All posts filed under “CHICKEN

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REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Muamba Nsusu and Fufu (Chicken and Peanut soup + Yams)

REPUBLIC OF CONGO: Muamba Nsusu and Fufu (Chicken and Peanut soup + Yams)


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

  •  Gorillas!
  • Pygmies!
  • Lonely Planet ranked Republic of Congo #6 in it’s 2015 countries to visit!
  • Republic of Congo is also called Congo Republic and Congo Brazzaville.
  • Brazzaville is the capital of Republic of Congo and sits directly across the Congo River from Kinshasa, the capital of Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).

This video is good for a sampling of what life is like in Brazzaville. You can even hear the singers talking about Fufu at one point!

Muamba Nsusu and Fufu (Chicken and Peanut soup + Yams)

soop_congo_nov14-22I’ll admit it.  Beckett chose this recipe because he thought Muamba Nsusu was fun to say.  Well, first he actually picked fufu and ran around the house for several minutes shouting FUFUFUFUFUFFUFUFUFUFUFUFUUUUUUU before I could settle him down to pick what ELSE we should make seeing as how fufu is actually a starchy side sort of akin to our mashed potatoes.  He was set on having something as fun to say as FUFUFUFUFUFFUFUFUFUFUFUFUUUUUUU and therefore picked NSUSUNSUSUNSUSUNSUSUNSUSUNSUSUUUUUUU!

As luck would have it, it Nsusu a good pick.  I described it to our friends’ boys who weren’t so sure about the stew as “peanut butter soup”.  That pretty much nailed it.  Very common all over Sub-Saharan Africa, peanuts (called groundnuts in Africa) are used very commonly in various stews combining chicken and tomatoes.  This version uses red palm oil, another staple of Sub-Saharan Africa, which some argue is the best type of fat (better than olive oil, coconut oil, and avocados) you can ingest due to its high level of Vitamins A and E.

While the soup Nsusu was a culinary success in our meal, the fufu was, well, let’s call it an acquired taste.  Fufu is Sub-Saharan Africa’s answer to our mashed potatoes.  It is made many different ways using many different starches, but in Western Africa it is usually made from yams, sometimes combined with plantains.  We chose to get half traditional and make it with yams and one plantain, but used the food processor instead of the more traditional way to make fufu (as seen in the video below).  I’m not including a recipe for fufu in this post simply because there seem to be a gigazillion different ways to make it, so I’m going to encourage you to get out there and blaze your own fufu path should you feel like running around the house yelling FUFUFUFUFUFFUFUFUFUFUFUFUUUUUUU!!!!

Ahem.  Now then.  Traditionally, our fun to say stew would be eaten with your hands – more specifically your right hand.  Eaters would take a bit of fufu and some stew and quickly slurp it all up by sticking fingers directly into mouths.  Had we gone this route, I’m sure the boys would have been thrilled, but we opted for spoons this time.

Would we make it again?  Sorry Congo, but the fufu was not a hit.  The soup on the other, hand, while much too heavy for me was a hit with the kids… even Dracula.




Muamba Nsusu
Serves 8


    • 1.5 pounds skinless/boneless chicken thighs
    • 2 tablespoons red palm oil, divided
    • 1 large onion, chopped
    • 1 large carrot, chopped
    • 2 jalapeños, minced
    • 1 cup natural peanut butter (peanuts and salt only- no other ingredients)
    • 1 can tomato paste (6 ounces)
    • 1 teaspoon cumin
    • 1 can chopped tomatoes (14.5 ounces)
    • zest of one small lemon
    • 6 cups chicken stock
    • 1/4 cup peanuts


  1. Generously salt and pepper chicken thighs.  In large heavy soup pot, add 1 tablespoon red palm oil, then cook chicken thighs over medium heat until chicken is no longer pink and the juices run clear. This should take 8 to 12 minutes. As the chicken cooks, turn it occasionally so it browns evenly. Once chicken has cooked and browned, remove it from pot and set aside to cool.soop_congo_nov14-14
  2. Add palm oil to pot and melt over medium-low heat. Sauteé onions, carrots and chilies (scraping up any browned bits from the chicken) until well caramelized.soop_congo_nov14-15soop_congo_nov14-16
  3.   Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine peanut butter, tomato paste and cumin with 1 cup of the chicken broth and stir to combine well.soop_congo_nov14-13
  4.  Add peanut/tomato mixture to the pot along with the tomatoes, lemon zest, cooking for a few moments until fragrant.  soop_congo_nov14-17
  5. Add  chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Shred or chop chicken thighs and return to the soup. Add peanuts.  Simmer until soup has thickened.
  6. Check for seasonings – adding salt, pepper, lemon, sugar, or cumin as needed.
  7. Serve with fufu

Cook’s Notes

Red Palm oil is available at Whole Foods and online.

Also, yams are kind of hard to peel – says Beckett.soop_congo_nov14-18


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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.

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NOT SOOP: Best Ever Chicken Broth


soop_chx_broth_sept14-7Okay, so I’ve been fairly freaked out by the enormity of trying to come up with a chicken noodle soup that will knock everyone’s socks off for our USA week coming up.  I’ve tried to maintain the appearance of “normal” (as best I can), but behind the mask I’ve been obsessing over how to get maximum flavor with the most ease.   It was just this morning I had a Gru “LIGHTBULB!” moment.  I’d already decided I needed to roast the veggies before adding them to the water, but I couldn’t figure out the best way to get maximum chicken flavor and color into the broth.  Well, by George, I’ve done it!

What you need for this best ever broth is a chicken carcass from a roasted chicken.  I will be putting my recipe online for The. Best. Ever. Roasted. Chicken. (really, it is the best ever) next week, but if you aren’t up for roasting your own chicken right now, grab one from wherever it is you get a killer rotisserie chicken (I’ve heard that Costco’s is not only gluten-free, but also really yummy).  Enjoy that chicken tonight and save the bones (including the drumstick bones that your kids gnawed on if you can stomach it).  You can keep the carcass in the fridge for a few days, so don’t feel the need to tackle this broth right away.  Another option is tossing it in the freezer for the next time you want to make this.  You won’t regret it.

This is a great thing to put on the stove first thing on a weekend morning so that your house will smell heavenly and you can have it all cooled and ready to put in the fridge or freezer before hitting the hay.

Alrighty, here it is.  You’ll see this broth again in a couple of weeks when Calvin and I make Chicken Noodle Soup, but in the meantime you can start enjoying it as soon as you have a chicken carcass on hand.  Enjoy!

Best Ever Chicken Broth

  • 1 large yellow onion, quartered, skin on
  • 3 large carrots, cut into large chunks
  • 1 head of garlic, the top cut off
  • 8 stalks celery
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 roasted chicken carcass (plus heart and neck if you have them)
  • 10 peppercorns
  • 20 stalks parsley – including stems
  • 12 cups water (approximately)
  1. soop_chx_broth_sept14-1soop_chx_broth_sept14-3Heat oven to 350.  Line baking sheet with parchment paper.  Place onion (with skin on – this makes the broth more brown), carrot, garlic + celery on parchment paper and roast 40-45 minutes until house smells heavenly and veggies are beginning to soften and brown. (You can roast them longer if you like… just make sure the onions don’t burn!)
  2. soop_chx_broth_sept14-4Meanwhile, heat olive oil in large pot over medium-high heat.  Add chicken carcass (plus heart and neck if you have them) and deeply brown on all sides.
  3. soop_chx_broth_sept14-5Add roasted veggies to browned chicken pot and add parsley, peppercorns, and enough water to cover (approximately 12 cups).  Bring to a boil, then reduce to low.
  4. soop_chx_broth_sept14-6Simmer 4-8 hours.  When broth has decreased in volume by about 1″, strain through a fine-mesh strainer.
  5. soop_chx_broth_sept14-7                                                   Broth can be used immediately, stored in the fridge for 4-5 days, or frozen for later use.
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NEPAL: Chicken Thukpa

NEPAL: Thukpa


Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.21.51 PM  When my husband and I spent a dreamy month in Nepa before we got married (15 years ago!), our favorite meal was also (luckily) the meal we ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner: Dal Bhat*.  Dal Bhat, a lentil stew served with rice, is every backpacker’s staple fare and the national dish of Nepal.  Hearty, filling, and warming, it hits the spot after a long day of trekking.  We love(d) it so much it also hits the spot about once a month in our house.  SO, for our SOOP project this week, S is in charge of picking the soup and when I suggested Dal Bhat, he said “No way!  We have that allllllll the time.  I want to pick something different.”  Per the rules I made for myself for how this whole project will work, the boy who picks the country out of the cup also gets to pick the soup.  And pick he did.  The boy loves spring rolls and picked Thukpa because he says it sounds like spring roll soup.

*Dal Bhat is insanely delicious and Sasha over at Global Table Adventure has a fantastic recipe that is quick, CHEAP, really close to how it tastes in Nepal and vegetarian.  We eat it with basmati rice, roasted cauliflower florets that have been tossed in olive oil and curry powder, and usually a green salad.  Mmm.  Now I’m hungry.  Might have to make this for dinner tomorrow!

Thukpa, traditionally a Tibetan soup (the name translates from Tibetan as ‘noodles’),  has crossed the border into Nepal with wild abandon and is now popular all over Nepal as well as northern India.  It consists of spicy broth, long thin noodles, vegetables, spices, and is found vegetarian and with every meat you can imagine (in fact, I think we may have eaten this with yak meat in Kathmandu).  For our version, S chose chicken, rice noodles (to remain close to his spring roll vision), and carrots and cilantro.  I threw in the red pepper and bean sprouts (both traditional additions) for color and texture.  A few of the spices are a little hard to come by, but we’re fortunate to have many places to scoop up ethnic goods around us and we grabbed asafoetida and szechwan pepper at Oaktown Spice Shop in Oakland, but you can also find the spices online at Penzeys and Kalustyan’s.

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1999 Mustang, Nepal Trek Day 7: Marang (Chogo) La Pass – 13,878 feet / 4,230 meters. I hiked in a skirt to be more respectful of the local culture. I looked goooood didn’t I?

During our month in Nepal, we spent many long hours with our guides learning about Nepali cuisine, culture and language and teaching them important things like the game of spoons and various card tricks.  A few of the phrases we learned have stuck with us through the years and my husband is known to say to me as I approach some arduous task (hiking up a steep trail, folding the week’s laundry, getting the kids in the car on time in the morning), “Lahk bahk, didi.  Lahk bahk!”  (Translation almost there, big sister.  Almost there!).  Another phrase we use all the time is “Ookus mookus”.  It means, essentially, I am so full I am about to explode.

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From the left, the King of Mustang, our government liaison, us, and our guide Bhim Bahadur Lama. Jigme Palbar Bista, the last king of the remote kingdom of Mustang in Nepal’s Himalayas, was born around 1930 in Lo Manthang, once the capital of the former Tibetan kingdom of Lo. The youngest son of King Angun Tenzing Tandul, he inherited the throne in 1964. He likes orange Tang and is most grateful if you bring him some when visiting.

So, friends, with that we’ll get to cooking and (hopefully) by the end we will all be Ookus mookus!  To really get in the mood, create a Pandora station with the artist Udit Narayan or download THIS album.  We bought this album on the streets of Kathmandu and listened to it during both of our boys’ births and groove out to it all the time.  I hope you like it as much as we do.

Screen Shot 2014-09-13 at 2.24.56 PM

1999 Boudhanath Stupa, Kathmandu and rain clouds in the background. We got very wet that day.


Nepalese Thukpa
Serving: 4-6

Spice paste

    • 1 small onion, chopped
    • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
    • 1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
    • 1 tsp ground cumin
    • ½ tsp ground turmeric
    • ¼ tsp ground Szechwan pepper
    • 1 pinch asafoetida powder
    • 1-3  jalapeño chili, deseeded, chopped (depending on how spicy you want it)
    • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped
    • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
    • 1 large tomato, chopped


      • 1 tbsp ghee
      • 8 cups chicken stock
      • ½ lb skinless/boneless chicken thighs
      • 300 g rice noodles
      • 1 large carrot, cut into thin matchsticks
      • ½ red bell pepper, thinly sliced
      • 1 cup mung bean sprouts
      • 1 tbsp lemon juice
      • salt and pepper, to taste
      • chopped cilantro, to serve
      • nepali chili sauce, to serve (recipe below)


      1. To make the spice paste, combine all the ingredients, except the tomatoes, in a blender or food processor and process until minced. Then add the tomatoes and process again until combined into a rough paste.soop_nepal_sept14-21soop_nepal_sept14-28
      1. Heat the ghee in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, until quite aromatic and the paste becomes soft.soop_nepal_sept14-29
      1.     Carefully pour in the chicken stock (it may sizzle at first) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the chicken thighs and simmer gently for 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken from the stock and roughly shred.soop_nepal_sept14-35
      1.  Meanwhile, bring large pot of water to boil. Add rice noodles and cook for 2 minutes or until al dente. Drain and rinse in cold water. Drain again and set aside.soop_nepal_sept14-32soop_nepal_sept14-34
      1. Add the carrot, bell pepper, and mung bean sprouts to the soup and simmer for 2–3 minutes, until the vegetables are just tender.soop_nepal_sept14-39
      1. Add lemon juice and season to taste – adding more salt or pepper as necessary.
      1. Divide the noodles between bowls (for pretty presentation, mound the noodles all on one side of the bowl) and top with the shredded chicken. Ladle the stock and vegetables over the noodles and top with chopped cilantro. Serve with chili sauce.soop_nepal_sept14-38

* Asafoetida and Szechwan pepper can generally both be found in spice stores online as well as local Indian markets. The traditional pepper used in Nepali Thukpa (timur) is currently unavailable in the United States, but Szechwan pepper provides a similar tongue tingling spice. Traditionally, it is served with a vinegary chili sauce.  Here is the one we made and used:

Garlicky Red Chili Hot Sauce (pictured above with the ingredients for Thukpa)
Yield: 2 cups (aka: enough to last you a very, very, very long time)
Recipe by Melissa Clark printed in the NYTimes 8/25/10

    • 4 hot red or orange chili peppers, such as habañero
    • 2 red bell peppers (3/4 pound), roughly chopped
    • 5 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
    • 3/4 cup distilled white vinegar
    • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt.
    1. Wearing rubber or latex gloves, roughly chop the chilies. Combine all ingredients in a small pot over medium-high heat. Once mixture is simmering, reduce heat to low, cover and continue to simmer until peppers are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Do not inhale vapors; they will sting.
    2. Transfer mixture to a blender and purée. Pour into a medium jar and allow to cool uncovered. Cover tightly and refrigerate for three days. Keep stored in refrigerator; sauce will last for several weeks or months.


This is officially my first favorite soup.  It was quick, flavorful, filling, inexpensive, and fun.  We found that the Chili sauce was absolutely necessary for the tongue tingling fun.  If you don’t have the time or the desire to make your own, sriracha would be a nice option.

Our good friends joined us as we blasted Bollywood tunes, and slurped noodles to our hearts content.  Our thukpa was served on the metal plates we picked up years ago in India with basmati rice, melon, and a chopped cauliflower that we roasted in the oven with a couple boxes of Trader Joes’ frozen chana masala (chickpea curry).  It’s one of my favorite Trader Joe’s dinner hacks.  Our meal got 3 thumbs up and one medium thumb (perhaps because it was his brother who made it and he simply can’t approve of anything his brother does right now) so I’m going to say it was a success!



soop_nepal_sept14-44After dinner, we pulled out our slide projector and, once we finished answering the questions about what a slide projector is and how our photos are on the little pieces of plastic (called film),  ran through some of the hundreds of slides we took in Nepal.  What a wonderful way to cap off the night – the boys learned more about Nepal, about our trip, and about the history of photography.


Oh, the irony. We covered our TV with a white sheet to be able to show our slides. We are so retro that way!