Latin American Food

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

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See you there!

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

Tour de Peru

Today, I bring you three dishes: a vegetarian ceviche, Garlic Quinoa Soup, and Papas a la Huancaina.  But first, you’re stuck scrolling through some of my travel photos from Peru!  I can’t help but look through travel pictures when I’ve actually visited a country of origin for my recipes.

We visited Peru in March of 2010.  Again, I was still a meat eater.  This blog has a lot of meaty photos for being hosted by a non-meat-eater, I know.  Next international vacation will be a bit different.

Jordan, Emilee, and I hiked, shopped, wandered for 8 days.  ‘Twas lovely.  You’ll see an alpaca steak, cuy (guinea pig), passionfruit, produce markets, and the God-send for altitude sickness–coca tea.

Aside from river trout, alpaca, and cuy, I remember eating a lot of pizza, quinoa, fresh fruit juices, and tubers.  Oh, yeah, also remember some pisco sours 🙂

While in Pisac for the weekend market, we stopped to eat at Ulrike’s Cafe.

I had a few bites of Emilee’s cheesecake, a Coke in a glass bottle, and quinoa for the very first time.  Our tour guide told us all about it’s protein powers, etc., so I was eager to try. Quinoa is a grain, similar to rice, which can be used as a base, in soups, or simply stand by itself as a side dish.

(It’s becoming much for available within the U.S. due to increased demand for this nutrition-packed grain, but this does drive the price up for Peruvian citizens.)

My quinoa came in a light, garlicky soup, not the typical tomato based quinoa soup.  I attempted to recreate!

My recipe is at the end of the post.

Our vegetarian ceviche was quite delicious.  I followed a recipe from that includes hearts of palm.  I was glad that I followed that suggestion, as they come close to offering a crab-like substitute.  I’d honestly never even seen hearts of palm before this grocery shopping trip, though.  Interesting little things…

No, not string cheese. I swear it.

We may have overindulged on ceviche, as we barely had room for the final dish.

I made, or at least sort of made, Papas a la Huancaina!  Papas a la Hancaina consists of slices of boiled potatoes covered in a spicy cheese sauce, hard-boiled eggs, and olives–all on a bed of fresh lettuce.

You might read that the dish is typically served with white or yellow potatoes.  That might be true–I honestly don’t know.  What I do know, is that I was lucky enough to have access to locally-grown, purple Peruvian potatoes!  Wouldn’t you know, someone in Sevierville started planting Peruvian tubers!

(So glad I have a husband who loves me in spite of the fact that I set up photo shoots for tubers).

I often feel conflicted because I love to support local farmers, but also love trying new foods and recipes from all over the world.  This was win-win.

My cheese sauce ended up being entirely too runny–which I now know is because I didn’t shake my can of evaporated milk near enough.  Still, it tasted absolutely delicious.

You can see in the following photo how the cheese sauce just sunk to the bottom of the plate.  When served into individual portions, we spooned the mixture back over las papas.

Trust me on the deliciousness. Or don’t.  Make your own!

As promised, my soup recipe:

Garlic Quinoa Soup, (Serves 8), Vegan


  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2/3 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup farfalle or macaroni noodles
  • 1/2 cup shredded carrots
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 6 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cubes vegetable bouillon
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat oil in large pot.
  2. Add onion and garlic; cook until onions are translucent.
  3. Add quinoa, carrots, and celery.  Cook until quinoa is slightly toasted.
  4. Add water, bouillon, bay leaf, parsley, and salt and pepper.
  5. Bring to boil; Let simmer until quinoa and vegetables are tender.
  6. Add pasta and simmer for 6-9 more minutes or until pasta is soft.

Let me know what you think!  I don’t feel the tomatoes are necessary at all…

Adios, Peru.  Until next quinoa dish.

Categories: Food, Latin American Food, Soups, Vegan, Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Pabellón criollo y Arepas {Venezuela}

Jordan had his eye on a Venezuelan restaurant in NYC a few weeks ago, but wasn’t able to make it.  But his craving did not subside.  I thought I would take a stab at that craving.

As with many other countries, colonization has left Venezuela with various cultures and cuisines.  The cuisine varies greatly from region to region.  Italian influences are strong, and Venezuelans eat more pasta than everywhere other than Italy–this surprised me.  I thought Argentina would be number two.

I decided to proceed ahead with two dishes:

  • Arepas (per the husband’s request) and
  • Pabellón criollo–arguably Venezuela’s national dish.

The arepas were a bit time consuming, but I was happy to have put the time in to achieve the final result.  The cornmeal dough was made into patties:

I wanted our arepas to be a bit thick, so that I could squeeze some sharp cheddar between the layers.

I pan-fried the arepas, just enough so that a crunchy crust was formed on the outsides.  So, we live in a tiny apartment with no ventilation to speak of.  And without a hood for the stove.  Things got smoky with this pan-frying….

After the crust was formed, I tossed them into the oven to bake through.  My final product was quite similar to the pictures I’d seen.  I actually found some pre-made arepas in the frozen food section of the Hispanic Market I visited a couple weeks back.  Glad I didn’t succumb.  I think the cost of the cornmeal, salt, flour, etc. probably only totaled half the cost of the packaged version.

The sharp cheddar worked out just fine.  Too fine.  I loved it, even though it seemed a little greasy when melted.

See the pabellón criollo creeping in the background?  Pabellón criollo typically consists of rice and beans, fried plantains, maybe a fried egg, and maybe some fish or chicken.  Bet you can guess what’s in mine…

You might not be jealous, but you should be.  This was an awesome meal.  I was completely stuffed, but force-fed my second arepa down because it tasted so good.  And I could not leave any plantain slices.

Venezuelans, I do not buy that your president, Mr. Chavez, was at the Nativity.  But maybe the Virgin Mary was craving something like this meal during her pregnancy.

Categories: Food, Latin American Food, Vegetarian | 4 Comments

Feijoada and Manioc Fries {Brazil}

Oh, Brazil.  There’s a lot of beautiful there. Beaches and mountains.  And rainforest–which I’ll see someday, I swear it.

Between leaving the DC Metro Area and arriving in Knoxville, Jordan and I were lucky enough to spend almost 3 weeks in Brazil.  We stayed with Jordan’s friend from college, Chris, near Salvador (in the state of Bahia).  Chris teaches English in that area.  Chris and his girlfriend, Milena, were excellent hosts–helping us communicate with others, helping choose our activities, and showing us Brazil from a point of view that we would never have seen otherwise.

While there, we ate many, many delicious things.  Much of what we ate while there was completely new to us.   At the time we visited, I was not a vegetarian, so we had beef (copain even!), visited a traditional churrascaria, sampled seafood dishes that were heavy on the dende oil, and partook in some of the villa’s group barbeques.  Still, there were plenty of herbivore delights.  The family of one of Chris’ students (following?) owns a produce shop, and let us sample anything that peaked our interest.  Coconut water straight from the coconut was nearly a daily occurrence, acai (Rio bowls) made the cut frequently.  Manioc (yucca) flour abounded. The dende oil and manioc flour are evidence of the African influences on Brazilian cuisine.  (Bahia has been called “the Africa of the Americas”).

So, with all of this emphasis on the time I spent in Brazil, you’re probably thinking that this is the first place I had feijoada, right?  Actually, while staying an eco-resort in Misiones Province in Argentina, I was introduced to feijoada.

And more travel pictures from Don Enrique (the aforementioned eco-resort).  Don Enrique was the big splurge on our Honeymoon.  I very much recommend the place to anyone considering it.  The owners are so welcoming, the hiking guides are friendly and knowledgeable (and will put up with your my very broken Spanish), the setting is wonderful.  But the food…wow.  All local, raised in their gardens, etc.  I’d never eaten better.  Don Enrique is nestled right up by the Brazilian border, and the Brazilian influence is quite strong.

Okay, so that’s not feijoada, either.  Just one of the lovely meals we ate while there.

So what is feijoada?  You had to know I’d get around to it eventually, right?  Feijoada is a stew of beans and traditionally,  beef and pork.  It is a typical dish in both Portugal and Brazil and is considered by many as the Brazil’s national dish.  It’s served with rice and typically some sides.  While hiking in Brazil, it was often served with what seemed like an overwhelming number of sides.  The meal below was just for the three of us.  After a full day of the hardest hiking I’d done up to that point, we nearly cleared the table!

Since I’m no longer eating meat, I wasn’t sure how to approach this dish.  I couldn’t very well just make beans and rice, because that seemed to be taking too much out of the dish.  So I opted for Gimme Lean (just realized the rhyme with Jimmy Dean….:S) vegan sausage as my “meat” add in.  It truly did taste like sausage, which weirded me out a bit, but then I gave in.

I served our feijoada with manioc fries, which I believe I am getting better at making!  Remember, you’ll have to boil first.  The dish really hit the spot for me.

The beans really covered the faux-sausage, but you can see it in the top of the photo.

Peeking out a little more in that photo.

While I really, really love brigadeiro (similar to truffles), I decided I would go with fresh tropical fruit for dessert, as fresh mangoes, papayas, and pineapples now all take me back to Bahia.

And I wanted to share photos of my lovely, slightly overpriced Anthropologie cup (purchased during the NYC trip)!

I’d say the joy of eating the pineapple out of such a pretty cup was worth the 10 dollar price tag.

Until we meet again, readers….

Categories: Food, Latin American Food, Travel, Vegan, Vegetarian | 2 Comments

Moksi Meti Recipe {Suriname}

Hey, hey, people!  I have returned from the land-of-cooking-a-lot-but-posting-a-little.  I must get back into the swing of things with posting.  Be prepared (in the words of Uncle Scar).

Last night proved to be an interesting night.  The country challenge–Suriname.  Suriname is on the northern coast of South America.  Much like the U.S. is a country of many immigrants, Suriname is composed of people from the land-of-somewhere-else.  Their food culture stems from the food cultures of India, Indonesia, and Africa among others.

(You guys are missing Jordan’s maps right now, huh?)

One of Suriname’s most popular dishes is Moksi Meti.  Loosely translated, it means mixed meats.  Sounds like the best vegetarian to choose to make, right?  Yeah….you’ll see.  Moksi Meti is typically served with either noodles or rice.

What you see below—all plants believe it or not.  Yep, vegan Moksi Meti.

I’m going to once again not provide you a recipe; not because I don’t want you to make it, but because I’m skeptical that it should actually be called a recipe.  But I will still tell you my method and ingredients.

My version is less mixed meat and more mixed protein.  I used three different types of plant-based proteins: gardein breasts (soy based), seitan (wheat-based), and tofu cubes.  They were sauteed in some oil, before a pepper/soy sauce was added to the pan.  This created a beautiful glaze for all the proteins.

My base for the Moksi Meti was soba noodles with sauteed carrots, bean sprouts, and bok choy.  Had to find a way to sneak more vegetables into the dish.  If a made this dish again, I would probably leave the bok choy out and use regular soba noodles instead of the buckwheat.  I just was not a fan of it last night.

That’s okay.  I was a big fan of the glazed mixed proteins.  Just another photo to post of them…

We tried our hand at making our own roti last night (I say we because Jordan helped out with the meal).  I would call it a learning experience.  I think I need to add a bit more flavor to my dough and make it a little bit thinner.  Don’t you worry, we’ll be trying again tonight for Trinidad and Tobago!

Because last night was Fat Tuesday, we had to celebrate a bit too.  But I wimped out and went for some easy, non-Surinamese goodness.

Catholics, come here to find you meatless Friday meals during Lent!

Categories: Breads/Starches, Food, Latin American Food, Vegan, Vegetarian | 1 Comment

Costa Rican Casado

Meet Gallo Pinto.

Or rather, meet the “No-Gallo Pinto.”  Gallo Pinto literally means “spotted rooster,” and this vegetarian version of the dish lacks rooster. Gallo Pinto is one Costa Rica’s national dishes and is typically served with a cabbage salad and fried plantains.  The whole plated combination is referred to as “casado.”

Gallo Pinto is a budget-friendly and healthy dish.  Vegetarian Gallo Pinto is even cheaper–no need to purchase chicken.  As an extra bonus, it’s quite easy to make at home!

No-Gallo Pinto (Vegan) Serves 8


  • 2 T oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 bell peppers, chopped
  • 2 cups rice (we used long grain white)
  • 15 oz black beans (cooked)
  • 1 chile in adobo sauce
  • 2 T paprika
  • 2 T Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 t coriander
  • 2 cups water
  • 13.5 oz light coconut milk


  1. Heat oil in large pan on medium.  Add onion and fry for 2-3 minutes.  Add garlic and bell peppers and fry for 2-3 more minutes.
  2. Add in all remaining ingredients.  Stir so that seasonings are distributed evenly.
  3. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer while covered until rice is cooked.  (Since we used white rice, it was about 20 minutes for us).

Serve with a salad and friend plantains.

The cabbage I put together was also light and easy to assemble.  Shredded cabbage, chopped tomato and cucumber, avocado, the juice of one lime, salt and pepper.  No real recipe there.  As for the plantains…

If you plan on sticking around the blog (and I really hope you do!), you’ll quickly become acquainted with fried plantains.  So many countries around the world put plantains to good use.

These are so good.  And so easy.  I think I’ll start making whole meals of fried plantains now.  Heat a pan, add a little oil or butter (or E.B.), toss in your plantain slices, flip when underside is brown.  Once they are good and browned, sprinkle with sea salt.

I love the emphasis on fresh fruits and vegetables within Costa Rican cuisine.  I know it’s also lame to say on Week 2 of The Pearl Project, but I was also thrilled with how easy this meal was to put together.  Sure, knife skills are necessary, but beyond that, no crazy culinary techniques are needed to make this taste great.

(The camera died during my picture-taking stage, so my posts are a little bit behind. Not to worry, the battery is now fully charged!)

Categories: Food, Latin American Food, Vegan, Vegetarian | 2 Comments

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