Saturday, August 6, 2011

tamale pie

I brought back some Trader Joe's taco seasoning mix last time I visited the US and it needs to be used, so tamale pie it is! (If I want to make this in the future, I'll just my own mixture of spices. For whatever reason when I was standing there at TJ's, I just had to have that packet. Who knows my thinking.)

Crust: (Combine and put in bottom of pie tin or casserole)
1 cup cornmeal
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 egg, slightly beaten
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
(1 cup whole kernel corn, drained

Saute together in a little oil:
2+ small onions
3-4 cloves garlic

1# ground beef and cook until browned.

Take off heat and add:
taco meat seasoning packet
diced peppers (fresh or canned)
diced tomatoes (1 can) and/or tomato sauce
black beans (1 can - or kidney or pinto)
frozen or canned corn (I omit)

Stir together. Put on top of crust. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and put back in oven to melt.

Eat with sour cream/yogurt and salsa and cilantro.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

chicken soup to cure malaria

Well, that's the hope.

chicken carcass, most good meat removed
2 small onions, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
(celery would be great but there's none here; would have put in celery seed if I could find it)
(I threw in 5 small very hot peppers. Next time I'd try it with 1-2.)
Herbes de provence (about 1 T)
basil (about 1 T)

Boil that all for a few hours, until it tastes like chicken stock. Then drain it, pick meat off the bones, and discard the solids.

Take the broth and add:
5-6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 small onions, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
seasoning to taste (more pepper and salt)
chopped chicken meat

Cook until carrots are soft (about half an hour).

Add frozen vegetables (I put in peas, beans, and broccoli) and egg noodles, cooking 8 minutes until noodles are tender.

(It's better to cook the noodles separately, otherwise they get too mushy with reheating. But I really didn't want to wash another pot.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

red palm oil

When we were over in Zwedru the other week, we drove past a woman with a big jug of red liquid. "I want some!" Well, she wouldn't fill my water bottle with it but pointed me to somebody who would.

Red palm oil is made of the fruit of oil palms. The fruit falls in large clumps and it's pretty - like chestnuts but the color of a brilliant sunrise.

People here in Liberia make the oil themselves, and it has a unique flavor. I can't describe it - maybe a little fruity. It adds a depth to flavor and pairs well with most vegetables and meat.

The refined oil is used for bad foods, but the unrefined red oil is full of healthy things. You know how coconut oil used to be thought of as really bad but now people are realizing it's actually really good? Like that.

And now I have a big water bottle full of it in my cupboard. I used it today to make cabbage with chicken. The first few bites had too much flavor, but then it mellowed and I like it.

It'll be good with other vegetables, like potato greens.

sour cream banana bread

From here. It's very yummy! Local bananas are abundant, and they go bad pretty fast. There's a locally made sour cream which isn't cheap but is nice as a special treat with beans/chili - and the leftovers can be frozen and thawed in bits for this recipe. (I'll also toss in some yogurt to finish that up, and it should be fine.)


Serves: 12, Yield: 1 loaf


Prep Time: 15 mins

Total Time: 1 1/4 hr

  1. Grease 1 large loaf pan.
  2. Cream margarine, sugar, eggs and vanilla.
  3. Add dry ingredients, then bananas, nuts and sour cream.
  4. Mix well.
  5. Bake at 350 F for 1 hour.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

okra oatmeal cookies

Megan sent me this recipe and I cannot wait to try it someday!!

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I was burnt out. I was exhausted. I was overwhelmed.

I didn't want to hit the bottle, and I tried some of my other vices.

What could get me out of this slump? What could delight and invigorate me?


Taken from here, the batter is even better the next day. I disregard their directions though; I put the flour in a bowl; combine everything else, then whisk it (with a fork) into the flour. There are some lumps, but it's not tragic.

After cooking one side, I flip it over and put a glob of nutella on. It gets runny with the heat, so after removing (the edges brown), I spread it and roll it up and enjoy!


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted


  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs. Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt and butter; beat until smooth.
  2. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.
  3. Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until the bottom is light brown. Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Serve hot.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

banana bread

Bananas are very, very common here in Liberia, as are plantains. There are different varieties including the very small very sweet ones.

Getting bananas for banana bread was a challenge though - co-workers offered to bring me their old bananas, but mice ate them first. Then all my usual places to buy nobody was selling or I couldn't get to.

But not far from the gate of my compound, two girls were selling bananas. I screeched to a halt and asked how much. I gave them 100 Liberian dollars (about $1.50) and they filled a plastic grocery bag overflowing, and we chatted. "Are you making rice bread?" That's how they make banana bread here, with rice ground into flour. I should learn that recipe.

But for today, I'm using my standards. I made two recipes today for brunch, to taste test and compare.

Banana Bread #1:


  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • (I added 1 tsp+ of vanilla)
  • 2 1/3 cups mashed overripe bananas


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, baking soda and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and brown sugar. Stir in eggs and mashed bananas until well blended. Stir banana mixture into flour mixture; stir just to moisten. Pour batter into prepared loaf pan.
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 60 to 65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of the loaf comes out clean. Let bread cool in pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Banana Bread #2:


  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.

Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.

Spread slices with honey or serve with ice cream.

Monday, January 31, 2011

sweet potato pie

Well, it was a debacle. The sweet potatoes are not orange, one didn't mash properly, the butter was all chunked in the pie. I have no pastry blender and my kitchen is about 300 degrees at all times. The only pie tin to buy in this entire city is a flimsy aluminum one. The oven doesn't work right - thank goodness I have an oven thermometer, because one millimeter adjustment takes it from 400 degrees to 200 degrees, and I am not exaggerating. Then I had to turn the oven off midway through baking so we could go shopping at the market (which was really a trip), and that's of course after the pie spilled and overflowed all over the oven floor.

But. The paramour's cousin came over to teach me to cook some Liberian dishes (eddoes soup and gravy for eddoes) and my contribution was the sweet potato pie, and he loved it. "Please, let me be here to learn how to make it with you next time. And we'll make potato greens." Deal!

So, I just followed these two recipes so I'll just give full credit.

Sweet potato pie


  • 1 pound (2 cups) sweet potato
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (9 inch) unbaked pie crust


  1. Boil sweet potato whole in skin for 40 to 50 minutes, or until done. Run cold water over the sweet potato, and remove the skin.
  2. Break apart sweet potato in a bowl. Add butter, and mix well with mixer. Stir in sugar, milk, eggs, nutmeg, cinnamon and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Pour filling into an unbaked pie crust.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 55 to 60 minutes, or until knife inserted in center comes out clean. Pie will puff up like a souffle, and then will sink down as it cools.


8 Tbsp (1/2 cup) Chilled butter

1 1/3 cup Flour

dash Salt

2-3 Tbsp Ice water

Cut the butter into 8-12 pieces and place in bowl. Add the flour and salt and use a pastry blender to mix the butter with the flour until it’s the size of small peas. (If you don’t have a pastry blender, you can use two forks or your fingers.)

Using your fingers, mix in the ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time. Mix just until it holds together, only a few seconds. Press the dough into a flat disk.

Sprinkle a little flour on a cool, dry surface and place the dough on it. (Note: if you’ve made the larger recipe, take about 2/3 of the dough for rolling the bottom crust.) Rub a little flour onto the rolling pin so it won’t stick and roll the dough in a rough circle a little larger than the diameter of your pan. If the dough sticks, sprinkle on a little more flour. The dough should be about 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick.

Use a spatula to loosen the dough from the surface, and fold it in half and then quarters to make lifting it easy. Place in the pie pan and press to shape. If you’re so inclined, use your fingers or a fork to make a pretty edge on the crust.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

oven roasted vegetables and chicken pieces

Seeking inspiration I found this recipe, which I tweaked.

*chicken pieces (I got 2 legs and 2 thighs in the mystery package) - seasoned with salt and pepper
*about 3 cups of small tomatoes
*1 small eggplant
*okra (maybe 4 cups?)
*drained can of cannellini beans
*2 heads of garlic, divided into cloves
*1 onion, sliced
*basil (sadly no fresh, so I dumped a bunch of dried)
*paprika (fresh chili peppers would have been better but didn't have any)
*olive oil (a couple of good glugs)

I tossed everything in together and gave it a stir.

350 degrees for an hour and a half, stirring occasionally.

This turned out quite flavorful yet soupy. I'd likely not add the vegetables until the end in the future because they're too mushy for my tastes. And the chicken was tender but definitely not crispy - this was more stewed.

Serious problems with controlling the temperature of my oven, but it seemed to work out ok. Not fab, but fine. Tasty and satisfying with a hunk of bread.