Chai-spiced Churros.

May 5, 2013

IMAG0535-1Good golly, these were scrumptious.

Ever since I had to make my grandmother’s very technical Tres Leches Cake twice in one day because the first attempt failed, I have been consuming an inordinate amount of microwaveables and plain quesadillas. Oh, the bachelorette life. Much to the chagrin of my palate’s better judgment, anything labor-intensive (so what if spreading peanut butter AND jelly is too many steps…) elicits only immediate balking from my mental capacities as I choose instead to wallow in a rut of laziness.

Of course, this all occurred after I volunteered to bring horchata and churros to our Cinco de Mayo fiesta. This being Paraguay, a land far from the culinary reach of Mexico, it was requisite that I make both items from scratch. The horchata was simple enough. Blended up rice, water, milk, cinnamon. Pish posh.

But the churros had me dragging my feet all week. The thought of slaving over the stove hand-frying enough dough for ten people with the weather [still–ughh] as warm as it has been held worse prospects than the Padres 2013 season. I perused recipes for other Mexican desserts daily, but encountered nothing to satisfy my need for low-maintenance output.

In the end, I dragged myself into the kitchen to make sugary use of my slothful Sunday afternoon. It was totally worth it.

Repeat after me: HOMEMADE CHURROS ARE ALWAYS WORTH IT. ALWAYS.

And it wasn’t even that much work in the end; a generally uncomplicated process so long as you set up your station efficiently and beforehand. This recipe produces spicy fried gold that brings any investment of time and resources, high returns to satisfy every last lazy bone in your body.

Happy Cinco de Mayo indeed.

Chai-spiced Churros
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Serves 4

1 cup of water
1 Tablespoon of sugar
1 Tablespoon of vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 cup of flour
Vegetable oil for frying

1 cup of sugar
1 Tablespoon of ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon of Trader Joe’s Salted Caramel Chai Tea Latte Mix
(I am sure any powdered chai mix would work just as well)

In a small saucepan, combine the water, sugar, 1 Tbs. of oil, and salt, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in the flour until just combined and a dough forms. Do not overmix (aka: tough, heavy churros).

In a medium saucepan, heat the frying oil on medium-low heat. Do not fry dough until the oil is hot. Nobody wants soggy poops. If your churros brown too quickly but remain undercooked inside, turn the heat down.

Originally, I used a plastic, disposable pastry bag with a Wilton 1M tip to give the churros their classic texture, but the batter proved too thick and everything just exploded. Instead, a plastic reusable pastry bag with no tip screwed in worked very well (a churro-maker or a freezer-sized Ziploc bag with the corner snipped off would also be adequate alternatives).

Pipe three to four inches of dough into the hot oil, cut the end with scissors, and fry until golden. Beware of frying too many churros at once–such are the dangers of wonky oil temperatures and/or everything clumping together. Five was a good amount for me as long as I remained vigilant in the beginning.

Remove the churros with wooden chopsticks (because I don’t know how to fry anything without them) and drain on a tray lined with paper towels. Pipe in the next batch of churros and while those cook, roll the cooked ones in the cinnamon sugar mix.

These are best served fresh, and if you are serious about celebrating life, pair with black coffee and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Buen provecho!

Animal Planet.

March 16, 2013

It was a dark and stormy night…just kidding.

Actually, a patch of exceptional weather hit Asuncion on Wednesday, and being one to obviously delight in reasonable temperatures, I threw open every window in the house to let all the goodness pervade my humble abode. Then I sat down at my desk to attack a pile of work and many cups of coffee. A normal day with the added bonus of a cool breeze.

Suddenly, a flutter of wings behind me caught my attention and as I turned around to identify the source of the sound, I saw, to my chagrin, that the Justin Sudekis of common sparrows had lumbered its way into my bedroom via my extra large window. It was immediately evident that this feathered fellow was no Weight Watchers’ spokesbird and he certainly wasn’t surviving on Lean Cuisines.

But before I could even rise from my chair to return him to the real world, I watched in further horror as he swooped to snatch up something brown and wiggly and make like a bandit back out the window. Turns out it was live action National Geographic, and the lizard I slammed my window on the previous night when I caught it trying to sneak in was about to have a really crappy day. Or maybe it was his brother? Either way, I have reason to suspect it didn’t end well.

But happily ever after to me!

Until I walked outside and discovered that my front yard is apparently the communal toilet for all the stray dogs of Paraguay. My day ended up being pretty “crappy” too.

Poop: the great equalizer.

 

A really sunny morning.

While seemingly just a regular fruit muffin, this is a true delicacy here in Paraguay. One, because lemons don’t exist in this country, and two, because raspberries don’t either and I splurged the second I saw the frozen bag at the specialty German grocery store.

I brought back a glorious sack of bright yellow lemons from a recent trip to Argentina and had been dilly dallying in using them, trying to come up with the ultimate zesty dessert worthy of my momentous find. Then I discovered that one of the precious nuggets of gold had completely molded over and realized I better get moving regardless of the recipe lest I waste the whole lot of them. The horror.

When I found this formula for raspberry lemon muffins, I was wary about its healthful motivations (no butter?!) and worried about dryness, so naturally I fattified it and ramped up the fruit flavor as well. What resulted were light, moist little dumpling cakes filled with delightful pockets of tart berries and a crunchy topping that rescues bad days and makes them better. A good rainy day recipe to keep in your pocket.

Lemon-Raspberry Crumble Muffins
Inspired by allrecipes.com
Makes a baker’s dozen

1/2 cup + 1 Tablespoon of raspberry yogurt
3 Tablespoons of vegetable oil
Juice of one whole lemon (I used a large one for extra zingy lemon flavor)
1 egg
1 1/2 cups of flour
3/4 cup of sugar
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
Zest of one whole lemon
1 heaping cup of frozen raspberries

Crumb topping:
1/2 cup of flour
3 Tablespoons of sugar
3 Tablespoons of cold butter, cubed

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C), and line a muffin pan.

In a large bowl, sift flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together. Then add the lemon zest. In a separate bowl, combine the yogurt, oil, lemon juice, and egg, and add to the bowl of dry ingredients. Stir until just blended (do not over mix). Gently fold in the raspberries, and scoop the batter into the prepared muffin cups. Generously spoon the fork-blended crumb topping over the filled muffin cups.

Bake for 17-20 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

In my opinion, these tasty treats are best when eaten fresh from the oven. With a steaming mug of coffee, of course. Enjoy!

Doing wild jumping jacks for the duration of the microwave time to get exercise in.

Consuming your seven-hundredth cup of coffee for the day and as a result, jabbering inconsciently to yourself knowing full well no one is around to judge you.

Glancing at the overflowing sinkfull of dishes and eating a[nother] brownie instead.

Certainly not shaving your legs for months.

Snickering at your own discordant off-key singing and purposefully mangling the rest of the song at a higher volume.

Frantically cooking up buttered pasta with fried garlic and onions because the latest food memoir on your Kindle has driven you to a voracious hunger frenzy. At midnight.

Dying for even a little good cheese and instead settling for a sprinkling of iodized table salt.

Forcing yourself back out of bed at the last minute to grudgingly brush your teeth even though no one will be around to suffer your morning dragon breath.

Drifting off to blissful beauty sleep in brown tights, crew socks, woolen foot paddles (with pom poms), high-water sweatpants, and yesterday’s wrinkly t-shirt.

Counting the days until a roommate banishes the glorious albeit absurd freedom and instates in its place instead, something worth its weight in gold and then some, SNUGGLES.