Raspberry Dark Chocolate Empanadas

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Not too long ago I heard of the idea that being busy is nothing to brag about because it often times can mean that we aren’t taking the time to savor the moment, live in the present or smell those roses. I’m as guilty as the next for playing the “I’m SO busy” card, and while I have gotten slightly better over the years…I’ve got a long way to go. I’m out of town this weekend for Frites’ wedding in Estes Park and come home to a week of work, work, work and fun, fun, fun.  So busy.

So busy, but I always make time for dessert. Duh.  The sweet tooth rules my life. Even if it doesn’t rule yours, there’s always time berries and chocolate and cheese. Roll them all into one and that’s what I’ve got for you today thanks to some prompting from The Daily Meal and Driscoll’s raspberries.

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Despite appearances lately, I have not yet abandoned South America. To prove it to you, empanadas.  Dessert empanadas.  Filled with the aforementioned berries, chocolate and cheese.

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Happy Anniversary, Chicago: Chicago Mix Soft-Serve Ice Cream

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Don’t you just love New York in the fall?

I can hear Tom Hanks’ voice in my head from the iconic You’ve Got Mail line whenever I walk down Michigan Avenue on my way to and from work, sun shining and tulips abloom, but rather asking: 

Don’t you just love Chicago in the spring?

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Spring, a loose definition.

While I do fancy myself a fall girl, I do love this time of the year when the city seems to come alive from its winter hibernation.  The excitement never gets old. The same drill, year after year.

A few days ago, one of those “time hop” things showed up on my friend’s Facebook page with a law school graduation picture…”8 years ago today!” and I stopped in my tracks. 8 years. That’s a hella long time.

Time flies. At the speed of light.

I’ve lived in Chicago 8 years this May. I moved here “fresh of the boat,” so to speak, from my semester in London, with a broken foot, without a job and one friend in Apple Crisp.  While I may still live on the same street on which I signed that first lease (true story), so much has changed.  I’ve been able to maintain most of the friendships that I made that first year and have picked up many more along the way. I passed the bar, and have a grown-up job. I’ve made big girl purchases (car) and taken mind-blowing vacations.  While a few pounds heavier, I still manage to wear the same size from back then and am still without any grey hairs (I got SOME good genes, it seems!).  It’s been a good ride so far.

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Spicy Chicken and Sausage Pasta

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This post for is sponsored by HGTV.  As always, all opinions and recipe are my own. Thanks for supporting the those who support The Hungary Buddha!

Hey party people!

Sorry for the radio silence.  Life has gotten in the way of the kitchen and admittedly it’s been a nice break.  Despite putting nothing on these pages, I’ve been anything but hungry.  The opposite. Stuffed to the gills, actually.

Mom came into town for mother’s day and it was nice to do nothing but eat, relax and eat some more. The weather was pretty crap, so we did spend a lot of the weekend in the house on the couch, which given both of our normal go-go-go lifestyle, was welcome on both of our parts.  Mom, 10+ years too late, has finally jumped on the Harry Potter bandwagon, so we watched the first five movies over the span of three days.  That’s how we roll.

Also, how we roll, we ate our way through the weekend. Always a good thing. Friday night we hit up her favorite tapas place, Café Baba Reeba for some quick bites and sips and then Saturday we went to the Peninsula for fancy tea- my favorite thing ever. What is it about finger sandwiches that makes them so irresistibly edible?

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Sweet Inspiration: Dulce de Leche Brownies

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So remember when I was talking about David Lebovitz’s book, The Sweet Life in Paris, and how I was super excited to make all his French chocolate things for Bastille Day, which is in July? Well, that lasted all of 3 days since I made his brownies…an adaptation thereof… for our work Cinco de Mayo potluck the other day.

I didn’t mean to start making all his glorious French chocolate things so early because I’m still solidly cooking South American food, and Cinco de Mayo is just a hop, skip and a tweak from that, but it happened sort of by accident. Necessity really. And a desire to get the dulce de leche out of my house. You see, I had planned to make dulce de leche brownies, and when I consulted my recipe binders, my cookbooks…all the brownie recipes in my house…every last one called for either unsweetened chocolate, or more cocoa powder than is currently in my cupboards (note to self: buy chocolate). But all I had was bittersweet! What could I do that didn’t require that I put on real pants and trek to the market??

Then I remembered that David mentioned having the best brownie recipe more than once, a recipe that he used to win his way into the hearts of his new French neighbors, the fishmonger, the cheesemonger and the butcher. Lucky for me, that recipe was in the book. And, lucky for me, it used bittersweet chocolate.

SCORE!

Like I mentioned with the carnitas, I can’t physically seem to make any recipe as it’s written and so this one is based off of his. While his has the dulce de leche dotted and swirled, I decided to make mine into a separate frosting. Golden, creamy and smoothed to perfection.

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I chose to not add nuts to these because of a few allergies at work, but if I was making the brownies for myself, they would have most definitely had nuts. Lots and lots of nuts. Also, it seemed that all of my bowls were dirty when I made these, so the brownie part itself can be made in one medium sized-saucepan. So, if you omit the frosting, you have one bowl brownies. I mean, so versatile, these brownies. So versatile and sure to make you many friends.

Dulce de Leche Brownies
Yields 24
Rich, fudge brownies with a smooth and creamy dulce de leche frosting
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For the brownies
  1. 3/4 cup unsalted butter
  2. 9 ounces bittersweet or dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
  3. 1/4 cup plus 2 TB Dutch-process cocoa powder
  4. 1 tsp sea salt
  5. 4 large eggs
  6. 1 1/2 cup sugar
  7. 1 1/2 cups flour
  8. 1 tsp vanilla
  9. a few splashes coconut extract (about 1/8 tsp)
  10. 1 1/2 cup nuts (optional)
For the frosting
  1. 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  2. 1/4 cup dulce de leche
  3. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  4. 2 TB milk or heavy cream (more or less for desired consistency)
  5. 1 3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  6. 1/4 tsp cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a 9 x 13 pan with parchment paper, and then butter and sugar the pan.
  2. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the butter and chocolate and stir constantly until melted. Remove from the heat and add the sugar, salt and extracts, and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Slowly mix in flour until smooth and all combined. Add the nuts if you’re doing that.
  3. Bake for 30-35 minutes until a thin knife comes out clean. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove and let finish cooling on a cooling rack.
  4. While the brownies cool, make the frosting. In the bowl of a stand mixer, cream the butter and cinnamon until smooth. Add the dulce and vanilla and beat until combined. Slowly add the sugar, adding the milk as necessary for desired consistency. Beat the mixture until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Smooth on the cooled brownies.
Adapted from David Lebovitz
Adapted from David Lebovitz
The Hungary Buddha Eats the World http://thehungarybuddha.com/

Or, if you eat them all yourself, enemies.

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Mexican Madness: Slow-Cooker Carnitas

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Happy Cinco de Mayo!

First, I’d like to say how super excited I am about little Charlotte Elizabeth Diana. Tea and scones all around! I’m such an Anglophile, and more than one person texted me at 6:15 Sunday morning to tell me the news. I’d also like to point out to Apple Crisp and Tomato, among others, that I’m a rock star at picking names. You see, back in college, I told them all that I loved the names Betsy (aka Elizabeth) and George and everyone…EVERYONE…told me they were horrible names, and they, as my friends, had forbidden me to name any child that I should bring into this world either of those names. Fast forward 13 years later and little Prince George was born, and I got mine. Two more years later, and I feel validated that my name choices were cool and legit. Clearly Kate and I would be friends.

Now that I got that off of my chest, let’s talk about these carnitas, because it is after all Cinco de Mayo and carnitas are equally as exciting as little Charlotte. Despite being my top menu choice at Chipotle…I’d never made them! For shame.

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Shame no more and I have my new friend Verduras to thank. We met a few weeks ago and she was more than happy to share some of her family’s Mexican favorites. And you know that I go after people’s family’s recipes like a piranha goes after a skinny dipping missionary. Eyes wide and mouth open.

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Top Ten List: Mexico

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Hello, spring. It’s about bloody time.

My weekend was a blank slate, and the perfection that was happening outside was just the thing to set the scene. The unobstructed sunshine created the perfect canvas on which to paint the town, and it was almost sacrilege to stay inside, so I didn’t. After a spontaneous, much-needed-but-very-painful-massage, I spent the rest of the afternoon yesterday in my most favorite way: reading under the the sun with a cafe au lait and mini meringue. After finishing my book, I moseyed down one of my favorite neighborhood streets, lined with the perfect blend of boutiques and cafes, searching for a few upcoming birthday and mothers’ day treats.

The weekend also had a certain buzz to it…Chicago was ready to party. Probably due in part to Derby Day, partly due to the big fight, and the rest early revelers in Cinco de Mayo. And for that, today I’m bringing you my first recipe roundup.

I know! I can’t believe I haven’t done one ever. I think I’d always felt that I didn’t have enough in my online recipe box to come up with a good enough list, but after almost three years and over 300 recipes, it turns out that I have more than enough resources at my disposal to craft many a themed dinner party, so let’s start with Cinco de Mayo.

Ignoring the constant tug of war in my head and stomach between Mexican and Middle Eastern food for the distinction of my favorite cuisine, I’m going to merely state that all of the below named dishes are my favorites in one way or another. Elements of each make me want to make them over and over. Breakfast, lunch, desserts or dinner, I’ve got any Cinco de Mayo celebration covered with these Mexican dishes. To add to the party, I’ll be making a few new ones later this week- grandma recipes all, so hold on to your butts.

1.  Papas con Chorizo

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2.  Machaca con Huevos

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3.  Blueberry Walnut Guacamole

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4.  Ancho Chile Fish Tacos

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5.  Oaxacan Lamb Barbacoa

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6.  Mole Poblano

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7.  Frijoles Borrachos

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8.  Sopa de Lima

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9.  Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes

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10.  Cajeta Shortbreads

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(Don’t want to make these? You can buy them here!) 

After at least three weeks of cooking Mexico, there’s more than these ten dishes to enjoy, so hit up the Mexico or Central America tag on the sidebar for more ideas!

Side note:  The book I finished, The Sweet Paris Life in Paris by David Leibowitz, was super foodie nerdy, and hilarious, and left me wanting to make and eat all things French and chocolate. Bastille Day’s coming up later this summer, so I’ll be able to scratch this itch, and you all will benefit from the insanity.

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Sticky Fingers: Brazilian Pipoca

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For all of my food weaknesses, snack foods aren’t really among them.  I’m not saying I stick to three square meals, but I’m not someone who mindless snacks while watching TV or putzing on the internet. If someone else buys the snack foods, sure…it’ll take superman to keep me away from a bag of Doritos, but as far as what you’ll find in my cupboards, I think you’d be sorely disappointed.

Despite the snack aversion in my real life, I have no problem making them for my blog life, so today we have Pipoca, a Brazilian caramel popcorn.  I’ve been slightly stalkerish my attempt to look non-chalent while grabbing handfuls of samples of caramel popcorn from Whole Foods when shopping, so perhaps it was time that I make my own to get it out of my system.

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A popular snack in Brazil, popcorn isn’t limited to movie theatres alone. After eating this, I can see why that’s the case.  The idea of popcorn was introduced by the Portuguese, but the Brazilians did a pretty good job of making it their own. They even do fun things with food coloring making it all pretty.  Gold star.

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Frozen Fun: Chocolate Coconut Brazil Nut Ice Cream

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It’s been a while since I made a dessert, ya know? Almost a month!  I’m high five-ing myself for exceptional self-control. However, all streaks are at some point broken, so today, a little twist on somewhat classic Brazilian dessert. Much in the same manner that I twisted that famous Marshall Islands macadamia nut tart into some fantabulisticulous coconut macadamia nut brittle ice cream (swoon. MUST MAKE AGAIN SOON), so do I twist this Brazil Nut cake into some ice cream.

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Seems like I’ve been making too much cake lately (is that possible? Mmm.  No.) and not enough ice cream (is there every enough ice cream? Mmm. No.).  But anyway, cake into ice cream. NO CHURN. Too easy. Too, too easy.

There are a bunch of recipes out there for no churn, but the most popular seems to be a base of merely three ingredients:  sweetened condensed milk (heaven), whipped cream (heaven) and vanilla (heaven).  So, already heaven in my mouth. Add in whatever mix-ins you want and you have ice cream in just a few hours rather than more than a day as you wait for your churn canister to freeze. I like this.

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Deep Thoughts: NEPAL

I had delicious things planned for today’s post, but given the recent earthquake in Nepal, I wanted to share some deep thoughts instead.  I wasn’t going to, but I can’t stop thinking about it, and I thought maybe writing about it would help.  Often times we see so many natural disasters, both at home and in lands far away that in some ways, we become immune. I’m guilty of it, we all are, but once in a while these disasters hit a little closer to home, sometimes closer than ones that happen in my own, tornado-alley backyard.

Such was this. I was there. One year ago- last May- RIGHT THERE. I woke up yesterday morning to the news and went about my day without digging deeper, but I couldn’t shake it from my mind. That’s sort of what happens when disaster strikes that part of the world. News comes through about plane crashes in Lukla, the little town at the base of the Himalayas where all Base Camp Treks start, and I feel a little pang inside.  I was there. I flew in that plane. I trekked those mountains.  Pang.

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I went antiquing with Tomato, my trekking partner for both Everest and Annapurna, and she mentioned how she tried to contact one of our guides from last year to see if he was okay and, by the time we got home, she had received a Facebook alert saying that he was (did you know Facebook had alerts like that? Pretty cool).  I signed onto Facebook to see a post from a family member looking for a loved one who had just set out to hike the Annapurna circuit, and if anyone had any news, to please contact her.  Pang. Annapurna circuit. That was me, last year.  That could have been us, last year.  Pang.

My day went on and soon enough I found myself with some couch time, so I started clicking links to images and stories from Kathmandu. Before I had made it through the first page, I was crying.  Tears streaming down my face of the buildings, the people, the structures thousands of years old now merely a pile of rocks. 

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I’ve been lucky enough to have been to Nepal twice in the past five years but each time after I left, I never really felt that strong a connection to it, not like I have for other places I’ve visited anyway (despite the fact that I’m pretty sure that someone on my dad’s family tree hails from that area- Kathmandu was teeming with his look-alikes, I swear). It was just another place, just another trip, another adventure, when in reality, that’s never been the case at all. They were the two trips that, it turns out, have touched me the most and the ones that, though not freshest in my mind, stand out. They weren’t the most glamorous, and after least year, definitely not the most fun, but they taught me the most about myself and the world at large.  Nepal is the country that opened my eyes.  I guess that’s bound to happen when standing at the top of the world.

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I guess deep down somewhere I always knew that they were more.  It’s not often that I return to a destination (save London or Paris or Munich), but something about that country, those people, those mountains drew me back.  The people that I met there along the way, whether or not I know their name, or whether or not they remember me, they are part of me, I guess the way that any travel or strangers do become.  I guess it just took a horrific disaster to help me realize that. 

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So, my PSA for today, if you can donate to the aid efforts over there, please do so. A little goes along way, and the Intrepid Foundation will match dollar for dollar.  And knowing everyone I’ve met there, I know you wouldn’t find a more appreciative bunch of people.

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The Bomb: La Bomba Rice Copycat

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It’s wedding season! While most dread wedding season, I love it.  I LOVE weddings. I love being in them, I love dressing up for them, I love all the hoopla that comes before and watching my friends start what I hope to be a happily ever after. You all know I’m a hopeless romantic.

Anyone in their 20s and 30s know it’s a thing. I had my first experience six years ago when Apple Crisp got married and for a while it was 2, 3…4 weddings a year. Lately…a stall. Last year I didn’t have any summer weddings. It was weird.   And sad.

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