Homemade Flour Tortillas

Tortillas are a food we sometimes overlook. We find ourselves too busy focusing on the fillings to pay much attention to the tortilla itself. But we've discovered that a well done flour tortilla (not to be confused with a masa corn tortilla) is a marvelous thing: flaky and tender, with the just the right amount of chew, and a subtle sweet and nutty richness. Tortillas, like any bread product, can be intimidating. But they don't have to be. At heart tortillas are a simple, versatile, and rustic bread that is quick to make and forgiving for newbies. Tortillas don't have to be perfect circles or exactly uniform. Homemade fresh tortillas coming hot off your stove will be miles ahead of their store-bought competition. A recent trip to San Pedro Sula, Honduras re-ignited our passion for making Homemade Flour Tortillas, and we've been making them regularly ever since.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

Marinated Herbed Zucchini

Craving something fresh, Paul picked up a basket of summer squash at the market on the way home from work yesterday. Marinated Herbed Zucchini is a beautiful and flavorful summer starter that transforms summer's bounteous zucchini and squash into something unexpected and delicious. Whether you're looking for a creative new salad...or just searching for something other than zucchini bread to make with the summer squashes piling up in your kitchen, this is a winner!

Marinated Herbed Zucchini

Easy Coconut Baked Oatmeal

We have been in Honduras this past week for work meetings with our regional colleagues. One thing that makes our organization unique, is an emphasis on cultivating relationships and being a good host. In this spirit, our Honduras-based supervisors welcomed us into their home with delicious home cooked meals, among them a scrumptious breakfast of baked oatmeal with fresh strawberries. Not only did we stuff ourselves, but coincidentally, we had been experimenting with our own baked oatmeal recipe over the past month. Our version of Easy Coconut Baked Oatmeal is a hearty, crunchy, warm and filling breakfast. This simple to make breakfast dish will perfume your house with cinnamon and oats and is best hot out of the oven, doused in cold milk, a perfect meal to share with guests.

If you want to try out a spring-ish baked oatmeal recipe, check out our Strawberry Rhubarb Baked Oatmeal.

Easy Coconut Baked Oatmeal

Life & Work Update

It's been an exhilarating whirlwind in our first two months officially on the job. Paul has been doing quite a few trips to remote areas of Haiti with our agricultural partners, while I have been getting to know current, and hopefully future, partners in Port-au-Prince. I am writing this from Honduras where we have gathered with our colleagues for regional meetings. While we have both been out of the office a lot this past month, we have also been working, along with our staff, to create a new blog to communicate about the work our organization, MCC, is doing in Haiti. We hope this gives you more context for our work. If you want to follow along, you can subscribe to monthly updates.

On a personal note, our little baby Madeline is not so little anymore, and turned 4 months old last weekend. My favorite time with her is in the early mornings, the roosters are crowing, the temperatures are cooler, and Madeline spends her first half hour of the day making drowsy cooing sounds from her crib... we call them baby dinosaur noises. It makes for a lovely wake up soundscape, even if the hour is earlier then we are used to!

 

Life & Work Update

Sweet & Spicy Sesame Wings

For us, the month of May means barbecue season, and with long weekend celebrations this month in Canada, the States, and National Flag day here in Haiti, we thought it was time for chicken wings. We first started making this addictive wings recipe last year when an abundance of hot pepper jelly made it into the fresh produce boxes of our CSA. Paul created these Sweet & Spicy Sesame Wings with a pungent sesame, garlic and fresh ginger sauce that is a slam dunk recipe to add to your grilling repertoire this season.

Sweet & Spicy Sesame Wings

Fresh Coconut Pancakes in the rainy season

A quick trip out to get ingredients can be a big ordeal here in Haiti, especially this time of year. May marks the start of the rainy season. We’ve seen torrential downpours almost daily for several weeks now here in Port-au-Prince. These heavy rains wash out main roads, swell the region’s rivers, overflow the sewers, and cause flash floods which can destroy the fragile homes that line the city’s narrow ravines. Add to this near daily political protests, that bring traffic to a halt with barricades and can shut down whole sections of the city. Recently, two of the three main bridges to the north (on our side of the city) have been out of commission after one collapsed when critical bolts were pilfered. So when I woke up this morning, craving a hearty pancake breakfast, convincing Paul to brave the traffic for butter, milk, or any other breakfast staple was a no-go. This recipe emerged from the bounty of our backyard; toasted coconut from our coconut tree and fresh-as-they-come eggs from Paul’s chickens. These Fresh Coconut Pancakes are absolutely delicious, custardy, and with just the right amount of chew, a perfect start to a rainy day. 

Fresh Coconut Pancakes in the rainy season

Saving the Harvest

I have always found seeds kind of amazing. I remember the first time my dad explained to me that these beans we were about to cook could just as easily be planted. Whenever possible, I have planted edible gardens, from using bay trees as decoration in my office, to clandestinely planting cabbages in our front flower garden in Pittsburgh. One of the first things we did in our new home here in Port-au-Prince was to plant every square inch of soil with thyme, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, dill, basil, chives, garlic, oregano, tomatoes, greens, cucumbers, lettuce, okra, and squash. But to be honest, I’d always just bought seeds and never thought too much about the time and steps involved between harvesting seeds from one crop, and planting them for the next. This week, while visiting a project in the rural community of Kabay, Haiti, I got a first hand look at the impact seed storage has on farmers and their families. 

Saving the Harvest

Chilmole Slow Roasted Spareribs

Yesterday, both Paul and my sister celebrated their birthdays. Food, as usual, is our vehicle of celebration with an office birthday lunch featuring Paul's favorite Haitian dish, kalalou, stewed okra with slow cooked beef. Unfortunately, an ocean separates us from celebrating with my sister this year, but we in Haiti will spend our weekend in food revelries! Paul has requested his usual quirky birthday-food combinations; buttermilk biscuitshot fudge pudding cake and watermelon chiffon pie, all fairly doable with minor adaptations. But this year he also requested ribs. Hmm. Since we have some gorgeous chilmole paste in our fridge right now, I am planning to make Paul a grilled version of our recipe for Yucatán Chilmole Slow Roasted Spareribs, a finger-licking rib recipe that we perfected in Pittsburgh before we left. Smoky, spicy, juicy, delicious. 

Chilmole Slow Roasted Spareribs

Smokey Mexican Chile Paste, Chilmole

Last weekend, Rebecca and I moved into our permanent house here in Haiti. What a relief after months of transition. With food on the mind, our first order of business was setting up the grill! And yes, if you were wondering... it is the same grill we had in Pittsburgh for 8 years, lovingly disassembled and brought over in a suitcase by my MacGyver-of-a-father. As temperatures rise, there is just something special about grilled food. Maybe its that the smokey char reminds me of campfires and sleeping under the stars, maybe its just the uncomplicated joy of cooking over flames. For me, this Smokey Mexican Chile Paste is the closest thing there is to bottling all that is beautiful about grilling. Our non-traditional take on Mexican chilmole paste tempers the hard char of the classic black version, for a lighter, more fruity chili flavor. This paste is excellent for making red rice, a great base for barbecue sauces, a go-to rub for meats, and a potent flavor boost for chilis and other soups. 

Smokey Mexican Chile Paste, Chilmole

Haitian Pikliz

It is a big week for us. Friday marked our first official day as country representatives, and tomorrow we are moving into our new house. The thought of unpacking after 6 months makes me giddy! This week's transition seems more final than the previous ones, it feels like we have finally arrived at our destination, Haiti is home. As we have explored Haitian culture through food, pikliz was our first culinary attempt. Pikliz is a beloved Haitian condiment; a pickled cabbage dish with spices and citrus notes, that often accompanies rich or fried foods. Our usual make-taste-adjust routine was somewhat stymied, when after our 9th batch, we just couldn't seem to get a consensus from our Haitian friends and co-workers, of the flavor profile for the perfect pikliz. More heat, more sweet, less sour, more citrus, less salt, more salt, add color, more crunch. Finally we figured it out, there is no perfect master recipe. This is our favorite version of our many, many batches. Enjoy tinkering with the recipe to make pikliz your own. This tangy condiment is fantastic with all manner of meathot dogsburgers, and stewed dishes.

Haitian Pikliz

Black Pepper & Lime Caesar Salad

My mother and sister flew to Haiti last week, the final visit in an amazing month of family guests. First Madeline's uncle arrived on a spur of the moment 48-hour trip to cuddle his new niece. Next to arrive was her grandpa and grandma, traveling to Haiti from Indiana, narrowly avoiding a political protest near the airport on the day of their arrival. Madeline's omi and opi from Canada made it in time to see her first smiles, and last week she met her aunt from Pittsburgh for the first time. It has been an incredible expression of love and support from both of our families as they trekked to Haiti, schlepping our many bags along with them. Each time, as I passed our little daughter over to her newly arrived family member, it was a moving experience. Perhaps it's the postpartum hormones... but there was just something about the contrast of having moved to a new place without family, and then watching the faces of our parents and siblings as they held our daughter for the first time that put a lump in my throat. So how does this all relate to this most excellent black pepper lime caesar salad recipe you might ask? My family is nuts for caesar salad. So as I paced the house waiting for my mother and sisters' delayed flight last week, I made my new favorite variation with black pepper and lime. I perfected this version over the last few months while pregnant and unable to eat the classic caesar dressing with raw eggs. I discovered mayonnaise to be a creamy and delicious substitute and swapped out the traditional lemon in favor of local key limes. This is an addictive dressing, so I recommend just going ahead and doubling it the first time.

Black Pepper & Lime Caesar Salad

Good Friday On Mòn Kalvè

About an hour east of Port-au-Prince, just off the the road that leads to Santo Domingo, sits Mòn Kalvè (Calvary Mountain), a pilgrimage site during Holy Week here in Haiti. Starting just after dawn on Good Friday, a friend and I hopped on motos and made our way to the base of the mountain. We joined the faithful making their slow pilgrimage to the top. Stopping at each station of the cross along the way, people prayed, sang, lit candles, asked for healing, paid penance, and remembered loved ones. Kneeling side-by-side to pray in the crowd, I was moved by the candor of sorrows and joys shared. Some had walked days in hope of a miracle. Others came to sell food, candles, hats, and herbal remedies to the pilgrims. For me, it was an opportunity to reflect, give thanks, and to stand in wonder of this beautiful new country we call home, and the indomitable spirit of her people.

Good Friday On Mòn Kalvè

Caribbean Spiced Roast Chicken

Several years ago, while traveling in New Orleans, Rebecca and I heard about a local chef who made a traditional roast every weekend for a family dinner. Inspired, we began our own tradition of a weekly roast, sometimes meat, other times vegetarian. Our frequent favorite was a classic roast chicken with butter, garlic, and lemon. Adapting this dish to our new home in Haiti, we created a Caribbean Spiced Roast Chicken, drawing on the sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors found across the Caribbean basin. This combination of spices is reminiscent of Jamaica's famous jerks and Haiti's vibrant marinades, and the crispy skin will have you coming back for more.

Caribbean Spiced Roast Chicken

Homemade Bagels

Food cravings can come at inopportune times...such as Rebecca's craving for fresh-from-the-oven bagels while living 1,500 miles from a New York deli in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Homemade bagels are a rewarding DIY project with easy to find ingredients that will yield bagels more delicious and toothsome than you can buy at your local deli (assuming you have one). A great Saturday project to keep you cozy in the winter months (or even toastier in the tropics), invite your friends over for a homemade bagel brunch with a smorgasbord of creamy toppings. 

Homemade Bagels

Homemade Grapefruit Salt

Citrus fruits dot the markets around Port-au-Prince, and we have been trying our hand at cooking with some of the varieties less commonly found in North America. We've loved getting to know the slightly sweet notes of key lime, the bitter tang of sour orange and the pungent flavor of local grapefruits. Spotting some beautiful grapefruit at the market last week, we decided to try our hand at a citrus salt. Citrus salt is an easy way to add bright flavors to any dish and we use this lovely yellow hued grapefruit salt with fish, on popcorn, in omelets, on brownies and in salad dressing. 

Homemade Grapefruit Salt

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

Finding that magical overlap between the foods you crave and the ingredients you have on hand can be a challenge in the best of times. Last week, Rebecca woke up craving cookies...but with little butter or flour on hand and no fancy mix-ins to fall back on, I was stumped. Opening the fridge, I saw the jar of fresh-ground natural Haitian peanut butter we'd picked up the day before. The resulting cookies combine the nutty roasted flavor of natural peanut butter and oats with a subtle salty sweetness and rich moist texture. Success!

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies

6 Chocolate Recipes for Valentine's Day

Post-delivery, I've found myself craving chocolate...lots of chocolate. This weekend is a great excuse to indulge! We've put together a collection of tempting chocolate recipes, from gooey, to spicy, luxurious, to simple. Go ahead, make yourself something sweet!

  1. Chocolate Maple Granola with Quinoa and Cranberries

  2. Mexican Chocolate Custard Cake

  3. Oat Chocolate Chip Cookies

  4. Black Fudge Pudding Cakes

  5. Mocha Mascarpone Mousse

  6. Dark Chocolate Pretzel Granola Bars

6 Chocolate Recipes for Valentine's Day

Slow Roasted Mayan Pork with Garlic Salsa

Today marks Madeline's first full week outside the womb, and most aspects of our life have irreversibly changed. Cooking and eating together has been the one constant in this topsy turvy new world since we arrived home from the hospital. A food focus persisted during labor as I panted out a list of food requests in between contractions. Paul, both remembered every request and has been cheerfully cooking up a storm this last week. Yesterdays' creation was a yeasty sugar rush of homemade cinnamon rolls, but the vast majority of my requests have been for roasted aromatic meats like this Slow Roasted Mayan Pork with Garlic Salsa. This dish is a Paul invention, which means making use of some extraordinary homemade condiments (Xac spice mix and charred garlic salsa), the end result is transcendent.

Slow Roasted Mayan Pork with Garlic Salsa

Baby Madeline

We have a daughter! It’s a surreal thing to say. We are blissfully happy to share that after weeks of on-and-off contractions and gestation in three countries, our beautiful baby girl, Madeline, was born at 1 am yesterday in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, weighing in at a healthy 7 pounds. Madeline is a lively little newborn, and both she and Rebecca are doing well. It’s hard to put words to the feeling of being parents for just a few short hours; joy, relief, shock and happiness. We have been finding ourselves bursting into giddy (exhausted) laughter quite a bit since little Madeline arrived. We will be taking the next month off from work to get to know our new daughter, and look forward to introducing her to her family (even if virtually in many cases), with her first introduction to both sets of grandparents when they arrive in Haiti in just a few weeks!

Baby Madeline

Spiced Roasted Garlic Butter

We are both great lovers of butter in all its forms. Since butter is a luxury product in Haiti running around $12 a pound, we feel like it deserves special treatment and the addition of roasted garlic and the warm, sweetly spiced, and earthy flavors Yucatán Spice Rub, Xac, takes things to a whole different level. In this flavorful butter, a base of roasted garlic is mixed with the pungent flavors of Mexican cinnamon, oregano, allspice, pepper, cloves, bay and cumin. Slather this on garlic bread, meat, fish, roasted vegetables...we haven't found a medium yet that doesn't benefit from this punchy butter.

Spiced Roasted Garlic Butter

Context is Everything: Learning Haitian Creole as a Couple

Learning a new language is humbling. Learning a new language as a couple, is doubly so. Yes, you have someone to practice with, a fellow sufferer through grammar books, and a buddy to help you get back on your feet after a verbal face plant. But for me, a plodding language perfectionist, it can be uniquely frustrating when Rebecca's prodigious memory seems to churn out vocabulary while I'm still focused on properly conjugating "the." [...]

Context is Everything: Learning Haitian Creole as a Couple

Yucatán Dry Spice Rub, Xak

Sometimes in the dead of winter, cooking needs a little extra oomph. Yucatán Dry Spice Rub, Xak, fits the bill. With a few minutes of work, your kitchen will soon be filled with warm, sweetly spiced, and earthy flavors. This easy and versatile spice rub stores well and provides a unique flavor boost to pork, poultry, fish, soups, veggies, or even garlic butter. Stay tuned for great new recipes in the next two weeks featuring Yucatán Dry Spice Rub to get you started. This spice rub recipe was inspired by Daniel Hoyer's book of Mayan cuisine. 

Yucatán Dry Spice Rub, Xak