Not much has happened in the past week, so I thought I would write a different kind of post. If you know me at all, you know I love to cook especially bake. Now that I am home with Mikayla full time I find that I have much more time to experiment and try new recipes in the kitchen. We can get almost any ingredient that we need at the grocery store, but we end up having to make a lot of familiar items and pre-prepared items from scratch. And those ingredients we can’t find, we have substituted – Ben found a fabulous ingredient substitution list online that we use often. Here is a short run down of some of the items that we are used to buying already prepared from the store, that we have to make from scratch here in Swaziland.
Ranch dip – I love me some Hidden Valley Ranch dip mix. Tasty and simple. The other day we found some sour cream at the grocery so I gave my own ranch dip a try. I combined a couple of recipes I found and came up with a pretty fantastic dip. Comparable, if not better than Hidden Valley! I used salt, black pepper, parsley, thyme, garlic powder, and onion powder and mixed them in with the sour cream. I didn’t take exact measurements so the next time might not be as good, but Mikayla ate it up with some carrot sticks.
Dressing – While you can buy dressing here, we have opted to make our own. Mostly we make a vinaigrette from olive oil and balsamic vinegar mixed with some herbs and spices. I would like to try making ranch dressing if I ever find a good recipe.
Whipped cream – Last weekend I made crepes to go along with my mango pepper marmalade. We had some heavy cream in the fridge so we thought we would try to make some whipped cream. The first time was a complete failure. We whipped it for too long and ended up with sweet butter. Our second go round was much more successful and better than anything you can buy that is already made.
Ice cream – In Swaziland you can’t find traditional ice cream, only "frozen dairy product". It is a frozen treat, but far from ice cream we are used to. Plus with the closest grocery almost an hour away, it would melt (unless we took a cooler with us) before we got home. Ben’s parents got us a battery operated ice cream maker for Christmas and we are loving it! The first time we made it, we didn’t have the correct ingredients, but figured we could substitute some stuff. Boy were we wrong. It tasted more like snow cream than ice cream –not bad, but not what we were expecting! The second attempt we found the correct ingredients and we made a vanilla and a mango ice cream. It turned out perfect, creamy and delicious! So glad we have the ice cream maker.
Pancake mix – In the states I always relied on Bisquick for my pancake making. Just add an egg and some milk and you are good to go. However, Bisquick is non-existent here in Swaziland, so we had to start from scratch. After a couple of tweaks, we have found a recipe we love and it is easily adaptable. We can make a plain pancake or switch it up and make some flavored ones. We have made some pumpkin pancakes using our butternut squash puree and some spices (cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg), and apple pancakes (just add in a little homemade applesauce and chopped apples) just to name a couple.
Bagels – This has been one of my favorite discoveries. So easy and absolutely delicious. Also very easy to adapt and change the flavor based on what you are craving. So far we have made five different batches and plan on making more!
Angel food cake – Sister Barbara approached me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I had ever made an angel food cake before. My answer was no, but that I would be willing to try. I am so glad I did, because it was tasty (and I don’t even like angel food cake) and probably a lot healthier than the store bought version. I also made two tasty glazes to go along with it – chocolate and vanilla.
Cakes – Pretty much any cake you would find in a box, you have to make from scratch here. We did find Funfetti cake mix in South Africa but it was super expensive. I have made several cakes from scratch since arriving and all have been better than any store bought version. In addition to angel food cake, I have made chocolate cake, carrot cake, apple cake and yellow cake.
Bread products – So far we have only been able to find loaf bread, which means all other bread products have to be prepared from scratch. We have enjoyed making the following "breads" since our arrival six months ago: breadsticks, focaccia, pizza crust and dinner rolls.
Tortillas – One week we discovered black beans and tortilla chips at the grocery so we decided to have a Mexican meal. We needed some tortilla shells to go with it so we made some from scratch. Seriously, they were so easy! We have made both corn and flour tortillas on several occasions.
Hummus – I posted about our hummus experience a few weeks back, but worth mentioning again. Super easy to make and modify to your flavor profile. It will be even easier if we ever get a food processor! A great accessory to our flour tortillas too!
Guacamole – In the states we typically made our own guacamole, but on a couple of occasions we would buy the version that was already made. Here on the other hand, you don’t have a choice…you have to make it on your own if you want it at all!
Fudge pops – An easy and tasty frozen treat. Mikayla in particular is a fan of these!
Apple sauce – Made Grandma Clark style by simmering apples and a little cinnamon! We almost always have some on hand in the fridge.
Black beans – I love black beans, but am ashamed to say that until I arrived in Africa I had only ever made the "canned" version. Homemade are SO much better! And it makes a ton so you can have other things besides just black beans and rice. Some things that we have tried are black beans and scrambled eggs, a black bean and sausage mixture, Azteca Black beans (black beans mixed with couscous, corn, jalapeno, cilantro, onions and some spices), and black bean burgers.
Brownies – I love a good brownie and have tried a couple recipes. So far I haven’t found a go to brownie recipe. Any suggestions?
Mac and cheese – Of course we don’t have access to the famous Velveeta cheese that I love, so we have to make our own Mac and cheese from scratch. The other day I made a tasty mac and cheese casserole using cheddar and parmesan cheeses.
Pumpkin pie – At Thanksgiving we wanted pumpkin pie so we made one from scratch. We used pureed butternut squash for the pumpkin and made the crust ourselves. It was delicious and tasted just like the real thing!
Cinnamon rolls – I almost didn’t mention these because we made them from scratch in the states, but thought they were worth mentioning. Well worth the time commitment to make.
Spaghetti sauce – In KY we would often make our own sauce in the summer months, but in the winter it was Prego or some other variety of jarred sauce that found its way to our tables. Now, if we want spaghetti we find ourselves making it from scratch. Ben is an expert at making spaghetti sauce.
Alfredo sauce – Tried this out for the first time the other day. With a few more tries and a little tweaking I think we will have a delicious sauce. A little heavy cream, parmesan cheese, butter and spices you have a delicious and quick alfredo sauce.
BBQ sauce – We have made several variations on a BBQ sauce in the last few months. They have all been a little on the liquid side, but still yummy when cooked with some chicken.
Marinades – Pretty much any marinade you would use for grilled meats we have made. It has been fun to experiment with different flavors and see how they turn out. Ben is the expert marinade maker in our house.