Barbacoa Beef

Barbacoa Beef

I took advantage of having a slow cooker at our last airbnb in Ahipara to make Barbacoa Beef for taco bowls.  Barbacoa is, in Mexican cooking, beef, lamb, or other meat that has been slowly cooked with seasonings, and is typically shredded and used in burritos or tacos.  We've only had Mexican food once since we left Hawaii and we were both craving it - plus, this is ridiculously easy to make.

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Potato and Corn Chowder

Look, I found a potato! 

Look, I found a potato! 

Cooking on the road has been both fun and challenging.  One of my favorite activities in a foreign country is checking out the grocery store.  Even in a place like New Zealand where English is spoken and many things we eat in America are available, you still find odd things.  They don't refrigerate eggs (this was true when we lived in London as well).  Plus, they are labeled as "caged" or "cage-free," which cracks me up.  I can imagine the marketing meetings where you discuss labeling your eggs "caged" in a way that appeals to consumers.  They sell sliced lamb for lunch meat alongside the turkey and ham.  Feoija is a common fruit (it tastes like guava).  The yogurt is delicious here (equivalent to or better than Noosa).  Bell peppers are called capsicum.  Grocery stores sell craft beer and have a large wine section.  I have no concept of how much food I'm asking for when I purchase anything from the deli, seafood, or meal counter, nor do I understand how much it costs (hello, metric system).  I can't wait to explore the grocery stores in Japan.

This isn't the best example, but what the heck is a "Muffin Texas Loose."  This seems like English language translation gone awry, but there wasn't any translation involved!  I certainly don't know what a Texas muffin is.

This isn't the best example, but what the heck is a "Muffin Texas Loose."  This seems like English language translation gone awry, but there wasn't any translation involved!  I certainly don't know what a Texas muffin is.

The difficulty with cooking while we travel is that we are often only in places for a few days.  We can't stock up on food and have to be sure we can move excess food wherever we go next (we are constantly trying not to waste food).  I also don't have many spices and pantry staples at my disposal and, again, am trying not to accumulate anything.  We frequently grocery shop before we've seen our next home, which means I don't always know whether the kitchen will be bare bones or well-equipped.  

As a result, we often grill meat and have simple sides.  Pasta is a staple and I try to be creative with what we add - Kalamata olives, tomatoes, and feta one night and sausage, basil, and mozzarella the next.  Stuffed peppers have actually proven to be quite simple. I purchase instant Mexican rice, canned black beans, and fresh or frozen corn for the stuffing, plus some shredded cheese to sprinkle on top.  Last night, I made a simple gado gado sauce and we made veggie bowls with quinoa, steamed broccoli, roasted vegetables (pre-cut so we had a variety), and red pepper.  

This was my first experience digging for potatoes.  They seem to just appear in the dirt without being attached to anything.  It was quite satisfying digging around for them.

This was my first experience digging for potatoes.  They seem to just appear in the dirt without being attached to anything.  It was quite satisfying digging around for them.

Blythe succeeded in digging a few potatoes despite her unwillingness to put down her water bottle.  

Blythe succeeded in digging a few potatoes despite her unwillingness to put down her water bottle.  

WWOOFing was fantastic for getting back into the cooking groove because I did have a fully pantry and spice rack, plus all of the fruits and vegetables on the farm available to me.  One night we were contemplating what to have for dinner and didn't want to have corn on the cob for the 3rd night in a row.  I knew we had potatoes as well, so I made Potato & Corn Chowder for the first time.  It was a cold, rainy day on the farm and the chowder was warming and delicious.  

One note about the broth used in the chowder - I was inspired by Mark Bittman's corn chowder recipe and didn't want to just toss my corn cobs, so I added them to my broth to enhance the flavor.  If you make this with fresh corn, consider bringing your broth to a simmer in a separate saucepan with the corn cobs in the broth.  It doesn't create extra work other than one additional pan to wash.  If you are using frozen corn, just skip this step and add the chicken broth as is.

Potato and Corn Chowder
Recipe inspired by The Food Network and Mark Bittman
Yield = 6-8 servings


  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1/4 pound bacon, diced
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 4 cups peeled, finely diced all-purpose potato
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (4-5 ears of corn)
  • 1 cup half-and-half or whole milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Pinch of cayenne pepper


1. Shuck corn, and use a paring knife to strip kernels into a bowl.  Set kernels aside.  Put cobs and the chicken broth in a pot; bring to a boil, cover, and simmer while you continue preparing the chowder.  Remove the cobs prior to adding broth to chowder.   

2.  Put the butter into a heavy-bottomed pan (such as Le Creuset) and melt over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook till crisp. Scoop out the bacon and drain on paper towels; set aside.

3. Pour off all but 1/4 cup of fat from the pot. Add the onions, seasoning them with salt and pepper. Cook till soft; add the garlic, cooking it all for 1 minute more.  Sprinkle the flour over the onions and stir to combine.  Add the broth and potatoes.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or till the potatoes are tender. Add the corn. Cover and simmer 5 to 6 minutes longer to blend the flavors.

4. Stir in the half-and-half or whole milk. Season with the thyme, cayenne, salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper to taste.  Sprinkle with the bacon bits and serve immediately.

* This could easily be made into a vegetarian dish by substituting vegetable broth/stock and omitting the bacon.

White Chicken Chili

White Chicken Chili

With holiday preparations in full swing, I'm guessing you are focused on last minute shopping, holiday menu planning, and trying to enjoy this wonderful time of year.  In our house, that also means our dinners are makeshift and as simple as possible.  Tonight was beans and franks, a throwback to my childhood that I secretly love but am a bit embarrassed to admit I'd feed to my family.  Earlier this week, we had white chicken chili from the freezer, which reminded me that I've been meaning to share this recipe for months.  

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Thai Steak & Noodle Salad

Before you take one look at the list of ingredients below and ignore the rest of this post, please hear me out.  This Thai Steak & Noodle Salad is unusual, tangy, filling, and oh-so-good.  Yes, there are quite a few ingredients, but there is overlap between the ingredients for the marinade and the salad dressing.  You can prep almost everything the day prior (the marinade, the dressing, and the vast majority of the salad ingredients - I'd cut the avocado and mango just prior to serving).  Plus, you are likely to have a handful of the ingredients already.  This would be the perfect one-course dish for a summer dinner party - you can throw the meat on the grill, toss the salad, and voilà!  

If nothing else, please give the marinade and the dressing a try.  Often I find that I'll marinade meat or chicken and once it is cooked, the flavor seems to have disappeared, which was not the case here.  And I think you could use greens and whatever other ingredients you happened to have on-hand, toss them with the dressing, and top with a protein to create a simpler version of this salad.

One tip - dress the salad right before serving.  I used kale instead of arugula, which held up in the leftovers the next day, but I'd advise waiting until you are ready to eat the salad (so if you plan to have leftovers, only dress what you'll eat immediately).

Thai Steak & Noodle Salad
Recipe from Bon Appétit 
Serves 4-6


   1 ½-inch piece ginger, peeled, finely chopped

   ¼ cup soy sauce

   3 tablespoons raw sugar or light brown sugar

   2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

   1 tablespoon fish sauce

   ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

   ½ teaspoon garlic powder

   ¼ cup olive oil

   1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

   ¾ pound filet mignon steaks, 1 inch thick

   Kosher salt


   ¼ cup fresh lime juice

   ¼ cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)

   ¼ cup peanut oil or vegetable oil

   2 tablespoons fish sauce

   2 tablespoons sugar

   1 tablespoon honey

   1 garlic clove, finely chopped

   Kosher salt (optional)

Salad and Assembly

   2 ounces dried ramen or lo mein noodles

   Kosher salt

   ½ teaspoon toasted sesame oil

   1 large mango, peeled, cut into 1-inch pieces

   ½ bunch arugula, stems removed, leaves torn

   ½ bunch watercress, tough stems removed (I omitted this)

   2 medium carrots, finely shredded on a mandoline or a box grater

   2 scallions, chopped

   2 cups finely shredded savoy cabbage (I used regular cabbage)

   1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

   1 avocado, cut into 1-inch pieces

   ½ cup chopped cilantro

   ½ cup torn basil leaves

   ¼ cup torn mint leaves

   ¼ cup crumbled toasted unsweetened coconut flakes

   ¼ cup finely chopped salted, roasted peanuts, plus more for serving

   Lime wedges (for serving)



   Whisk ginger, soy sauce, raw sugar, lime juice, fish sauce, pepper, and garlic powder in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Whisking constantly, gradually add olive oil, then sesame oil. Transfer to a small resealable plastic bag and add steaks. Close bag, pressing out air, and turn steak to coat. Chill at least 6 hours and up to 12 hours (I marinated mine overnight, for approximately 20 hours, and it was delicious).

   Prepare a grill for medium-high heat. (Alternatively, heat a grill pan over medium-high.) Remove steaks from marinade and pat dry. Season very lightly with salt. Grill, turning every 2 minutes, until lightly charred all over and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of each steak registers 120° for medium-rare, 8–10 minutes total. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest at least 10 minutes before cutting into 1" pieces.

   Do Ahead: Steak can be grilled 1 day ahead. Let cool; cover and chill. Cut just before serving.


   Whisk lime juice, chili paste, peanut oil, fish sauce, sugar, honey, and garlic in a small bowl to combine. Taste and season with salt if desired.

   Do Ahead: Dressing can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.

Salad and Assembly

   Cook noodles in a small pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain and run under cold water to stop cooking. Toss with oil in a large bowl. Add mango, arugula, watercress, carrots, scallions, cabbage, tomatoes, and dressing and toss to coat. Season with salt if desired. Add steak, avocado, cilantro, basil, mint, coconut flakes, and ¼ cup peanuts. Gently toss just to combine.

Divide salad among plates, piling as high as possible. Top with additional peanuts and serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

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