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 Although we know this dish to be adorned with tomato it was originally made without.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!!

(78) Zimbabwe – “Mama’s” Stewed Chicken

Matobo Foothills. Source: Global Geography

Welcome back to Africa, we are visiting Zimbabwe today. Unlike Liberia, Zimbabwe is a landlocked country in southern African surrounded by Zambia, Mozambique, South Africa, and Botswana. Zimbabwe is one of the countries that borders the spectacular Victoria Falls which is one of the most popular attractions here. A lesser known attraction is the high concentration of rock paintings from the Stone Age; greater than 1,000 across the country. This country is also the destination for safaris and exploring its mountainous/plateau terrain. Tobacco, gold, ivory, textiles, cotton, and ferro alloys are major exports and source of income.

Zimbabwe cuisine consists of maize and rice for grains, farmed and game meats, and local fruit and vegetables. Some specialties of the country include maize beer (whawha), mopane worms, dovi (peanut butter stew with meat and vegetables), and sadza (maize meal portage eaten with meat or stews). Although controversial popular game consumed here includes ostrich, crocodile, and boar to name a few. Today I prepared “Mama’s Chicken” or stewed chicken with herbs, ginger, spices and vegetables. Do Mama proud and try this dish!

This week night-friendly dish was easy to follow and make. I was unable to obtain Maggie seasoning and instead substituted the seasonings that make up the Maggi cubes and added a chicken bouillon cube. This like the previous dish was not as “saucy” as I would have liked it and suggest adding tomato paste as you go to get the desired consistency. I’m a little too OCD when cooking and would like the recipe’s picture to match my finished concoction.

Zimbabwe you brought us a beautiful blend of savory flavors and very tender chicken. I personally thought it could of used more vegetables to balance out the chicken but overall really loved what I was experiencing on my taste buds! We really loved this dish and rated it 8.625/10 (to be precise).

(77) Liberia – Liberian Chicken Gravy

Hey guys I’m back! Summer time brings a lot of outdoor adventures and less time at the computer and stove to bring you more content. Hope you are also enjoying your summer!

Pygmy hippopotamus, Source: Dinoanimals.com

Before we get to it, lets first learn a little bit about Liberia! Liberia is a West African country that borders the Atlantic Ocean, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, and Guinea. English is mostly spoken here, however there are 20 indigenous languages still spoken today. It is the oldest African republic and was the first to gain its independence in 1847; its name literally translating to “land of the free.” This beautiful country is home to incredible surfing, over 700 bird species, the endangered pygmy hippopotamus, and Sapo National Park (which contains a portion of West Africa’s primary rainforest).

Today we make a classic Liberian dish, chicken gravy. This meal consists of not only chicken but shrimp and fish steaks as well. I decided to omit the fried fish and use additional shrimp instead. At the heart of traditional African stews lies tomatoes, garlic, and herbs along with other complementary ingredients to increase the savory and heartiness. Liberian cuisine alike other West African countries include plantains, cassava, rice, yams, and other local fruits and vegetables. Local seafood and fish is the primary meat source of Liberians diet however poultry and other red meat can be eaten on occasion. You can find this recipe here.

Preparation and cooking was simple. This is another good option for a week night meal that can simmer while you cram in a 30 minute work out or finish up a blog post (maybe that’s just me..). I look back now and would have added more tomato paste to thicken up the sauce.

So we had never experienced chicken and shrimp together before and thought it was pretty good! The sauce as I said earlier should have been thicker, however the herbs and ginger really pulled through. It had unique elements, but was an easy meal with common ingredients. We thought it was tasty and rated it 6.5/10.

Next up we head to Zimbabwe for another tender chicken meal!

(76) Saint Barthélemy (St. Barts) – West Indian Red Snapper

We are still in the tropics and visiting Saint Barthélemy (also known as St. Barts). This itty-bitty island sits below Anguilla, East to the U.S. Virgin Islands, and above St. Nitts and Nevis. The island is primarily French-speaking and is part of a collectivity of France (first-order division of France) that also contains Martinique, Saint Martin, and Guadeloupe. At just under 10 sq miles in size it has an impressive array of high class restaurants and luxurious resorts. The island has no fresh water sources so the locals rely on desalination plants to collect rain for drinking water- talk about stressful!

Saint Barthélemy cooking incorporates French, Creole, West Indian, and Asian influence with many fine dinning restaurants around the island. Indian cooking styles often include fish and steamed vegetables, Creole include more spice. More often you will see French and Creole styles of food. Like other Caribbean islands they use native produce and seafood in their meals, much like today’s dish. Red snapper can be found in the Caribbean waters and is the main attraction of this West Indian dish. You can find the details here.

This was a pretty straight forward dish using common ingredients, most already being present in the apartment. Never skip marinating since this is how the fish will absorb all the flavor. We decided to pan fry the fish (especially since it was cod fillets vs red snapper).

We felt this dish was well seasoned, however it was more on the simple side. I was also unable to get red snapper again because it is rarely ordered at the rural Hannaford I go to. We can’t lie and give this dish a rating higher than 6.5/10 because it does not compare to other fish dishes we have made. It is still good and easy to make but not a knock out recipe.

Next we go to Liberia! See you there

(75) Dominican Republic – Mangú Con Los Tres Golpes

The Barahona Coast. Source: Propertiesincasa.com

Welcome to the beautiful Dominican, a place you think of when people say they are going on a cruise or tropical vacation. It sits East of Haiti and is surrounded by other Caribbean Islands. The Dominican Republic has reserved a quarter of their land to national parks, sanctuaries, and other protected lands which includes rainforests. Want to see whales up close? January through March you can find humpback whales in Samaná Bay Sanctuary. The climate here is sometimes referred to as “the endless summer” due to its sunny and warm year-round conditions. The country is known for it coffee, national league baseball players, and white sandy beaches.

The cuisine of the Dominican Republic is very much like its neighboring islands and bordering country. It is a very sustainable country producing several different foods that are found in many of their traditional meals. Its dishes show influence from Africa, The Middle East, Spanish, and indigenous Taino. I decided for tonight’s dinner I would actually make a traditional breakfast. Mangú Con Los Tres Golpes is a well-known classic of the Dominican that contains mashed green plantains, pickled red onions, fried cheese, egg, and salami. African influence shines through this dish with the mashed plantains or mangu that originates in West Africa. If breakfast for dinner excited you click here.

Cooking was simple and while one thing cooked you could prep the other. It is important the onions have time to pickle in order to get the best flavor. I used my air fryer to start the cheese, but due to its runny nature and thin layer of flour it wanted to seep in-between the grates and needed to be finished in the skillet.

We loved this unique and colorful dish! It was a first to experience mash plantains and pickled onions together, the pair worked well. The plantains had a very mild taste, that was well complimented by the salty salami and cheese. This is traditionally a breakfast and I could definitely see myself eating this in the morning. We thought the plantains are a great potato substitute and are underrated in the kitchen (I haven’t said this enough). We thought it deserved higher marks at 8.75/10.

(74) Bhutan -Ema Datshi

The Tigers Nest. Source: The Global Grasshopper

Welcome to elevated Bhutan, a peaceful Buddhist-loving country that is high in the clouds. The country borders China and India and nestles in Himalayan Mountains. The name Bhutan actually translates to “land of the thunder dragon” because of the intense thunder storms in the mountainous country. One gorgeous hot spot in the country is The Tiger’s Nest which is a monetary situated on the side of a mountain over 900m up. It is the only country that bans the sale of tobacco products and until 11 years ago banned TV and internet! The world’s the tallest unclimbed mountain can also be found here, Gangkhar Puensum which is a staggering 24,840 feet tall.

Cuisine here is a bit unique compared to its surrounding countries due to its harsh climate and high elevation. Rice is a typical base of most meals which could contain meat, root vegetables, chilis, onions, and beans. The national dish of Bhutan is ema datshi which is the mixture of chilis and a Bhutanese cheese called datshi (which can be substituted with yak cheese). There are different varieties that include meat or other vegetables, however the base is the same. You can find this dish accompanying many meals due to its popularity. You can find the recipe here.

Going into this I knew it might be a little too simple so we decided to add some ground meat to it as well for more sustenance. I used a combination of feta and cheddar to fill in for the traditional cheese- I did search for yak cheese. The great thing about this meal is that it was quick and easy, definitely something you could whip up during the work week!

So we tried this dish with and without the beef to experience it as close to the original as possible.. without the beef we found the dairy elements kept the dish from being too spicy. With the meat we thought it helped complete the meal and overall the cheese mixed well with all the elements. It was simple but good, although I don’t know if I see myself making this again. Ian liked it a little more than me so we give it an averaged rating of 7.5/10.

With the meat..