Living in Bulgaria has left me with an insatiable appetite for all things American. I want a beefy GRILLED Cheeseburger with crisp lettuce, sweet tomato, spicy red onion, and all the normal condiments - mayo, must, ketchup! To complete the plate, a huge Kosher Dill Pickle would need to be cold and crunchy awaiting that first mammoth bite. It would be a dream-come-true if I could wash it all down with an ice-cold 20oz Coke. *le sigh* These are my big dreams lately. Instead, I have to settle for "Black Angus" beef that has been patty-pressed and pan seared. I'm not sure it's really Black Angus beef because it never tastes like the beef we have at home. Notice my lack of big kosher dill pickles too. We only have what tastes like bread & butter pickles which are not popular with me. The real stars in our 'Murica dinner was the perfectly sweet and tart lemonade and the "best dutch apple pie ever," said Matt & Christopher. I've shared the lemonade recipe above, but you'll have to come back to Sunday Bakery for the apple pie recipe. You won't want to miss it!
Little did you all know but I undertook this food challenge about four years ago. And dear readers it was one of the most difficult food challenges of my adult life. As some of you know, I work in a casino. About four years ago a coworker and I campaigned to have tater tots added to the menu in the casino's cafe. You'd think it would have a no-brainer. Ohhhh contraire. What should have taken a couple of weeks took months and months and months. My fellow tater tot enthusiast created a dance and I a song to harass the person in charge of ordering the food stuff. You'd think we were requesting kobe beef and lobster tail. I have no idea why they finally caved in but victory is ours. To this day the tots are still on the menu. Today I felt dangerous and ordered my tots with cheese lovingly melted on top.
It's better than a sharp stick in the eye!
The hubs and I had a cheat night with this meal. Dogs & tots
Nothing fancy, no recipe. Just dogs and tots
Our all time comfort food, will always remind me of home food, is meatloaf. Most Sunday dinners growing up my Mom or Grandma would make it and we would all help with the sides. Mainly peeling potatoes for the mashed potatoes. I just love getting together, sharing about our week and catching up on all the gossip. I was gifted a Cookbook called 365 All-American Classics when I got married and have been making the meatloaf recipe from there for about 19 years now. This recipe is basically the same as the book. The only differences are 2 pounds of ground beef instead of 1 1/2, cut the ketchup down to 2 tablespoons and use a stand mixer to mix the meat together just until combined. The book also instructs to put a glaze on top made with 1/2 cup ketchup, 1 tablespoon mustard, brown sugar and apple cider vinegar. Bake 15 minutes with the glaze and let cool 10 minutes before eating. Amazing!
How can you not love a food week dedicated to the fun foods of America?
Nikita, Georgia, Jen, Amanda & Amy
Lentils are not something I am familiar with. Once I learned how inexpensive they are and that they have a 2-3 year shelf life, I thought it’s time give them a try. I made a Beet and Lentil salad like Puy Lentil Salad by Rachel Khoo. I used regular green lentils and cooked the beets. I also left out the lettuce. For the beets I added olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper, wrapped them in foil and baked at 400° for 45 minutes. Once everything had cooled for bit, I mixed it all together, then added the dressing and the cheese. It was so good. It’s even better the next day, cold or reheated. Next time I will use feta cheese instead of goat cheese.
Middle of winter? ✔️ Freezing cold? ✔️ Short on time? ✔️ Here's the soup for you - Moroccan-Spiced Lentil & Chickpea Soup. I made a few changes to the recipe due to the limited availability of ingredients in Sofia. Right now, cilantro is not "in season" if there ever was a season for cilantro. You can't find it anywhere! And the grocery stores are incredibly inconsistent in their inventory. Sometimes, you'll see a particular item or brand, and other times it's gone. This time, there was no celery to be found, but I subbed it with turnips. I also had difficulty finding harissa, a chili-pepper paste used in Moroccan dishes. So instead, I used a red pepper & garlic paste then added some heat through chili flakes. This soup was hearty and warmed the belly (which is a blessing these days with how cold it has been recently.) I'll be adding this quick, 30-minute soup into our dinner routine especially on cold nights.
I'm going to keep this short and sweet. This dish was damn good!
Lentil-Smothered Greens on Fried Bread
From Bon Appetit 02/20
Amy has gifted me a subscription to Bon Appetit magazine for several years now. This months edition had not one, but two lentil recipes. Amy made one and I made the other. We did not plan it that way, it just turned out that way. Which is a win win for all of us.
So what did I like about this recipe? Everything. It's a perfect dish for colder weather (which we have), jammy onions (caramelized), the required lentils for this challenge, wonderful flavor, and the greek yogurt adds the perfect creaminess.
Interestingly this is the second time I've had a dish that calls for a dollop of greek yogurt and I've been dubious about it both times. I have never been disappointed. If you are hesitant to try, jump in with both feet (forks) you will not regret it.
Last time we tried lentils as a challenge, I made a BBQ lentil loaf. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t good either. This time I made instant pot lentil soup, and it was delicious!! Hearty and flavorful. This was also the first time I’ve tried the “saute” setting on my instant pot, so that was fun. It would look nicer with fresh parsley on top, but I forgot to by some at the store.
Lentils are one of those versatile legumes. Healthy and yummy.
Until next week,
Amanda, Nikita, Amy, Georgi & Jen
My blender has been dying a slow death, so Santa brought me a new one! I love making smoothies when it’s warmer out, but it’s winter and I don’t want to make myself even colder. (Yes, I am cold in Phoenix. 😊 Don’t ask me to move anywhere with snow.)
I didn’t know it was a thing before now, but apparently people make warm smoothies! This week I tried a recipe called “Apple Pie Winter Smoothie”. It tastes a lot like Quaker Apples & Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal. Easy to make, and pretty good. I cheated and used the microwave to heat mine, and sprinkled a bit of oats and cinnamon on top when it was all done.
We have been struggling with the flu in our home so this challenge couldn’t have come at a better time. I honestly never thought about a warm smoothie but it was delicious, very simple and versatile. We will be making this again.
I've heard that a cup of warm milk in the evening helps to bring serenity to your world, but the idea of drinking a whole cup of warm milk that has not been transformed into hot chocolate doesn't sound appealing to me at all. I guess I am a bit of a chocoholic. 😕 It has been relatively warm for Bulgaria's standards this week - highs in the 40s all week! Locals have told us that there should be a meter of snow on the ground by this time of year, but alas, no winter wonderland here. Must be that global warming! I'll take it though. This week, I tried a recipe from Pinterest called Honey & Cinnamon Nighttime Drink. I altered the recipe by adding an additional teaspoon of honey, and yes, it was relaxing to drink. Using a whisk, I frothed up the milk a bit. After a few sips, Matt's curiosity (and possibly food jealousy) begged for a sip. He ended up taking the drink to finish, and that's ok. I wasn't a big "cup 'o milk" fan anyways.
I believe sharing a recipe from Michael Turback's Hot Chocolate cookbook has become an annual thing from yours truly.
Hot chocolate is something warm. Though it's been almost balmy here in Oklahoma I could still go for some homemade hot choccy. I should mention that as you're reading this the temperature will have plummeted into the 20's and we'll possibly have an inch of snow on the ground. I'm glad I had the foresight to have gathered the ingredients for hot choccy.
This recipe is dead basic but it is better than a sharp stick in the eye.
I don't know what Jen was thinking when she challenged everyone to make warm winter smoothies (who knew it was a thing). But I am glad she was thinking it.
When I found this recipe I thought it looked lovely. Who knew it was going to be so delish and filling.
The recipe calls or almond milk and some other nut butter (other than peanut) I used regular milk and peanut butter. I also grated some fresh ginger and a little nutmeg in mine.
What I LOVED about this smoothie is the flavors are comforting (especially on a cold winter morning), but it was also surprisingly filling. You could legit have this for breakfast and feel satisfied afterwards. And I'm going to pretend it's healthy.. So it's a win win.
yep, that is my camera in the background
So here we are.. Day 11 into the new decade. What a great gift it is to be 5 very different women living in 5 very different areas around the world now. Serving up 5 very different warm winter drinks.
Jen, Amanda, Nikita, Amy and Georgia
Every year, we eat the same ol' same ol'. But like all of our other family favorites, we had to put a twist on this year's New Year's dinner in Bulgaria. A traditional Southern New Year's dinner calls for Ham (or pork of some kind), Black-Eyed Peas (for luck), Greens (we prefer collards and/or cabbage for fortune), and cornbread (for gold...lots of it). Matt likes to attribute our success to our traditions like New Year's dinner. In his words, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" But this year, we had some fixin' to do because I couldn't find Black-Eyed Peas anywhere. I asked some grocery store attendants through Google Translate if they sold these lucky peas (which is Продавате ли грах с черни очи?), but the three attendants all blankly stared at my phone screen before saying "ne ne ne." You can figure that one out. So we settled for Speckled Butter Beans. After all, these beans are very southern, so we are praying that our good luck doesn't run out while we are abroad! Btw, that cornbread was so delish that I continued to eat on it for breakfast over the following three days. Slathered in room temperature butter, it melted in my mouth! It's also good for soaking up the bean and cabbage juice. Check out the recipe for the cornbread! Crazy easy.
Like Amy, Randy and I had a low key New year. We actually stayed up until midnight to ring in the new year, but the 1st was pretty quiet. As per my norm I still woke up early. I'm sure it was around 6ish that I rolled out of bed..
We've been trying to get out and take a hike whenever we have the day off together (which is not very often) New years day was no different.. We found a new open space near Los Poblanos. Several hiking trails. We took the shortest route. Managed to see a few Sandhill Cranes and as you can see by the photo on the left a few animal carvings.
For dinner, much like Nikita and Amy we had ham and black eye peas. I made some scalloped potatoes to go with. It was much like our day. Very low key. But also very traditional. Well.. traditional for those of us from the south. Typically black eyed peas are served with greens on New Years Day.
I'm not a greens kind of gal. Se we just eat the black eye peas.
This year I did a low-key New Years Day dinner. Of course, ham and black eyed peas. I used a lovely seasoning that I picked up in New Orleans over the Summer. It gave the beans a nice kick. Instead of cornbread in a cast iron skillet I made Snoop Dogg's cornbread muffins. He uses sour cream in them. Nice fixins' to ring in a new decade.
Food for thought, 2019 will be the last of the teens any of us will live through. Waxing philosophical for y'all.
Happy New Year!!!
Praying you have the best year yet.
Nikita, Georgia, Amy, Jen and Amanda
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