In addition to all the new meals we are creating, we are also trying out a lot of baking. We figure since we have plenty of time to devote to cooking and coming up with new ideas, we have no excuse not to try everything.
Whole Wheat Breads and such
Our first major baking activity came with our own whole wheat bread. We were buying it but the ingredients always included some kind of shortening or item that just wasn't needed, so we decided to do it ourselves. Ginnie made the first loaf and it came out pretty tasty - just slightly dry so it crumbled sooner than we would have liked, but we still ate it! The next loaf was Anthony's and we still struggle with the dryness, but it may have to do with our oven that is just really hot, or we need to focus on a sandwich bread recipe - maybe there is an ingredient or something that would help. If anyone has a tip, feel free to write in the posting section and we will try it out.
Good news, since the initial writing, we have found a strategy to keep the bread moist - use less flour. Anthony's most recent loaf stayed soft and was perfect for PB & J!
The next great baked good was made by Anthony when he created delicious pretzels. We were inspired by Clare who kept telling us she was making them and we never managed to get to her house when there were any left because they are just that good. They came out so well, that we even made peanut butter and jelly pretzel sandwiches - a fabulous treat!
Fresh baked pretzels; maybe we'll call them "Uncle Anthony's" pretzels (you know, to compete with Auntie Ann's...)
Of course, any good Belizean kitchen will have its fair share of flour tortillas, and we have been making them fairly often. They are a great asset to many meals and are also perfect for peanut butter and jelly (hence the reason getting our bread perfect is not too troubling since we have so many other options, but we still will work on the bread recipe).
We have made some really yummy dinners. One of our favorites was again introduced to us by Clare - Taco Soup. It's made with red kidney beans, black beans, and corn all cooked up together and then topped with shredded cheddar cheese and crumbled fritos - we eat it quite frequently. Ginnie has been working on cooking beans so they come out just right. After a few attempts that resulted in beans that were either too hard or just too plain, she managed to get some pretty good ones last week. The only thing to perfect now is the balance of water to beans so they stew just right. It is nice to cook everything from scratch though, we know it's fresh and doesn't have any preservatives or added things we don't want.
Vegetarian spaghetti made with garbanzo beans - it's really yummy (and that is Anthony's latest soft homemade bread in the bowl)
We have developed a new appreciation for soy meat - we use it for a lot of our cooking. We just found a great brand that is like a ground meat consistency and it tastes great in many dishes - add it in with the Taco Soup, on pizza, in spaghetti and in many stir fries and we have a great source of protein.
Ginnie was really missing Turkey burgers, but we can't get ground turkey here and the ground chicken just doesn't have the consistency we are used to and since we stopped cooking with the meat, it was difficult to actually make a burger. Whenever we go out, the chicken burgers are really chicken breast, so it just wasn't working. We thought we'd just go and buy garden burgers until we saw they cost $12.40! So, Ginnie did a little research and found recipes for veggie burgers and made her own homemade veggie burgers. And, to make it a true burger dinner, she made homemade french fries too - all with the fresh veggies from our favorite fruit/veggie stand. It was a great meal to create and it's pretty easy to make good veggie burgers - you can't really mess up because you can just add in and take away things you don't like!
Next style made with black beans and brown rice - delicious (and more homemade fries - baked this time)
We love pizza. Anthony often made homemade pizza in the states, so as soon as we were on our own, we started working on pizzas. Anthony has made a lot of pizza in the past couple weeks - they have all been delicious. He has a new dough that just comes out perfect and with all the different topping choices, we haven't had the same pizza yet!
With the challenge of our oven temperature, we were a little worried we would not have cookies (also with the extremely high cost of chocolate chips, Anthony has to live without his favorite cookies); however, we found some great no-bake recipes and made our first batch that came out really yummy. Of course whenever you mix chocolate and peanut butter how can you really go wrong?
Despite their look, these are delicious chocolate, peanut butter and oat cookies - highly addicting and so easy to make, it is dangerous!
We kept talking to other PCVs who make hummus and decided we had to try, since it's such a fantastic dip for chips and pitas. We found a basic recipe and picked up our ingredients (it's so easy to make, worth it since I remember hummus even being pricey in the states) and Anthony made up the first batch. It came out fabulous and now the only thing to do is try it out with some different add-ins to change up the flavor. We will definitely have this on the table when we have people over for dinner!
Ready to eat
At our recent All Volunteer Conference Ginnie sat in on a session on making a basic curry. It was so easy and tasted so good, she decided to try it out. For the first one, it was just a basic lentil curry, but at least we now have the strategy and can start experimenting with different veggies.
Lentil Curry over white rice
As you can see, we have had fun with cooking new things and keep just adding to the menu. The photo-journal of our Belizean culinary experiences will be a long one it seems! While it may appear we have a lot of time on our hands (and it's true we do) we are staying on track with our volunteer projects at our schools, attending Spanish class three nights a week, and reading the books we are so grateful to receive - the major difference appears to be that we do not need to sit in a car commuting for 1-2 hours per day and we can walk to the market to get our groceries and not spend an entire day at Target (although that is something we occassionally miss) and with no malls and bookstores to distract us for hours on end - well, plenty of time exists for cooking!!