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Cherokee Grape Dumplings Recipe

Cherokee Grape Dumplings: Medicine for happy hearts

Forget red wine! Whether your heart is broken or bursting with love, Cherokee Grape Dumplings provide the sweetest Valentine’s Day medicine, full of antioxidants known to improve heart health and reduce inflammation (among other cool things). Oh, and unlike red wine, Grape Dumplings are family-friendly… so go ahead, give your littlest sweethearts a bowl. It’s sure to make their hearts smile. But – wait! What are Grape Dumplings? I asked myself this exact question when my friend Deborah handed me a thin cookbook autographed by Cherokee National Treasure, Betty Jo Bean Smith. Constructed with 5 sheets of computer paper and two staples, Traditions in the Kitchen: Favorite Cherokee Meals isn’t available online or in bookstores, but it contains Cherokee treasures such as Poke Eggs and Fried Squirrel. Most of Betty’s recipes use ingredients that locals could easily forage in Oklahoma (as with poke, a leafy plant many might mistake for a weed… and, of course, squirrel, those innocent critters who practically offer themselves up for dinner at Tulsa’s Rose Garden, where I’ve witnessed them climbing people’s …

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Victoria Sponge Cake Recipe inspired by Mary Poppins

British Victoria Sponge Cake

Imagine a cake good enough to eat upside down. This Victoria Sponge Cake is 100% inspired by Mary Poppins – that lovable British nanny at the heart of  countless quirky adventures – and, yes, it’s that good. The recipe is mentioned in Mary Poppins: 80th Anniversary Collection, which I gave my daughter for Valentine’s Day. A note on these books: P.L. Travers’s collection goes well beyond the parameters of the Disney movie – the floating tea party scene at the heart of the film can be found on page 42, barely cracking the spine of this 1024 page classic. Every night at bedtime we settle into a new chapter, following the 5 Banks children on another adventure. They paint the sky, eat gingerbread stars, hang out with the constellations at a circus in space, and travel the world with a compass – and all that within the first few hundred pages. Mary Poppins not only never explains their adventures once they’re over, she insists she has no idea what the children are talking about. More than buttoned up, Mary Poppins is flat out strict, yet the children always have fun when she’s …

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Russian Cabbage Pie

This much Russia knows: the chilly, early days of spring go hand-in-hand with cabbage. Throughout the countryside, rows of cabbages can be found poking through the ground even as the last freeze thaws. The tough, squeaky heads are impenetrable to all but the peskiest of creatures, but give them some attention with a sharp knife and persistent flame and you’ll see why cabbage is the pride of Russian home cooking. From cabbage rolls to borscht, Russian cookbooks are fat with ideas to use up the spring harvest – and at a mere $2-$3 per head at the market, it’s tempting to attempt them all. But if I had to pick just one, cabbage pie seems to shows off the humble vegetable’s truest potential. Cook it up with little more than butter, a smattering of onion and lay it between sticky spoonfuls of sour cream batter… bake, then slice into neat squares and you’ll have a feast fit for any potluck. (We took it over to our neighbor’s potluck party; the casserole was cleaned out in mere minutes!) The ingredients …

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Mealie Bread with Blackened Chilies

If you ask my husband, there’s always room for cornbread. And he’ll eat twice as much cornbread if green chilies dot through the crumb. But what would he think if the cornbread came from half a world away? If it came from Zambia? As a former “Mr Picky” he says: Mealie Bread is a good way to bridge the gap for picky eaters to try something from another culture. The cornbread in Zambia is much like the cornbread in the USA – except it is made with fresh corn kernels instead of cornmeal. This makes the flavor come alive. Zambians call it mealie bread (mealie is just another name for corn; mealie bread is popular all over southern Africa). The result is moist (bordering on juicy), naturally sweet, and great on the side of any autumn stew (such as Zambia’s Spiced Tilapian Stew). If  you’re lucky enough to slice into the mealie bread while it’s still hot? Well… forget about having leftovers. So why stud the mealie bread with chilies? Because Zambians love chili peppers.  Chilies are available in the …

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Cream & Current Scones

The first time I had a scone – a real British scone – I almost lost my mind. The small disc had a tender crumb and tasted of lightly sweetened cream. A speckling of currants brightened the flavor, giving it just a hint of color, too. The giving texture of the scone is worth further mention. I think much of the lightness stems from the fact that  real scones are made with good quality European butter. European butter is richer (averaging 85% fat instead of just 81%), so there’s less water, which means a more delicate crumb. It also helped that the scone was made with a light touch: there was nothing overworked about the recipe ( a baking crime which can quickly turn a featherweight scone into a hockey puck). With such delicious ingredients, a true scone needs very little accouterments. Still, I did as the British do, and split my scone and added a spoonful of homemade strawberry preserves. The garnet colored preserves filled the craggy crevice so completely, the sticky goodness nearly spilled …

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Coconut Banana Fritters

I don’t usually pick my Friday afternoon snacks based on Prince William’s and the Duchess’ eating habits, but this week I couldn’t help myself. The royal couple were fed these amazing fritters during their stay in Tuvalu. What an endorsement. If they’re good enough for royalty, they are good enough for me. Trust me on this: each bite will transport you to magical Tuvalu, way out in the Pacific, where the sun shines brightly, the water sparkles like a smile, and every day feels like a vacation. They are indulgent in the most unapologetic way possible. The fritters contain many local ingredients, most notably coconut and bananas. Not just any bananas, my friends. These are nice, ripe, bananas. After a quick dip in bubbling oil, the fritters emerge soft in the middle and crisp and nut-brown on the outside. A heavy dusting of powdered sugar later and they become the perfect tropical doughnut. Makes 8 large, 12 small Ingredients: Vegetable oil, for frying 2 ripe bananas, rough chopped For the batter: 1/2 cup all-purpose flour 1/2 …

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Almond Carrot Cake | Aargauer Rüeblitorte

Yes, I have a three year old daughter. No, I don’t hide a head of cauliflower in her mashed potatoes. I never slip zucchini in her pancakes when she’s not looking. And I refuse to bury carrots in her cake. I don’t cater to my daughter that way. Don’t get me wrong.  On any old Monday, Ava can blow through a bowl of cauliflower mashed potatoes. On the weekend, she can annihilate a tower of zucchini pancakes before the early bird has had his breakfast. And, as of today, she loves carrot in cake as well as any Swiss child. But she knows the vegetables are there. We talk about it. Laugh about it. In our house, we revel in a real carrot’s gnarly glory. I point out the knots, the hairs, the fuzzy green top to Ava.  She giggles, she scrunches up her nose, and then she chows down. When I happened upon this traditional Swiss Carrot Cake, I realized that, though Ava had enjoyed many a gnarly carrot, she had never eaten carrot …

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Swedish Princess Cake | Prinsesstårta

They say this spring green dome from the 1930’s made with layers of sponge cake, raspberry jam, custard, and whipped cream is DIFFICULT. Everyone says so, in fact, except for the Swedes. Curious, right? I finally figured out why: Swedish folk have great recipes and three quarters of a century’s worth of tips and tricks up their sleeves. Like, ahem, pre-rolled marzipan and boxed custard. I even saw one Swedish video which used prepacked cake, already sliced in thirds. “We all start out as children.” This Swedish Proverb hints at what I learned, first hand, when making this cake: we must crawl before we can walk, we must be children before we are grown. Experience comes one step at a time. Considering I made each part of this cake 3 times, and messed it up terribly along the way… I thought you might benefit from my errors. So, do forgive me, but before we get into the recipe, I must tell you about the top five mistakes I made when making this cake, so you don’t do …

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Mealie Bread

The next time you walk into your kitchen, walk into the warm, sweet scent of mealie bread. Let a smile curl along your lips as you taste that first, moist bite with your imagination. Then take a moment for real indulgence: spread softened butter across the still-warm bread, only to see it melt into and down the sides of the tender crumb. I’ve had lots of corn bread before, but never something as rich and flavorful as this Mealie Bread. The main difference between this and ordinary corn bread is that it doesn’t rely on cornmeal, but actual corn to flavor the bread. Mealie Bread is a treat you will find throughout southern Africa. In olden days, it was steamed over a campfire, with little more than ground corn, wrapped up in husks. They used white corn, not sweet, yellow corn. The end result was more of a wet corn pudding. Today’s southern Africans, however, love mealie bread with more of a bread consistency, so they include flour. The jury is out, however, on whether or not the …

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Sudanese Flatbread | Gorraasa

Gorraasa is a soft, doughy bread enjoyed in the Sudan that tastes like a really thick tortilla. The texture is a bit more spongy, however, and when I pulled mine into pieces, I was delighted to find the slight elasticity at once addicting and good for picking up food. Which is exactly how the Sudanese use Gorraasa. They place a round of Gorraasa under stewed meats or other entrees, then tear off bits of the bread to pick up the food instead of using utensils. It can also be enjoyed on its own… as Ava demonstrates here: I first learned about Gorraasa from Mark Tanner who spent quite a bit of time traveling through Sudan, though I found his recipe needed adjusting to work in my kitchen. Namely, more baking powder was needed to obtain the open holes (and if the batter happened to be too wet, the holes would pop before they set). Also, I found that, though he suggested flipping the Gorraasa while cooking, when I did so, the results no longer matched the photo …

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Blueberry Bublanina | Bubbly Cake

From early springtime all the way into the deep heart of fall, Slovakia’s mountains and hills burst with nature’s bounty. For those who search, a perpetual harvest reveals herself. Here, trees swoon with the weight of delightfully sour cherries, juicy, grapes, apricots, and apples. There, bushes bloom with blueberries, woodsy and sweet. This land, surely, is magic. When there is more fruit than can be gathered in an apron, Slovakia makes Bublanina, a.k.a. Bubbly Cake. Just one secret makes this slightly sweet cake light and fluffy: whipped egg whites. Fruit, sliced, chunked, or left whole, is scattered across the foamy surface and, as the cake puffs up in the oven, it bubbles around the fruit. Some fruit sinks down. Some fruit does not. Once out of the oven, the whole thing is covered with a cloud of powdered sugar, until even the air around it tastes sweet. It’s all kinds of whimsical and the perfect way to ring in the hope of spring (I promise it’s coming – I even witnessed a few daffodil leaves …

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Chocolate Ice Cube Cake | ledene kocke

If there was a giant table strewn with every cake, brownie, custard, and pie, ever, I’d be the first in line. But I wouldn’t be there to eat them. Not initially. I’d be there to soak in their beauty, to enjoy the geometry. Circles, rectangles, towers of truffles. Cubes, even. I’d languish to revel in the colors – chocolate browns, raspberry reds, vanilla-cream whites, mint-leaf greens, passion fruit golds. I’d eat with my eyes until ever bit of my spirit was nourished. Then I’d sink my teeth into the sweetness. When I happened upon Ledene Kocke, I fell immediately for the geometry; a grid, stacked in shades of cocoa and cream. Little did I know, translating the recipe would hold it’s fair share of challenges. I so wanted to make the recipe, though. With cold, hard stubbornness  I powered through and, in the words of Tim Gunn, I made it work. Let’s start by talking about the name. Ledene Kocke. Translators generally make this “Ice Cube Cake” which is completely adorable. It was only after I thought about how the cake is …

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