My Global Food Challenge

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Taste Test:                                                                                                  

Zip Facts about England:

  • Despite the saying “for all the tea in China”, the English consume more tea per capita than anywhere else in the world. They also produce and consume more cider than any other country
  • Big Ben is actually the name of the bell inside the clock tower, which is called the Elizabeth Tower. Windsor Castle, the world’s oldest and largest royal residence still used today,
  • The jury is out on England’s food choices, although it is clear the English love their food, especially the popular dishes with the unusual names, such as toad in the hole, bangers and mash, and spotted dick
  • It is considered a “no-no” (or treason) to place a postage stamp with the visages of the King or Queen upside down on a post
  • The flag of England is called the Union Flag on land and the Union Jack on the water because it must be flown on the jack mast of the ship

England Snow_Storm1842JMW Turner (1775-1851), “Steamboat off a Harbor’s Mouth” during a snowstorm

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Taste Test:                                                                                                  

Zip Facts about Estonia:

  • Although there is no political unity among the countries, Estonia is considered part of the “Baltic States”, along with Latvia and Lithuania
  • In many Estonian households, since both parents usually work, family dinners become less frequent than desired, but efforts are made to share dinners on the weekend. Holidays and other celebratory occasions, except for Christmas dinner, do not require special foods, but meals at social gatherings are usually accompanied by vodka
  • Bear meat, which is legal in Estonia, is a popular delicacy and is usually served marinated or grilled. Lucky for them, there are no polar bears in Estonia
  • The military in Estonia is relatively small, as military service is not popular, and carries very little status or prestige. Men serve only one year in the armed services
  • Legally, women’s rights are protected by the Constitution, although they are expected to defer to men, right, wrong, or otherwise

Estonia Staari_portree_vaikeMall Nukke, “Portrait of a star at no. 6” collage (2009)

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Taste Test:                                                                                                  
Zip Facts about Mozambique:
  • The emblem on the flag and coat of arms of Mozambique contains an AK-47 rifle and bayonet which represents vigilance and defense
  • Natural disasters, such as flooding and drought, combined with civil war, have made humans the most endangered species in Mozambique, according to the UN in 1992
  • Mozambique is a secular state, no religious holidays are officially observed, but each citizen is afforded the right to their own observances
  • Both the veneration of ancestors and the curandeiros (healers or spiritualists) play a role in traditional customs in Mozambique and make take the place of religious beliefs for more than half of the population
  • Over 1200 fish species can be identified at some of the richest coral reefs in Mozambique

Mozambique Women-in-Motion-2003-by-M-001

Women in Motion (2003) – Malangatana Valente Ngwenya (1936–2011)

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Wedding Anniversary

Happy Anniversary! Mocha Chocolate Chunk Icebox Cake

Here is my rendition of Ina Garten’s Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake, it looked incredibly easy and delicious on “The Barefoot Contessa” Old School Retro Mix episode, so I had to try it for my anniversary. I know I am missing out on many great recipes as a cook who does not eat mascarpone or cream cheese (its substitute), and it certainly is difficult to come up with the right consistencies or flavors without them. But during an episode of “The Pioneer Woman”, Ree Drummond talked about one of her secret “weapons”, Cool Whip. So an idea was born, and here is my take on a delicious cake.

P.S. and as I am writing this entry on April 8, 2014, my family is still talking about the cake.

P.S.S. I used Cool Whip Lite because we had it on hand, and it still tasted great. I do want to try it with regular Cool Whip the next time and I have been told there will be a next time. If you use thinner cookies, and an 8″ springform pan, this recipe will make 5 layers, but trust me, the three layers with these thicker, chunkier cookies are perfectly scrumptious.

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A Gingerbread House…Finally!

Every year, for more years than I can remember, my kids have tried to make a gingerbread house.  I knew that it would be better if I made the ingredients from scratch, but I always ran out of time and bought a kit instead.  There was never enough icing (glue) and inevitably, the house would not stand up for very long.   One time, after several disappointing yearly attempts, I bought a Christmas tree gingerbread kit. All the kids had to do was place the pieces one on top of the other with a little icing in between, decorate the tree, and it held up until the end of the holidays.

My kids are young adults now, with many other interests and obligations, but thankfully still home for the holidays.  I bought a kit just in case, a Willy Wonka gingerbread house, and they actually had some time to spend together.  After the typical initial failure to glue the sides together, I extended the icing, which turned out to be a disaster, and resorted to buying some tubes of white frosting.  Finally, a house that stood up so well, we had to use a hammer to knock it down and several days of soaking to reclaim the plate at the end of the season.   

I love holiday traditions!

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Butter Cookies: A Christmas Tradition

I am not sure how far back this butter cookie recipe goes, but I know it is more than 60 years that my family was baking them for Christmas.  I took over the tradition more than 25 years ago from my mother, and as soon as my children were old enough, they looked forward to helping, signaling the beginning of the holiday season for them.  We now have three cookie presses, but I still have the original one that I started with, and a manual one from my grandmother.

Merry Christmas, Mom.