Nope. That doesn’t say desert day, but with the temps we’ve been having (108) we need no reminders that we are indeed living in the desert. But, let me get back to desserts – those wonderful yet often guilt producing items. We have a team of 7 from New Orleans arriving on Sunday afternoon. Lots of planning has been going on on both ends and we can’t wait for them to get here. They are a medical team and we will be doing clinics in both Maradi and Niamey regions during the 9 days they are with us. Due to the nature of life in Niger, (cooking is very time consuming) and due to the fact that I no longer have a home in Maradi, most food preparation is done in advance. This is also partly due to the fact that I am involved in whatever the team is doing and am not free to do lots of cooking each day.
Normally I have Hannatu helping in the kitchen. She only comes 4 days/week and Thursday is her day off. I almost asked her to come today, but thought I was pretty much done with things. What was I thinking? I started right in this morning on brownies. Two batches. I mixed them separately as I don’t feel that they turn out the same when the recipe gets doubled. I’m also not very good at spreading the batter evenly into 2 pans. Next up were Apple Brownies – no chocolate involved. I got everything mixed up and then opened the produce drawer in the fridge to find that there were only 2 scrawny apples there. This is due to the un-named apple thieves that live in my house. What was there were the guavas I found yesterday in the market. Though when chopped they look similar to an apple, the only taste resemblance would be the tartness, if in fact your apple was a tart one. Though not needing to be peeled, guavas are not particularly easy to chop due to the pesky little seeds that fill about 1/3 of the fruit. And it’s not like you just cut open the guava and easily slice out the seeds like you would an apple core. Those seeds are embedded in the meat and somewhat spaced out. I’ve never taken guava cutting lessons, but I just cut them in half and scrape out the center with the seeds. While doing this, I wondered if it was really necessary since the kids eat the guavas ‘a la natural’ seeds and all. But, I reckon it would be a bit unpleasant to bit into a ‘apple’ brownie and bite into one or 2 of those little puppies. And I can tell you from experience that they are hard. So, I continued to cut, scoop and chop. Lukeman needed to go to the market for me to get all the meat I’m going to need for the team so I had to go to my room and get the money. When I came back he had taken it upon himself to chop the guavas for me. What a guy. And he’s fast! Well, he didn’t realize my thing about the seeds. Why would anyone want to extricate the seeds anyway? The reason I realized that I was so determined to get the seeds out was because one time I made a guava smoothie – threw them into the blender – seeds and all. The seeds did not ‘blend’ and seriously reduced the enjoyment factor of the smoothie. I didn’t want this to be the case with the apple brownies. So thus began the even more tedious task of removing the pulp part with embedded seeds of the already chopped guava. I could go into great detail, but I won’t. Except to say that the task took about 4 times longer than it should have. But I do appreciate Lukeman’s initiative. In the end, the apple brownies turned out quite nice. Amazing guava flavor they had. I also added chopped pecans and even a few white chocolate chips (both items lovingly brought to me from other visiting teams) and dumped them in.
The brownies and brownies finished almost all at the same time. The chocolate ones were wonderfully chocolatty. I used cocoa I brought from Paris and is it good stuff! Deciding I had been dealing with enough sugar for the time being, I proceeded to make a huge salad. A couple of days ago in the market I was thrilled to find fresh basil, parsley and mint. And some fresh spinach. So I bought some. Not exactly sure what I was going to do with them, but fresh herbs…I couldn’t resist! I question the authenticity of the spinach. When cooked, it gets slimy, very much like okra. Even raw in a salad it somewhat slides around when you chew it. I don’t think real spinach does that. No matter. In my salad I put in all of the above only for Tobi to say at dinner tonight, “What is in this salad? It doesn’t taste good!” Not sure which item he meant, but it didn’t really matter, as he knew he would be eating every bite (covered in Ranch dressing of course!)
Saturday is Trae’s birthday. This weekend is also the annual NUTS softball tournament. This will be Trae’s 3rd year to participate, and Neal’s 2nd. They are both on different competitive teams so it’s very possible that they could end up playing each other in the finals. It’s alot of fun. Lot’s of softball games. So, since Trae will be occupied most/all of Saturday, and since our team arrives on Sunday, he asked if I would make Alfredo for him before then. Decided to do that today as well. I even added in some of the pretend spinach and no one was the wiser. Who could be with all the cream, butter and cheeses? For birthday dessert I made him Mango stuff. Kind of like a crisp. Well, the recipe calls for peaches but those don’t exist round these parts, so mangoes it was. Actually, if it wasn’t for our ‘mango day’ last July, mangoes wouldn’t exist right now either. They are out of season. But they do exist in my freezer. After the rich Alfredo/secret spinach dinner, no one could eat much dessert. But I know in another hour or so the savages will be back, looking for more.
That was the end of desserts for today. But I must mention here that Tuesday was also a very productive day. And am I ever thankful Hannatu was with me. Actually, she thanked me for helping her with her work! We made lasagna, enchilada sauce, refried beans, meat pie sandwich meat and highly sinful cinnamon rolls. We started the day with lasagna. One of those huge disposable aluminum pans for the team, plus a regular 9X13 for the family’s dinner. This requires of course everything being done from scratch. Well, except for the noodles. Those are now available for purchase. I have a pretty simple recipe for it which does not include terms like ‘cheese cloth’, ‘hang’, ‘strain overnight’. It’s not suitable for eating plain with a peach (or Mango), but is fine for baking. It can be made as quickly as you can boil a pot of water, dump in milk powder and vinegar, and drain. Of course I added a fair helping of my ‘spinach’ to the end resulting cottage cheese. To be honest, the cottage cheese is Hannatu’s department. I was working on the sauce (I was thrilled to have a use for my fresh basil and parsley). As one may or may not imagine, I use my ‘cookery’ often. My pots and pans take a beating and the ones that I’m using now I brought back with me when we returned to Niger last summer. I don’t think they ‘make them like they used to.’ After all, who needs industrial stength cookware when it gets used once or twice a week. Maybe. Several of my ‘new’ ones are already wearing out their non-stick coating. My square griddle is seeming to be warped, probably due to overuse with the 1000’s of tortillas it has cooked. I’m not exaggerating. I think what I may be trying to do is excuse what happened to the lid of my stew pot on Tuesday. I was minding my own business, happily cooking my lasagna sauce while carefully keeping the sweat from my face from dripping into the pot (have I mentioned that my kitchen is hot?) when suddenly I heard a ‘pop’ sound. Just like that. “POP”. It was the lid on my sauce pot. It’s glass and it had shattered, but was still in tact, held in place by the metal rim. My biggest concern was my sauce. One false move and I could be throwing away 3 kilos of ground beef, 2 quarts of fresh frozen tomatoes, tomato paste, my fresh basil and parsley, various spices and lots of onions and peppers. It wouldn’t even be suitable for the dog with chunks of glass in it! It was of course hot, so I had to search for my potholders. I very gently moved the pot off the stove and on to the counter. The lid had a knob on the top but I figured touching that would cause a cave in so I very, very gently grabbed the rim of both sides of the lid and lifted up and away from the pan and tossed it to the floor. My intent was to get the glass as far away from the sauce as possible. I succeeded with that, though I won’t mention how long the glass cleanup on the floor took.
Could this have been from overuse? Can one over use a stock pot? Anyway, it looks like I’ll again be on the lookout for more pots and pans next time we’re in the Western world. For now, my sauces will have to be cooked topless.