash spice
    • 3 large cloves garlic
    • 1/2 cup peas, more to taste
    • 1/2 cup chopped carrots, more to taste
    • 2 1/2 cups water
    • 2 tablespoons salt


  1. Rinse rice thoroughly until water runs clear.
  2. In large pot that has a properly fitting lid, melt ghee over medium heat and fry the onions until they begin to caramelize.
  3. Add xawaash, garlic and vegetables and cook, stirring constantly until fragrant – 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add rice, water and salt.  Bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer and cover pan.
  5. Simmer for 15 minutes then turn off stove (do not remove lid!) and allow rice to sit in covered pot another 15 minutes.
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SWEDEN: Ärtsoppa + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon (Yellow Pea Soup + Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam)

SWEDEN: Ärtsoppa + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon (Yellow Pea Soup + Swedish pancakes with lingonberry jam)


Here’s what we learned about Ärtsoppa in  our research this week:

  •  Ärtsoppa (EHRT-soh-puh) is traditionally eaten on Thursdays in Sweden.  It’s said that even the King of Sweden eats this on Thursdays.  This tradition dates back to the middle ages.
  • The Finnish eat this same soup, but with green peas.
  • In Sweden, ärtsoppa is served in schools, the military, hospitals, government offices, and many restaurants on Thursdays.
  • It is traditionally eaten with Swedish pancakes and lingonberry jam.  Also, these pancakes are not eaten for breakfast, but rather as a lunch/dinner item.  That said, we had the leftovers for breakfast the next day.  😉
  • The traditional beverage that accompanies this meal is a liqueur called Punsch.  It is not easy to find, but I HIGHLY recommend you seek out a bottle.  It is low alcohol, sweet, and complex.  It’s fantastic alone, over ice, served hot, with sparkling water, with lemon squeezed in, in your coffee… you get the point.  Here’s more about Punsch.  If you can’t find it in a store near you, there’s always online: K&L Wine Merchants has it available.
  • “When it rains soup, the poor man has no spoon” ~ SWEDISH PROVERB


Screen Shot 2014-10-17 at 10.22.24 AMWhat an exciting night in Casa SOOP.  Not only did the SF Giants win the game that will send them to the world series (sorry Cardinals fans), but we got to have pea soup, Swedish pancakes, Swedish punsch, AND we got a visit from the fire department.  As it turns out baseball games, liqueur and making pancakes don’t go so well together.  (Quick shout out to my local fire department:  thank you for responding so quickly!  Next time, I will not walk away from a browning Swedish pancake to watch a home run hit!)soop_sweden_oct14-25

Okay, so deviating a bit from our traditional Sunday SOOP, we ate this soup on a Thursday as it is done in Sweden.  Frankly, I did not give the soup enough time to cook (the recipe has been adjusted to reflect an increased cooking time), but since it was a school night, we forged ahead and just ate it a little crunchy.  Even still, it was a hit.  I have said my whole life that I don’t like split pea soup (sorry mom), but this recipe converted me.  As it was cooking, I was pretty much grumbling under my breath about how it smells like split pea soup, but my boys all kept talking about how great it smelled, so I figured at least 3 people would like the soup.  Turns out I liked it too.

Every thumb up!  Ärtsoppa  + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon + Värmlandskorv (pork/potato sausage)

Every thumb up! Ärtsoppa + Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon + Värmlandskorv (pork/potato sausage)

A trip to IKEA will yield you not only Swedish mustard and lingonberry jam, but also all kinds of fun chocolates, cookies, and other Swedish goodies.  Maybe that’s why the kids were so excited about dinner last night!  Do hunt down the Swedish Punsch too.   There is a non-alcoholic version as well where you can add your own gin to make a fab cocktail.  The boys got to have some of the non-alcoholic mixed with elderflower juice from Ikea.  Happy campers.

This is the liqueur you want to try to find.  If you don't like it, don't worry - I'll drink it for you.

This is the liqueur you want to try to find. If you don’t like it, don’t worry – I’ll drink it for you.

Scratching off Sweden!

Scratching off Sweden!

Serves 6


  • 2 cups dried yellow peas*
  • 1  large smoked ham hock**
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 small onion
  • 1 carrot, chopped small (I cheated and used Trader Joes’ shredded carrots)
  • 8  cloves
  • 2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, plus a few stalks  for garnish
  • 1/2 teaspoon – 2 teaspoons salt depending on how salty your ham hock is
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Whole grain mustard***


  1. Soak yellow peas for about 12-24 hours – discarding any impurities.

    Before soaking overnight on the left; post soaking on the right.  Huge difference!

    Before soaking overnight on the left; post soaking on the right. Huge difference!

  2. Prepare small onion by spiking it with the 8 cloves.
  3. After soaking, rinse the peas and add them to a large soup pot along with 6 cups water, ham hock, chopped onion, carrot, cloved onion, and thyme.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cover.
  4. Cook with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until the peas are soft enough approximately 6 hours****.soop_sweden_oct14-14
  5. When it is tender, remove the meat and cut into small pieces and return meat to the soup – discarding bones, fat and gristle.soop_sweden_oct14-29
  6. Remove and discard cloved onion.  If desired, use an immersion blender to puree soup (we did).
  7. Check for seasonings – adding more salt or pepper.soop_sweden_oct14-24
  8. Serve with whole grain mustard – each person adding as much as they like to their tastes.

Cook’s Notes

* Nordic yellow peas are not the easiest thing to come by.  I found them at a Scandinavian grocery store in Berkeley.  They do mail orders.  Nordic House has the whole yellow peas which are more traditional, but split yellow peas can be used if you can’t find the whole yellow peas.  If you use split yellow peas, you do not need to soak the peas over night – just begin soaking them the morning you plan to make this soup.  Bob’s Red Mill carries split yellow peas.

** This can be made vegetarian by omitting the ham hock.  Since a lot of the salt/depth of flavor comes from the ham hock, please replace the ham by adding a vegetarian bouillon cube.

*** Ikea sells whole grain mustard that is unlike any mustard we’ve tasted before.  It’s almost like a cross of dijon, honey mustard, and gouldens.  It is quite spicy, but sweet at the same time and was absolutely delicious in this soup.  If you don’t live near an Ikea, I’d recommend dijon with a little bit of honey stirred in as a substitute.  Beckett found it a little too spicy for his liking, but found the lingonberry jam quite delightful.
soop_sweden_oct14-19 soop_sweden_oct14-22

**** Split yellow peas will take at least half the time.  Next time I will use split yellow peas.  😉

Pannkakor med Sylt Lingon  | Gluten-Free Swedish Pancakes with Lingonberries
Makes 12 pancakes depending on the size of your frying pan.

  • 6 eggs
  • 5 cups of milk
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 1/4 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour*
  • 4 tablespoons of butter, melted
  1. Preheat oven to “warm” or lowest setting and place a plate or cookie sheet in the oven.
  2. Whisk the eggs and add in the milk- continuing to whisk until blended. Add flour, salt and melted butter and mix together until thoroughly combined.  Batter should be fairly thin – about half as thick as traditional American pancake batter.
  3. Spoon 1/2 cup of batter into a large buttered frying pan at medium-low heat and spread the mixture around by tilting the pan as you would for a crepe.soop_sweden_oct14-20
  4. Brown the pancake on one side – watching for bubbles to form on the top.  Before flipping, take a peek and make sure bottom side is browned.  Flip your pancake over and brown on the other side.soop_sweden_oct14-17
  5. Once browned on both sides, place in oven to keep warm while you make the rest of the pancakes.
  6. Serve with a generous spoonful of lingonberry preserves (this can be found at IKEA)

* THIS is my go to all-purpose GF flour.  It hasn’t let me down yet.  I make a big batch of it and use it in everything.  It was truly hard to tell that these pancakes were gluten-free.

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COMOROS: Sweet Pea Soup & Le Me Tsolola: Goat + Plantain Stew

COMOROS: Le Me Tsolola: Goat + Plantain Stew

soop_Comoros_oct14-55Here’s what we learned about Comoros in  our research this week:

  • Comoros exists.
  • It is pronounced  KOHM-uh-rohs
  • It is a group of 3 (or 4 depending on who you ask) main islands in the channel between Mozambique and Madagascar.  The 4th island is Mayotte which voted to stay a part of France in 1975, but many Comorans still claim it as one of theirs.
  • It gained its independence from France in in 1975 and has had over 20 coups since then.
  • It is one of the poorest countries in the world where the average daily wage is just over $1.
  • Each island has it’s own cuisine.
  • There is very, very little to be found online about the food of Comoros, but what can be found suggests African, Arab, Indian, and French influences.
  • It is proper to say “bismillah” (thanks to Allah) before eating.
  • Though there is no legal drinking age in Comoros, alcohol is not considered proper according to Islam (the dominating religion), but it is served in most European restaurants.  (Note: If I ever go to Comoros, you’ll know where to find me.)

Here’s a fun video showing Comoros from a tourist’s perspective.  Check out that rain!



When we drew Comoros from the cup, I asked my Facebook community for a suggestion and my friend Joanne, a native South African now living in Australia, recommended Sweet Pea as a traditional Comoran soup (I hope I have represented it well Joanne!), but my research (what little of it there is to see) kept mentioning a stew called Le Me Tsolola (or Leme Tsolola).  As I’ve mentioned, James thinks of soup as an appetizer instead of a meal, so for Comoros, that’s exactly what he got… a soup appetizer and a stew meal.  SOOP-o-rama.

Our friends braved the bridge to join us, but not before I sent them on a wild goose chase for jackfruit on Clement street in San Francisco.  I had read that jackfruit was commonly eaten in Comoros and thought it would be fun for the kids to experience eating something that looks so, well, terrifying for dessert.  I had hunted all over the east bay – Oakland Chinatown, Koreana Plaza, Berkeley Bowl, 99 Ranch – without luck, so I sent our friends to scour San Francisco.  When their search left them empty-handed, we learned that jackfruit goes out of season in September.  Oh well.   To the right is what it would have looked like had we found it fresh (keep in mind that this is the size of a large watermelon covered with spikes.

Instead, our jackfruit looked like the below:soop_Comoros_oct14-53

Since it was a hot October (summer in San Francisco) night and we had TWO hot soups to eat, we cranked up the Nawal (the voice of Comoros) and hit the deck (not literally, of course).   I was quite nervous for this meal because not only was it utterly unlike anything I’d ever made before, but also our friends who joined us are outstanding cooks and I didn’t want to look like a fool in front of them.  I’d only found a couple of recipes on which to base my creation and I worried that it simply wouldn’t work.

I should not have worried.  This was FANTASTIC!  The pea soup had a nice refreshing gingery flavor and was a great foil to the coconut richness of the goat.   The only change I would make (noted in the recipe) is that the goat was a bit grisly, so next time (and there WILL) be a next time, I will grind the goat in my cuisinart to make it easier for everyone to eat.  Of course, this will be completely nontraditional, but it will taste very good.  soop_Comoros_oct14-58

Oh – do not make this without making the Poutou (chili relish) and do not fret when you make it that it is too spicy because the spice will mellow out considerably after a couple of days .  It really completes the flavors of the meal – the kick and the acid in the sauce take it over the edge into pure divine.  I can also happily report that the relish is fantastic on eggs, tossed in with quinoa and arugula as a fun side dish, and over pan-fried fish.  Say hello to your new little friend Poutou.

This was rich, flavorful, zesty, complex and just overall delightful.  I wasn’t sure about the cayenne pepper for the kids, but they all at it like crazy.  There may have even been some bowl licking….


…. which was a good thing because just as the sun went down, the lights went out and we cleaned up the kitchen in candle light.  The plates that were licked were a lot easier to clean.


I forgot to take any photos of the Coconut Punch (probably because of the Coconut Punch), so I can’t show you how pretty it was, but imagine a nice glass of eggnog that with a bright yellow rim and a stick of vanilla in it.  At first sip, our friends shouted out “Tropical Eggnog!”,  I may make this at Christmas this year instead of traditional eggnog.  It is quite thick and very sweet, so it was maybe not the best drink for a hot night, but regardless, nary a drop was left by the end or our 90 degree day.  8 thumbs up.

soop_Comoros_oct14-32Sweet Pea Soup
Serves 8 as a small appetizer


    • 4 tbsp olive oil
    • 1 small yellow onion, minced
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 pound frozen peas (thawed)
    • 1/2 pound tomatoes chopped
    • 3 teaspoons ginger, finely minced
    • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    • 2 teaspoons salt
    • 1 can light coconut milk, 3 tablespoons reserved for garnish
    • 4 cups water
    • thinly sliced lime wheels for serving


  1. Remove peas from the freezer and place on a plate on the counter to thaw while you do your chopping.
  2. Meanwhile, over medium-low heat, heat olive oil in a large pot a 4 quart saucepan and add the onion and garlic. Gently cook for 5 minutes, stirring often, until onions have softened.soop_Comoros_oct14-33 soop_Comoros_oct14-38
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients (except the coconut milk) and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.  soop_Comoros_oct14-39 soop_Comoros_oct14-40soop_Comoros_oct14-41
  4. Using an immersion blender (or a regular blender), blend soup until smooth.soop_Comoros_oct14-52
  5. Add the coconut milk,raise to a simmer just to warm coconut milk.  Do not allow it to boil.


    Calvin – today’s sous sous chef.

  6. Serve by drizzling reserved coconut milk over the top in a spiral pattern and adding a lime wheel. (Or you can use a small medicine syringe to make intricate patterns and decorate with basil leaves and flowers torn from the garden.)soop_Comoros_oct14-57

Le Me Tsolola: Goat & Banana Stew
Serves 4


    • 2 teaspoons canola oil
    • 1 1/2 lb goat stew meat, cut into 1″ pieces (next time I would grind it in a food processor as it was fairly grisly)
    • Salt
    • Cayenne pepper
    • 2 onions, finely chopped
    • 4 tomatoes, chopped
    • 2 medium green plantains, peeled cut into 1″ pieces
    • 1 can coconut milk + 1 can full of water
    • salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
    • 1 lime, cut into wedges for serving


  1. Season goat with salt and cayenne pepper to taste.  Heat pan to medium high and fry the goat in a little oil until well browned on all sides.  Remove from the pan and set aside.soop_Comoros_oct14-46 soop_Comoros_oct14-43
  2. Add the plantains, onions and tomatoes to pan and stir until softened.soop_Comoros_oct14-48
  3. Return meat to pot. Pour-in the coconut milk and bring to a simmer.soop_Comoros_oct14-49soop_Comoros_oct14-50
  4. Cover and allow to simmer for an hour (add a little water or more coconut milk if it becomes too dry).soop_Comoros_oct14-51
  5. Season to taste with additional salt or cayenne pepper.
  6. Serve immediately on a bed of white rice with pepper sauce (recipe below) and lime wedges on the side.


Poutou (Comoran Pepper Relish)
Makes approximately 3 cups
Recipe adapted from The World Cookbook: The Greatest Recipes from Around the Globe, Revised Edition
By Michael Ashkenazi
    (Dear Santa, this book, a vitamix blender and world peace is all I want this year!)soop_Comoros_oct14-30


    • 1 small fresh red chili (habañero is traditional – I used a red jalapeño), roughly chopped
    • 3 medium tomatoes, quartered
    • 1 organic* lemon, quartered
    • 1 medium yellow onion, quartered
    • 2 large cloves garlic, peeled, halved
    • 2 tablespoons salt


  1. Place all ingredients (including the peel and pith of the lemon) in a blender or food processor and blend until ingredients form a chunky salsa.
  2. Refrigerate at least 24 hours to allow flavors to blend.  Fear not, the spice will mellow out considerably after a few days.

*An organic lemon is important becaue you will put the peel into the relish.  Standard lemons are often coated with wax and pesticides.soop_Comoros_oct14-31


Comoran Coconut Punch (Punch Coco)…. Tropical Eggnog
Serves 4 
(Again, alcohol is not allowed according the the laws of Islam, so this would most likely be served sans alcohol in Comoros.  Feel free to use the rum or not according to your own desires. Also – apologies… I completely forgot to take any photos of this, but it was very pretty and very delicious)


    • 2 cans light coconut milk
    • 1 small can (5.8 oz) condensed milk
    • juice and grated zest of 2 large limes, rinds saved
    • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
    • 3 tablespoons honey
    • 1 pod vanilla, seeds scraped out and reserved, then split lengthwise into four long sticks
    • 1 package Trader Joes dried jackfruit, ground to a powder in a spice grinder or food processor, divided (2 Tablespoons goes in the punch, the rest goes on the rim)
    • 4 ounces dark rum, optional


  1. Place all ingredients (including the vanilla seeds, but excluding the vanilla sticks)  except the rum in a blender.  Blend well until smooth.
  2. Meanwhile, run emptied lime rinds along rim of 4 glasses to wet rim and dip rim in Jackfruit powder
  3. Pour punch into glasses. Top with a float of 1 oz rum (or more if you’d like)  in each cup (if using) and garnish with vanilla sticks and a sprinkling of cinnamon
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USA: Chicken Noodle Soup

USA: “Hangover” Chicken Noodle Soup


I was a little chagrined when Calvin drew USA so early in the game, but so be it.  And the obvious answer to “what is the classic soup from the USA?”?  Chicken Noodle, of course.  But, let’s face it; everyone and their mother has a chicken noodle soup recipe.  So for this week, I can either try to find the most traditional recipe ever or off road a little bit and reinvent the wheel perhaps.  So, being the, er, quirky gal I am, I’m off-roading.  Without further ado, I present you with the chicken noodle soup I cooked in undergrad whenever I had a hangover.  (Since this is for and with the kids, I won’t mention how frequently I cooked this soup.)

It all started with a hangover and the need/desire for something comforting to my brain and my stomach.  Opening the fridge revealed standard chicken noodle soup fixings (except the carrots which I didn’t have) and as I had been fairly unkind to my body the night before I decided to  throw in a little bit of everything green I had in there.  And “hangover soup” was born.  It’s a little bit crunchy, a little bit tangy,  a lot of green, and a lot of good.  Oh, and it works. Hangovers (or colds for that matter)  be gone!soop_USA_sept14-33

“Hangover” Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 4


    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1.5 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
    • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
    • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 4 stalks celery, sliced into 1/4″ half moons
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 tablespoon fresh black pepper
    • 8 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
    • 1 cup dried pasta of your choice (we used Jovial gluten free fusilli)
    • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley (including stems), minced
    • 1 cup celery, minced
    • juice of 3 limes
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • lime wedges to serve


  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium. Generously salt and pepper both sides of chicken thighs. Brown chicken until both sides are browned, about 5 minutes a side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.soop_USA_sept14-34soop_USA_sept14-35soop_USA_sept14-1
  2. In the same pan add onions and saute on low until translucent. Add garlic, celery, and herbs. Saute  for about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth and let simmer for 15 minutes.soop_USA_sept14-13
  3. Meanwhile shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add meat and any juices that may have settled in the plate to the simmering broth. Once chicken has been added and is cooked through, allow another 15 minutes of simmer time for flavors to merge.soop_USA_sept14-4
  4. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to directions – removing it from hot water when it is quite al dente.  (We did a taste test of various GF pastas and found that Jovial’s brown rice pasta held up wonderfully and was everything we wanted in our chicken noodle soup.  Trader joes’ brown rice/quinoa pasta was a close 2nd.)soop_USA_sept14-7
  5. Add fresh parsley, celery, and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper as needed to taste.  To serve, add pasta to bowl and top with soup.

    You see that jersey Calvin is wearing? Balotelli is and Italian soccer player nicknamed Super Mario by fans because of his surprising actions on and off the field. Like Balotelli, like Calvin. I think we have a new nickname for him.


    Pre-meal taste testing gets two thumbs up and a tongue.


Nearly 9 years ago, when I was heavily pregnant with Calvin and Beckett was only 18 months old, I was still working as a wedding photographer and was having a hard time keeping up with life.  I posted an ad on craigslist for a mother’s helper and an angel responded.  Auntie Edie walked into our house and hearts and our life has been so much richer ever since.

So, when Calvin drew the USA, I posted on facebook asking my friends for the best ever chicken noodle soup recipe and Auntie Edie responded with how she makes hers.  Today’s soup version is an amalgam of my hangover cure made with her grown up technique (aka: a technique I never could have accomplished in undergrad – especially not with an hangover).  When I was in school, I just used canned chicken stock and boiled chicken breasts in the broth before shredding it.  It was good, but Auntie Edie’s technique of browning chicken thighs in the pan first made our soup so much richer and more umphy (my made up word of the day to describe good).  Thumbs up Auntie Edie – this version is sure to become a staple in our house. soop_USA_sept14-17

Thanks for joining us Auntie Edie and for making our lives so much more umphy!

A hangover is not required to enjoy this soup.  Hangover soup freezes really well.  Just leave out the pasta and make some fresh when you defrost the soup.  This soup is also really great with rice, quinoa, or no grains whatsoever.  I will occasionally also throw in a handful or two of spinach, baby kale, or chard if I have it on hand.  You can’t go wrong really – just toss in whatever veggies you love.