Whole Wheat Cheese and Onion Empanadas and Dulce De Leche Alfajores {Argentina}

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Categories: Baking, Desserts, Food, Latin American Food, Travel, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Simple Potato Stew, Rye Soda Bread, and Chocolate Stout Cake: A Calm St. Paddy’s Day {Ireland}



Once, I spent a St. Patrick’s Day in France. I saw the Mona Lisa.  I ate a my first ever crepe (Nutella was an excellent choice) and shared a Powerade with my significant other.  (Wow, I look a bit different now!)

No one in Paris cared or mentioned St. Patrick’s Day except our hostel-mates.  Two days later, we flew back to Manchester, UK.  The streets around the U of M and MMU campuses were still a wreck for the St. Paddy’s Day destruction.    I think I prefer the calm,-eat-some-good-food-and-wear-a-wee-bit-of-green methods.

That’s right.  Do some yoga, run a little, blog a little, and avoid the pub-crawlers at all costs.

Our meal last night consisted of a very, very easy stew, a standard soda bread and a bit of dessert.

Cassie’s Simple Potato Stew (Serves 6)


  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 medium potatoes, cubed (I don’t peel mine if they are organic–just scrub well)
  • 4 carrots, chopped
  • 5 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 T Earth Balance
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup stout (we did use Guinness–so if you have no gray areas with your vegetarianism, find a fish-bladder free stout)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (or water)


  1. Melt Earth Balance (or use oil or butter if you prefer) in dutch oven or large sauce pan
  2. Add onion and saute until translucent.
  3. Add garlic and saute for 2 more minutes.
  4. Add potatoes, carrots, and celery.  Give a stir.  Toss in parsley and bay leaves.
  5. Add stout and vegetable broth.  Bring to a boil and simmer until potatoes are tender.
  6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

This was really delicious for being so easy and not having oodles of seasonings.  You need to serve this with soda bread.  I love soda bread.  It’s so easy to make and adapt.  We had rye bread with caraway seeds.

You can make soda bread without a special soda bread dish, but I’ve got one.  So I use it every time.  (Thanks for that, Bev–you probably didn’t realize how much use I’d get out of it).

The cake we had for dessert was a recipe of my own.  And I made it hours before I noticed that 101 Cookbooks happened to post a Chocolate Stout Cake.  I swear it.  The recipes are somewhat similar, but I cut out the dairy and eggs, and used sugar for my sweetener.  Odd, I know, considering I still used Guinness (which again is not even considered vegetarian by many).  Oh, well. I still tried.  Pre-powdered shot below:

Almost Vegan Chocolate Stout Cake (Makes too many servings for a 2-person household)


  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup Earth Balance
  • 1 cup stout beer (find a vegan one if you’d like)
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups unrefined sugar
  • 1/2 cup applesauce
  • 1 flax “egg”: 1 T ground flax mixed into 3 T water
  • 3/4 cup cashew “sour cream”: soak 3/4 cup raw cashews in water until soft, blend with 1 T lemon juice until smooth.
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Melt Earth Balance into stout beer in medium sauce pan on stovetop.
  3. Mix in sugar and cocoa powder
  4. Add in flax egg, cashew cream, and apple sauce.  Remove mixture from heat.
  5. Add the flour to a separate, large bowl.  Create a well for the liquid.
  6. Add the liquid and stir until all flour is moistened.
  7. Pour the cake batter into a well-oiled or silicone dish.  You can use a 9×9 pan, a bundt pan, or cupcakes–whatever you prefer.
  8. Bake for 50 minutes, or until fork comes out clean.

I added a glaze made of almond milk, vanilla extract, chocolate syrup, and powdered sugar.  There was no recipe or measuring for me in this step, so you can make to your own liking!

Because this cake is eggless, it is more fudge-like than many cakes.  It’s dense and moist.  Which I prefer.

Yes, I did have a piece for breakfast this morning.  But hey, it’s whole wheat and has apple sauce.  It’s got to be healthier than a number of doughnuts and muffins on the market, right?


Now that I’ve been thinking over my St. Patrick’s Days, I remembered another traveling one!  During grad school, I was able to take a spring break trip with Jordan and his sister, Emilee, to Peru.  Though mudslides kept us from Machu Picchu, we managed to have an excellent time.

Maybe there is something to be said for venturing out on St. Paddy’s….


Categories: Baking, Breads/Starches, Desserts, European Food, Food, Holidays, Vegan, Vegetarian | Tags: | Leave a comment

Lumpia, Seitan Adobo, and Cocoa San Rival {Jordan’s Filipino Farewell Feast}

On Tuesday, one of our good friends (the other Jordan) headed back to South Dakota after completing an internship in East Tennessee.

He’s completing his Master’s, and his thesis focuses on mangrove deforestation in the Philippines.  Jordan (husband) and I thought it would be fitting to make a Filipino meal for Jordan’s last night in Knoxville.

I started with lumpia, which are equivalent to egg rolls.  Typically, these would be filled with pork and/or some other meat, but I simply stuck to the veggies.  My mother always made homemade egg rolls, by the way.  I’m not sure what made her decide to do that each time we had chow mein, but my sisters and I were always pleased!  This week, I decided to pan fry them for just a bit before baking them in the oven (15 minutes at 425).  These turned out so well for being so fast.

For the main dish, I made a vegetarian adaptation of the famous chicken or pork adobo.  This is probably the nation’s best known dish.  Sometimes I know how the dishes I make for the blog are meant to taste.  Sometimes, I have no clue.  So if I don’t like something, it might be because I made it wrong, or it might be because I like it.  I had no real idea what my Seitan Adobo should taste like.

The dish uses soy sauce, a lot of vinegar, and a lot of garlic.  Garlic, I love.  Too much acid (i.e. vinegar) makes me nervous.  When I added 3/4 cup vinegar to the sauce, I was skeptical that I’d really like it.  But I kept sending positive vibes toward the pot.

I think it worked.

Jordan (not husband) said it actually tasted very similar to the pork adobo he had when visiting the Philippines.  He mentioned, though, that the sauce seemed much heavier there than in my version.  So not perfect, but I’ll take it!

And since it was a special occasion, dessert was in order.  I used to attempt to make a San Rival cake on each Chinese New Year before I realized it was a Filipino dish.  I originally found the recipe in an Asian cookbook, so i had just gone with it.

I’ve probably attempted the San Rival five times or so.  It’ll never look like it’s supposed to.  Honestly, I don’t think anyone has ever cared!  A San Rival cake is made of layers of cashew meringue and butter creme frosting.  Truly, my favorite dessert of all.  This week’s version was actually a Cocoa San Rival, since my frosting (which was quite thin) was made with cocoa powder, vanilla extract, and orange liqueur.  I wish I could share a piece with all of you.  Sooo good!

For being as big as it was, it didn’t last long around here.

Good luck to Jordan as he looks toward graduation and the next step in his career!  Here’s hoping your last Knoxville meal helped you look back upon your internship with fondness.

Categories: Desserts, Vegetarian | 4 Comments

Valentine’s Fondue {Switzerland}

Happy post-Valentine’s Day post!

Wow.  I cannot believe how far behind on posting I am.  We’ll have to do two-a-days until I catch up.  If only I could force myself into that sort of workout regimen.  But I digress…

Nearly a month ago, St. Valentine came to visit.  He convinced Jordan to buy me these:

St. Valentine also convinced me that it was okay to eat way more cheese than is recommended.  But Fondue is romantic, right?

I stuck with a very basic cheese/tomato fondue:

  • 1 15 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup Emmental cheese
  • 1/2 cup Gruyere cheese
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

The cheeses are expensive, but the wine was very affordable.  We rarely spend over 12-14 dollars on a bottle; I’m not sure my palette is sophisticated enough for expensive wines.  There was a very interesting NPR story on wine tasting lately that backs me up.

‘Twas lovely.  We dipped pieces of roasted potatoes and broccoli and baguette into the mix.

Our fondue was supplemented with some Swiss chard that had been sauteed with onions and garlic (splash of apple cider vinegar, naturally).

I’m afraid there were no leftovers as far as the fondue was concerned.  Maybe a stray piece of baguette or something.  That mix was delicious and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an easy fondue mix.

We did also need dessert, since it was Valentine’s Day.  I’ve never had chocolate fondue anywhere other than at my parents’ place.  I’m certain ours was a bit too thick, but that does not affect the flavor whatsoever 🙂  I used dark chocolate, almond milk, and vanilla extract for our fondue.  You can see that we went for fruit and pretzels for dippers.  Between the fruit and the broccoli, I had myself convinced this meal was healthy.

Here’s hoping your romance and tasty cooking have lived on since February 14th!

Get ready for the two-a-days.

Categories: Desserts, European Food, Food, Uncategorized, Vegetarian | Tags: | Leave a comment

Moroccan Roll {Schlada, Chickpea Couscous, and M’hanncha}

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Categories: Baking, Desserts, Food, North African Food, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Bog In, Mate: Aussie Veggie Burgers and Pavlova {Australia, of course}

I was supposed to make some Costa Rican food Friday.  But then a group dinner at Ghengis Grill, one of those faux-Mongolian grills, was mentioned as a possibility.  It’d been a while seen I’d seen some of Jordan’s co-workers and their families and it sounded like a fun time.  While I am dedicated to the Pearl Project, I don’t want my blog project time to prevent me from real people time.  To the Ghengis Grill we went. Costa Rica had to wait.

But I did promise some Aussie food to celebrate Australia day (two days late).  And if I promise, I try to uphold.

It was a little rough trying to find a vegetarian Aussie meal, since many traditional recipes seemed to incorporate seafood or meat.  Sure, I could have made some damper, but we’ve made a lot of soda bread lately, and it didn’t seem like much of a stretch.  When I heard that Australian burgers are typically served with bacon and a fried egg, I knew I’d found my meal.

Meet the Aussie Black Bean Burger. (Complete with tempeh bacon and a medium egg)

Basic black bean burger recipe (Makes four patties):


  • 1 15 oz can black beans
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats (ground to very coarse flour)
  • 1/2 medium onion chopped finely
  • 1/4 cup grated carrots
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 T Worcestershire sauce (if you’re trying to keep it strictly vegetarian, be sure your W. sauce is anchovy free!)
  • 1 t cumin
  • 1 t paprika


  1. Wash and drain beans.  Mash them with a fork or pastry cutter in a medium/large bowl.
  2. Mix all other ingredients in.
  3. Form into four patties.
  4. Heat oil in pan (or spray with cooking spray) and cook burgers for 6-8 minutes on each side.

These burgers hold together soooo much better than some of the goopy messes I have tried to pass as veggie burgers in the past.

I loved this burger.  (A fried egg helps, yeah?)  But even more than the burger, I loved dessert.

Now, if a Kiwi (New Zealander) ever reads the blog, he or she will probably disagree that pavlova is actually an Australian dessert.  But hey, the Aussies claim it, and I’ll gladly make it again when the time to make a meal from New Zealand comes around!

Pavlova is beautiful, just like it’s namesake: the ballerina Anna Pavlova.

The story goes: Anna Pavlova was visiting Australia and a dessert was made in her honor.  Naturally, it had to be light on its feet and airy…like meringue.  Pavlova is a meringue (mine used four egg whites and 3/4 cup white sugar), filled with vanilla whipping cream and fruit.

Every time I make meringue, I think of the first time I made it, which happened to be while I was in undergrad and had few kitchen tools.  No electric mixer.  I do not believe I know another person who has whipped egg white into meringue by hand.  It was a long, long night…  This time wasn’t so bad. 🙂

Often, pavlova is made with strawberries, but Jordan’s not a huge fan of them so we went with a different fruit combination.

Interesting to see the photos taken outside of the light box compared to inside of it, huh?  I love when meringue is cut, because I am always amazed at what a crumbly bit of goodness those eggs and that sugar have turned into.

I had a large slice for dessert.  And then I may or may not have had more while typing this post.  Meringue binge.  Don’t judge.  Everything is made healthier when there’s fruit on top, right?




Categories: Australasia, Desserts, Food, Vegetarian | Tags: | Leave a comment

Call me Wy-CHEF Jean: Soup Joumou and Plantain Puree

Yes, my pun is absolutely horrible.  And yes, I’ve pretty much exhausted my hip-hop related puns.  Let’s see if I cannot work some Tupac Shakur into another food title somewhere, yeah?  In case you have not guessed by the title, last night’s meal was a food tribute to Haiti.

(Maps courtesy of the husband!)

Switching pop culture gears a bit, I thought of Cher (Alicia Silverstone) in Clueless while making this meal.  Glorious Clueless quote here (must read the word “Haitians” as “hate-ee-ans”):

So like, right now for example. The Haitians need to come to America. But some people are all, “What about the strain on our resources?” Well it’s like when I had this garden party for my father’s birthday, right? I put R.S.V.P. ’cause it was a sit-down dinner. But some people came that like did not R.S.V.P. I was like totally buggin’. I had to haul ass to the kitchen, redistribute the food, and squish in extra place settings. But by the end of the day it was, like, the more the merrier. And so if the government could just get to the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haitians. And in conclusion may I please remind you it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty. Thank you very much.”

So maybe our government will not “just get to the kitchen…[and] certainly party with the Haitians,” but I certainly will.

Haitian food combines the food of the French colonists with the African food culture of the slaves brought to the island.  Many vegetables and fruits are used in their cuisine, and rice, beans, and corn are staples.  Thus, easy for a vegetarian to party in the kitchen! 

Enter: Soup Joumou.

Soup Joumou has an awesome story.  The French Government had actually forbidden slaves to eat pumpkin (too extravagant), making this a forbidden meal.  So now the Haitians eat it to celebrate their independence every New Years Day.  (I know, I’m off on my timing quite a bit, but the new year is still beginning, right?)

My version is vegan, and I like my soups with a lot of texture, so it’s not over-blended.

Soup Joumou Recipe Serves 6


  • 5 cups water
  • 1 package frozen cubes of pumpkin (was so thrilled to find this in the store!)
  • 1 turnip
  • 1 potato
  • 2 stalks celery
  • 1 onion
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 sprigs parsley
  • 1 sprig thyme
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 T Earth Balance + 1 more later
  • 3/4 cup rice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg


  1. Melt 1 T Earth Balance in large saucepan.  Add pumpkin, turnips, celery, onion, potato, parsley, thyme, and garlic.
  2. Cover with water and simmer for 20 minutes or until tender.
  3. Discard your parsley and thyme if desired.  I actually took the stems out, but left the herbs in.
  4. Drain all but 1/4-1/2 cup of the cooking liquid.  Using an immersion blender (or transfer to traditional), puree vegetables to desired consistency.
  5. Add almond milk, nutmeg, 1 T E.B., and rice.  Cook until rice is tender.

Serve hot with hearty slices of buttered bread.  And then prepare yourself for dessert.

I enjoyed the soup, but I really loved the dessert last night. I ended up making another vegan dish out of it.

Plaintain Puree (Bouillie de Banane et Plantain) Serves 6


  • 1 plantain
  • 1 banana
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 2 star anise
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • extra banana slice for garnish


  1. Using an immersion blender (favorite tool of the night) or food processor, puree the banana and the plantain with the water.
  2. In saucepan, add puree, coconut milk, almond milk, brown sugar, and star anise.
  3. Bring mixture to a low boil, stirring often.  Cook for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat, stir in vanilla.
  5. Sprinkle with cinnamon and garnish with bananas.

Something about this tastes so delicious and buttery.  (But you’d have to like your coconut milk).  I had a bowl last night, but also had mixed it with oats and chia seeds this morning for breakfast.

Overall, I’d call Haiti night a success!  Jordan is still raving about the nasi goreng, though…

Next up, Croatia!


Categories: Caribbean Cooking, Desserts, Food, Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian | 2 Comments

Amaretto Red Adzuki Bean Cake

Let me be clear, this is my take on a traditional Chinese cake….meaning it’s lost a little bit of the traditional part.  Since tasting a delicious red bean ice cream at Knoxville’s Taste of Thai, I have been curious about the possibilities of the adzuki bean.  Then, in my research for the Chinese New Year, I discovered a steamed red bean cake.  Steaming cake takes more time, is stickier, and probably appeals less to the people I need to eat my food.  Thus, my version.

Amaretto Red Adzuki Bean CakeServes 12

Prep time: 10 minutes, Bake time: 45 minutes


  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 3/4 cup applesauce
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 4 cups white rice flour
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1 15 oz. can adzuki beans (azuki and aduki are the same thing)
  • 1 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • sliced almonds for garnish


  1. Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.
  2. Mix eggs, applesauce, soda, flour, and sugars into a large bowl.  Beat with mixer until well-blended.
  3. Transfer just over half of the batter into an oiled 8×8 baking pan and put in oven.  Let bake for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, drain and rinse the adzuki beans.  Mash them with a fork or pastry cutter.   Add the almond extract and mix into the mash.
  5. Pour the bean mixture onto the bottom layer of cake.
  6. Okay, yeah, my numbering system is now off with the above photo.  I struggle with formatting issues when I type posts at midnight…No. 7.  Cover the bean mixture up with the remaining batter.
  7. Bake for twenty more minutes.  When cake is almost completely set, garnish the top with sliced almonds. 
  8. Bake for ten more minutes, until toothpick, fork, or chopstick (your choice!) comes out clean.  Be advised that the beans will always be mushy, so that chopstick will most likely never be completely clean.

This cake has a very subtle sweet flavor, which lends itself to drizzles of honey and chocolate syrup.  It would also go well with a scoop of ice cream or almond ice cream, if you prefer.

Categories: Asian Food, Desserts, Food, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Year of the Dragon Hot Pot (Hougou) and Steamed Potstickers {China}

One country down.  Just over 200 left to go.  You and I, reader, we are like Mitt Romney’s campaign.  We’ve got a long way to go together.

As promised, my challenge began for the Chinese New Year.  I’ve celebrated the Chinese New Year since 2006.  This year, I did a bit more research on my recipes and found out that the cashew meringue cake that I love so much is actually Filipino. Oops! (Now we’re looking forward to the day I prepare the food from the Philippines).  Still, even without the cashew meringue, lasts night’s meal was festive and relatively authentic.

I stopped at Sunshine International Market to buy some sweet treats–lychee gummy candies and peanut cakes–and some papers to decorate the table.  The lychee candies didn’t go over well with the Jordans (one Jordan being my husband, the other being our friend), but I still think they are tasty.

Before we actually got started with the food, I prepared a few cups of jasmine tea.  The container was just too alluring for me when I was shopping at the international foods market.  Thanks to my mother-in-law, I also have quite the tea infuser.


Post-tea, I started the meal with some steamed tofu potstickers.

There is no real recipe for these little guys.  I put about 1/5 of a block of firm tofu, carrot shreds, one garlic clove, a half inch piece of ginger, three chopped green onions, and soy sauce into the food processor and pulse to the desired consistency.  Once the filling is made, the fun begins!

I usually put about 1/2 teaspoon of filling in each wonton wrapper.  Moisten your fingers and run them along the outside of the wonton wrappers.  Fold corner to corner (into a triangle) and shape as desired.  From my photos, you might have guessed that I had no particular desired shape.  I certainly need to work on making these look more uniform.  Or maybe not…

And here is where I have a home-cook geek out.  I am finally the proud owner of a bamboo steamer!  It only takes 20 dollars and one trip to Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  I’ve been wanting one of these since 2007.  I deserved it, right?

Yes, it is probably true that half the reason I really, really wanted a bamboo steamer was to take a photo like the following…

I steamed the potstickers for about 10 minutes, before transferring them to a 200 degree oven to keep them warm.  These went over pretty well.  Jordan–of the husband variety–chooses the potstickers as his favorite part of the meal.  I’d almost have to agree.  But then again…I really enjoyed the Hot Pot.

Hot Pot is basically Chinese fondue.   Our sauces consisted of a mustard/soy sauce blend (my personal favorite), shitake sesame, pepper teriyaki, and a sweet and spicy Asian bbq sauce.

Ingredients are dipped into a communal pot (called a fire pot in China) of hot vegetable broth to cook.  Items are then dipped in a variety of sauces and/or transferred into an individual bowl of broth.  We had baby bok choy, carrots, green onions, tofu blocks,  and mushrooms.  The plan was to eat Hot Pot in the traditional manner.  But then all ingredients just seemed to make their way into my individual bowl without hitting the sauces, etc.

Honestly, that worked just fine for me.  I added some of the sauces to my broth to liven it up a bit.  Once I was certain I had my fill of this, I moved on to dessert.  And the dessert in question is none other than the Amaretto Red Bean (Adzuki) Cake in last night’s teaser photo.

I’m not going to talk too much about the cake here, since I plan on providing a recipe post for the cake.  Don’t be fooled, just because there are beans in your cake does NOT mean it is healthy or sugar-free by any means…

Happy New Year!  I’ll see you tomorrow with some Indonesian.

Categories: Asian Food, Desserts, Food, Holidays, Vegetarian | Tags: | 7 Comments

Happy Chinese New Year!

I hope you are celebrating on this eve of the Year of the Dragon.  We are. With Amaretto Red Bean Cake!

Categories: Asian Food, Desserts, Food, Holidays, Vegetarian | Tags: | 1 Comment

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