Sunday, April 29, 2012

Brazilian Limonada

Do you ever find a recipe that is so tasty that you find yourself thinking about how and when you can fit it into your menus for the week, who you can share it with, or how you can justify making it?
This is the case with this Brazilian Lemonade. My friend, Melissa S., was coming to have pizza with us last spring and brought the stuff to make this recipe.  She had seen it online and had been wanting to make it.  She knew I would love it.  And she was right. 

I need to share my angst about the name of this beverage. When Melissa told me it was called Brazilian Lemonade, but was made with limes, I was perplexed.  I asked her if she was sure it wasn't called Brazilian Limeade.  She showed me the recipe from the blog where she found it, and I told her I couldn't do it!  I just can't call a thing what it is not.  So, I decided to do a little further research.  I googled around and found that in other places online there was discussion about why brazilian lemonade was made with limes.  The information I gathered was that in Portuguese a lemon is "lima" and lime is "limão".  This made some sense to me.  I also read that limes are much more prevelant in Brazil than lemons.  In addition ironically, in Brazil, some people call this recipe "Swiss Lemonade".  Naturally!  One place I found it called Limãnada, (pronounced LEE-mah-na-tha).   This made more sense to me than Lemonade.  So maybe it's not Lemon-ade, nor Lime-ade, but rather, a truer pronunciation of Limonada, reflecting its Brazilian origin.

I felt much better.  Now I call it Brazilian Limonada (or sometimes Brazilian Limonade) and I make it as often as I can justify it.  Now I just have to work on saying it with a straight face, as I shift from my southern accent to my Brahhzzillian accent in one sentence – (from Shelby of Steel Magnolias to Gloria of Modern Family).  "Hey y'all, do ya want me to make some Brazilian Limãnada tonight?" It makes me think of my witty friends Angela and Ray, who lived in Chile for a while after we finished college.  We always laughed as Angela told stories about Chile (pronounced Chee-lay as opposed to our incorrect pronunciation of Chill-E).  She would dramatically flip back and forth between her Tennessee and Chilean accents and we would all die laughing.  

The ingredients to this recipe are super simple but special. Are you ready for this? Limes, sugar, water and sweetened condensed milk (the nectar of the gods).  What is it about sweetened condensed milk? It makes everything better!  My favorite banana pudding calls for it.   Cold Coconut cake, I recently posted, is delicious because of this great ingredient. Coffee is better with it.  [There is a wonderful local coffee spot in downtown Nashville, Crema, that has a coffee drink called a Cuban.  The first time I went there I was told I must get the Cuban- it's espresso, steamed milk and sweetened condensed milk! It is ridiculous! I have been many times in the years since and I can't seem to bring myself to NOT order it.] Simply stated, sweetened condensed milk just seems to make everything better.

Back to the Brazilian Lime Drink.  
It's delicious! 
It is easy, and so creamy, zippy, and unique! 
I wanted to post it this week, in honor of Spring and the upcoming Cinco de Mayo.  It's a great non-alcoholic, warm-weather drink for your mexican fiesta, or just about any event.

4 juicy limes (ones with thin, smooth skins are the juiciest and the thin skin cuts down on the chance of your drink being bitter)
1 cup sugar

6 cups cold water

6 Tbsp. sweetened condensed milk

Make a “simple syrup” or “sugar water” by mixing cold water and sugar in a large jar or liquid measuring cup very well until sugar is dissolved. Chill until ready to use. (This step can be done ahead of time.)

Wash limes thoroughly with soap. Cut the ends off the limes and then cut each lime into 8ths.

Place 1/2 of the limes in a blender.

Add 1/2 of the sugar water into a blender, place the lid on the blender, and pulse 5 times. Place a fine-mesh strainer over a pitcher and pour the blended mixture through the strainer and into the pitcher. Use a spoon (or your hand) to press the rest of the liquid into the pitcher. 

Dump the parts of the limes left in the strainer into the trash. 

Repeat with the remaining limes and sugar water. Stir together. 

Add sweetened condensed milk. 

Test it. You may want to dilute it with water if it’s too thick or sweet for your liking. If it’s bitter, just add some more sugar and maybe a little more milk. 

Serve immediately over lots of ice.

Call it what you want to, attach it to any culture you would like: Brazil, Switzerland, Mexico, or the United States. Use a Portuguese accent if you'd like, or a southern drawl.  But whatever you do, don't omit the sweetened condensed milk! 

Friday, April 20, 2012

'Tis the Season for Wrap-Making

Seasons.  I am so thankful that there are seasons in life.  I know in Tennessee, we really get to experience all of the seasons of the year while in other parts of the country/world the shift is not as obvious.  There is great therapeutic value for me in living life by seasons.  Forming and maintaining rituals in these sections of the year gives me something to look forward to and to ground me.  Robert Fulghum, in his book From Beginning to End: the Rituals of Our Lives states,
"... for everyone of us, there is still an annual cycle of personal seasons.
A productive time and a fallow time.
A time to generate new ideas and a time to make them work. 
A time to invest and a time to sell.
A time to get organized and a time to let go. 
A time to get in shape and a time to be lazy. 
This paradoxical swing of the rhythmic pendulum of life is not to be ignored or disallowed."

Spring is my favorite. I am so thankful for the vibrant green of grass and trees and the blossoming of flowers, the wearing of flip flops, and enjoying being outside.  

This week I have been engaging in some of my springtime rituals. It is April and that means it's time to plant.  So, we have tended our little garden, and bought ferns to hang on the front porch. We have planted some things and we'll see what happens.  (Last year I wrote about my very amateur gardening skills. READ HERE if you want to hear how a not-very-green-thumb gardens.) When I start to feel overwhelmed by the pending weeding and watering of the next few months and am tempted to call the garden thing off, I remember last year and the bounty that our little garden produced.

Having jars of Zinnias and daisies to have in my house, take to people, and even put on a friend's fall birthday cake make it worth it!

and tomatoes for days... 
this bounty was the harvest from our garden before the first fall frost

And Spring also means fun, zippy, fresh food.
This past week
I made my first Key Lime Pie of the season.
When Becca made Baked Alaska for Easter Lunch and used 1/2 dozen egg whites and left a nice bowl of egg yolks for me, I was inspired to make the Key Lime, since it calls for lots of yolks.  (If you are ever in a similar situation, where you have remaining yolks, hang on to them and make a key lime pie!)  Asher and Dave were especially happy.

And I made some WRAPS for lunches, and it made me excited about picnic food.  My sister brought a couple of creative wraps over from a sandwich shop last Friday and we split them: one was a turkey strawberry wrap and one was hummus and veggie.  Lucy loved the veggie one with crunchy lettuce and cucumber being her favorite parts and I especially loved the turkey strawberry one.  It prompted me to make some for lunches this week. A wrap seems much more exciting than an average sandwich, don't you agree?

Dave has been a wrap fan for years! When we would go on vacation, Dave would always ensure that we had tortillas so that he could wrap up whatever was leftover from dinner into a tortilla and heat it up for a midnight snack!  We are believers in throwing all kinds of things into a wrap!

Here's what I do.
Open my fridge and pull out every POSSIBLE thing that I could put in a wrap, look in my fruit bowl and see if there are any fruits of vegetables that could work,
and think about what flavors would be compatible,
and then pile all of those items into a tortilla,
and wrap them up,
and there you have a tasty, convenient, transportable meal!
I tend to like wraps that are like a hand-held salad.

Last summer we were having sandwiches and salads for a dinner meeting at church.  I thought of making wraps because you can make them beforehand without ruining the bread and they seem a little more exciting for a dinner sandwich.  It worked out.  They were a hit – with kids and adults.

You can make them really basic or get creative and more gourmet!
You can make them all the same or custom make them and label them when you pack them up.
You can serve them with different dipping sauces.
You can make big ones and cut them in 1/2 or you can make regular sized ones.

I must give credit to my dear friend Connie who taught me much about picnic-ing.  Back when we would go to the park or go to the YMCA to swim and picnic, Connie taught me.  She picnicked in a big way.  She brought leftover pasta for us to share, and she brought wraps for the kids, often times.  She brought containers of cut fruit: melons, berries, whatever she had.  She brought plates and forks and served the meal.  It was so much more exciting than individually wrapped PB and Js. I adopted her picnicking practices immediately!  It's fun when you picnic with friends and you both do this.  Melissa and I will coordinate as to who's bringing the main dish, who's bringing which fruit, and who has time to make a batch of cookies to bring.  We find that our kids would rather eat what their friends have in their picnic than what they brought (no matter what it is), so we might as well do this "family style".

Here are 4 wraps we love.

1. Smoked Deli Turkey/Havarti Cheese/ Green Leaf Lettuce
with honey mustard on the side for dipping.

2. The Manly Wrap with co-jack cheese, turkey and bacon.

3. The Grilled Chicken Salad Wrap

This week we had some leftover grilled chicken tenderloins from dinner.  I added salad greens, cucumbers, apples and crumbled goat cheese, salt and pepper.  (I tossed the meat with some balsamic viniagrette before putting it in the wrap so that it wouldn't get the wrap soggy by pouring on the dressing, but would add the touch of dressing to the mix. It worked.)

 grilled chicken tossed with vinaigrette 

4. And my PBPB&S (Peanut Butter, chopped Peanuts, Bananas, and Strawberries) – inspired by strawberry season last year! (Or it's delicious without bananas- it's like PBJ on steroids)!

So in honor of spring. Plant something, make a key lime pie, make some wraps, and by all means, have a picnic!  I suggest you look deep within your fridge and start pulling stuff out that looks like the makings of a sandwich: meat, cheese, cream cheese, lettuce, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, dressings, condiments, etc. and see what creative concoction you come up with.

wrapped and ready for a picnic

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Roasted Vegetable Hash and Eggs

We have a new favorite dinner that I couldn’t wait to share with you!
It is kind of a merger of these previous posts: Roasted Veggies (HERE and HERE) and Poached Eggs.

Roasted Veggies + Poached (or Fried) Eggs = Vegetable Hash with Eggs

It is super versatile and so tasty! It’s easy and filling.  It’s meatless, but a great main dish, thanks to the egg.  (And if you want or “need” meat, you can crumble bacon on top as a salty, savory garnish.  It ramps it up a bit.)  When I announced the other night that we were having this for dinner, the troops cheered shouts of "hooray!".  I was taken aback that they liked this meal so much.  Dave asked me as I was writing this post, "Why do we like this so much?!" I don't know.  It's just darn good. You just have to see for yourself!

I have made it a few times for the family and have roasted a variety of vegetables: potatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic, bell pepper, carrots, asparagus, zucchini.  So you can use what you have on hand and what you and your people like! (I do think potatoes and onions are essential, though.) And then roasting is just a matter of chopping, tossing in oil, sprinkling with coarse salt and pepper and cooking in a hot oven for a while. 


The only challenge is timing the eggs.  The first time I made it, I wanted to top the hash with poached eggs (read HERE for my journey of learning how to poach an egg). I think the consistency of the poached egg yolk – not liquid-y but thick and creamy- is the right one for the hash.  It creates a creamy sauce.  The complication was trying to poach all 5 eggs for my family at the same time.  I decided that 3 in a pot were all I could handle.  I then proceeded to fry the other 3 on a skillet.  (I made 3 instead of 2 so I could have a back-up egg). The trick is getting them the right yolk consistency.  (I am aware that some people are grossed out by eggs that are runny.  You just have to work through that.  Or prepare a fully cooked egg, if you must). The second time we made this, we decided to make fried eggs, rather than poached, and make them on our large skillet, in hopes that we could simultaneously cook 5 or 6 eggs.   It worked.  I set the table, scooped the veggies into a bowl and had everything ready for when the eggs were done, then served up the eggs on our plates piled with veggies.

Dave is far better at frying eggs than me.  He is the egg-man in the morning.  In fact, he flips the egg in a pan and I’m quite envious of this technique.  I’ve been trying to learn.  After many attempts, leading to half cooked eggs splattered on the toaster oven, in the burners, and on the counter, I have declared that this must be an athletic ability.  Since I am more skilled in the kitchen and he is far more athletically inclined than me, I think it must be a sports-skill.  At least that's what I'm telling myself.
Take a look.

It reminds me of other skills he has that he thinks are “normal” but I deem as extraordinary. Take spitting out the car window while driving down the interstate, for instance.  Have you ever done this? Or throwing the end of a drink out of the window? If you have, you know that it requires skills. Dave is skilled.  When I have tried to spit out of the moving car, I end up getting spit flown back into my hair.  When I try to throw a drink out of my window it flies directly onto (or worse, into) the passenger window.  I just don’t have the skills. I think it's athletic ability.

I am reading a book with my book club, An Everlasting Meal  by Tamar Adler, which is a book about cooking with economy and grace.  It's really interesting.  One chapter is devoted to cooking eggs.  Which is right up my alley, as it seems to be the popular protein at our house these days!  When we can’t figure out what to have for dinner, Asher usually pipes in his suggestion: “What about eggs?”  
In her chapter on eggs, Tamar writes, "For my taste, meals still qualify as meals if they are eggless.  But an egg can turn anything into a meal and is never so pleased as when it is allowed to." I'm beginning to agree with her.

We like topping the hash and eggs with some freshly grated parmesan cheese. 

"crusty" bread
We also like serving this dish with "crusty" bread- it's great for sopping up the egg and scooping up the vegetables. 

 I served a little fruit on the side for the kids and a side of fancy greens and grape tomatoes tossed in a little oil and vinegar for the adults.

Here's a printable recipe, but basically: Roast some veggies.  Cook an egg- fry it, poach it, flip it – you choose. Place it on top of your veggies.  Add any garnishes you like and enjoy a fresh, easy, savory meal!

So, what's your egg technique? Do you have any egg flippin' skills? I'd love to hear!  Have you tried Roasted Vegetable Hash and Eggs at home or at a restaurant? Enjoy!