Caakiri: My First Adventure with Couscous

Caakiri

I can’t tell you how much I appreciate y’alls support during Project Food Blog so far. You better believe I was jumping in my chair when I saw that I get to compete in round 2! So, thank you very much. You guys are the best!

Round 2′s challenge is called The Classics.
Ready to tackle a classic dish from another culture? Pick an ethnic classic that is outside your comfort zone or are not as familiar with. You should include how you arrived at this decision in your post. Do your research then try to pull off successfully creating this challenge. Try to keep the dish as authentic as the real deal, and document your experience through a compelling post.

So, with absolutely no clue what to do, I went to my local library and picked up 4 books. 3 of them were Asian inspired and the other one, which was a direct opposite, featured German cuisine. Not exactly sure why I picked that one up, but heck, why not? I flipped through pages and pages, bookmarking some recipes, but none of them felt like it should be the dish for this challenge. I walked away from the books for a while, feeling pretty bummed. What dish was I going to make?

I wanted to find a recipe that was different, featuring ingredients that normally make me turn the other way. I ended up finding this dessert recipe featuring couscous. Can you believe I’ve never tried couscous before? I was intimidated by it..completely.

This recipe also has sour cream, which is an ingredient that does not appeal to me at all. I rarely use it in recipes, because it’s a personal food aversion of mine. So, why not go all out with an ingredient I’ve never tried and an ingredient I really don’t like? Challenge enough, no?

I’m sure you want to know where this dish is from. Ultimately, I ended up going to a whole different continent for this challenge: Africa!

The dish is called Caakiri, which is a yogurt based couscous dessert, originating in Western Africa. The dish tastes a lot like rice pudding, but with a very different texture. I found the dish to be a little too tart for me, probably due to the high amounts of yogurt and sour cream. However, more sugar seemed to help that issue. :)

Caakiri Components

Couscous and yogurt mixture pictured.

The best thing about this dish was that the ingredients weren’t too hard to find, and it introduced me to couscous. I’m pretty sure I’m going to make this grain again really soon. :)

Note: this recipe is halved from the original source and it still made PLENTY!

Caakiri
Source: The Congo Cookbook

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 2 cups water
  • pat of  butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 cup evaporated milk
  • 1 cup vanilla or plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • 1/2 can of crushed pineapple, drained

Directions:

  1. Bring water to boil in a medium pot. Add couscous, butter and salt. Stir, cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. Then stir and let couscous cool.
  2. Combine all of the other ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Add couscous to yogurt mixture and add sugar to taste. Serve warm or cold.

My Blog, My Moments

Pumpkin Bread

Since it’s almost Fall, I thought I’d post a picture of this pumpkin bread for y’all.

This post serves as my entry into Foodbuzz’s Project Food Blog: Project Food Blog is the first-ever interactive competition where thousands of Foodbuzz Featured Publishers are competing in a series of culinary blogging challenges for the chance to advance and a shot at the ultimate prize: $10,000 and a special feature on Foodbuzz.com for one year. Starting next week, Foodbuzz will start the voting for the next food blog star, and I’ll repost a link for y’all to vote for me, if you think I should advance. :) Thanks in advance for all of your support!

Most people think of cooking and baking as simply putting food on the table. I’ve been there. I used to think that way and just dreaded it. I started this food blog after I graduated from college, because I moved back in with my family and wanted to help my parents with dinner. My first ever blogged recipe was for turkey meatballs.

Those meatballs were quite the chore. I dirtied up tons of dishes, which I had to clean, and while my family appreciated the meal, we all knew it wasn’t mouth-watering, amazingness on a plate. It was discouraging, to say the least. Oh, and obviously, I really didn’t care how the photo looked. I just took a photo with my point and shoot and uploaded it.

After blogging for a while, I hit a point where I thought this was really boring. I got maybe 1 comment in a week’s time, I felt as unpopular as the last picked kid on the kickball team and just got super jealous of popular bloggers. I knew nothing big would ever come of this blog, so I just sort of lost interest.

After a couple of years of on and off blogging spurts, I realized that I shouldn’t blog to be popular. The competition out there is crazy, and I should do this for me. I thought back to the days when I could barely form a turkey meatball and looked at how far I came. I came to the conclusion that blogging isn’t about popularity….it’s about the moments you have in the kitchen and sharing them with others.

I remember the moment when I made my first batch of biscotti from scratch. It felt so amazing that something as simple as flour, butter, and sugar could come together to form biscotti. I always made bought them, and thought you had to be an authentic Italian bakery to get those to come out right!

I remember how proud I was when I made that first buttercream rose.

I was so excited when I didn’t make anyone sick after making my first pot roast.

I remember when the yeast actually rose for my first batch of rolls.

I remember hosting my first family get-together.

I found that blogging was so much more fun when I was able actually meet a personal challenge and bask in the moment, whether it be taking that perfect picture of a cupcake or making a dish I found to be intimidating.

While I’m not very well known in the blogging community, I feel that I should be considered to be the next food blog star. My blog is here to show everyone that recipes are completely approachable. Anyone can make an amazing meal or dessert for their families and friends.  Before I ever blogged, I considered my kitchen accomplishments to include heating frozen skillet meals and baking rolls of cookie dough. I didn’t know the names of most ordinary produce. I thought a cup was a cup no matter what type of measuring tool you use. I’ve been there. I’ve messed up, and I still mess up.

It took me a while, but I find that I truly enjoy food blogging now. It’s not a career for me by any means, but it’s a huge passion of mine. I love knowing that my kitchen is a place where you can take simple ingredients and turn it into a great dish. It’s a complete transformation every time, and in my two and a half years of blogging, I don’t see the fun dying down anytime soon.

Learning to Adapt

So, as you may know, I’ve been on a weight loss journey for a while. I lost 20 lbs. before the wedding, and then, after the wedding, gained it all back. Typical.

I’m back to square one.

One of my biggest problems with food blogging is the insatiable urge to bake. I haven’t baked much lately, but with the Fall season and upcoming holiday season, I’m afraid the urge is going to only get greater.

This summer, I’ve really gotten into smoothies and one of my favorite things to put in there is yogurt. It thickens up a smoothie and has great nutritional value. I will admit, I’m not a fan of eating yogurt out of a cup. I find it way too tangy, however, smoothies sweeten it up and sort of mask the tartness.

When I received an email from Foodbuzz about Activia Desserts yogurt, I was all over it.

Image source

With flavors like Strawberry Cheesecake and Peach Cobbler, I was intrigued. I only tried this stuff in smoothies, but man, it really did make my smoothies seem more indulgent! It’s a definite must-try!! I think I might have to make these while I’m baking to satisfy the sweet tooth. It’s worth a shot.

Knowing me, though, I’ll probably drink the smoothie AND eat baked goods…sigh.

If you are skeptical, they are offering $1 off coupon currently. Like I said, I didn’t try this straight out of the cup…I tried it in a smoothie.

Note: I didn’t receive this product for free. I used a coupon as a discount, and am writing a post about it for the Foodbuzz Tastemaker’s Program.

The Cooking Channel Likes Me

So, last week, I got an email from someone at The Cooking Channel. They mentioned that they are featuring food blogger’s pictures of Julia Child’s recipes and asked if I would be interested in letting them feature my picture of Julia’s Boeuf Bourguignon. Of course I said yes, but didn’t think anything would happen, since so many bloggers are great photographers.

I did, however, like a dork, squee around the house and call my hubs and mom about it! :)

I checked The Cooking Channel on Monday and this is what I see. The prompt I’m pointing to says “Food Bloggers Cooking Julia“. I hold my breath…

I'm on Cooking Channel!

Click through each picture and lo and behold, I’m picture #3! WOW!

I'm on Cooking Channel!

I also noticed I was thanked in one of their blog entries. Lots of happy links for The Nifty Foodie, that’s for sure!

Happy Birthday Julia, and thank you Cooking Channel for featuring my lil’ ol’ blog. :)

**Images are from from The Cooking Channel’s website!**

Caring a little more…

I’ve had a blog since 2005. That’s a long time in the Internet world, y’all.

I remember my first blog, which was on a LiveJournal-like platform, and I really can’t even remember the name. I used to blog about things that no one cared about: college classes, boys, discovering my independence, etc. I moved over to LiveJournal, because my friends were there. My LiveJournal is still online with a Christmas looking theme and an avatar with Will Ferrell from Elf, but I’m too embarrassed to share the link. I look back on it from time to time and laugh at the things I used to care about in the college days.

I wonder if I’ll ever look back on this blog and laugh at what I cared about in my 20s.

One thing I’ve noticed through the years, is that I carefully plan/care about my posts more. No more posts about the professor who embarrassed me in class or the fact that I had a faceplant in front of the student union. It’s rare that I post about a day in the life here, because, well, I doubt that readers would care about that.

When I started my food blog in 2008, all I cared about was finding good recipes and keeping a record of them, so when I was married, I could totally cook something up for us. My food adventures took place in my parents’ house for a good year or so. The pictures didn’t matter to me…it was the recipes that I cared about, obviously.

Example: One of my pictures from my first ever food blog post. I thought it was an excellent picture of bowtie pasta and meatballs, but I didn’t care to take 20 pictures of the food…I just wanted to eat.
My first ever food blog picture

A year later, at what would be my husband and I’s house (his house at the time), this is what I took a picture of. Oh yeah, Italian again. At least this time, I focused in on the food. At this point, I was getting a little better, and had a good steady following, so I wanted to give my readers fairly decent pictures of recipes.

One year later

Then, around April 2010, I bought a dSLR and moved to my own domain. I really started developing a passion for food blogging and decided my own URL was the next step, along with a fancy camera for great pictures.

When I got my camera, ultimately, I wanted to be able to play with settings and make my photos eventually drool-worthy. Right when I took it out of the box, I immediately put it in “manual” mode and got to work. It took me a while, but check out one of my favorite photos (which was taken in July 2010).

4th of July Cupcakes

It’s funny how much I care now about blogging. It’s an everyday thing for me, and I love networking/talking with other bloggers about what works for them. I know I will never be Bakerella or Pioneer Woman, but it always gives me confidence when I see my hits rise and my readership increase. :)

Now, I know this is a post about my food blog, mainly, but I will say that this blog has also become important to me. I know this blog will never be as popular as the food blog, since there’s no real theme here (and themes usually mean a stronger readership), but I still love posting here about hobbies, housewife-ness and other topics that pop in my mind. I’m not sure if this blog will ever have a theme, like food, sewing or gardening. I like that it’s fairly random in its own way, and it offers me the freedom to blog about whatever. :)

Giveaway Winner!

I really had fun with this giveaway, but I’ll admit, I was worried no one would want these dish towels I had sewn! Y’all have some awesome hobbies, some of which, I wish I could do myself! ::jealous::

Ok, I know…on to the winner, right? Well, another extra entry won this time! It pays to do that, folks!

Winner (Dish Towel Giveaway)

Congrats to Carrie!! Please email me at niftyfoodie at gmail dot com to redeem your prize! And by the way y’all, her food blog rocks, so if you have a sec, check it out! :)

Thanks again for participating! Hope to have another one of these sometime soon!

Giveaway: Cute Dish Towels

I love to cook and bake. It’s instant gratification to have the results of your work in an hour or so, but I’ve been wanting to branch out for a while.

I just started sewing earlier this year, and there are many times that I want to throw projects out of the window. I’m not a very patient person, and some projects take HOURS. However, I really love the results when they come out great, and that kind of keeps me going.

I read sewing blogs and look around for inspiration everywhere for great project ideas, and came across this one.

I’ve become a little kitchen towel decorating machine, and now, I’d like to giveaway a set of 2 towels to one lucky reader!

Cutesy Dish Towels

Do you want to win these cute dish towels for your kitchen? I promise they will make dish-washing a little more fun. :)

To win: just tell me about a hobby, other than cooking, that you’ve been giving a try lately.You have until Monday, June 8th to enter. This giveaway is only valid to readers in the continental U.S.

More ways to win (and please comment each time you do one of these)

Beachy Cookies

cookies

::offers plate of beachy cookies::

Hi everyone! Remember me? Well, I used to be Skinny Food by Amy, but it turns out that I bake too much, and it would make me a liar to post such buttery foods on a site that promises skinny food. So, I decided to make the move.

It’s a big move, but no worries, my posts won’t be changing. I just wanted a title that felt like a better fit.

I hope you like the new layout. I find it kind of, well, nifty. :)

Feel free to follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and heck, add me to your readers while you are at it. :)

Oh and if you have any feedback on the new look, I’d surely appreciate it!

Oops!

I totally did it again. I’ve been so busy in life: new job, planning a garage sale, cleaning house, possibly hosting Turkey Day at our house. Very exciting things.

I also made a Twitter account. It’s @niftyfoodie. Add me if you’d like. I tweet about more than cooking! :)

I have been cooking and taking pictures, but blogging? Nope. Obviously…

My apologies to those who read my blog. I promise to have great posts this week! Stay tuned…please don’t leave me. :)

Stand Mixer

wfmwbannerKRISTEN
I’m sure most of you who have tried your hand at baking have at least ONCE placed all the flour or powdered sugar in a bowl to mix with wet ingredients and you end up with a HUGE poof of flour/sugar cloudiness in the kitchen. (Thank you hand mixer with settings of fast -> faster.) That poof ends up going everywhere and if it’s sugar, oh boy, a STICKY mess!

When I started taking Wilton Courses, I remember making that first batch of buttercream. Oh, how I tried to avoid the cloud, but the only way to do it was to mix by hand at first, then turn on the mixer and mix away. It was a hassle!

Here’s the hero to the story — the KA stand mixer.

source

The great thing about this mixer is that the bowl is very deep and the settings start off at a very slow stir (no more clouds!), all the way up to super fast it will make meringue in a minute! I also can make DOUBLE batches of buttercream in this mixer, because the motor can totally take it. It’s such a time saver, and now that I’m enrolled in Course 3 (starting this Friday), I can actually look forward to making my icings!

This mixer definitely Works for Me!

To see what works for others, check out We Are That Family!