(85) St Helena – Plo Pilau

Source: Pinterest

St. Helena is a British Territory situated in the South Atlantic Ocean west of Southern Africa. It is a volcanic island that is roughly 10 mi by 5 mi is size. The island is named after St Helena of Constantinople, a empress of the Roman empire and mother of Constantine the Great. The colorful buildings are distinct as you arrive to the island. Napoleon was exiled here after his defeat in the Battle of Waterloo. Charles Darwin has also stepped foot on the island and thought it was “a curious little world within itself”. St. Helena is well known for an endangered species “green tipped Bourbon Arabica coffee” and is home to 45 other plant species that are not found anywhere else in the world. If you’re adventurous you could climb Jacob’s steps (nearly 700 total), which is the only remnants of a past cable railway or see where Napoleon stayed after exile.

The cuisine on the island of course has British influence, but also other European countries, China, Africa, and India. Natives take advantage of seafood and locally grown produce. Fishcakes are very popular here which is a mix of fresh seafood and plenty of spices. Plo, a one pot dish also full of spices, veg, and various meats is a well known to the island. Similar to Middle Eastern plov it has a rice base. I decided to tackle this dish and used this recipe.

Look at all the colors of this meal! Luckily I was able to use mostly fresh produce which I fell you can taste the difference in a dish like this! I loaded it up with just a little more curry than what was asked for, because why not. Nothing is worse than a bland meal!

This dish was suuuper savory, bring on that curry seasoning! There was a nice variety of veggies which balanced out the meat. It was nice that I didn’t have to dirty too many dishes and it could all cook in the same pot! Unfortunately my rice was over cooked so the texture was a bit off.. I’m sure if the texture was more desirable we could have rated it a little higher. The dish definitely has potential for a higher rating… maybe I will make again in the near future. We decided 6.75/10 was fair.

(84) South Korea – Beef Bulgogi

Seoul, South Korea. Source: Cushmanwakefield.com

Welcome to South Korea, our 84th country! You can of course find South Korea on the border of North Korea, The Yellow Sea, and The Sea of Japan. The city of Seoul is the largest of South Korea and the world’s third largest city with a population of 25 million people! Outside of the bustling city you can admire the traditional Hanok architecture in Hanok Village which is situated between two of the large palaces from the Joseon Dynasty. Interestingly, in South Korea you don’t turn a year older until New Year’s Day, and from birth you are a year old. From yummy food to popular music South Korea has left its mark on the United States.

There are a few foods that come to mind when you think of South Korea- kimchi (fermented cabbage and vegetables), bibibaps, and soondae (blood sausage) to name a few. Their cuisine has evolved greatly over time due to political and social events. Rice, vegetables, seafood, and meats make up most meals while sesame oil, gochujang (fermented chili paste), doenjang (fermented bean paste), and soy sauce are common ingredients. Koreans are very into fermented foods which add a unique flavor to any dish. Our dish we are making today, beef bulgogi, will have a side of kimchi.

Beef bulgogi is a marinated, thinly sliced (oops) beef that is often grilled or sautéed served over rice or wrapped up in lettuce. The origins of the meal date back to Goguryeo era, which was 37 B.C. to 668 A.D. It started out as skewered meat known as maekjeok and over time evolved to neobiani which was marinated beef that was grilled and often eaten by the upper class and royalty. By the early 20th century beef was more available in Korea and ultimately became the bulgogi we know today. There is a slightly different interpretation of the dish which is more a beef broth meal. So I actually did neither preparation and sautéed the meat in its marinade- yum! Can you smell that garlic? Recipe can be found here.

After my meat marinated for 24 hours I cooked it as directed via skillet. I decided to let it cook with most of the marinade to make sure it would stay tender. Luckily this meal as another easy one to do during the work week. To achieve the cucumber ribbons I used a veggie peeler.

What a pretty plate! We loved this colorful meal and how each element brought something special to the dish. The meat was very tender and well seasoned. The ginger as always pulls through with a garlic punch. We always find the addition of cucumber refreshing and helps cut the spiciness. This dish was deserving of a solid 8/10.

(83) Antigua + Barbuda – Pork Chops with Bacon-Wrapped Bananas

Source: Big Seven Travel

We are back in the Caribbean visiting a tropical country with two names and three islands. The official language is English due to past British rule, although you can find people speaking Spanish as well in certain regions. The island has no lakes, rivers, forests, or mountains, but they have plenty of beaches! A & B is even nicknamed “the land of 365 beaches.” Even though it looks like there is a small mountain range on the Antigua it is actually remnants of a volcanic crater (the islands are partially volcanic but there is no active volcanos). This Caribbean nation is popular for vacations due to all the beautiful beaches and top-notch bird watching.

The cuisine of A & B is like many other Caribbean dishes, but they have some unique national dishes. One is called “fish water” which is a stewed or boiled fish, another is “fungee” which is similar to polenta. Food here often involves fresh seafood and produce. Today we do something different- pork chops with bacon-wrapped bananas. This seemingly random pairing of food had me intrigued. Banana is one of the most abundant crops of the island and locals find this dish a wonderful pairing of salty and sweet. Unfortunately, I could not find a back story of how this dish came to be. Most times it is grilled when being prepared, however our grill stopped working so I was very thankful to have my air fryer! The grill version of this dish is found here.

It was tricky to get the bacon to stay on the bananas but luckily most of them stayed put. If you are wanting to fire up that air fryer or are grill-less place the wrapped bananas in for 8-12 minutes depending on the thickness of the bacon at 380 F. You will want to make sure the bacon is crispy and the bananas are slightly browned.

As interesting as this dish was it wasn’t too bad. The pork chops were very well seasoned, we thought the lemon and cumin was a great combination. The bananas and bacon were a nice balance of sweet and savory, however the texture of the bananas wasn’t what we had hoped. They were very mushy while the bacon was crispy, too much contrast for me. Overall the meal was well seasoned and pleasant. We rated it 7.25/10.

(82) Portugal – Caldo Verde Soup

Lisbon, Portugal. Source: Everything Overseas

Portugal, a southern European country is found on the Iberian Peninsula. It neighbors Spain and the Atlantic Ocean making it a hot surf spot. It is one of the oldest countries of Europe dating back to 1200 BC and is home to the oldest library in the capital Lisbon. Portugal is a large producer of Port Wine and cork (makes sense), one of the largest in the world! Other than surfing you can explore historical sites and take in the breath-taking views.

From Portuguese travel they developed a distinguished cuisine full of flavors from around the globe. The cuisine of Portugal is influenced by the spice trade of Asia, flavors and seasonings Europe, Africa, and South America. Some of the food comes from the region of Portugal with utilization of the Atlantic waters for fresh seafood. Kale, chicken, sausage, rice, cod, sardines, and olives are some of the more common ingredients found in Portuguese cooking, some of which are in this dish. Today I prepared caldo verde soup which is a hearty combination of chouriço sausage, kale, beans, and veggies. As you can see I substituted chorizo instead (no downfall there). The recipe can be found here.

Come to find out my chorizo would break apart into tiny bits once I added it to the stew. I would say that was the only downfall to the meal. It was pretty simple to follow the recipe and didn’t take too long to make. Just look at those colors!

We thought this soup had a nice balance of spicy and citrus flavors. The lemon zest definitely paired well with the creaminess of the broth. I loved the nice variety of veggies and overall thought the soup was hearty and savory. You could also do without the sausage and still have a wonderful meal. We would make this one again and rated it 8.25/10!

Italy Day 4 – Margherita Pizza

To close out our time in Italy I chose a classic known to most- the margherita pizza. This simple yet delicious masterpiece came to be on June 11th 1889 to honor the Queen consort of Italy-  Margherita of Savoy.  Raffaele Esposito created the pizza to represent the colors of the Italian flag by using basil for green, mozzarella for white, and tomato for red. Originally the pizza dough used was more of a flat bread compared to the sweeter, fuller crusts we are accustomed to most of the time.

Pizza dates back 7,000 years ago throughout Europe with various toppings placed on top of flatbreads and round breads. The pizza we know today dates back to the late 19th century when tomato and bread were being paired together.

We appreciated the simplicity that we only needed a few ingredients to have an amazing meal. Of course I used local basil Portland Pie Pizza Dough which just added to how yummy it was! As pretty as fresh basil looks on the pizza as you’re making it once it comes out of the oven it doesn’t have the same appeal. I would suggest added basil afterwards unless it is dried. We rated this dish 9.5/10 because it was just so good! How could you go wrong with pizza?

Italy Day 3 – Chicken Cacciatore

Welcome to day 3 in Italy! We are making the saucy chicken cacciatore today, a breaded chicken that bathes in a savory tomato-wine sauce. Cacciatore translates to hunter which were the first people to enjoy this dish. Because hunters first made this dish it was actually made with game instead of chicken. The dish was created sometime between the 14th and 16th century.

The dish is so popular it has its own holiday on the 15th of October! Although we know this dish to be adorned with tomato it was originally made without. Tomatoes were not introduced to Italy until later on!

I really appreciated that this meal took less than an hour to prepare (since the majority take longer). The sauce smelt ahhhmazing and picked up the flavors of the stewing veggies. The recipes I used can be found here.

I even made a caperse salad (although the chipmunk ate most of my basil!!)

In the end we were left with a beautiful Italian dinner. The chicken was coated with a nice thick and rich tomato sauce, but I could not tell it was breaded. The vegetables apart of the meal paired well and gave us stew vibes. The salad was nice and fresh and paired well with the hearty chicken. We really loved this dish and rated it 8.25/10!

To close out our week we will have a classic that is commonly seen American restaurants.

Italy Day 2 – Pasta with Bolognese Sauce

Hey everyone we’re back- who doesn’t love some meat sauce? This Italian classic is a labor of love, however totally worth all the work! There is something magical about making your own pasta sauce.

The sauce originates from Bologna, no surprise, and involves hours of slow cooking to get the desired texture and flavor. The first recordings of this recipe being prepared comes from the late 18th century and was first featured in a cookbook by Pellegrino Artusi in 1891. This first mentioning of the sauce did not include tomatoes until Alberto Avisi in Imola (near Bologna) when he made a tomato meat sauce which he served over macaroni. Often times you would want fresh tagliatelle to serve the sauce on, but I was unable to get any locally so I got the thickest pasta I could find instead!

This sauce contains minced beef and pork (sometimes veal), celery, carrots, onion, wine, cream, tomato paste, puree, and whole tomatoes. The recipe I used can be found here (obviously it is a good one since the author is Italian!) There are as always several variations of the sauce, all having a similar core of ingredients.

I had attempted to cheat the cooking time, but once again it was not successful. The Instant Pot quickly gave me a burn warning and I had to go back to the original plan with several pots in use (you can see my struggle of a tiny stove and pots with splattering sauce).

As you can probably tell just by staring at this photo it was damn good! The sauce was hearty, rich, and filling but was not too sweet like many commercial sauces are. I felt the addition of herbs and garlic would have really blown the sauce out of the water. The bread and thicker noodles definitely worked well. We thought this meal was worthy of 8.25/10.

Next we dive into another saucy meal, stay tuned 😛

(81) Italy Day 1 – Peposo

Guys we have made it to ITALY! I am super excited to dive in, especially since Italian food is my favorite!

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute. Source: CNN

Italy, one of the most well known European countries, is actually one of the youngest even though Rome is over 2,000 years old. The country is home to the most UNECO sites in the world including the Roman Colosseum and Castel del Monte. The only three active volcanos of Europe can be found along with over 1,500 lakes! Italy produces the most wine out of any other country (shocker) and is the creator of the sacred comfort food, pizza. Over the next few days we will cover the Italian classics that will take your taste buds on a journey to one of the most popular travel destinations in the world!

Italian cuisine of course includes hearty tomato sauces, pastas, heavenly bread, salty cheeses, lots of olive oil and wine. All types of protein sources such as seafood, poultry, and beef can be found in daily meals. Cuisine can vary depending on what regions you are in, but every region goes by the same rule- quality above all. Many admire Italian cuisine for its simplicity requiring few ingredients for easy preparation and for the comfort a fresh bowl of pasta or slice of pizza can bring. Today I made a dish I knew nothing about, Peposo. Named for the spicy kick it offers the simplicity of only 6 ingredients. The dish originates from Florence and is a classic slow-cooker recipe that was created by furnace workers. These workers placed the diced beef, red wine, garlic, pepper, and oil in a terracotta pot to slow cook while they worked. The recipe only covers the preparation of the beef, however it was suggested the meat be served over polenta.

I guess I was feeling bold, but I decided to forgo the recipe and make my own rendition of the meal. I thought I could cheat with the help of my Instant Pot and cut some time off the preparation- wrong! After 40 minutes of pressure cooking and 10 or so minutes of building pressure/releasing I was left with very bitter, potent beef. In a panic, Ian and I tried to add ingredients to improve the flavor like butter and tomato paste. We were left with a slightly more tolerable taste and unfortunately could not finish our meals.

I opted to use up the orzo I had acquired from other meals which as you known is typically partially cooked in the sauce or broth it is being added to.. I also became bitter 😐 At the end of it all an importance lessen was learned.. when cooking with wine- especially an ENTIRE BOTTLE, make sure to follow to cooking directions to burn off the unwanted flavors. We could not give this meal a good rating as you probably know by now. We plan to make it up eventually with another traditional Italian dish.

I promise the next meal was a success!

(80) Puerto Rico – Classic Fried Rice & Beans with Plantains

San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico. Source: Booking.com

Hey guys we have made it to 80 COUNTRIES! Isn’t that wild?! For our 80th we are in the lovely Puerto Rico, a country my good friend is from! Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory situated next to the Dominican Republic and the Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea. It is one of the most densely populated islands with a whopping 3.5 million citizens. The name translates to “rich port” and was named Puerto Rico because of the gold that could be found in the fresh water sources on the island. It is considered one of the oldest colonies of the world because it was “discovered” by Christopher Columbus in 1493. Today you can explore their numerous beaches and caves along with immersing yourself in the Spanish-Caribbean culture.

Puerto Rico has African, European (mostly Spanish), and Taínos (natives) influence that makes up their wonderfully unique cuisine. The native Taínos influence brings yucca/cassava, avocado, coriander, annatto, pineapples, peanuts, and various hot peppers to the table. The European flare comes from wheat, cumin, onions, garlic, cilantro, dairy, and various meats such as chicken, beef, and lamb. You can find connection to Africa with the use of coconuts, yams, coffee, and various banana fruits such as the plantain! Today I will be making an original recipe of my friend Zory who is from Puerto Rico. Fried rice and beans is a classic Puerto Rican dish that combines several savory Spanish ingredients and is cooked twice in or to achieve the dry and “fried” consistency. She also educated me on plantains and how they pair well with this meal- she wasn’t kidding! They are now one of my favorite salty treats and taste better than fries (in my opinion). The recipe will be available at the bottom of the post.

This meal does take some time, however if you prep as you go it all works out. We decided to air fry some adobo wings which seemed like an appropriate pairing to us. If you have never fried green plantains before make sure to have plenty of veggie oil to fry them with and keep an eye on them so they don’t over cook. The perfect plantain is a nice golden brown. Be warned the rice/beans and plantain combo is VERY filling!

Obviously we adore this dish and think highly of it. I have made it several times and think of it as one of my favorites. The plantains had a nice crunch and reminded me of fried potato. The rice was well seasoned and tasted great with the addition of black beans. Together it is a killer duo. We love love LOVE this dish and rated it 10/10.

Our next adventure awaits in Italy where we will spend one week trying traditional foods simple and complicated. See you next time!

(79) Cooks Islands – Moana-Roa Mahi Mahi

Mitiaro Cave of Rarotonga Island. Source: Pinterest

Hello fellow foodies, today we are at the Cooks Islands, a group of 15 islands in the South Pacific. You can find these scattered islands below Tahiti and close to New Zealand. Rarotonga is the capital island and most populated with approximately 13k inhabitants. This country was named after the exploring Captain James Hook, however he never visited the islands. Known for its tropical beauty the islands are not overdone with fancy resorts and flashy lights- actually no stop lights either! You can explore the limestone caves, pristine sandy beaches and underwater scuba excursions. The Cooks Islands is a top producer of the black pearl- a very scientific and precise process of inseminating oysters with sphere like shells. Over time the oyster will avoid the foreign object ultimately coating shell to make a black pearl over a few years time.

The Cooks Islands pride themselves of clean waters and immaculate seafood which their cuisine is filled with. Coconut and other native fruits are commonly eaten as well. All other foods are imported from their neighbor New Zealand. Today to honor the Cooks Islands I made Moana-Roa Mahi Mahi with a side of beats and salad (my easy way out of not making a potato salad). This traditional island fare includes taro leaves, green bananas, coconut cream, ginger, taro root, and more to accompany the fish. If you want to experience the real deal try this dish.

Once again there was no mahi mahi at my local store so I used tuna steaks instead! I also could not get taro roots or leaves so I substituted potatoes and spinach. This was definitely a new for us since we can never prepared or eaten bananas in a savory fashion before. I think this was easy enough to make just difficult to get my hands on all the right ingredients!

We thought the Cooks Islands brought unique flavors to the table. The bananas and fish may sound super strange, but the combination was actually pretty good. The cooked bananas didn’t lose their flavor and tasted like the uncooked fruit. It was surprisingly pleasant, but didn’t blow us away. We rated it 6.5/10.

Before traveling to ITALY we will be making a pit stop in Puerto Rico! Stay tuned!!