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Panamanian food is filled with Caribbean and Latin American influences and it's delicious. The National Dish is Sancocho; a chicken and root vegetable soup. Very hearty and yet filled with fresh subtle flavors. We also enjoyed empanadas and cocadas.

Chicken soup with yucca and a variety of other root vegetables seasoned with garlic and cilantro. You serve the soup on a bed of white rice.

Latin American version of a macaroon cookie. Instead of egg and egg whites it's cornstarch and condensed milk that binds the shredded coconut.

A's Rating: 6.5 "It's chicken soup, but it's not particularly outstanding."
Guest Rating: 7
M's Rating: 8. It's chicken and rice. How can a 5 year old not like it?
H's Rating: 8. I liked the subtly of the flavors. It's very simple ingredients and not many spices.

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Samoa is a little island in the Pacific Ocean about 3,200 kilometers north of New Zealand. Lonely Planet calls it the place where "emerald shores meet azure waters." Sounds pretty much like every other island in the Pacific.
We chose to make Masi Samoa which are coconut cookies. Please do not confuse these with the Girl Scout "Samoa" cookie. They are not the same thing. At all. 
The best part of this recipe is the way your house smells while the cookies are baking. The 4 year old walked into the kitchen just as the cookies were finishing up in the oven and proclaimed, "Hmmmm ça sent très bon!!" (It smells very good!). 
Apparently these cookies come in neatly piled stacks tied with ribbon on the streets of Samoa. Whenever we make our way there I will gladly pick them up and devour them as fast as possible.  They're a cross between a shortbread cookie and a scone. Although delicious as they were, we found that slathering them with nutella was a great add…


My best friend has been perfecting donut recipes this summer so it seemed appropriate to make Tanzanian Mandazi. Mandazi are donuts traditionally eaten for breakfast and are spicier and less sweet than their American counterpart. We enjoyed them with coconut vanilla ice cream and fresh strawberries. 
Although I wouldn't necessarily repeat the recipe for my personal use, they were fun and I would welcome finding them on the streets of Tanzania when we make our way there one day. 
I found the recipe slightly unusual in that coconut milk was added to the warm water and sugar prior to adding the yeast. I felt that this meant that the yeast did not fully develop before kneading, resulting in a very dense donut. 
This is the recipe I followed. 
A's rating: 3  H's rating: 5


What's better than pineapple rum mojitos and slow cooked red meat? Not much.

Ropa Vieja is the national dish of Cuba and we had it with friends. I must confess that I cheated and used the crockpot. Don't judge. It was easy and made the house smell delicious. Double win. The dish is the Cuban version of a beef stew with lots of fun things like green olives, capers and peppers. I've already made this dish twice, it's that good. Serve it on buttered noodles, or rice or polenta or some other starch and you're done.

I loosely followed a couple of different recipes this one and this one.

A's Rating: 7
M's Rating: 7
H's Rating: 8

We have made this recipe a total of 4 times. It is that good. And, if you're lazy like me and use the crockpot it's ridiculously easy for a midweek meal.


Another Caribbean country finished!

Jamaica was fun, bright, and delicious. Jerk chicken, rice and peas, rum punch and a pineapple cake. We broke with tradition and made the rice and peas even though it wasn't Sunday. Great recipes if not a tad heavy on the carbs.

As an aperitif we had some plantain chips and coconut soda.

Wonderful way to spend a Thursday evening.

Rice and Peas

1 can red kidney beans
1 can coconut milk
1 tbsp fresh thyme
4 green onions, chopped
2 cups of rice (rinsed well)
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Drain the kidney beans over a measuring cup that holds 4 cups. Add the coconut milk and then add enough water to make 4 cups of liquid.

In a large pot, add the liquid mixture, garlic, thyme, onions, kidney beans, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and taste the liquid for saltiness. Next add the rice and boil or 2 minutes. Reduce the heat and simmer covered for 15 - 20 minutes. Fluff with fork and serve warm.

Jerk Seasoning
1/2 pimen…


Interestingly enough, especially in the midst of Chinese New Year, we hit China on our journey around the world.

I decided to tackle Chinese dumplings (known as jiaozi) since they're a traditional New Year dish. Happy Year of the Monkey!

About a year ago, we were invited to dinner at our neighbors' house. They are a wonderful couple from Shanghai. They taught us the art of dumpling making. It was delightful if not time consuming. For our country night, I decided to brush out my notes from that dinner and the results were delicious.

I used pre-made dumpling wrappers so I guess that's cheating. Oh well.

Pork Dumplings

1 and a half packages of dumpling wrappers
1 cup ground pork
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp rice wine
3 tbsp sesame oil
3 green onions chopped
1 1/2 cups of shredded napa cabbage
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves minced


Mix all the ingredients for the filling.

Place 1.5 tsp of filling in each wrapper. Using a touch of water, seal the wrap…

Puerto Rico

How about a little Caribbean flair? We ran through Puerto Rico with street food and a hearty rice dish. The recipes required that I run around the neighborhood looking for seasonings and spice packets that were completely foreign to me. I tried the huge Mexican supermarket chain store, Cardenas. I had mixed success there. Turns out my unassuming Vons store had everything and more.

We headed over to our friends' house (who graciously provided the grill) and enjoyed:

Arroz Con Gradules
Bolitas de Queso

Also, did you know that Puerto Rico is home to the first pina colada? You're welcome.

The rice was very salty though no actual salt is in the recipe....
However, I loved the idea that you throw dried herbs, and sliced olives into the pot before the rice.
The pinchos are the Puerto Rican version of chicken kebabs. Delicious.
The bolitas de queso were heavenly. Fried cheese balls.

A's Rating: 7 out of 10
H's Rating: 7.5 out of 10
M's Rating: 8 (I think she devour…