Thursday, August 30, 2012


a country in mourning and reinventing the sweet potato souffle

If you pay attention to international news, it might have come to your attention that the Prime Minister of Ethiopia passed away last week.  You might be asking yourself, "What's the connection with sweet potato souffle?"  I'll explain.

Last week when we heard that Meles Zenawi had passed away, I immediately made a few small preparations for an emergency evacuation in case the political environment became hostile in Addis Ababa.  One such preparation was to defrost the ham I was saving and cook it.  If we had to leave suddenly, it would have upset me to leave that honey glazed ham behind uneaten.  The meal needed sides.  Are you following my train of thought?  Prime Minister passes away. I panic and bake ham.  Ham needs to be accompanied with sweet potatoes smothered in brown sugar and buttery oats.  This is how my warped mind jumped from one completely unrelated, yet devastating event to this recipe.  It's the musings of a crazy cook, I admit it.

Thankfully, there is no reason to evacuate.  Ethiopia is a very sad mournful place right now but things are stable.  It's taught me a little lesson about how short life is and how we can't be certain how long we will have in this country we have come to love so much.  One shouldn't save ham.  It's all very philosophical.

There are no yams in Ethiopia.  Sweet potatoes are the purple skinned white flesh variety.  They taste wonderful but don't have that nice orange color.  I have a friend here who made a sweet potato dish and added food coloring to the sweet potatoes to make them pinkish.
I made a key discovery during my panicked-ham preparations.  Turning the dish into a sweet potato with carrot souffle provides the color, flavor and more vegetable healthy goodness than a traditional sweet potato concoction.  I'm not sure I'll go back to the only sweet potato version, even if do I have access to yams some day.

The best part: my kids never knew the difference!

Sweet Potato and Carrot Souffle
3 large sweet potatoes
3 medium carrots
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
1/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
large pinch of salt

Boil the sweet potatoes and carrots in water until soft for mashing.  Transfer the vegetables to a food processor and add 1/2 cup of the cooking water.  Blend until smooth.  Add milk, eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt.  Blend until smooth and combined.  Pour the mixture in a oven safe baking dish.

Souffle topping
1 cup oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/8 cup butter melted
pinch of salt (if using unsalted butter)
1/2 cup walnuts chopped finely

Combine all the ingredients and sprinkle on top of the souffle.  Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Notes: I removed the butter from the sweet potato/carrot mixture because it just isn't necessary and I wanted to make a healthier version of my traditional sweet potato souffle.  I didn't miss the butter.  If you really need that buttery taste, I'd recommend 1/4 cup of melted butter at most.

The carrots provide the nice orange color and add sweetness to the souffle.  The texture is slightly different because the carrots aren't as starchy as the sweet potatoes but my husband only noticed after I told him I had added carrots and the girls didn't notice at all.  Score!
Ethiopia is honoring their late leader this week and weekend with candle light vigils and a burial on Sunday.  The streets are closed along with school on Friday and traffic is a mess.  The entire country is in mourning.  I've listened to enough sad instrumental music on the radio in the car to last me through a lifetime of funerals.  I hope the sadness passes soon.  I wish I could feed everyone ham...and souffle.  

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ashlynn's new bedroom

We did it!  We moved the nursery to the spare second floor bedroom. It was long overdue and just like usual, it was decided in a moment of exhausted desperation.  Ashlynn needed her own space and so did her Mom and Dad.

I'd been putting it off.  Mostly from laziness and with the hopes of keeping a private room for when we have guests stay.  I was concerned about our visitors being uncomfortable sleeping in the room adjoining the master bedroom.  In the end, my sleep was more important and Ashlynn's is getting too old.  She knew I was 30 feet away from her crib in the middle of the night and I hated to let her scream and wake up Justin.  It was often easier to go to her which just perpetuated the problem.

Monday I enlisted the help of Teklu and Zalalem to move the furniture and by that evening Ashlynn had her very own room. Justin and I could finally get ready for bed without tip toeing around our own bedroom.  Ashlynn is an incredibly light sleeper and every night she'd wake unnecessarily from us coming in to the room for bed or hearing the dog's nail clicking on the hard floor or a fly would fart and she'd wake up.  It was terrible.

The first night I couldn't sleep.  Our room was too quiet without the baby's white noise machine blurring the outdoor noise (dogs barking and hyenas whooping).  I got over it quickly. The last three nights have been blissful.  It's nice to have our grown-up space all to ourselves again (11 months is ridiculously long time to sleep with the baby next door).  Ashlynn is also sleeping more soundly.  It took just two days for her to become familiar with her new room.  In just three days, she's cut the wake-ups down to two.  Last night was just one middle of the night wake-up.  It's a huge improvement over the three to four wake-ups we were experiencing before the move.  So it was all worth it.

The good thing for our guests is that neither Justin or I snore...

minuscule walking shoes

It's that time again in our house.  We have a new walker.  Ashlynn's still making us wait in anticipation for her first real steps but she's walking with all her push toys and holding on to our hands.  Yesterday she moved from one piece of furniture to the other.  Her favorite thing is to play outside and walk with a little red car (this car has seen some play time!).  She needed proper shoes.
This is the last time I'll dig out these mini shoes for one of my daughters.  I'm not sure there is anything sweeter than a teeny tiny pair of Crocs!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

painted sugar cubes

Sometimes kid craft ideas hit me while I am at the grocery store.  Yesterday I happened upon a box of local sugar cubes for $1.50 and immediately had visions of them glued together as mini igloos for PlayMobil people.  Even better; painted and stacked as colorful sculptures.

Now that Adelaide is at school most of the day (7AM-4:30PM it's breaking my heart every time she comes home and is confused at why I am serving her dinner), Arabella and I have lots of one on one time.  She's great at playing by herself but I can tell she misses her big sister. I am trying help occupy her on the day she doesn't have preschool.  Bella's attention span for crafts is very small so I thought painting the sugar cubes might be a perfect easy craft for her.

Maybe you have a child that has a short attention span for art work too.  This might just be the thing for them.
Stuff you need"
Sugar cubes-the cheaper the better
watercolor set
paint brushes, bowl, towels
piece of cardboard (to paint and build on-paper works too but my kids tend to use too much water)
This is truly the simplest craft for kids.  They can do anything with the cubes.  It's important to remind them to use more paint than water when soaking the cubes.  We had a few cubes disintegrate when Bella soaked them with lots of water.
It was fun letting the paint drip onto the top of a cube and watching it slowly absorb into the sugar.  Bella had a lot of fun doing this for about 20 minutes.  Then she was off flitting about doing something else.  When Addie came home from school she sat and painted and stacked cubes for a better part of an hour.  I have the urge to sit and create a sugar cube rainbow.  Wouldn't that be pretty?  Once the cubes dry you could get out the glue and really start building.

expat in Addis fashion part 2: the scarf

If you are like scarves, Ethiopia is the place to be.  Actually, anywhere in the world, other than the US is year-round scarf wearing territory.  I know Americans are jumping on board the the light summer scarf and we've always been pretty good about the winter scarf for warmth but; in other places in the world a scarf is part of one's daily wardrobe and has been for centuries.  Justin and I went to a dinner party a few months ago with a wide variety of expats from around the world and we were the only two without scarves on.

Ethiopians don't wear hats during the cold weather and some don't wear coats.  Traditionally men and women wear gabis, or a large woven cotton piece (or two) of fabric that gets wrapped around the head, shoulders, arms and the torso for warmth.  It's most often white or cream with a colorful pattern at the bottom.  Men, women and children of all ages also wear a smaller version of a gabi as a head wrap that covers the head and then the ends are wrapped around the neck for warmth.  It's rare that I see Ethiopian women without some sort of scarf or wrap on, no matter what the temperature is outside.

This series of blog posts is about how I am adjusting my wardrobe to fit the styles and practicality of living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.  In the case of the scarf I am kind of lucky.  I have lots of scarves and wraps in my closet and since moving to Addis I am simply wearing them more.  I felt a little over dressed with a nice scarf on in the States (unless it was winter) or in SE Asia.  Here in Ethiopia scarfs are as natural as wearing a shirt so most days I have one on.  Scarves are for comfort and warmth as much as they are for style, especially during the rainy season.

Justin is getting on board the scarf train too.  When we first arrived we joked a bit about all the men at NGOs wearing scarves like hip Europeans.  Truly men who pull off a scarf are hip in my book.  The idea that a scarf would become an accessory for my khakis-and-a-polo-wearing husband was not something I saw coming.  But here we are, 8 months in Ethiopia and he wears them all the time.  Mostly when we travel for warmth and comfort.  I love it.

I'm getting much more use out of my scarves than I had in other locations and it's fun to play with how to wear, tie or drape them.  Most of the time I aimlesly wrap and tuck until there are no loose ends and my neck it warm.  I'm not the best person to ask about stylishly tying scarves but I personally prefer a messy looking scarf over a styled one.  So there you go.  Here are some of my favorites and a few ways I wear them.  

On the fashion side of things I tend to like patterned scarves unless it's one I wrap around my head.  I don't match my clothing to my scarf.  I tend to wear neutral basic things and then accesorize with a scarf.  A scarf immediately turns jeans and a t-shirt into an outfit.  I like that I can throw one on and look a little more put together.
I own one bright infinity scarf which I splurged on with a gift card from Athroplogie from my Mother in law. It's a gorgeous scarf.  It's a tad long though and it's hard to wear this out running errands because the long drape can get in the way.  I'm more worried about ruining this scarf than my others.
The small pink scarf is nice for warmer weather because it dresses up an outfit but doesn't provide much warmth. Justin picked this silk scarf up for me during his travels in Indonesia.  I used to tie it in my hair at the beach in the Philippines.
The other scarves photographed are all from a little shop in Manila.  They had a sale one day and I bought a few prior to our trip to New Zealand in 2010 because I was expecting it to be cold.  It was and I was grateful for the scarves then as I am now.  I didn't pay more than $5 for any one of them so I don't ever worry about traveling with them and getting them dirty.

The head drape scarf is still a little tough for me to pull off. I haven't actually worn this wrap around my head like this around town but lots of expat women do.  They wear them with a hat and sunglasses on too.  It's good to protect against the sun so I can see the need but so far I haven't dared wear all three accessories together yet.  The scarf around my neck with a hat is about as Africa chic as I have gone.

The head wrap style is very practical though because you can pull the top off your head when you get inside so the scarf is now only around your neck.

Do you wear scarves?  What's your favorite way to wear them?

Monday, August 27, 2012

mini orange butter cake

For whatever reason I HAD to make a tiny little cake yesterday.  I couldn't sleep last night until I used my tiny heart shaped mold and produced an adorable mini-cake.  I knew this meant I needed to make a full batch of cake batter for my miniature cake.  Lunch plans were made with a friend of mine for Tuesday and voila-I have another reason to serve cake.  Therefore the full batch could be put to good use.

I decided to make my mini cake and a loaf cake with the remaining batter for my lunch date.  Perfect right?  My Aunt Ruth gifted me an original copy of Grandma Rose's Book of Sinfully Delicious Cakes, Cookies, Pies, Cheese Cakes, Cake Rolls, and Pastries by Rose Naftalin.  Mrs. Naftalin is the Rose of the famous Rose's Deli in Portland, Oregon.  Last time we were in town we made a trip to Rose's in Northwest Portland only to find the deli closed!.  I was heart broken.  Rose's made the best Reuben sandwiches and desserts.  It makes my ownership of her cookbook even more special.  When we used to eat at Rose's I would scarf down an amazing sandwich as fast as I could to get to the best part of the meal.  Dessert!  But I didn't need to tell you that I like dessert.

Flipping through the amazing selection of cake recipes in Grandma Rose's cookbook I landed on a recipe for  an Orange Butter Cake with an orange frosting.  Have you ever made a citrus flavored cake?  You should try it.  I used to be a strictly vanilla or chocolate cake kind of gal but citrus confections are making their way to the top of my baking list these days.

I halved the recipe because it was straight forward and easy to do so.  It's not a difficult cake to make but it does include the step where you separate the eggs and beat the whites stiff and then fold in the whites.  It may take a bit longer but I have found that this technique makes for the most airy and delectable cakes.  If you haven't taken the extra time to make a cake with this set of instructions you should.  Having an extra mixing bowl for your mixer also makes it a lot easier so you don't have to move your butter mixture and wash out the bowl to beat your eggs.

Anyway, on to the recipe.

1/2 of Grandma Rose's Orange Butter Cake (this makes 1 loaf cake, and about 4 cupcakes.  Double the recipe for three nine inch cake pans)
1 cup unsalted butter softened
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs separated
1 tsp vanilla
2 teaspoons Grand Marnier orange liqueur (this is the amount the recipe calls for when doubled but I wanted a nice rich orange flavor.  If I doubled the recipe I'd use 4 tsps.  This is where Grandma Rose's and my opinions differ).
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder (at high altitude I used 1/4 tsp baking powder)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Grease your pans thoroughly.  Cream the butter and sugar together in your mixer.  I like to beat the butter alone until it's fluffy and light in color then gradually add the sugar.  Add the 5 egg yolks, one at a time beating after each one until combined.  Add the vanilla and liqueur.  Remove the bowl from the mixer and swap in a second mixing bowl with the 5 egg whites and cream of tartar.  Beat the eggs until stiff.  A good test is to remove your beater and hold it upright.  If the egg whites don't droop it's stiff enough.  Wiggle the beater to see if the egg whites will stay upright.  Set the bowl of stiff egg whites aside.  In a separate bowl combine the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking powder).
Change out the beater for the paddle attachment on your mixer.  Place your mixing bowl with the butter mixture back on the mixer stand and alternate adding the flour and egg whites beating after each addition.  The last addition should be the last bit of egg whites.  Fold just until combined.
 Pour the thick cake batter into your pans leaving plenty of room for rising.  I had enough batter to fill my loaf pan, the mini heart pan and two cupcakes.

Bake the loaf pan for 1 hour, the mini heart pan for 22 minutes, the cupcakes for 20 minutes and the layer pans for 35 minutes.   Allow to cool in the pan and then turn over to remove.

While the cake is cooling you can move on to the frosting.

Orange frosting (adapted slightly by me from Grandma Rose's original Orange frosting)
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp light corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup water
1 egg beaten stiffly
2 Tbsp fresh orange juice
2 tsp grated orange rind
1 tsp orange or lemon flavoring
1/4 cup powdered sugar

Place the sugar, corn syrup, cream of tartar and water in a sauce pan over medium heat. Hang a candy thermometer off the side of the pan. Stir just once and then let it bubble cook without stirring again until the syrup reaches a soft ball (238 degrees).  While the syrup is bubbling away beat the egg until stiff and prepare your orange juice and rind.  I used small mandarin oranges because that's what I had. I beat the egg using a hand mixer.  When the syrup is done turn on your beater again and slowly pour a thin stream of the hot syrup in the egg white. Make sure to have the stream very slowly hitting the egg white as you are beating it in.

Notes: This is where things get tricky.  It's helpful to have a second set of hands do the pouring while you beat.  I usually do this step with my stand mixer so I can slowly pour the syrup in holding the hot sauce pan with two hands- and that's exactly what I did the first try of this frosting.  Yup, the first time totally screwed up and I'll  tell you why.  In my big mixer, that one stiffly beaten egg sat at the bottom and when I poured the syrup in slowly I couldn't get it to pour directly on to the egg while the mixer was beating.  Instead the syrup caught on my beater attachment and created this frustrating yet gorgeous web of sugar tendrils that just wrapped around my beater and hit the edge of the bowl. Do over!

That's when I went to the hand mixer/husband pouring method which worked just fine.  I think if I doubled the frosting recipe the stand mixer would work since it would have twice the amount of eggs in the bowl to catch the syrup.  I know this frosting step sounds tricky but I promise if you try once you will either fail miserably (as I did the first time a few years ago) and have to try again-which is no big deal OR you will succeed right off the bat and have a new appreciation for this type of icing.  It is fluffy and has a gorgeous texture.  It's much lighter than a butter cream.  It tastes heavenly with flavoring like coconut, vanilla or lemon.

Make sure you have your beater on high to medium high when beating the syrup into the egg whites.  Also make sure you don't wait too long to start this step.  The soft ball sugar syrup will quickly harden as it cools so you want to start this process as soon as you reach soft ball.  You will notice the eggs turning glossy white and that means it's working.  Congratulations!  Continue beating until you've added all the syrup and it's thick.

Beat in the orange juice, rind and flavoring.  Taste it and add a touch more if you like.  If the frosting is too runny add the 1/4 cup powdered sugar.  The frosting definitely doesn't need the sweetness but in my case it needed a little thickening after the orange juice.  If I did this again I think I'd add a really good quality orange flavoring and the rind and skip the orange juice so there wouldn't be a need to add the powdered sugar.  In other egg white/syrup recipes I've made the icing gets really fluffy and can hold wonderful shape on the cake-big swirls and tall fluffy mountain peaks.  This icing doesn't allow for that because of the added juice.

Let the frosting cool and spread it on your cupcakes or cakes. Top with a bit of grated peel for garnish.  If doubling and making the three nine inch layer cakes, I'd recommend doubling the frosting so you have a nice layer of frosting in between each layer of cake and on top.  The frosting is a tad runny (with the orange juice) though so be prepared for that drippy look out the sides and on top.  I normally like a stiff frosting I can swirl and pipe on with a frosting bag and decorating tips.  This was my first time purposefully decorating with the drippy look.  I like it on my miniature cake and I think it will work nice on my loaf cake tomorrow too.  Feel free to refrigerate the frosting and frost the cake the next day or right before serving if you want.

Justin and I couldn't possibly let those pretty little cupcakes sit uneaten.  We dolloped on the frosting and dug in.  The cake has a very light and airy texture with a delicious buttery taste.  The orange of the Grand Marnier is subtle at the end of the bite.  It's really delicious and not too sweet so it pairs nicely with the sweetness of the orange frosting.
I'm going to let Adelaide and Arabella split the gorgeous little heart cake tonight-IF they finish their dinners.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

cinnamon and sugar cut-out snacks

This is a super simple kid friendly recipe for an afternoon when your children want to make their own snack.  Adelaide was the one who came up with the idea to use cookie cutters on the homemade tortillas.  She and Bella jumped on board the cinnamon sugar train when I suggested it.  These are so yummy Justin and I were sneaking tastes.

Stuff you need:
Homemade flour tortillas (or store bought ones will do as well)
1/4 cup melted butter-and a basting brush for spreading.
1/2 cup white sugar mixed with a heaping Tbsp cinnamon

Using cookie cutters on the tortillas proved more difficult than we originally thought.  I had to muscle the shapes into the tortillas.  Often by laying the tortilla on top of the sharp edge of the cookie cutter and pushing down to puncture it.  Here is where the store bought tortillas will be easier since they tend to be soft and easily break.  The homemade ones are thicker and tougher to work with.

We used all sorts of fun cookie cutters the girls chose.  Teddy bears, stars and puppy dogs.  Our favorite were the chickens.  Addie called them the funky chickens.  Love that girl!

After the shapes were cut Addie had the fun task of brushing them with butter and then sprinkling with cinnamon and sugar.  You could dip the tortilla in butter and then coat both sides with cinnamon and sugar but I think that might be overkill.  They were sweet enough with one side sugared.

Bake the crackers for 8 minutes at 350 degrees.  Let them cool and then crunch away.  These won't last the day.  We made double so we could have some to take for school snacks today.  All the extra tortilla bits got buttered and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar and baked too.  I have visions of these buttery cinnamon tortilla bits in a batch of Mexican fried ice cream with coconut.  Doesn't that sound good?

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Aba Guben Bakery

I am always elated to be introduced to a new restaurant in Addis Ababa. I guess I thought we'd find three good restaurants and have to rotate between them for two and a half years.  It's not the case! Justin often finds little gems and then take us on the weekend.  That's exactly what we did today.  Justin has been raving about Aba Guben Bakery for a week.  We all went today for lunch.
The atmosphere is really nice.  Upstairs is an airy dining room with large windows.  The downstairs area has cafe style seating with a dessert display case and the brick oven for the pizzas.
Pizza is where the girls got hooked.  There is pizza all over Addis Ababa.  Some of it is decent.  Some of it is a sad representation of pizza.  Aba Guben's pizza is good.  The cheese is good and the girls liked the olives.  The dough is a tad underdone and floppy for me but I noticed the outer edges were burnt a bit.  Maybe they need to adjust the oven a bit.  I'm being picky here but I like my thin crust nice and crisp.
The little Italian bakery/restaurant has their own unique hot tea blend called Aba Guben tea (chai).  It's a spicy ginger tea infused with oregano and sweetened with honey.  It's an explosion of flavor.  I've never tasted anything like it.  It's definitely the best thing on their menu.  Justin loves it so much I promised him I will try to replicate the amazing ginger oregano honey combination at home.  Oregano?! It sounds strange but it's so wonderful.
Justin had a spicy red sauced pasta and I had the spinach and ricotta ravioli in a mushroom cream sauce.  It was delicious.  The pasta is made fresh and the sauce was flavorful.

Abu Guben really won me over with the little appetizer plates full of seasoned tomatoes and croutons provided complimentary with your meal.  I'm a sucker for starters.
I'm also a sucker for gorgeous rustic pottery.  So I pretty much loved this place.
The girls dug the dessert case.  Sadly, the cream puffs we brought home we lacking.  First off, they were labeled beignets in the case but most definitely were cream puffs.  Both girls weren't fans of the cream in the middle.  I told them we can do better at home.

coffee roasting aka smoking up the house

We're starting to get the hang of roasting small batches of coffee beans at home.  I've done it about 6 times now.  The first time was so exhilarating.  You can read about our stove top technique here.  Since then, we've tried a few different things to get the best roast with our equipment (i.e. stove and pot).

Ethiopians like to wash their beans before roasting so the husks all come off in advance.  We tried this method and it was great not needing to blow the husks off periodically into the sink.  But, the end result provided a drier looking bean without the oily sheen that we like.  The oils give the beans so much flavor.  We haven't washed them again.
Watching the women at The Four Sisters Restaurant in Gonder perform the coffee ceremony and roast the beans right in front of us was a great tutorial for me.  I used to be so nervous toward the end of the roasting session that my beans were going to burn or that I was roasting them too fast.  Traditionally they roast the beans over a fire that has no temperature control. It takes them 15 minutes tops to roast the beans so I've stopped worrying.

The smoke at the end from the roasted beans is a good thing.  Roasted beans are supposed to smoke.  Inhaling plumes of the coffee bean smoke in Gonder rid me of my concern over the smoking process.
smoking beans is a good thing
I used a cast iron skillet for this latest roasting session.  I wasn't thrilled about the darkening of the inside of one of my sauce pans that we were using to roast.  Hence the change. Plus, the cast iron skillet holds the heat nice and evenly.  I preferred the larger diameter skillet so I could roast a larger amount of beans.

I use a combination of tossing the beans by agitating the skillet and stirring with a wooden spoon.

At the very end when I think the beans are done, I keep roasting for just a few more minutes.  That extra time really produces a nice dark bean.

No matter how much I stir and agitate; the beans are still not roasting perfectly even.  Some of the beans have a nice almost black side and then you flip them over and the back is a dark brown.  It's really hard to get a good even roast with the stove top method.  We're OK with that.
At the very end I bring out a bag of pre-roasted Ethiopian coffee beans for comparison. When most of my beans are as dark at the pre-roasted stuff I take my beans off the heat.  They continue to roast a tad after pouring them into a bowl to cool.  My goal is to get them as dark as the beans we purchase.  We're getting there.

Friday, August 24, 2012

expat in Addis fashion

One thing I've learned that comes with moving around a lot is the need to reinvent my wardrobe in every new place we live.   I'm determined to approach this challenge as an opportunity to look at my closet in a fresh new way.

I like fashion.  I wouldn't say I'm extremely fashionable all the time, but I try.  Being at home with 3 kids most of the time has taken it's toll on my fashion sensibility.  My new sensible outlook on my attire is kind of appropriate for the country we live in right now.  Being in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia has forced me to completely rethink my ideas about fashion and clothing.  Sensible and appropriate is "in" here.

Expat fashion couldn't have been more different in the Philippines.  My skirts were shorter my heels were higher and everything was brighter!  All I had to do was slip into one of the 37 Zara stores in Manila to see what was currently on trend.  Actually, I didn't have to even do that.  Just glancing at what everyone was wearing while they walked one of the gazillion malls proved educational.  I wouldn't say the Philippines is the most fashionable of Asian countries, but fashion was definitely a priority for the upper class.  It was everywhere in Manila.  My closet became populated with some really great stuff during our time in the Philippines.

All that great stuff is just hanging there mocking me right now as we navigate life in Ethiopia.  Not only would most of those things be completely inappropriate for the climate and terrain of Addis Ababa, I would look ridiculous.  I'd surely stumble on the uneven pavement or cobble stone sidewalks.  My feet would be muddy or dusty. For the first time in my life my husband nixed a dress I put on for a diplomatic function because it was just too short for the function.  The culture here is very modest.  It's also Africa.  Expats wear rugged cargo pants and safari shirts with lots of pockets. Sensible shoes is an understatement.  Let's just say navigating Africa chic is new for me.

That being said, I'm taking a look at what's in my closet that I can use here in Ethiopia.  Some things will surely sit unworn for two years but other things are destined for a comeback.

My plan is to reinvent expat fashion in Addis Ababa for myself.  First thing on the list I've discovered is the need for a hat.  The sun is brutal here, even during rainy season it's easy to get a sun burn.  I didn't have a hat in my wardrobe so this is a newly acquired item.  It's a wide brimmed fedora.  If I'm out of the house, it's on my head.
Stay tuned for more expat in Addis fashion tips. You know, for whenever you plan to be an expat in Addis!

A big thank you to my five year old for taking a few minutes from playing with her Barbies to snap these photos for me.  She's a blossoming photographer.  

cake for breakfast (or late night snack)

I'm not going to begin to pretend this is a healthy, good-for-your-body choice for breaking-fast in the morning.  Cake is anything but the healthy option, but sometimes my soul needs a little nourishing and cake sure does the trick.  Is there anything better than a moist slice of chocolate cake paired with a cup of hot coffee on a Friday morning?  Maybe you can think of something, but I cannot!

I have a sweet tooth.  I don't mind confessing this.  I also don't mind confessing that after all the cheffery that I perform in my kitchen every day for my family, sometimes after the kids go to sleep I still have the itch to bake something. I know, it's a sickness I tell you!  I've been searching for the perfect quick and tasty recipe that I can whip up during these late night baking binges.  Sometimes it's nice to hear the whir of your mixer as the only noise in the sleeping house.  Having something warm and sweet come out of the oven for a snack before bed and the leftovers for breakfast the next morning is my kind of soul nourishment.

My search is done.  I've found the perfect thing:  Simple chocolate loaf cake.  It's embarrassingly easy, fast and delicious.

Simple Chocolate Loaf Cake (my adaptation from Of Tide and Thyme)
1 cup flour (plus 1 Tbsp for high altitudes)
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda (1/2 tsp for high altitudes)
4 Tbsp melted butter (plus 1 Tbsp oil for high altitudes or if you just want at super moist cake)
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup boiling water
1/3 cup shaved chocolate (dark or milk)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In the bowl of your mixer combine the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa, salt and baking soda).  Melt the butter in the microwave.  Add the egg and whisk together.  Add the egg butter mixture to the dry mixture in the mixer and beat on low.  Add the vanilla.  Boil 1 cup of water and slowly pour it into the bowl.  Beat on medium low until smooth and combined. Stir in the shaved chocolate (shaved chocolate is lighter than chocolate chips-the shavings don't sink to the bottom of your pan). Pour the mixture in a greased and floured loaf pan.  Bake for 45 minutes.  Slice warm and enjoy or cool and refrigerate for breakfast the next morning.

This cake is simple but not boring.  It has a nice moist crumb and the chocolate flavor is not over powering. The top of the cake gets a nice crust on top which is my favorite part. I wouldn't dare wreck the crust with a frosting. It's perfect with coffee in the morning or for a special after school snack for children.  It would also be perfect for a last minute dessert for a luncheon or dinner party.  You could serve it with candied orange slices or a dollop of peppermint whipped cream to elevate the cake to a full fledged dessert for guests.

However you frame it, it's a perfect simple chocolate loaf cake.  It's not fancy but it doesn't need to be.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

3 year old cures for the common cold

Arabella gets sick often.  She's always got her hands in her mouth and Lord knows where her hands have been.  I can't even begin to count how many times I have to tell her to stop touching her shoes (or her bottom).  Yes, those hands go in her mouth.  She gets sick and then we all get sick.  It's no fun!

She was sick again today.  Fever, sore throat, tummy ache.  The works.  She moaned most of the day on the couch watching Curious George.  The only things that made her feel better were Monkey Preschool Math on the iTouch and a chocolate banana smoothie.  Doctors should prescribe this combo.
I did get one smile from her today.  A genuine smile at that.
I wish Bella's cures would work on me in two days when it's my turn to be sick.