Monday, June 30, 2014

Hint of Peach Layer Cake with Buttercream Frosting

Your friend calls to remind you about tonight's pot luck. Oh no! You were supposed to bring a dessert, but you completely forgot! What now? What in the world can you make without having to take the time to make a list and go to the store? Well, if you're anything like me and you love to bake, you probably have the ingredients on hand to make a cake, which will feed plenty of party-goers!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Polenta Napoleons

Panic? You betcha! When I first heard of this challenge, I did panic because I had no idea what I would be able to come up with. But when I looked in my pantry, I had many things just sitting there unused. I could probably come up with plenty more panic dishes because I tend to buy things in bulk and then forget about them. Cornmeal is one of those things that I have an abundance of, even though I don’t use it that often. When I go to the store, for some reason I can never remember that I have it and I will pick up a container. So as a result, I have tons of it. This challenge allowed me to get creative and use that cornmeal. Although I didn't come close to depleting my supply, I now have a renewed love of polenta. Thanks to Good Cook, I have the quality utensils I need to complete the process.

These napoleons would be perfect for a potluck, or anytime. They are quick and fairly simple to make. Serve them with a tossed green salad and you can’t go wrong. You can mix and match the ingredients for the filling as you see fit, but don’t forget the egg, that is what holds it together.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Good Cook Potluck Pantry Panic Challenge

Are you ready for a picnic or potluck? No time for shopping – you need to look in your pantry and come up with a recipe you can make and take to the picnic or potluck.

Could you do it?

Well, in the Good Cook Potluck Pantry Panic Challenge, the members of 37 Cooks were told to imagine that they were invited to a picnic or potluck, and they had to create a dish to take. And, to make it even more challenging, they had to use only the products in their pantry, kitchen, and refrigerator at the time the challenge was announced.

We knew it would be an interesting challenge, but not impossible – the members of 37 Cooks keep well-stocked pantries!

Good Cook, makers of all sorts of kitchen gadgets and bakeware, supplied each of the cooks with a pineapple corer/slicer, a mixing bowl, a spatula, and some flexible chopping mats. Each cook could also choose an optional item – a set of 2 9-inch round cake pans, a 13 x 9-inch nonstick covered cake pan, adessert bar pan, or a 4-cup loaf pan.

And then the fun began, as the cooks brainstormed, cooked, photographed and wrote about their picnic/potluck goodies. If only it could have been a picnic in real life…if only…

Banana-Pecan French Toast Bake

This is a super easy recipe to make, using common ingredients many people often have in their pantry. It's a satisfyingly sweet dish that can be served as a breakfast item, or as a dessert. Goes great with a hot cup of coffee!

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Adventures in Panama, Part 2

The beach, amazing food and the New York Yankees, oh my! Welcome to Part 2 of Chris's amazing Panamanian Adventure! Grab a yummy snack, something to drink, put your feet up and enjoy!


After our tour with Ismael, we drove back to the City and met up with our friends for dinner. We chose a place in Casco Viejo called Mostaza's (Mustard's) that was recommended to us. It was a wonderful choice. We had red wine, a beautiful bread basket, stuffed chicken breast (spinach and cheese), pork medallions in a red wine sauce, steak with a butter sauce, and a "spicy" (not at all) Peruvian chicken dish. All delicious. A perfect meal to bid our co-travelers good-bye, as they were leaving the next morning. "S" and I were still going strong, so we hit up Cedros again for a daiquiri, then finished off the evening with a few beers at the Red Lion Pub. Great outdoor seating on a main square in Casco Viejo. Really an awesome place.

Pipa's Beach
On Thursday, we woke early, said good-bye to our friends, and jumped in our rental car to hit the beach. After about a 2 hour drive we arrived at Santa Clara, a nice beachfront
community where the Decamerones Resort is located. If you drive through the resort (restaurants, a casino, condos, and a golf course), you then pass through a little fishing community and keep on driving. When the road ends, you're there. Heaven. Or Pipa's, as it's commonly known. A little beach shack about 20 yards from the water, which has a beautiful black and white sand beach, a couple of resident dogs, two outstanding chef/bar tenders, refreshing drinks, and out-of-this-world food. I went with the shrimp cocktail, which was nice and spicy, with the shrimp mixed into the sauce and patacones on the side, of course. "S" went with the fried fish, which came with the THE BEST coconut rice ever. We asked and were told how to cook both. We haven't tried to recreate them yet, but we should...soon. We enjoyed an awesome, relaxing day at the beach, then returned to the City.

"S" had read of a restaurant that he wanted to try, so that's what we did for dinner. Kind of. Honestly, the cab driver couldn't find the place, so we had him drop us off where it "should" have been, and we walked. And walked. And stumbled upon another cool place instead, "Finca del Mar" (Farm of the Sea.) We snagged a seat outside and were happy. We had some Pisco Sours, a bottle of White Wine, some good garlic bread, and then "S" went for a grilled fish platter (no eyeballs this time!), which was served with plantain cakes (they were sweet, with pineapple mixed in - my Inspiration for my Slap Ya Mama Patacones.) I chose a phenomenal pasta pasta with a creamy tomato sauce and chopped sausage. As in a link of grilled sausage, diced up and added to the perfect spaghetti. Yet another dish to recreate. After our amazing dinner we again ended up at the rooftop bar at Tantalo. Great drinks, great people, great times. What more could you ask?

We took it easy Friday, eventually jumped in the rental car again and headed back to the Amador Causeway for lunch. Drove around, just looking. We ended up at "Leno's y Carbon", which is kind of a local chain (actually, it's a Colombian chain), similar to a Chili's, but cooler - WAY cooler - and on the water. We started with an appetizer of "Nachos" (pretty much out of curiosity.) It turned out to be a base of refried beans with chips placed on top. The chips were drizzled with melted cheese, and the sour cream, guacamole, and pico were served on
Lobster Tails
the side. Not bad, but different. Then "S" went for the lobster tails in a citrus-butter sauce with asparagus and green peppercorns (he won this one!), while I decided to sample the mixed grill fajitas. What can I say? I'm a Texan and wanted to try the local interpretation of a hometown favorite. The result? Very thin, small tortillas (which I liked a lot), bell peppers, onions, and a mix of chicken/beef. This was the only beef that I ate while there (beef is not of great quality in Panama, as it is almost all imported.) They also used a citrus marinade of sorts and absolutely no spices like we would use at home. It was very good, yet different. I'm glad that I tried it, but I honestly think that our version is much, much better!

As this was our last day of vacation, we decided that we wanted to have a special, fancy dinner for just the two of us. During the afternoon we hopped into our car and drove over to scout out Trump Ocean Club, the Panamanian version of Donald Trump's Trump Towers. It's a really beautiful place, right on the water. There are condos and a hotel, a casino, shopping, multiple restaurants, an awesome pool area, a private dock and yacht basin, and so much more. We walked around, took some pics, and stopped in at a few of the restaurants in order to check out their menus and have a drink. We noticed that an area near the pool was being set up for an event. We were thinking that it was for a very high-dollar wedding. Beautiful views, floral arrangements, a huge buffet table. We were "shooed away" when we got too close! Okay, no big deal. So, we made reservations at Barcelona, one of the restaurants, for that evening and went back to the hotel to rest, refresh, and clean up.

When we returned in a taxi later on (a little early, as we wanted to have a drink at another bar before our dinner), we noticed that there were many media vans parked in front of Trump Ocean Club. We were assuming that the wedding we saw being set up must be a really big deal, and we were glad that we had dressed up! We took the elevator up to the floor where the restaurants were located, the elevator opened, we stepped out, and about 40 photographers turned and snapped our picture! It was a Media Heyday! We just kind of smiled and nodded, not sure what to think of it all (I was actually thinking, "OMG, glad I put on lipstick!")

Then I was curious enough to pull a sweet gentleman aside and ask him WHAT was going on. Seems that the NY Yankees and the Florida Marlins were playing exhibition games in Panama the next day and the Yankees were staying at Trump's property. And they were hosting a HUGE Meet and Greet that evening. Not a wedding, the Yankees! Okay, no biggie...

We were asked "who" we were, we told them that we were just normal folks on vacation who stumbled into all of this, and we were given one rule: NO PHOTOS ALLOWED! So, yes, I met some Yankees, I sat and had drinks with a couple of them. I can't name names, but they were people that you would know if you follow baseball. They were very sweet and down-to-earth, and they were pretty darn funny! And their wives/partners...stunning! Definitely a night that I will remember.

We started with a couple of very well done cocktails at Tejas, where we sat at the bar with some of the Yankees. It was kind of a surreal event as we aren't really fans, but we recognized these guys. And there were bodyguards in every corner. As in I went to the restroom, a bodyguard followed me (?!?) and waited outside of the door. I'm not sure what he thought I was going to do exactly, but I guess that's the price you pay for hobnobbing with the famous. Anyway...

We walked through the main lobby (and media circus) to get to Barcelona, the place that we had reserved for dinner. There were not many people there, so we were able to get a patio table. We sat outside, about 17 stories up, looking at the big city skyscrapers on one side, an ocean view on the other...magical. There was live music (a trio with a singer, very nice) and a very pretty garden/patio area. I must say that we saw many of our Yankee "friends" pass through, taking pictures and smoking cigars. I'm still just kind of unsure of what to make of the whole evening. We ended up with a bottle of wine, a couple of salads, some nice bread, a cheese plate, and then a charcuterie platter that came with bruschetta. We split a creme brûlée and a glass of dessert wine to finish it all off. A very nice ending to an awesome trip!

There was one last stop that we had to make before heading home the next day: The Hard
Night view of Panama City from
the Sky Bar at the Hard Rock
Rock's rooftop bar, Sky Bar. We had heard so many great things about this place. I believe that it was about 30 stories up, maybe more. So, we went, had a couple of drinks, took some fabulous pictures, and then declared ourselves "Old Fogies". The music was great, the drinks good as well, but we had a rental car to return and a flight to catch the next day.

Everything went smoothly the next morning, but airport security was insane! We were told that it was due to the Malaysian Jet that went down the week before. To travel back to the U.S., there were 3 separate (full) checkpoints. As in take off your shoes, turn on your laptop, you can't bring food/drink with you. We barely made our flight, as it took almost 3 hours to get to our gate. And we weren't even allowed to bring our unopened water or bag of chips on the plane with us (we had a receipt showing that we had just bought them.) Luckily, they let our coffee beans and other food-centric souvenirs through! The flight was uneventful, it was pouring rain when we arrived back in Houston and when we got home, the first thing that one of the pups did was to jump into the fish pond and swim around out of sheer happiness. Good thing that I love that little stinker. Doggie baths were NOT on the welcome home agenda! But, clean puppies and my own bed were, in the end, the best thing ever.

I had the most amazing time on my Central American vacation. Panama is a beautiful country full of beautiful people, amazing places, and such a rich history. I enjoyed every minute of my time there and hope to return in the future. If you are ever traveling in that direction, please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or for ideas. I hope that you've enjoyed reading about my adventures as much as I've enjoyed sharing them. Thanks for supporting 37 Cooks - and Happy Travels, wherever life may take you!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Pasta on the Bayou

Grab a glass of sweet tea, muster up your best Cajun accent and get ready to prop yourself on the porch with a spicy dish of browned chicken, full-flavor sausage and charred veggies all basking in a rich creamy kicked-up sauce. After spending two lively years living in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I can testify to two sure fire truths in Bayou country, it’s all about the people and the food! This dish is created in layers and I must warn you from experience that if you have family members around during the process, the beginning layers are so irresistible that they may not make it into the final dish.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Cajun Chicken Sandwiches

Cajun Chicken Sandwiches
by Christine

2 pounds chicken tenders
2 cups buttermilk
3 Tablespoons Slap Ya Mama Cajun Pepper Sauce
2 Tablespoons Slap Ya Mama Cajun Original Blend Cajun Seasoning
Oil for frying
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 Tablespoon kosher salt
1/2 cup Slap Ya Mama Cajun Gumbo Dinner Mix
3 eggs
1 cup plain bread crumbs
3 sliced tomatoes
6 split bulkie rolls

Cajun Turkey Croquettes

Cajun Turkey Croquettes
by Christine

1/2 pound ground turkey
3 Tablespoons Slap Ya Mama Cajun Gumbo Dinner Mix
1 1/2 cups unseasoned stuffing mix
1 small onion minced
1 stalk celery minced
1 clove garlic minced
1 1/2 cups chicken broth
4 eggs
2 Tablespoons Slap Ya Mama Cajun Pepper Sauce
1 cup plain bread crumbs
Oil for frying

In a large bowl mix turkey, gumbo mix, stuffing mix, onion, celery, garlic, broth and one of the eggs. Cover and chill for 1 hour. Heat enough oil to deep fry. In a shallow bowl, beat the remaining three eggs with the pepper sauce. in another shallow bowl add the bread crumbs. Form croquettes into logs, place into the egg mixture then place into the bread crumbs. Place into the hot oil and fry until golden brown, about 3 to 4 minutes, depending on how hot your oil is. Drain on paper towels. Keep warm in the oven while you finish cooking the remainder of the croquettes.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Slap Ya Mama Crab Cakes

I love crab cakes, but I live in Houston, and crab cakes here are not the crab cakes of Maryland. Typically ours are full of fillers, which is exactly what I didn't want when making these. I was excited to be able to make crab cakes using the Slap Ya Mama Cajun products. I started by buying the best crab I could find. I used jumbo lump crab. One pound cost $24, but I didn't price-shop. I will next time though, because these will be part of my cooking rotation at home. This was a fantastic meal for two seafood lovers. I served the crab cakes with a green salad and corn bread. We ended our lunch with bite-sized lime mousse tarts. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cajun Kroketten with Garlic-Chive Mayo

My husband I were stationed in Ansbach, Germany for four years while we were in the Army.  We loved the friendly and welcoming people, the culture and the amazing food and drinks we experienced during our tour!  Big fans of the local German fare, we frequented a restaurant called the Wolfschlucht, a family owned eatery where you would come to expect nothing less than a great meal and an excellent, locally brewed Hefeweizen beer. Their menu included something I had never heard of before called kroketten.  These potato based gems are the elegant and more sophisticated cousins of the tater tot - more delicate and delicious, they became one of my favorites on their menu! This version includes some gumbo spiciness from Slap Ya Mama and gives them personality and sass. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Creamy Cajun Gnocchi with Shrimp and Mushrooms

The first time I tasted gnocchi was while my husband and I were living in Germany in the early 90's, when he was serving with 3rd Infantry Division. We had driven to Austria for a ski weekend and ended up at an amazing restaurant for dinner where we had some mouthwatering gnocchi gorgonzola. It was simply delicious and I vowed to learn how to cook this new pasta-like discovery called gnocchi.

For this recipe, I decided to combine another culinary love, Cajun food, with my gnocchi addiction. I was inspired to use Slap Ya Mama seasoning to give a spicy cajun flavor to the gnocchi dish along with shrimp standing in for crayfish. The result was fantastic and my whole family said this was one dish they definitely wanted to help cook and will enjoy eating again.

Adventures in Panama, Part 1

Hi readers! This week, we are so proud to bring you one of our members, Chris.  Earlier this year she had the opportunity to go on an amazing trip to Panama! So, sit back, grab a cup of coffee, tea or an icy cold glass of whatever you like best and let her take you on a virtual tour of Panama!

I love to travel, as in I REALLY love to explore new places, see new things, meet new people, and try new foods. So, when the opportunity to take a trip to Panama arose in March of this year, I was totally on-board. I thought about it for about 2 hours...then I was online, tax refund in hand, searching for flights and hotels. I'm usually a huge "planner", but this trip was a last-minute decision and I'm so glad that I took the chance.

Panama is a beautiful country with a very interesting history. The people are genuinely sweet, and they have a certain place in their hearts for us Americans. It all goes back to the construction of the Panama Canal, when there were so many Americans living and working daily with the local Panamanians. Almost everyone that you talk to in the Panama City/Canal area has a story of how their family was involved with the Canal building. It was actually very eye-opening to me, as I knew "of" the Canal, but I had never really understood the impact that we had on the country overall.

Panama City skyline
I made the trip to Panama with my Hubs, "S", and another couple. We flew from Houston to Panama City and were pretty much based out of P.C. for the duration of our trip. The other couple was actually in PC on a business trip, so we split up quite often and "S" and I did our own thing. The arrangement was awesome, as we could go and explore, do what we wanted, then all meet up for dinner and drinks. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott near the Multiplaza Mall. Not "authentic", but comfortable by U.S. standards. The mall is a bit upscale, but it had everything that you might need, including a drug store and a grocery store.

We flew into P.C. on Sunday and made a beeline to Tony Roma's. It was right by the hotel, we were starving, and we wanted a drink to start our vacation off right. We sat at the bar and had a nibble. It was just like it is here in the States, except the menu is in Spanish. They were nice and included pictures, so you knew what you were getting. Also, in Panama you can use your money from the States. The U.S. Dollar is equal to the local currency, the Balboa. American dollars are used, American coins are accepted, but any change you receive (coins) may be a mix of the two. The coins are pretty much exactly like our coins, same denominations and sizes, but not American.

Sunday evening we hired a cab and went to check out the Amador Causeway. This is an area near the Canal that was created by stacking up the dirt/sand/dredged material that was displaced when digging the Canal. It is a string of islands, all connected by one major road. There are walking/bike trails on either side of the road (and water/ocean) and there are shopping and eating areas on most of the islands. There is also a yacht basin and a branch of the Smithsonian located here which is dedicated to the marine life in the area. Here's a cool fact: The Panama Canal runs large vessels through from one side to the other in the morning. In the afternoon, the direction is reversed for large vessels. At night, the Canal opens up in both directions to allow smaller ships through at the same time. All vessels that pass through are charged based on weight. Pretty neat, huh?

We asked our cab driver for a dinner recommendation and he took us to a place out on the last island called Bucanero's. We sat on a lovely patio and feasted on fresh seafood - salmon, shrimp scampi, curried prawns, and grilled octopus (the octopus was perfection on a plate!), all washed down with some unique adult beverages (the Mango Daiquiri was outstanding!) Then it was off to the Hard Rock Casino for some Black Jack and Slots. Not too bad for a first impression!

Monday morning came quickly, and the four of us jumped into a cab and headed over to Casco Viejo, the "old" part of Panama City. We walked around, took some pictures, saw a beautiful cathedral and did some shopping. Then we were hungry! We stopped in at Tantalo's, a cool little place that has a restaurant downstairs, hotel rooms above (this is where we are staying on our next trip!), and a rooftop bar that is open at night. For brunch we had quite a few good things. An omlette with a local type of bread (similar to Native American Fry Bread), and a grilled 3-cheese and bacon sandwich. OMG, that grilled cheese was a marvel! It was made with local cheeses, so there is no way to duplicate it here, although I've tried. Also, the coffee here was outstanding.

Large barge passing through the Panama Canal
We managed a quick trip to go and see the Canal. We had been told there was a restaurant overlooking the Canal that would be a great place to dine. The restaurant itself had been rented out for a private event, but we were offered a table on a patio for drinks and it was amazing. We got to see a large barge passing through, got some good pictures, and enjoyed ourselves immensely. We were lucky enough to be visiting during the 100th year anniversary of the Canal being built.

While strolling around that morning, we happened upon a restaurant called Diablico's. They advertised authentic Panamanian cuisine and it looked really cool, so we decided to hit them up for dinner. We went with the Lechon (a pulled pork dish in a tomato sauce of sorts), a Bisteak (beef steak, in a similar tomato-based sauce), a Ropa Vieja (my golden standard of Latin American cooking), and a fried fish. All were served with rice, beans and
Fried fish, Panamanian style!
tostones/Patacones (deep fried, smashed plantains.) It was wonderful, but be forewarned - fried fish around these parts means head-on, eyes staring at you! The other lady in our group had ordered the fish, and she ended up trading "S" for his Lechon. She couldn't handle the presentation of the dish! Luckily "S" was more than happy to trade. So, we all had a fine dinner, Panamanian style. 

After dinner, our friends returned to the hotel, but "S" and I wandered around the area and found a local little gem of a bar called Cedros. They serve "Gringo" food (pizzas and hamburgers) and keep U.S. sports on the TV. We just had a few drinks. I must say that Panama has the BEST daiquiris that I've ever tasted. Then we wandered along a few blocks more and found Tantalo's again. We were pointed to the rooftop bar, and man...what awesome views! And drinks. And views. Did I mention the views?!? Spectacular!!!

On Tuesday morning, "S" and I decided we wanted to find an authentic Panamanian breakfast/brunch. Oh my goodness, be careful what you ask for! We had searched online for ideas and only found one place that advertised itself as a "brunch" place. So, we grabbed a taxi and told the driver where to go. He had never heard of it. Now, this is either a shining example of how friendly the people in Panama are, or it shows how much they appreciate it when foreigners speak their language (I speak fluent Spanish.) Or, maybe this guy was just super nice...

The sweet guy pulled over, called his wife and had her Google the place. He then called to get directions and they were closed. A brunch place that didn't open until noon! Since we were starving and, well, already kind of just winging it, we told him to take us to a place where the locals eat breakfast. And so he did. 15 minutes later he pulled up to a place with a really cool patio. Guess what? Closed! So, he thought for a minute and then we were off again...

We drove through a few neighborhoods and got a glimpse of the "local" lifestyle. We eventually landed at a place in one of those neighborhoods, called Bon Vivant. The neon sign in the window said "Open", but it looked like there was nobody there. Well, at this point what did we have to lose? So, we paid a whopping $5 (plus a generous tip) cab fare and were dropped off in "No-Man's Land." We walked inside, and the place was absolutely beautiful. Hardwood floors and an upscale cheese and meat case. Over in the far corner there was one large table occupied by about eight loud and obviously drunk men, all talking and singing - in Italian! Quite a bizarre moment. "S" and I just looked at each other and tried not to laugh.

The owner (yes, one of the loud Italian guys) jumped up to greet us. Why, yes, they were open, but none of the staff had yet arrived. So, we were offered a complimentary drinks while we waited. We went with the coffee rather than wine, but I was starting to wonder if wine wouldn't have been better. We sat on the patio (it was a great people-watching perch) and waited. We eventually got our coffee and a menu, although still nobody was there to cook for us. About 30 minutes later, a waiter appeared. "S" ordered a Chef's Speciality Pizza, and I had an Argentinian sausage sandwich with an avocado cream sauce and roasted red peppers. And wine. We had totally earned a glass of wine at this point! It was all very, very good. The pizza had some odd (to us) toppings - Italian cold cuts, corn, artichoke hearts - but it worked.

When we had finished, we hailed a cab back to the hotel. This was when we learned about cab sharing. If there is room for four in a cab but only two are in it, guess what? You will stop and pick up other passengers. Like it or not, you might have company. And you might have to drop them off first, even though you were in the cab first. And you might pick up other passengers. And a 5 minute ride will become a 25 minute ride. But, it's all an experience.

Tuesday afternoon we all visited Panama Viejo. We saw the ruins and visited a market that
Panamanian masks
is run by the native tribes of the area. Then we went back to Casco Viejo to the French Market, which is located outside of the old French Embassy. There is a huge statue with a rooster on top (the rooster is a symbol of France), a beautiful panoramic views of the city and the ocean, and a really cool open-air market. The market is one big walkway covered in pink bougainvillea, with locals selling their crafts. That evening we hit the Hard Rock Hotel for dinner and drinks and the people-watching was fantastic!

On Wednesday, we grabbed some coffee and bagels from the hotel and rented a car. Now, some people will think that we are crazy. Or brave. Or stupid. Maybe all of the above. But, being used to Houston traffic, speaking Spanish, having seen the main routes when in taxis, having GPS and two physical maps in hand, we did it. Not for the faint of heart, but not impossible either. We did get lost in a Barrio before getting out of town, and yes, two police officers on motorcycles jumped out and waved machine guns at us. No Biggie, but a Surprise to say the least!  But, they actually got us back on to the main road, and we made a beeline for the countryside.

Exit roads are not well-marked (if at all!), and if you happen to miss your exit, you will drive 10-15 miles before finding a turn-around. And the speed limit signs are in KM, not MPH. So you are allowed to drive 100-120 KMPH. That was fun, seeing the speedometer hit 120!

We drove to a small mountain community called El Valle de Anton. We had some good leads in terms of food, but for some reason many places were closed on Wednesday. We puttered around, looking for a good meal and we decided on a small mom & pop place on the main road through town. No name, just a lot of cars outside of a house with an open-air patio. We had a couple of beers, then "S" ordered the steak with potatoes and I had the fried chicken. This was probably the MOST authentic meal of our trip. His steak was pounded flat and doused in jarred, minced garlic. Potatoes turned out to be frozen French fries. My chicken was indeed fried, but no batter. Only skin and a few feather plumes remained. I ordered the "bananas" as a side, which, of course, were patacones (smashed and fried plantains). No problem there, but I did wonder about the ketchup packets that I was given. Bananas and ketchup? Was I missing something here?

After lunch, we hit the road and found the local "zoo." We also found Ismael, a local teen, who gave us a tour of the zoo. The zoo was originally a rehab area for a well-known veterinarian. Before that the property had been a loquat orchard. Very interesting. And we got to see the infamous Golden Frog, which is on the endangered list. And there was a chicken coop. To provide food for the other animals. No biggie to us, but folks with children, you have been warned!

After the zoo, we let Ismael take us on a tour. We saw some amazing waterfalls and an honest-to-gosh sloth. Just hanging out. We saw a sloth. Our lives are now complete. Really, it was very cool! Then he took us up to the top of an inactive volcano where we could see the whole town and the surrounding valley. Awesome. Just awesome.

Watch for Part 2 of  "Adventures in Panama" coming soon!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Cajun-Asian Fried Rice

We all have "those days" and sometimes "those weeks" where nothing you planned goes according to plan. Sometimes those days are so hectic that even figuring out what to eat is a challenge. Paradoxically, those days are usually the days that you need the food to comfort you, as well as sustain you. One of my go-to meals during those times is fried rice topped with a fried egg. What is more comforting than the luxuriousness of a runny yolk soaking into a big bowl of carbs? I throw in whatever vegetables I have and a bit of meat and something for spice, top it with a fried egg or two, and I can usually find my happy place again. So, I guess it wasn't all bad this past week because I got to eat this fried rice twice!

I like how the smokiness of the bacon mixes with the aromatic sesame oil. The Jambalaya mix has a great slow heat that creeps up on you and the kimchi adds a bit of heat, too. I definitely recommend topping with a runny egg, but if you don't like runny yolks then try filling an omelet with this fried rice.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Baked Stuffed Sole with Slap Ya Mama Gumbo Sauce

Baked Stuffed Sole with Slap Ya Mama Gumbo Sauce
by Carlos

4 sole filets
7 cups water
Slap Ya Mama Cajun Gumbo Dinner Mix
1 cup Slap Ya Mama Cajun Fish Fry
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup bottled clam juice
Slap Ya Mama Original Seasoning
4 Tablespoons butter
Chopped cilantro to garnish

Combine water with gumbo seasoning in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, and then lower heat to a simmer for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine Slap Ya Mama Fish Fry, olive oil and clam juice in a bowl. Place a quarter cup of mixture in the middle of a fish filet and then fold over both ends into a roll. Season with Slap Ya Mama Original Seasoning. Do the same with the remaining fish filets. Place fish rolls in a buttered baking dish. Put dabs of butter on each fish roll. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, or until fish is fully cooked. Place fish roll on plate and cover with Gumbo Sauce and chopped cilantro. Serve with white rice.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Sunday Supper with Maya

"Family isn't always blood. It's the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what." ~ Maya Angelou

Today, as 37 Cooks, we are honored to join Cookbook Junkies to express our love and respect to Maya Angelou the way we know best, through our cooking. When we think about this great lady, we think about all her many efforts to bring equality, peace, love and strength to all. We ponder on her many quotes, the words in her poems and books, her eloquent speeches, the way she lived her life. Yet, it is Ms. Angelou, herself, who sums it all up the best..."I would like to be known as an intelligent woman, a courageous woman, a loving woman, a woman who teaches by being." She has left a footprint on our hearts, along with a burning to desire to push a little harder, love all a little harder, teach a little harder, though our actions and not just our words.

Our 37 Cooks are scattered across the United States and Canada, yet we gather in our virtual kitchen to chat and support one another. Not just in our cooking endeavors, but in all things, especially when a loving hand or smile is needed. We are happy to join the Cookbook Junkies at the Sunday Supper with Maya. We hope you enjoy the recipes made by two of our cooks on behalf of the entire 37 Cooks Family.  ~ 37 Cooks

Veal Medallions
Veal Medallions
by Linda
adapted from the cookbook Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes by Maya Angelou

I have chosen a very simple veal recipe from Maya's Cookbook, "Hallelujah, the Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes". I don't think I have ever cooked veal in my adult life, but it is something that my Grandmother cooked often. Veal has a very distinct flavor and with just one bite, I'm back at my Grandmother's table remembering the delicious veal suppers she prepared.

6 veal medallions, pounded thin
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
All-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons butter, divided
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup low fat chicken stock
2 cups white mushrooms, sliced
1 cup white wine, divided
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. Season veal with salt and ground pepper.

2. Dust veal with flour, shake excess off.

3. Heat 2 Tablespoons butter and the olive oil in large saute pan.

4. Brown veal on both sides, remove and set aside.

5. Add chicken stock and mushrooms.

6. Saute mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, until soft.

7. Add 1/2 cup of wine and continuing to cook, until wine has reduced to half.

8. Add the veal back to the mushrooms/wine and continue to cook for 5 minutes.

9. Place veal on platter.

10. Add remaining wine and butter to pan and simmer for 4 minutes.

11. Adjust seasoning, adding more salt and ground pepper, if needed.

12. Pour sauce over veal and garnish with chopped parsley.

Note: I thickened my sauce with 1 Tablespoon of flour mashed into the remaining butter before proceeding with step number 10.


Banana Pudding

Banana Pudding
by Tracy 

I was sad to hear of Maya Angelou's passing. Her legacy will never be forgotten. I decided to make her Banana Pudding recipe in honor of her memory. It is a classic recipe that will always be delicious. It is comfort food that brought me back to my childhood. So glad that I was able to honor her in this small way. I will keep this recipe to use again and again.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Middle Eastern Lemon Potato Salad

37 Cooks offered me a splendid chance: Receive a new cookbook, select one recipe to try and write it up. Then the book would be mine, all mine! I jumped at the chance.

The book I reviewed is Silk Road Vegetarian by Dahlia Abraham-Klein.  It's chock-full of vegetarian and gluten-free recipes from cuisines found along the Silk Road from Central Asia to India. There are curries and pilafs, eggplants and orange enticing feast for the reader, and a treasure for the cook.

Jambalaya Balls

Jambalaya Balls
by Luke

1 Tablespoon Slap Ya Mama Original Cajun Seasoning
1/2 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound Teet's Smoked Pork Tasso, diced
1/2 pound Teet's Smoked Pure Pork Sausage, diced
2 cups water
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups buttermilk
1 box Slap Ya Mama Cajun Fish Fry
Peanut oil (use the recommended amount of oil that your fryer requires)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

SYM Cajun Patacones

This past March, I had the opportunity to spend a week in Panama. It was a beautiful country with wonderful people and some really good food. With almost every meal we were served patacones (or tostones), which are slices of green plantain, smashed and double-fried. My husband decided that he really enjoyed this side dish, so I learned to make them at home. When I was thinking of "unique" ways to use a few Slap Ya Mama products, I remembered a spicy baked fish dish that we ate in Panama. It was served with plantain cakes, but they were larger than the average patacone. They were a mash-up of plantains, pineapple, and other tropical ingredients that cut the heat of the fish perfectly. So...if they could make plantain patties, why couldn't I? I ended up with a fun, rather spicy nibble that incorporates the Slap Ya Mama Cajun Jambalaya Dinner Mix with plantains and a few other select items. These are a great snack, or they could be used as a side dish, if desired. They are best served fresh and warm, with a little garlic sauce/chimichuri, and hot sauce to taste. Buen provecho!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Cajun Egg Rolls

Cajun Egg Rolls
by Rebbekkah

1 box Slap Ya Mama Cajun Red Beans & Rice Dinner Mix
3 1/4 cups water
1 pound sausage links (I chose Andouille)
1 package egg roll wraps
Oil for pan frying the egg rolls and the sausage

Rémoulade Sauce:
1 1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup mustard
1 Tablespoon Slap Ya Mama Cajun Pepper Sauce
1/4 teaspoon Slap Ya Mama Original Blend Cajun Seasoning
2 Tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Stuffed Mahi Mahi with Red Bean Sauce and Pineapples

I enjoyed the Slap Ya Mama products, although being from Canada I found them to be a bit spicy. Blending the Red Beans & Rice with the sour cream and pineapple gave it a nice balance.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Gingery Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp with Brown Sugar-Pecan Topping

I love the cookbook Fresh from the Farm by Susie Middleton. I love the story of a woman who gave up the city life and the big job to move to the country. I love that she met a carpenter and fell in love. I love her farm and her chickens and her vegetables and her little vegetable stand. I love the photos in this book and I knew I would love the recipes too and now I do!

The minute I got to page 60 and saw this rhubarb recipe I knew I would make it. My husband planted a garden on the side of our house in the suburbs and he planted rhubarb because we love it. Ours is green. There's no red at all! Green rhubarb is pretty common. Did you know that? It's also completely delicious.

I used mini 6-inch glass pie plates because I wanted to share this crisp with my neighbors and these little pie plates are a very easy way to do it. Just like the author, my favorite way to eat any kind of crisp is cold, right out of the refrigerator, with a little vanilla yogurt on top. For breakfast! It's better than cereal or granola or really just about anything. But Willie's favorite way is to eat it hot with some Blue Bell Homemade Vanilla ice cream. We both got our way today!

Gingery Strawberry-Rhubarb Crisp with Brown Sugar-Pecan Topping
by Sandra
adapted from a recipe in Fresh from the Farm by Susie Middleton

serves 6

For the topping:
8 Tablespoons butter, softened, plus more for the baking dish(es)
1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely chopped pecan
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup regular oats
1/4 teaspoon coarse, kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger

For the filling:
2 1/2 cups hulled, quartered strawberries
2 1/2 cups sliced rhubarb
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
2 Tablespoons crystallized ginger, finely chopped
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar (I used pomegranate balsamic because that is what I had on hand today.)
1/4 teaspoon coarse, kosher salt

For serving:
Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, or heavy cream. Vanilla yogurt tastes wonderful with cold or room temperature crisp! If you accidentally leave the ice cream on the counter when you come home from the store like I did, just pour it on your crisp. My friend Gary says it's called crème anglaise.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter your baking dish(es). I used 6-inch individual glass pie plates but you can use any shallow baking pan you have.

Place all of the ingredients for the topping in a mixing bowl and combine then with your fingers until large crumbs form, set aside.

In another mixing bowl, combine all of the filling ingredients and give them a good stir until they are combined. Pout the filling evenly in the baking dish(es) and do the same with the topping. Bake the crisp until it is golden, between 30 to 45 minutes. Let cool for about 15 minutes and serve. Let cool completely and if you have any leftovers you can refrigerate them.

P.S. Did you know today is National Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie Day? I believe this crisp qualifies! The author wrote that the ginger and balsamic make this recipe special and I agree. They give it a nice zing!

37 Cooks was provided 5 Fresh from the Farm cookbooks by the publisher for our review.

Creamy Cajun Seafood Pasta

Creamy Cajun Seafood Pasta 
by Judy

1/2 stick unsalted butter
1 green bell pepper, diced
3 scallions, chopped
2 Tablespoons sundried tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 pound cooked shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 10-ounce can lump crabmeat
1 cup half and half or heavy cream
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 cups baby spinach
16 ounces penne pasta, cooked according to package directions
Shredded Parmesan