survivor_[2013]April turned out to be an interesting month as far as the challenge went.  Thanks to the nifty pre-scheduling tool in WordPress, I was better able to keep up with the posts while job searching and taking care of my family with our different appointments.  Finding time to visit blogs wasn’t an easy task to do, but I managed to see a few.grilled-zucchini

What ever possessed me to write about food and cooking must have been crazy to begin with.  Researching the different things to cook with was difficult.  Breaking them down into layman’s terms was more difficult than anticipated.  But, the fact that I learned a lot and found so many wonderful recipes to go with each post made it all worth the time I put into it.

The most difficult posts were V, U, and X because there were no mainstream dishes I had heard of to fit these two letters.  I sifted through,,, and even a few diabetic sites to find something and each came up with diddly, jack, and squat.  Finally, I decided to do a search on Google to find recipes that began with the those letters and found Ugba Soup, Xacuti,  and Vinthaleaux.  Strange food with hard to find ingredients, but they sounded good and the pictures looked appetizing.  That’s what mattered most, how good they looked.  As they say, we eat with our eyes before we taste them.

The best posts came early in the challenge when my inbox was flooded with people liking the posts about Bechamel, Aioli, and Cannoli.  What can I say?  I loved those posts, too.  Not because they were easy, but because they were things I had seen made on various cooking shows on Foodnetwork.  There are so many different ways to do those recipes that I was drooling during each show.  Since I had written those posts, I have tried many of them.  A few I had already made and that was why I chose them for the post.

Mmmm... looks good to me!
Mmmm… looks good to me!

Now, asking me to name the blogs I liked the most during the month of April is not easy.  I barely remember what I had written then.  (Thank all that is holy for the archives)  But, I did enjoy all of them equally.  The one I kept going back to the most belonged to one of the co-hosts of the challenge.  I loved how random his posts were even though they did meet a certain pattern.

There is one thing I will say about the whole challenge.  It is the best advise anyone can give to anyone on the net or for life in general.

Google and Wikipedia are your friends.  Use them wisely and you will be able to research anything.

See all of you at next year’s challenge!




a-to-z-letters-zAt long last we have reached the end of the alphabet and the month.  I hope your foray into the cooking world was as enjoyable and informative as it was for me.  I know all these recipes are being added to my cookbook and favorites list.  Some of these I have been searching for on and off for a while and others are just as new to me as they are to you.

Of all the foods out there I searched that begin with the letter Z, only zucchini seemed to be a good fit to end this blog hop.  I have looked up zeppelis (google insisted I was meaning zeppelins), zin (still no idea what that is), and zatar, an Armenian spice blend popular around the Middle East.  As you will find out, only this nice summer squash could fit the bill to end your tour.  At least it is a tasty ending when cooked right.

I’ll quote the article on Wikipedia on zucchini since I would muddle it on my own.

The zucchini or courgette is a summer squash which can reach nearly a meter in length, but which is usually harvested at half that size or less. Along withzucchini certain other squashes, it belongs to the species Cucurbita pepo. Zucchini can be dark or light green. A related hybrid, the golden zucchini, is a deep yellow or orange color.

In a culinary context, the zucchini is treated as a vegetable, which means it is usually cooked and presented as a savory dish or accompaniment. Botanically, however, the zucchini is an immature fruit, being the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.

If that doesn’t sum up what a zucchini is, nothing will.  Funny how everyone has called this squash a vegetable when it actually a fruit.  I never would have guessed it on my own.  But, as the article says, it’s used in many savory dishes (such as stir fries, sauces, and soups).  In my house, we use it in stir fry and the flavor it adds is wonderful and the fruit itself nice and tender without a bitter taste.

grilled-zucchiniIn the culinary world, zucchini flowers are a delicacy and are difficult to get hold of due to their delicate natures.  They have such a sweet, light, flavor, they take seasonings well and are generally found stuffed and fried, or added to soups or other dishes.  I haven’t tried eating a zucchini flower, but they do look delicious on Chopped and Iron Chef America where I have seen them cooked.  Naturally, those chefs can make anything look good to eat.

On to the recipe!



Stuffed Young Zucchini


4 small zucchini, 5 to 6-inches long, 1 1/2-inches thick
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 small to medium yellow onion, chopped
3 to 4 cloves garlic, grated or chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 vine ripe tomatoes or Roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
2 slices white toasting bread
Softened butter
A small handful flat-leaf parsley
A few sprigs fresh tarragon or a small handful basil leaves
3/4 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 egg, beaten


Heat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Halve 4 of the small zucchini lengthwise and scoop out the seeds and soft center flesh with a spoon to produce a set of shallow shells to hold the stuffing. Reserve the center flesh. Arrange the small hulls in a baking dish. Drizzle with a little extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Chop the reserved zucchini flesh and set aside.

Heat the remaining extra-virgin olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and saute the mushrooms, onions and garlic for 5 minutes. Add in the reserved zucchini and tomatoes, season with salt and pepper, to taste and heat through for 1 minute, then remove from the heat.

While the veggies cook, toast the bread in a toaster, then spread liberally with butter and tear into pieces. Add the bread to a food processor along with the parsley and tarragon or basil, and pulse into herb crumbs.

Fold the herb crumbs into the veggies along with 1/2 cup Parmesan and the egg. Mound the zucchini stuffing in to the shells and roast for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven, sprinkle the tops with remaining cheese and broil for 2 to 3 minutes to brown.

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Don’t forget to visit others on the blog hop!


a-to-z-letters-y I love this subject.  Not saying I didn’t like the others, but this post is one that I enjoy the most.  It’s perfect for all meals, even desserts, and can make some creamy sauces.  (e.g. Tzatziki)  We have all heard many things about Yogurt through the media, neighbors and friends.  Even those commercials for Activia give it a positive spin that, yes, it is good for you and your gut.

Unless, of course, you are lactose intolerant to the extreme.  Then it isn’t so good.

You don’t have to get the special kind that has extra bacteria to help your body.  Regular does fine on its own.  There are scientific findings that say eating yogurt regularly cuts down on yeast infections in women, helps prevent bacterial infections overall, and boosts your immune system in general.  Your digestion improves with a little lactobacillus each day.

No, I wasn’t showing off what I know.  I have read about the different cultures used to make yogurt and one of the most common is a form of lactobacillus.

There are different kinds of yogurt, not just in flavor.  Greek yogurt is strained two or more times which makes it richer and more thick than normal yogurt.  Labneh is a strained yogurt used for sandwiches popular in Arab countries.   Other countries boil it in vats which give a new and different texture.

Yogurt, is also used in drinks, such as Borhani in Bangladesh.  It’s a spicy drink that is served at weddings and special feasts.  Sounds interesting to me.  Lassi from India tends to be sweet or salty and is flavored with chilies or cumin which can give it a nice kick.  There are so many different kinds of drinks from all over, I wouldn’t be able to name them all.

I can’t forget about what we Americans have fallen in love with.  Regular yogurt sweetened with sugar or honey is always good then you can add in fruit for that added zing of flavor.  I prefer strawberries, freshly sliced into mine, or even some banana.  Better yet, a bit of chocolate drizzled over the fruit in the yogurt.  It has been taken a step further and is also frozen into a delectable treat we can find almost everywhere.  Who hasn’t enjoyed a frozen yogurt cone?

You’re missing something good if you haven’t.

On to the recipe!



What You’ll Need

What You'll Need

Despite the proliferation of yogurt makers on the market, everything you need to make homemade yogurt is probably already in your kitchen, with the possible exception of the thermometer. Specifically, you will need:

  • 1 Half gallon of milk
  • 2-3 Tbs of plain yogurt (as a starter or you can buy freeze-dried yogurt culture)
  • 1 8-10 Qt stock pot
  • 1 4-5 Qt pot with lid
  • 1 Metal or plastic spoon
  • 1 Dial thermometer with clip
  • 1 Heating pad

Make a double boiler (water jacket) out of the two pots.  Fill the larger pot to half way up the side of the smaller pot.  Use your hand to hold the smaller pot down for an accurate measure.  Leave the milk and plain yogurt out at room temperature.  With thermometer clipped to the side of the larger pot, bring water to boil.  Using tongs, sterilize the smaller pot lid in the boiling water.  Dry pot and lid with towels.  Place smaller pot back into the larger pot and clip the thermometer to the inside of the small pot.  Carefully pour milk into the small pot, making sure that the milk doesn’t go above the level of the water outside the pot. (You can heat milk directly but it must be constantly stirred)  Heat milk to 185 degrees.  (If there is no thermometer, milk froths at 185)  While waiting for milk to heat, fill sink a quarter of the way with cold water and add ice.  Carefully move milk pot to the ice bath and let cool to 110 degrees, stirring occasionally.  Pour in the plain yogurt and stir gently. Place heating pad set to medium on cutting board and set pot on the heating pad.  Cover lid with towel.  Wait seven hours.  Remove pot from the heating pad.  Stir the yogurt to mix any curds into the liquid.  It’s okay if there’s a cheesy odor and a green liquid on top.  Pour into containers with tight fitting lids.  Chill overnight in the coldest part of your refrigerator.  Serve and enjoy!


a-to-z-letters-xLike a few others, it took a lot of searching to find something to match with the letter X.  It took going through blogs dedicated to the uncommon foods to help broaden a foodies’ tastes.  Xacuti is definitely something to broaden anyone’s horizons.  It’s an adventure in spices and technique to make anyone wonder if the effort would be worth it in the end. If you like spicy food, then this would be a dish to try.  Just make sure the cast iron coating on your stomach is strong.

There isn’t much of anything about this dish anywhere on the net.  At most, there is only a blurb stating that it comes from the Goan state in India with roots in Portuguese cuisine.  It is listed as a dish with a complex spice mix that includes white poppy seeds, coconut, and red chilies.  The meats involved are beef, chicken, or lamb, so there’s a way to keep it inexpensive for us poor folk.

Red chilies?  I may want to pass on this unless I know I won’t be going anywhere for the next day or two.  It does sound good and the pictures I’ve found look good.  Curious?  Yes.  I just may have to try this one myself.

On to the recipe!



Goan Beef Xacuti


For the stew:
3/4 kg beef/mutton pieces – medium size with some bones
1 medium onion – chopped
2 dry red chillies
3 cardamoms
One 1 inch stick of cinnamon
1 bay leaf
1 tsp garlic ginger paste
2 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
cooking oil
salt to taste

For the masala:
1 medium onion – chopped
4 tbsp grated coconut
One 1 inch stick of cinnamon
3 cardamoms
4 cloves
3 dry red chillies
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp of peppercorns
2 tbsp coriander seeds
4-6 cloves of garlic
Optional spices: 2 tbsp poppy seeds (khus khus), 1/2 tsp ajwain, 1tsp fennel/saunf seeds, 2 black star-spice

For the gravy: 
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large potato, cut into medium size cubes, forked on each side
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tbsp of tamarind pulp or vinegar
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg – optional
cooking oil
Salt to taste


For the stew:

  1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pressure cooker or thick-bottomed pan and fry the onions till brown.
  2. Add the whole spices & fry well.
  3. Add the turmeric, salt & tomatoes, fry well.
  4. Add the washed meat & fry well till it evenly changes the color from pink to brown.
  5. Add water enough to just cover the meat layer & cook till the meat is tender (1 whistle on high & 40 mins simmer if in a pressure cooker).

For the masala:

  1. Heat a pan & dry-roast the chopped onion to light brown.
  2. Add the coconut & fry till evenly brown, stirring well. Transfer this to the mixer/grinder.
  3. Then, dry roast all the other ‘masala’ spices on medium heat, mixing well, till a nice aroma is given out. You can add a few drops of oil if needed.
  4. Add this to the grinder & grind well, with some water to a smooth paste.

For the gravy:

  1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a thick-bottom non-stick vessel & fry onion till brown.
  2. Add the masala, 2 tbsp at a time and fry well each time.
  3. Add the tomato paste & fry well for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the potato cubes & some of the stew liquid. Cook covered, till potatoes are done.
  5. Add the meat & remaining stew, along with some nutmeg, salt to taste & 2 tbsp vinegar or tamarind pulp. Add water if you need more fluid.
  6. Simmer for a few minutes & serve hot with boiled rice or pav.



a-to-z-letters-wWhat makes Louisinana Hot sauce seem like a mild picante and is as green as a hot chili?

OW!  Hot stuff!
OW! Hot stuff!

If you answer with Scottish Bonnets or Ghost Peppers, then you are wrong.  Close, but not what I mean in this post.  Different genus, but within the same family if you want to get scientific.

From my own research, I found out that the heat we get from eating this herb root, or the leaves, is from oils like we find in chili peppers, but so it doesn’t last long if you drink or eat more.  Water has the desired effect of quenching the fire than it does against my cold cure chili.  But, I also found out that there are vapors coming off the grated root entering the nose than what it does to our tongues.  Further proof that the nose plays a part in how we taste things.

What I find fascinating is the Wasabi plant is related to horseradish, cabbage, and mustard.  There’s a lot of heat coming out of each of those one way or another.  >.<  But, they are good eating.  With some exceptions in my honest opinion.  Out of these, wasabi is the hottest and that ain’t no lie!

If you’re looking for a few plants of your own to grow here in the States, don’t be surprised if what you get is not the actual plant.  It doesn’t grow well outside of Japan and China and even in those locations, it’s difficult enough to keep the prices high.  It needs some very specific conditions in order to grow.  Now, there are a few farms here in the States that do grow Wasabi and are doing well, but not enough to make it available all over and for reasonable prices.

On to the recipe!



Original recipe makes 6 ServingsChange Servings

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

10 fluid ounces white wine

1/4 cup minced shallots

1 tablespoon wasabi paste, or to taste

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1 cup unsalted butter, cubed

salt and black pepper to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed

1 cup chopped cilantro leaves

6 (6 ounce) fresh tuna steaks, 1 inch thick

  1. Combine the white wine vinegar, white wine and shallots in a small saucepan over medium heat. Simmer until the liquid is reduced to about 2 tablespoons. Strain out shallot and discard, return liquid to the pan.
  2. Stir the wasabi and soy sauce into the reduction in the pan. Over low heat, gradually whisk in butter one cube at a time allowing the mixture to emulsify. Be careful not to let the mixture boil. When all of the butter has been incorporated, stir in cilantro, and remove from heat. Pour into a small bowl, and set aside.
  3. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Brush tuna steaks with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Place in the hot skillet, and sear for 3 to 5 minutes on each side. Be careful not to overcook, this fish should be served still a little pink in the center. Serve with sauce.


a-to-z-letters-vSo close to the end of the month!  My how the time has flown while researching recipes to match each letter.  I have to say, there have been some interesting ones so far and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find something for each.  This one has been a stretch but well worth it.

Today’s recipe is one I have known about for a while.  A co-worker told me about it several years ago and how there are two main variations.  The one known as Vindaloo is the Anglicized version of the ancient dish.  This one is the closest to the original.  Only the name has been changed to make it sound more ‘posh’ back into the 1800s when the British were in control of India.

For the most part, the dish is named after the spices used to season it.  Or so I thought.  It is actually an Indian curry dish popular in the Goa region.  The name comes from Portuguese (strangely enough).  It tends to be very spicy but it isn’t the spiciest coming from India.  I’m almost afraid to ask what could be spicier. /shudder

I have tried this dish.  The version my co-worker let me sample which was enough to sear my taste buds but very good and at a local place where the cooks were happy to tone down the fire a little for me.  Still got the chili pepper kick, but it didn’t knock me onto the floor with it.  I do prefer mutton to the pork variation.  It carries the spices better.

On to the recipe!



500 g mutton, cut into small pieces

1 tbsp ghee, butter or mustard oil

1 large onion, sliced

4 garlic cloves, chopped

2 tsp ground cumin seeds

1 tsp ground mustard seeds

1/2 tsp hot chili powder

200 ml meat stock

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp brown sugar

2 dessert spoons vinegar

3/4 tsp ground turmeric


Heat the ghee, butter or mustard oil in a pan. Add the onion and fry for about 5 minutes, or until golden brown. Add spices, garlic and fry for 2 minutes then add the mutton and fry until browned all over. Pour in the stock then stir in the salt and sugar. Bring to a boil, cover the pan and cook for 25 minutes, or until the mutton is tender. Just before serving add the vinegar. Serve hot, accompanied by rice.

Read more at Celtnet:
Copyright © celtnet

Check out others in the A to Z Challenge at

Ugba Soup

a-to-z-letters-uTrying to find food for the letter ‘U’ was not easy.  Thankfully, Google is my friend and this is what I found.  Naturally, this is a new one on me, but when I read the name of it from the list of Celtnet, it sounded interesting.  Thankfully, they do give a few alternatives since some items cannot be found easily outside of West Africa.

Here is what Celtnet gave on this soup:

This is a traditional Nigerian recipe from the Igbo peoples for a classic stew of oil beans, okra, pumpkin leaf, ground snail and fish with hot chilli powder and Maggi cubes. This is a classic soup (a stew to be served with pounded yam, fufu etc.) from the Igbo peoples of Nigeria. Ugba is the African oil bean (the beans themselves, rather than the pod) which has been sliced thinly and then fermented. They do not last very long, and are not often found outside West Africa. This soup can be made without the ugba, or you can substitute sliced, fresh, broad or fava beans, which though they do not give the same flavor at least approximate the texture and dietary value.

I think I may have to give a variation of this a try.



60 g ugba (sliced and fermented oil beans)

20 okra, finely sliced into rings

1 bunch of ugu leaves (fluted pumpkin leaf) [use any squash leaf], finely shredded

100 ml red palm oil

4 tbsp dried and ground crayfish (prawns)

6 pieces of giant African land snails (optional)

1 medium piece of dried and smoked fish, washed and flaked

6 pieces of beef (about 80 g each)

1 piece of stock-fish (dried fish), soaked for at least 2 hours

salt, to taste

hot chilli powder, to taste

2 Maggi (or beef stock) cubes


Combine the beef and stock fish in a large pot. Add just enough water to barely cover then bring to a simmer, cover the pot and cook for 60 minutes (add more water as needed). Pour in the palm oil and cook for a further 10 minutes then add the ground crayfish, chilli powder, snail, flaked dried fish and bring to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes more before adding the sliced okra. Continue cooking for 5 minutes then add the ugu and cook for 5 minutes before adding the shredded ugba. Continue cooking until the greens have wilted then serve hot, accompanied by fufu, eba or pounded yam.

Read more at Celtnet:
Copyright © celtnet

Check out others in the A to Z Challenge at