Coca-Cola goes Brazillian & Colombian

What to do with Leftover Coca-Cola? Amazingly there are a few South American recipes that make this soft drink a main ingredient.

Yep! Coca-Cola recipes. Actually another great title for this post would have been What to do with Leftover Coca-Cola. I needed a 2 liter bottle…future post! But I thought I would be “environmental” and “recycle” the Coke ???!!!???

Colombian Coca-Cola Rice Brazilian Dishes iced chocolate drink

I have never been a big fan of sodas but I felt bad at the thought of pouring 2 liters of Coke down the drain. I was too curious and went hunting for recipes that had Coca-Cola as an ingredient. There was not a whole lot out there but imagine my surprise when I came across two South American recipes! Not only do I get to use up the Coke….I am doing Ethnic Eatz with it!

colombian coca-cola rice

The first recipe I made was an apparently very popular Colombian coastal dish. If you are Colombian and are reading my blog please hit me and let me know what is up with that? It is not the prettiest dish but it was good. I took it to a potluck BBQ and it had some success. I did a half portion of this recipe from Colombian born Food Network starlet Ingrid Hoffmann.

Ξ Colombian Coca-Cola Rice Ξ

Ingredients
  • 1-1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cups long-grain white rice (I had brown rice at home)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3-1/2 cups Coca-Cola
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3 tbsp sliced or slivered almonds, lightly toasted (I had shredded coconut on hand)
Preparation
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat for 1 minute. Add the rice and cook until it is opaque, about 2 minutes, stirring often.Add the salt to the cola and stir until dissolved (the salt helps to release some of the carbonation) and then add it to the rice. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium- low, cooking until the liquid has almost completely evaporated, about 15 minutes. Stir in the raisins and the almonds and reduce the heat to the lowest setting. Cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 25 minutes. Uncover, fluff with a fork and serve.

 

If you are doing your liquid math, I had about 2 cups left of soda since I halved the rice recipe. Trying the Brazilian Iced Chocolate Drink was a no brainer decision. A super sweet chocolate iced drink! It was soooooooooo decadent.

Brazilian Dishes iced chocolate drink

Ξ Brazilian Iced Chocolate Ξ

Ingredients

  • 2 squares (1 oz. each) unsweetened chocolate
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 cup double strength hot coffee
  • 2 ½ cups milk
  • 1 1/2 cups Coca-Cola
  • Whipped cream or ice cream

Preparation

Melt chocolate in top of double boiler over hot water. Stir in sugar. Gradually stir in hot coffee, mixing thoroughly. Add milk and continue cooking until all particles of chocolate are dissolved and mixture is smooth, about 10 minutes. Pour into jar, cover and chill. When ready to serve, stir in chilled Coca-Cola. Serve over ice cubes in tall glasses. For a beverage, top with whipped cream. For a dessert, add a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Makes 5 cups.

Pappa al Pomodoro Soup

Hello and yes I am alive. I sorta fell off the planet for a week for no real good reason. But I am back, I hope lol.

An old friend of mine gave me this recipe at least 10 years ago. I had this soup at her place and requested the recipe. I made it once, scarfed it down because it is so good….and never made it again till now. I have no idea why but I won’t let another 10 years go by again for sure.

Pappa al pomodoro is a traditional recipe from Tuscany and it is a wonderful summery soup that can help make the autumnal blues go away. It is incredibly satisfying and full of flavor. You can enjoy it hot or chilled. It is very consistent and with some tofu this makes a great vegetarian meal, just add a block of cubed tofu at the same time then the bread. This is a main course soup for sure (Dana this one is for you).

Pappa al pomodoro translates to bread and tomato soup. I know it sounds weird but I promise it will be in your top 5 favorite soups of all time. And there is nothing fancy in here: tomatoes, bread, basil, olive oil are the corner stones of this recipe….all very affordable ingredients. This is the quintessential (so far) Cheap Ethnic Eatz!

There are so many versions of this recipe but basically the main difference between them is the bread to liquid ratio. If you want it very think use less broth an tomatoes, if you want it much soupier add broth and tomatoes. Also the grated hard cheese is not part of the traditional recipe…but it is so awesome! Experiment!

Ξ Pappa al Pomodoro Soup Ξ

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 loaf day-old rustic Italian bread (about 4 cups), torn into 1 inch cube pieces
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup fresh basil, torn
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil to drizzle
  • Grated Parmigiano Reggiano (optional)
  • block of tofu, cubed (optional)

Directions

  1. In a large heavy pan heat oil over moderately high heat until quite hot. In the mean time chop onion, mince garlic and saute onion and garlic until softened.
  2. Stir in the hole can of chopped tomatoes into the pan.
  3. Add the bread chunks and broth ( and optional tofu) to tomato mixture, making sure all the bread is submerged, and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until bread has absorbed liquid and has a porridge consistency.
  4. Add the basil, season with salt and pepper, and let the soup simmer  for another 5 minutes.
  5. Top with Parmigiano Reggiano to taste (for me more is not enough) and drizzle a little it of olive oil.

Serves 4

Aloe Leaf? Aloe Candy!

In my ever continuing search for unusual ingredients, today I bring you the Aloe Vera plant. I have lathered my body in the past with many Aloe Vera enhanced creams and lotions in my life, even broke of a leaf from a house Aloe plant to help ease a burn…but I never saw it as something I could really consume.

NOTE: I would not recommend trying this with your houseplant. There are about 200 species of Aloe…stick to the one sold in the markets grown for consumption…just to be sure!

Well apparently it can  be eaten…or sipped. A few month ago I discovered Aloe juice bottles from an Asian grocery store. They always have the coolest weird drinks! I really liked it and I loved the fact that the juice contained tiny slivers of Aloe flesh. On a side note it’s great with Tequila too as a cocktail. But back to serious business, when I was hunting down those un-findable white asparagus for the 5 Star makeover challenge I found myself again in another Asian market. No white asparagus in sight but they did sell giant leaves (or stalk?) of Aloe Vera. I had to get one.

As you can see it is very big: here it is with my home cordless phone which is maybe 6 or 7 inches long. I barely could get it in the fridge comfortably. great so now what do I do with it I thought. I started searching online and guess what, there are not many appealing or edible recipes out there for Aloe. Finally I settled on Poached Aloe that I found here. Unfortunately I cooked it too much and I wound up with a mass of sticky sweet Aloe gel….so let’s make Aloe candy! This was inspired by the ginger chewy candies I adore that you can find in Chinatown. But let’s start at the beginning and let me show you how to prepare the flesh.

Get a good knife, a big cutting board and get ready to get slimmed. Start of by cutting along leaf edge where there are sharp points. Cut also the bottom part off…you can see below the gel in cross section. After a little nudge with the knife the flat top part will peel right off.

Next you have the bottom curved edge of the leave. This is a bit more tricky. You have 2 choices: either run knife under the gel (you may miss a lot of meat) and/or  scoop out with a spoon. Make sure to remove all rind or yellow parts which are bitter. You can see below the translucent strips of solid gel. Cool eh?

Now you can cut up your strips of flesh into small cubes. Oh did I mention this stuff is slimy? Like think Ghostbusters slimy. try to keep things as clean as possible…good luck! Slimy and stretchy. Now your flesh is ready for making candy.

Aloe Candy

1 large aloe leaves peeled and cubed
1/2  cup sugar
1 tbs lime juice
cornstarch

Cook the aloe over medium low heat stirring occasionally until the liquid is no longer slimy and a candy thermometer reads firm ball stage 245ºF (118ºC). Allow to cool to touch. Spread some cornstarch on your counter so the aloe does not stick and roll it out into a cylinder. Cut into pieces and roll them out into balls with some cornstarch.

Yep, all that gave me 7 candies. As you can see it is very similar to the ginger chew that I placed in the upper right corner. The taste is hard to describe, sweet aloe but not overpowering. I would totally eat Aloe candy if I could buy it but I am not planning on making this recipe again. It was cool trying it once.

Is Your Coffee Cup Half Full or Half Empty?

I am not one to usually just publish all the press releases I get but when I feel there is truly a good message then I am happy to share good worthy info. This is the case with the latest PR from Maxwell House Coffee….

Is Your Coffee Cup Half Full or Half Empty?

Maxwell House Pours a Cup of Optimism for Canadians and Encourages Everyone to Brew Some Good

Help Brew a Nation Without Bitterness

Maxwell House is opening up a bottomless can of optimism for Canadians,” says Rena Nickerson, Senior Brand Manager, Maxwell House.  “It’s been a tough winter, but now that Spring’s here, we’re on a mission to boost the mood of the nation and we want all Canadians to join the movement.  Take a well-deserved ‘Optimism Break’ on our website and then share that great feeling with someone else.  After all, optimism is contagious!” Whether your cup is half empty or half full, Maxwell House is providing many ways that Canadians can take an “Optimism Break” and brew some positive energy:

  • Visit the Maxwell House Optimism Café in Montreal at 3523 St. Laurent.  Throughout the month of April, there will be free Maxwell House coffee for everyone, along with a schedule of fun, in-café events.
  • Escape from the daily grind at www.BrewSomeGood.ca and check out the “daily dose of optimism” – real life stories to give spirits a lift.
  • Join the Facebook page – www.facebook.com/brewsomegood – for positive messaging and details on “Optimism Breaks” events.
  • Watch for the Maxwell House Optimism Walls on downtown streets in Toronto and Montreal.  The Walls project positive quotations, results from the Optimism Meter, and tweets from Canadians fed by the Maxwell House Twitterstream @brewsomegood.

Is your cup of coffee half full or half empty?  Do you feel good about life and share your positive attitude with others?  Are you an optimist?  Maxwell House coffee – Canada’s favourite at-home coffee – believes that the world would be a better place if more people saw their cup as half full, rather than half empty. To gauge just how optimistic Canadians are, the brand commissioned the Maxwell House Survey on Optimism, Coffee and Canadians*, conducted by Angus Reid Public Opinion.  Survey results show that Canadians are revelling in a positive state of mind and believe their positive spirit can make a difference:

  • 85 percent of Canadians consider themselves to be optimistic

–   Alberta is the most optimistic province at 90 percent, while 86 per cent of Quebecers consider themselves to be optimistic

–   Canadians become more optimistic as they age:  81 percent of 18-to-34 year olds are optimistic vs. 87 percent of those 55 plus

  • 86 percent of us believe optimism is contagious

–   Gender makes a difference on this one:  89 percent of women believe it’s contagious vs. 82 percent of men

  • 66 percent of Canadians feel they are a “cup-half-full” kind of person who sees the positive side of things, while 28 percent see themselves as a “cup-half-empty” person who is more cautious

–   That number drops in Quebec, with 57% of respondents feeling they are a “cup-half-full” kind of person

  • 79 percent of us admit to trying to turn pessimists into optimists

–   Women tend to encourage pessimists to be optimistic much more than men:  86 percent vs. 72 percent

–   Quebec is above the national average with 83%

  • 41 percent of coffee drinkers say that a great cup of coffee influences their level of optimism

–   In Quebec, that number jumps to 51%!

Tips for Brewing Your Own Optimism

To garner ideas and advice on how we can all brew up our own optimistic outlook, Maxwell House is working with two eternal optimists:  Christopher Hall, a comedian famous for his Optimistic outlook on life, and Albert Nerenberg, a Laughologist, Filmmaker and Journalist.  Mr. Hall, who has worked with Mr. Nerenberg in the past, supports his top five tips for culturing positivity:

1) Smile: Smile even when you don’t feel like it.  Simply smiling will cause the hormonal changes that produce positive emotion.

2) Enjoy Rituals: Practicing rituals – something as simple as brewing and enjoying your morning cup of coffee – can help increase optimism as it gives your psyche something to look forward to.

3) Laugh Big.  Laugh Often: They say laughter is the best medicine but most of us don’t laugh well.  Don’t hold back to enjoy the stress-relieving benefits. 

4) Get Face-to-Face with Friends: We enjoy each other’s company and this interaction is believed to boost both our immunity levels and our mood.

5) Look Up: So far, there is no science to explain this, but simply looking up seems to improve your mood. Look towards the ceiling and you will notice a positive lift.

“Optimism has been linked with everything from good health and less stress to a long life and personal success,” concludes Ms. Nickerson.  “Whether your cup is half full or half empty, every new morning is a chance to brew some good.  Do yourself a favour and join the Maxwell House movement!”

* About the SurveyThe Angus Reid Public Opinion Poll was conducted over two sessions:

From February 23 to February 25, 2011, and from March 2 to March 3, 2011, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 1,005 and 1,018 (respectively) randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is+/- 3.1%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.

 

Toronto with friends & dodging Niagara’s tourist traps

Here is one of 2 food posts dedicated to the food we enjoyed on our New Year’s escapade. This one will cover most of what we ate but the second post will be a restaurant review….and just you wait and see this place ha!

Now if you expected a gourmet blog post on Niagara here, well sorry to say you will be sorely disappointed. As I have mentioned before Niagara Falls has the Falls and then a fake tourist trap town filled with cheesy attractions. Now don’t get me wrong….go with the right attitude and you will have a blast. We played a round of glow in the dark mini golf, did a haunted house, went on a moving theater ride, played amusement park type games to win tickets in exchange for trinkets.

Food was tricky though: either you get fast food or you pay an arm an a leg. The middle ground is almost non existent and forget finding a quaint little family run restaurant, it is mostly chains. But we managed pretty well and ate well enough with a few awesome surprises. From the falling apart decor and rickety tables to the nice sophisticated places with modern dining room furniture here is my photo essay on some of what we ate.

First place I MUST mention is Tim Hortons. It is in fact the quintessential road trip food. In Canada this is where you get your coffee and sugar rush. They also serve the cheapest lunch I can think of if you take the chicken salad sandwich combo with coffee and a doughnut…like $5.02 tax in. BUT they are everywhere. They plague the scenery I could not handle seeing one more Tim Horton sign. OK its a chip on my shoulder lol.

Our first dinner was at Tony Romas. Nice place, super friendly staff, house wine is from the Niagara region. We had the all you can eat Beef short ribs for $15.99, a rather unbeatable price in Niagara for the meal we had. I did find the short ribs dry but they are short ribs so hard to keep moist.

Remember how gaudy I said Niagara Falls can be on my vineyard touring post? We here is quite the ultimate expression of it. Next to Burger King is the Frankenstein Haunted house….and the birth of a perfect marketing ploy. I LOVE it!

At the Fudge Factory you can watch the guy prepare the fudge before it is packed into molds. Yes (sorry for this bad joke a head of time) he is a fudge packer! We tried a piece of the Bailey’s fudge, yumm!

And now for the breakfast of champions! I insisted kindly not to be dragged to a chain place for breakfast. We eventually stopped at the Continental Pancake House. This is an unpretentious family style restaurant where everything is made from scratch. The pancakes are HUGE and fluffy, Stef loved the sausages. We we very pleased and the service was so friendly. Though there is a limited all you can eat breakfast for like 7$ since we ordered à la carte it somehow ended up costing about $40 for breakfast. A bit steep!

Our second night here was our fancy dinner. I was not told where we were going as it was a surprise. Where did we go? Red Lobster. Wait I know what you are thinking, but remember this is a tourist town and this is a middle ground price restaurant. I mean our main plates were still like $25 each. We are traveling on a budget here. Red Lobsters left Quebec a while back so for us this is a treat. We each had a triple seafood combo plate, coconut shrimp appetizer, and a MASSIVE pina colada for 2. The shrimps were all excellent but my lobster tale, meh, OK.

Our last morning in Niagara was a late departure and we decided on coffee and a doughnut and just have lunch later. Today we would drive to Toronto for New Year’s Eve to my friend’s place. Of wineries were part of the expedition. But back to breakfast. So we ended up stopping at a place called Country Fresh Donuts on the outskirts of town. A really odd ball place apparently specialized in donuts and Asian sop bowls…and popular and run by Asians. Apparently this is a real local gem. And the doughnuts…the BEST EVER. This was a cinnamon twist I shot in the car. So light and so good. I wish we had bought like a dozen.

Ah, finally made it to my friend Susan’s place were we would welcome the New Year over a home meal. She and her roomie prepared a great cheese themed dinner with homemade macaroni and cheese, a lovely phyllo cup filled with goat cheese, garlic shrimps and a cheese cake. Let me tell you around 3 or 4 am the macaroni and cheese came were back out for second helpings!

And we had lots to drink! Some bubbly with the meal, some bubbly at midnight, a bit of wine and a few cocktails. The last shot on the right is bubbly with a strawberry and a Lindt Chocolate. Sounds weird but is was good. Want to try a new cocktail? This is my new fave:

RedHeaded Slut (I swear it’s the official name)

Mix in a glass 1 ounce of Peach Schnapps, 1 ounce of Jagermeister and top off with cranberry juice.

On our final night we all went for a last dinner before our return home the next day. Toronto’s Chinatown was our destination. Our host would not stop talking about Kom Jug Yuen on Spadina as the best place for Chinese with incredible BBQ pork. Very low key decor and simple place. You MUST have the BBQ Pork. This was the best Chinese food I have ever eaten and it cost 60$ with the tip and tax for 5 people.

I hope you enjoyed the little tour of some of the food I enjoyed over the holiday trip. I will have one more Toronto food post coming, a restaurant review, that you will not want to miss so come back soon. A hint: this place has been called Toronto’s least healthy restaurant.

Black Horn Nut, Eat the Devil

Visiting Chinatown is becoming a very dangerous affair for me. Every time I go I come back with a bag of food discoveries I don’t technically need…or even know what it is. Here is one one of those unknown discoveries, it’s a doozie.

I saw this box of ‘stuff’ for sale at 2,99/lb outside an Asian grocery store…

These things looked like bull heads, or devil heads, or even evil demon bunny heads. The sign said Water Calton…at least that is what I was able to read. From past experience English names in Chinatown are not reliable. I bought a handful and could not wait to get home and research my devilish find.

OK so googling Water Calton brought nothing up except a suggestion of Carlton from the Fresh Prince of Bel Air!!! Ah, pretty sure that is wrong. After playing with word combination I finally found out what these were: water caltrops.

And a whole series of nicknames: Black Horn Nut, Bat Nut, Devil Pod, Buffalo Nut. They are the seed pod of an Oriental aquatic plant. China and India have been cultivating them for over 3,000 years but can be found also in Asia and Africa. They are toxic if uncooked. There is a fury tuff at the top of the bull’s head and they do have a bit of a strange odor.

Cover them in water and some salt, bring to a boil and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Let them rest another 20 min. Then crack them open (very bad but as I read the easiest is with your teeth) and enjoy their chestnut like taste and texture. They taste like a cross between chestnuts and water chestnuts, maybe even a bit like Brazil nuts, but with a starchy texture. They can be added when cooked to rice and vegetable dishes.

They are in season in Fall and are a traditional food of the Chinese mid-autumn festival. I think they would also make awesome Halloween food props. One article I read said some people believe nailing a caltrop above your door while it is looking out will protect your home from evil spirits.

The Vine Leaves in your Backyard

I spent the weekend a while back at my friend Karyn’s house which is just outside the island on Montreal. Even if basically part of Montreal for me it still felt like a trip outside of town. We had such a blast with great food (she will one day actually send me a guest blog of the breakfast she made (RIGHT?)) and we had a great day for a neighborhood party in honor of Fire Men Day. NO we saw zero shirtless firemen…I was very upset!

But the first night was one of BBQ, relaxation and cocktails, followed by a relaxing morning by the pool. We were talking about the vegetation and future plans of Kryn’s backyard. “Yeah those are vine leaves used for Dolmades’ she says. WHAT? Like I can just pick some and cook with them? ‘YES, take some” Karyn said.

Well she did not have tell me twice. I left there with 10 leaves. Here is my first dolmades experience! I had no clue what to do with them when I got home. I found ALL my answers here at Ellen’s Kitchen. I know you roll your mixture in the leaves…but what do you do to the leaves? What is the mixture and can I mess around with it? How on earth do I roll the leaf? How do I cook it? Ellen answered all my questions…phew!

Dolmades Recipe

The leaves: real directions on how to use fresh leaves.

Blanch loose, a dozen at a time, by placing in strong salted boiling brine, 1 C. salt to 4 C. water. Bring water back to a boil and then remove leaves immediately with a skimmer or pancake turner; and then plunge the leaves immediately into cold/ ice water. Drain, dry with paper towels or shake dry. Don’t omit this, it is done to set the color and also prevents enzyme action while freezing. Use immediately, or stack in rolls of six, roll from the side and tie; wrap in airtight plastic and freezer bags.

The Filling

Usually dolmas is filled with seasoned rice, sometimes with a bit of meat as well. I invented my own filling, no measurements, just did it by feeling. Ingredients are:

  • ground beef
  • couscous
  • 1 egg
  • onions
  • garlic
  • tomatoes
  • ginger
  • coriander
  • cumin
  • salt, pepper

Stuffing and rolling

Trim stem off. With  with shiny of leaf down, place a small spoonful of prepared stuffing at the stem end of the leaf, roll about one turn. Fold in the two sides. Continue rolling to the tip of the leaf. The package should be firm, but not tight, as the stuffing will expand while cooking.

Cooking

See Ellen’s Kitchen for full instructions but I steamed mine. I did no have enough leaves for all the meat so I lined my steamer with parchment paper and flattened my leftover meat on the bottom…like a thin meatloaf. Then I placed the rolled leaves with the seam side down. I placed the basket in a large enough pot with 2-3 cups of broth. Once the broth was boiling I lowered to simmer and steamed about 45 minutes covered.

Finally I prepared a quit sauce to serve with….

Egg and lemon sauce, Greek style:

  • 2-3 eggs, separated
  • 1 tablespoon of water
  • juice of 2-3 lemons
  • broth from the dish being cooked (or hot beef or chicken broth or stock)

Preparation:

Beat the egg whites until foamy. Beat in egg yolks, water, lemon juice, and 2-3 ladle full of broth, beating continuously. Transfer mixture to a small saucepan and heat gently. Whisk while heating, until mixture thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon. Do not boil.