Monday, May 1, 2017

Cooking in America

On our expat adventure, we ate some really amazing food.  On each holiday we sought out the local delicacies: 
Portugal - pastel de nata

Spain- churros con chocolate, Jambon Iberico, paella, and sangria

Italy- the best pizza, pasta & gelato you've ever had

Norway- herring (um no we passed on that one)

The Netherlands- Stroopwafels & appeltaart

France- coffee, croissants, macarons, and champagne

German- spätzle, currywurst, beer, and pretzels

While each country has rules about food labels & ingredients in their food, the overall food quality across our European travels was of great. Meats & produce were almost always from local farms with minimal processing.

Upon our return to the US, it was difficult to acclimate back to American food. First of all, the portion sizes were at least double of what was served in the UK. Secondly, the taste of many foods we used to like are nothing like we remembered. We've gone out to chain restaurants that we frequented before our expat adventure, and it's been awful. After a few disappointing meals we are more content with eating at home where we control the quality versus spending our money on mediocre, deplorable food.

I've made some pretty spectacular things lately that I think you should try. You'll notice a lack of quality photos because I had no plan to blog about them, but as the weeks pass I can't stop thinking about making these recipes again.  

Shawarma is nothing new to our family because it was very common in the UK. I first heard about this NY Time Shawarma recipe from a Real Simple Podcast, Things Cooks Know: Cooking for Crowds. I served it with pita bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta, and this delicious cucumber raita, My family loved it, and it is now heavy in the dinner rotation. It has several spices you may not have in your cabinet, but that's not a problem. You will love this recipe so much that you'll make little packets of the spice mix to give to your friends & neighbors. They will want to make this too.

Our family was surprised that it's darn impossible to find a quality pizza in Raleigh. Our favorite thin crust pizza is back near The 407 in Chicago, and I suppose we assumed that this pizza was everywhere. The pizzas we've tried were either tasteless behemoths of dough or greasy cardboard. Our neighbor told us about one local chain of restaurants on the west side of town that is on our list. Until we venture that way, a homemade option was required. 

Making your own pizza dough is easy, but it takes some preplanning to allow time for the dough to rise. It's far superior to the premade crusts from the market.  We had good results with Bobby Flay's dough recipe, but Trader Joe's fresh pizza dough is a winner for a weeknight pizza. The sauce is extremely delicious. I made four individual pizzas with this recipe and had a lot left over. It's in the freezer for next time. If you are in a hurry, a small can of tomato sauce & paste, garlic, and Italian seasoning will get you going as well.

Cinnamon Rolls
Our Sunday breakfast at The Manor was always Pain au Chocolat. Don't think I learned from the Parisian masters how to make this amazing pastry. I bought them at the market like you find cinnamon rolls in the refrigerator case. The only difference the Pain au Chocolat don't suck like refrigerator cinnamon rolls.  

I've made one home made recipe, which requires mass patience for the different rise stages.  The recipe I used made enough for two pans, and the second went in the freezer before the final rise. The end result was only OK so I won't share the link for that recipe.  Despite the OK nature of my confection, it was light years better than the garbage in the market refrigerator case.

Baking at home
Baking is a hobby that I really enjoy.  I suppose it makes me an enabler of my own sugar addiction. I came to love Handmade Baking by Kamran Siddiqi. The chocolate chip cookies really are the best you will ever eat. The banana bread is phenomenal. The blueberry corn muffins are beyond delicious. And then there's what the author calls Everyday Chocolate Cake. Both kids asked for it as their birthday cakes. It's my new favorite book.

At the end of the day, cooking at home is a much healthier choice.  There are times when I would prefer to be served. However, I quickly get over my laziness when my dining mates send their compliments to the chef.  


  1. YUM!!! I myself far prefer baking to cooking. I appreciate fresh ingredients, but with little time left to plan meals, I've turned to Hello Fresh, which has been working out well for me! They do the planning, and I get a decent dinner out of it!

  2. I love the idea of Hello Fresh. The meal planning part is the most tedious. Once the grocery list is figured out, the rest is easy.

  3. What was your favorite pizza place when living at 407?

  4. We love Dondi's at Central & AH Road. Take out only.