A Spooky Boo Beverage for Halloween

With Halloween just days away, I couldn’t wait to try out a whole host of ghoulish dishes and drinks.

Therefore, we’re celebrating Halloween in the only way we know how with a mountain of sugar, chocolate, candy, and icing. Instead of going door-to-door, we’re going back and forth from store to store. That’s just what savvy adults do. The main goal in mind? To have fun like its 1999 again :-)

We selected a simple yet spooky drink: Boo Beverage. We scaled down the recipe so it would serve 2-3 by adding 3/4 cup orange juice and milk, 1 ripe banana, and 2 cups of Orange Sherbet to a blender.

That was it. We blended it for a moment before pouring it into our glasses. That’s when the real fun started. We added whip cream to a plastic bag and cut off one end so that we could attempt to pipe out the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man onto the top of our drinks…which we did while giggling like it was 1990. We then added in drops of strawberry syrup to give our ghouls creepy red eyes.

It turned out beautifully and it was so much fun! And the drink? So good. It tasted like a cross between an Orange Julius and a Smoothie…who could ask for more?!

*Extra grisly details:

Make sure your whip cream is thawed. We had to hold our plastic bag filled with frozen whip cream over a hot faucet to get it to melt which made the ghosts a touch harder to pipe. Although, it did make the ghost shape outline easier to make since the whip cream was a touch thicker.

When you do pipe out the ghosts, we found out that making the outline of a stick figure and then filling it in (left ghost cup in the picture) turned out better than trying to make out a ghoulish outline first (right ghost in the picture)…but using different techniques made for more unique ghouls.

For the eyes, we used strawberry syrup which we had on hand. We poured out a small batch of syrup into a bowel and used a dipped spoon to drip the syrup onto the ghosts. It turned out but the recipe traditionally calls for miniature chocolate chips for the eyes which I think would have worked out better for a more consistent look.

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How to Make Engagement Chicken!

When I stumbled across this recipe, How to Make Engagement Chicken from Glamour magazine a year ago, I immediately became enamored. Engagement chicken? It sounded like one of those ultimate “wife tools” you should know about like how to tie a tie, how to make amazing chocolate chip cookies, and how to roast a chicken while juggling your three perfect children and not smearing your $40 mascara. Those kinds of things…

Sure, I had snagged my hubby long ago, without an engagement chicken, but I did lure him in with, “Marry Me Sweet Treats.” For my lunch break as a senior in high school, I would come home and bake brownies, cookies, and muffins to bring back with me wrapped in tin foil and a love note!

And it totally worked….we eloped after dating for just nine months and in two weeks, we’ll be having our 7th wedding anniversary.

Thus, magical dishes and recipes do exist. You should take this recipe very seriously. God speed my single friends. God speed.

As for me? Maybe I’m hoping my hubby will get down on one knee again and profess that we should reaffirm our vows to one another. Oh wait, we already did that. Did I mention that I love weddings?? Maybe 3 times is a charm?

Actually, we’re making this meal at my in-laws house and for my in-laws! So I’m really hoping this magical recipe will make them start to profess their undying love for me as their daughter-in-law. Here’s a wife who really knows how to cook and feed their son. She’s a keeper, right? Right.

And maybe they’ll forget that whole, “I ran off with your first born,” thing.  :-)

Since we’ve been visiting, we didn’t tell them a thing. They left early in the day to run errands and we thought it’d be a perfect treat to surprise them with a roasted lemon chicken for dinner.

Despite the fact that we have never cooked a whole chicken before, it didn’t bother us too much. The recipe looked very simple.

We purchased a 5 1/2 lb chicken at the store, basil for garnish, and 2 whole lemons. Once home, we rinsed the chicken after removing the giblets.

At which point my husband noted we should just throw them away since we’re not making gravy. At which point I stared at him blankly and reaffimed that we would never add it to gravy. Not today, not tomorrow.

I do not like chopped liver gravy. I would not eat it in this house, I would not eat it in our house. I will never eat chopped liver gravy here or there, I do not like it anywhere!

Like I said, we removed the giblets without issue and let the chicken sit in a collander for two minutes while it drained. We then patted the chicken dry and placed it breast down in an open oven bag in a pan. We poured salt and pepper liberally all over the chicken inside and out as well as poured 1/2 cup of lemon juice on it inside and out. We then beat two lemons to death with a fork and stuffed the chicken with it.

Basically once we were done thoroughly molesting the dead chicken carcass, it was ready to be cooked!

We rolled back our oven bag so it could cook uncovered before putting it into the over at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. We then pulled it back out of the oven, flipped the bird, pierced its thigh with a meat thermometer, and closed up the oven bag before letting it burn for an 1 hour and 1/2.

Mission Accomblished.

I couldn’t wait for my husband’s parents to come home for dinner.

And guess what? It came out beautifully. We were supposed to let it sit for 10 minutes but we were starving after having to smell it the whole time so we dug in right away.

It tasted wonderful! Truly satisfying. I couldn’t believe it. It was juicy and moist and full of flavor. The prep was overall very easy too.

Oh yeah and what did my in-laws think? Well as luck would have it they never came back because they went out to dinner instead. Drat. It looks like I’ll just have to start feeding them my Marry Me Sweets….

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Homemade Pumpkin Spice Latte + Travel Update

Thankfully since this is a blog…you technically can’t tell that the leaves have blossomed into a beautiful green, as the months have passed since my last post, they’re changing into yellow and red.

But the cats out of the bag and I have a confession to make:

My name is 26 Countries and 1 Kitchen and it’s been exactly 5 months since my last article. I shall drink 12 lattes as a form of punishment…

Like any traveler who’s caught up in the moment, we got stuck in China and never left… so we’ve decided to come back State side for a couple days of reflection.

We’ll be sitting back and chanting motivational hymns such as, “I must not use a blog like a forgotten New Years Eve Resolution.”

In the meantime, we’ll be visiting a couple of our favorite American dishes before heading back to China to take on the culinary challenges there.

Now that we’re home, we have to start with what I’ve been pining for since April: A delectable Pumpkin Spiced Latte. The true mark of fall for any working woman who’s more obsessed about this one little drink than a zombie is about brains.

Typically, I swing by Starbucks in the early morning hours and pick up my latte. But I wanted to know how on earth I could make one at home. Granted, I’m choosing to toy with a sacred Starbucks drink that I’m convinced magical elves make.

But I decided, what the heck? Why couldn’t I make it? I came across an easy and gorgeous recipe by the website Daily Nibbles: Pumpkin Spiced Latte recipe.

All it called for was milk, sugar, vanilla extract, pumpkin pie spice, canned pumpkin, and espresso. Easy, right?

So I fought the urge to swing by Starbucks and headed to the store instead. I immediately found the Pumpkin Pie Spice and the only other ingredient I needed was the canned pumpkin which was nowhere in sight. All I could locate was a can of Easy Pumpkin Pie Mix.

I eyed the can of pumpkin pie mix wearily. Since my head was starting to groan for espresso, I considered ditching the recipe. Maybe we should just make pumpkin pie? After all, the signs are all pointing to pie, right? Who needs another sign to make pie?

But after checking the ingredients, my hubby noted that it was just canned pumpkin plus sugar and spices. We decided to give it a shot.

The last thing on the list that was hard to come by was the espresso. Which in all honesty was a potential point of contention to my master plan. We don’t have an espresso machine and I didn’t have the urge to make espresso yet….so we decided to swing by Starbucks anyway.

But if this recipe works, I’m saving a good $3 a day by swapping my latte for a shot of espresso to go! So it’s not really cheating, right? Right.

Once home, I was all pumped and ready to go. I grabbed up a small pot and added 1 cup of milk, 2 teaspoons of sugar, and 1 tablespoon of our pie mix. We turned the pot up to medium high and stirred it with a whisk until it started to steam. Then, we removed it from the heat and added 1 teaspoon of Vanilla Extract.

Then…we were supposed to add 1/4 teaspoon of Pumpkin Pie Spice but my husband reasoned that due to the fact that the mix was already seasoned with spices, we should skip this step.

I….agreed on principle. But who doesn’t love more pumpkin spice?? What’s wrong with more? After all, he hates coffee. I was the one who had to drink it….so like an experienced, well seasoned wife I added the spices before he could object.

We then whisked it a bit before adding it to a blender and pulsed it for 15 seconds. It came out looking deliciously frothy and I dumped in 1/4 shot of espresso to my latte. I topped it off with more Pumpkin Pie Spice and began foaming at my mouth.

I took my first sip and….did my impression of “Bahumbag!” It was so disgusting I couldn’t take another sip. It was cold and full of spice….way to much spice. Who would have thought that? Weird. Just strange.

I shouldn’t have added so many spices. But all I wanted was a homemade latte. I began to get upset and I still hadn’t had any coffee for the day. So my husband, who hates coffee to his core, took a sip and said, “It’s not that bad.”

He’s a total sweetheart but it really was too awful to drink. Thankfully sensing a possible flop, I had ordered a double shot of espresso. I had a least a shot left.

So we decided to try it all again. This time, we halved the recipe by adding in only 1/2 cup of milk, 1/2 tablespoon of pumpkin mix, and we doubled the sugar. Once it started to steam, we added 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and no spices. We pulsed it and heated up the espresso before pouring it all into a mug. I topped it off with an extra teaspoon of sugar for good measure and a tiny amount of spice on top.

This time, we nailed it. It tasted just like a hot Pumpkin Spiced Latte from Starbucks. Mission Accomplished.

Although, I have to say it felt odd knowing I was drinking a beverage with actual pumpkin in it, kind of like the first time you realize yams don’t traditionally come in cans…

But all and all it was damn good.

*FYI: I spoke with my sister who worked at a coffee shop. Apparently, espresso shots have a time limit on them. They can start to lose their flavor and age in just a matter of ten seconds if they are left to sit. In order to prevent this, you need to add a dash of milk or cream to it if you can’t add it to your drink right away. Who knew?!

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Contemplation, Champagne, and Rice Krispies Treats

Few things survive childhood. Mostly, clothes that no longer fit. But there is always a little treat you can give yourself when you really deserve a break.

For some it’s their grandma’s chocolate chip cookies.

For me, it’s Rice Krispie treats. The childhood Tootise roll. Everything is buried deep within the layers of marshmellow, crispy buttery goodness.

And making them as an adult really puts things into perspective. I can drink champagne with my treat instead of Kool-aid.

This past week, I’ve been buried under a pile of work, bills, and we’ve been contemplating our current job situation which has taken a toll…like most Americans.

We’ll still be cooking away but more slowly in addition to polishing off the ole resume. That means we’ll be staying longer than we expected in our designated country and posting once a week a new recipe from our current country.

Next week, we’ll have up our 1st China recipe post. I leave you with your thoughts, your champagne, and one killer Rice Krispie recipe that would make your grandma’s cookies look downright pitiful.

This in fact is more like the first version of Rice Krispie treats. It had more butter and less Crispy. The result? They stay soft for days. Instead of two seconds…like the Harry Potter Rice Rock Cakes made today.

If you feel like taking a trip down memory lane and floating up to heaven, get baking:

1/4 cup of butter (real if u can find it. There’s more I can’t believe it’s not butter than butter at the store these days)

40 Marshmellows

5 cups of Rice Krispies

1 CRUCIAL Tablespoon of Vanilla Extract

Melt the butter in a pot on med-low temp stove. Add in marshmellows. Melt. Remove from heat. Add vanilla Extract and then Rice Krispies. Grease a pan, lay down the crispy goodness using a spoon to smooth it all out, and add an air tight lid.

Enjoy your day.

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China: A World Full of Vast Cuisine

Chinese food. There isn’t a more varied cuisine available. In addition to our many western copies, China has several different styles of cooking depending on where you are geographically…and how rich you are. I’d like to think we’re the traveling Beckhams who are attempting to appear humble by not breaking the bank to cook these recipes.

Common ingredients also vary but rice and noodles are staples. China was also “one of the first countries to cultivate and drink tea.” In fact, the word tea trickled down from China itself. We’ll be trying to grab Chinese Tea at the store or green tea as well as Saké!

We’re trying our best to cook traditional chinese recipes which can be tricky as websites are often tricky. What one person sees as authentic the other does not at all.

Here’s what we found:

A healthy, authentic Chinese cuisine website. We figure our arteries need a break after Mongolia.

Chicken and Sweet Corn Soup – Tuesday Night Dinner 4/12

Bang, Bang Chicken – Thursday Night Dinner 4/14

Beef Lo Mein- Tuesday Night Dinner 4/19

Char siu Barbecued Roast Pork- Thursday Night Dinner 4/21

That’s how we’re gonna roll around China….unless you have any suggestions!

We wish you Good Luck in Chinese cuisine: 好运!

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Boortsog- Mongolia’s Only Cookie

Boortsog. The supposed hidden “gem” of Mongolian cuisine. After the salty milk tea, we had severe doubts…which is why we put off making it until last night at 11:00. It was late and I’d been working away at the computer. As they say, “Writers write! Always!….and at all hours if they ever want to see a paycheck. In the middle of losing motivation and comprehension, I realized we still needed to do laundry and we hadn’t cooked our first and last Mongolian dish. Suddenly, it seemed so urgent to finish these two tasks before Monday officially began.

We began by being baffled by the measurements. The recipe called for 1/5 kg flour, 250 g sugar, 500 g butter, and 950 ml of water. That rounds out to be roughly 11 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 2 cups of butter (my heart is already racing), and 4 cups of water.

Sure. If we we’re cooking for a Mongolian army or the entire village, I could see that.

Since we didn’t plan of handing out free ratios of Mongolian Cookies on the street, we trimmed it down to 4 cups of flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 2/3 water and had a disagreement on the butter content.

2/3 cup of butter is more than slightly sickening to look. After all, we’re also deep frying them. I pleaded my case to my hubby who promptly turned his back and argued his case that we should follow the recipe and butter is not that bad….all while he stuffed full a 2/3 cup of butter.

That’s when I let out a small pity shriek as I looked down at the horror of 2/3 cup full of butter. After all, Mongols need beef on them to keep warm in the winter.

I am not a Mongolian. No thank you, Mr. Butter. My ass is just fine without your added warm luxury.

Upon seeing my through my insistence, we compromised on 1/3 cup of butter.

We boiled water in our super powerful microwave, added the butter, and mixed in the sugar. I wouldn’t have added salt if you paid me forgot to add a pinch of salt.

We then added 4 cups of flour. The dough sucked it up instantly and begged for more. As we kneaded the dough, we added at least a cup or two more just to keep it from sticking to our hands. This dough’s thirst for flour was insatiable.

I should say my hubby did all most of the kneading. After all, the recipe stated, “The kneading process is vital for boortsog and may require the strength and energy of a male or strong woman because the dough must be kneaded until absolutely no air remains in it.”

And he wanted to follow the recipe after all….the next recipe that calls for a “petite scrawny armed female with pizazz” I will step right up to the plate.

The recipe also demanded we knead the dough and let it rise 3 times…which seemed excessive. We did knead it and let it sit for 10 minutes at a time while we did laundry and heated up our little deep fryer.

The deep fryer is one of the only kitchen appliances we have in order to cook a customized top-secret wonton recipe my sisters and I made while in High School. They are heavenly and incredibly divine. I’d tell you all about it….but then I’d have to terminate you…and I don’t have time for that.

Starting to let sleep drift into us, we hurried the dough by beating it to death and then rolled it out. Boortsog is traditionally cut into small triangles. We used the top of a measuring cup as a cookie cutter and made ours into biscuit size to save on time. We do not have cookie cutters either or the storage capabilities. We’re waging a space-saving war on our tiny kitchen at all times.

Then, we cut air vents into each piece and threw them into our fryer 2 at a time.While it fried, the kitchen smelled exactly like Club crackers. Buttery dough filled the air. We couldn’t wait to try it. After throwing a few boiling hot pieces into the freezer, we spackled grape jelly on to one and took our first bite.

We were very surprised that it wasn’t awful. That in it of itself makes us feel as if it was a success. However, they weren’t good exactly either. The dough was very dense and tasteless despite the added sugar. As my hubby informed me as he grabbed a few for breakfast, “they hit his stomach like bricks.”

There you have it. A successful nearly edible yet failed dish. I think that’s as good as it gets for Mongolia and we’re very happy to be headed to China next.

You can find the recipe here…if you still want to.

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Suutei Tsai- Milk Tea

You’d think we’d be safe when we picked milk tea. Despite Mongolia being known for it’s less than appetizing dishes, we thought milk tea would be more than a safe pick. After all, it’s just practically milk and tea.

We should have been tipped off by the fact that there were no measurments on our recipe. Once we looked up a new one, we boiled 1 part water in a pot. Simple right? It also asked for salt. We added a dash or two of it. Once the water became boiling, we added a tea bag of green tea. Sure we could have ripped open the tea leaves and strained it later…but we were pretending to be the Mongolian snobs who have their tea leaves diced and ready in its own tea bag. If we’re going to visit a country, we might as well do it upscale.

After we let the tea steep, we added very slowly 1 part of milk into the mix and returned it to boiling. Then, we quickly removed it from the heat. Done.

We excitedly poured our drinks and took our first sip. It was….It was…..

DISGUSTING

Horrible. Salty. Extremely salty. Something I wouldn’t give my posh Yak to drink either.

Even after adding 3 tablespoons of sugar, it still tasted awful. My hubby’s face contorted and his eyes bulged when he took his first sip…but he followed through and drank his glass whole.

I pushed mine away. That’s what Mongolian snobs do.

If I ever make this again, I won’t add any salt. I’ll add in sugar and french vanilla creamer…and make the damn thing into a tasty chai.

You can find the recipe here, but we urge you not to.

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