Peruvian Guinea Pig Anyone?

One of the first things everyone asked me when I returned home from Peru was if I tried Guinea Pig, or Cuy Chactado.  As you can see by the picture above, the answer is yes.  Now before you get all bent out of shape thinking about the cute little guinea pig you had as a pet as a child you have to understand the perspective of someone like me who's passion is to explore new cultures through food.

Guinea Pig has a different meaning to Peruvians, particularly in the highlands.  It's not only an important source of protein, particularly in rural areas, but the guinea pig also holds a longstanding and meaningful place in Peruvian folk medicine and religious practices historically.  There's even an Indian version of the Last Supper on display in Cusco that shows Jesus and the 12 disciples feasting on this local delicacy. Not trying guinea pig while in Peru would be like going to Texas and not trying authentic BBQ or going to Thailand and not trying some insects...blasphemous to a food explorer like me!  

Slow Cooker Chicken & Mixed Mushroom Casserole

I couldn't find this recipe from my favorite slow cooker cookbook anywhere on the Internet, and while I usually just find one that's similar enough to share I didn't want to risk it with this one.  I've had too many bad casseroles in my life (sorry Mom, but you have to admit they were always bland, sticky, mushy, high calorie/fat messes!), but the reason I wanted to try this one is because of the relatively unique mix of ingredients and seasonings that made me confident it would be delicious and healthy. Adapted from the cookbook "Slow Cooker: The Best Cookbook Ever"   Serves 6-8
Weekly Menu: June 24-30, 2012
Sunday: Slow Cooker Chicken & Mixed Mushroom Casserole
Monday: Salmon Panzanella
Tuesday: Leftovers:Salmon Panzanelle
Wednesday: Leftovers: Chicken Casserole
Thursday: Summer Minestrone Soup with Rustic Whole Grain Bread
Friday: Leftovers: Soup
Saturday: Eat Out
Summer is definitely in full swing now, which means great produce! So while the first dish of the week is a bit heavier my menus will be lighter for the next few months and incorporate lots of summer squashes, stone fruits, corn and all of the other amazing produce that we've been waiting all year to eat.

The Slow Cooker recipe is a new one, but sounds delightfully unique from your typical boring chicken and mushroom casserole...I know, the word casserole alone conjures up images of bland clumpy rice and mushy vegetables from your past, right?.  This dish uses wild rice, has lots of different mushrooms and is accented with dried apricots and seasoned with Marsala wine and lemon zest.  Sounds nice, doesn't it?

The other two dishes for the week, Salmon Panzanella (bread salad) and Summer Minestrone are two of our favorite summer dishes.  Both are easy, light, healthy and super flavorful...perfect for warm summer evenings.
Zucchini Bread, Just in Time for the Summer Surplus!
It's official, summer is here...I had the first surplus of zucchini brought into me by a co-worker this week.  We're in for a long, zucchini filled summer if people have started off-loading before the end of June!  So what do you do with excess zucchini?  You make zucchini bread, of course!  Well, at least until you get sick of zucchini bread then you move onto other crafty ways to work with the plethora of this vegetable for the next few months.  But lucky for you I have lots of favorite zucchini recipes that I'll share this summer as I'm digging out from under my own zucchini mountain.
Weekly Menu: June 17-23, 2012
Sunday: Pineapple Glazed Chicken with Jalapeno Salsa, Black Beans & Rice
Monday: Miso Glazed Salmon with Braised Bok Choy
Tuesday: Leftovers: Pineapple glazed chicken
Wednesday:    Gnocchi with Zucchini Ribbons & Parsley Brown Butter
Thursday: Leftovers: Gnocchi
Friday: Huevos Rancheros
Saturday: Eat Out
First full week back after our long vacation to the Galapagos & Machu Picchu...time to get back in the cooking swing of things!  Since we've left, summer has arrived so hopefully this menu feels a bit lighter and more summery to you.  The first two recipes are new ones that have been on my "to be cooked" spreadsheet for a while, both from Epicurous so I'm sure they'll be delish.  Especially the chicken...pineapple is pretty much my favorite fruit.  The miso glazed salmon is also one we haven't tried before, but in our household it's virtually impossible to go wrong with salmon.  If you're worried about buying miso for this one dish and never using it again, fear not!  Miso has a million great uses in everyday cooking...you can use it as a milk/butter substitute in some dishes, you can tenderize meat with it, use it in salad dressings, etc...  Here is a good article on miso to get you started.

The Gnocchi dish is from the cookbook Eating Well in Season.  We've made it quite a few times and it is definitely a winner.  Usually we make homemade gnocchi to go with it, but since we're making it mid-week we'll likely just buy some fresh gnocchi at our little Italian market down the street (Lucca Delicatessen for those of you in the area).  No shame in that!  But if you want to get adventurous (maybe move it to a weekend dish) and make your own gnocchi here is a post I wrote a while back on how to do that and the recipe I use to get perfect airy little gnocchi.

Friday is my favorite go-to breakfast for dinner dish.  Huevos Rancheros...the recipe I've linked to is my DIY version but it's super flexible so feel free to make it your own.  It's quick, tasty, filling and pretty healthy.  Happy Cooking & Eating!
Foodie Itinerary: Wine Country…beyond Napa & Sonoma

So you've explored Napa and Sonoma and fancy yourself a CA Wine Country enthusiast.  Not so fast...there's a whole lot more exploring to do!  When you first move to the Bay Area, you spend a lot of time in Napa and Sonoma and bring all of your visitors there...but after a while you branch out a bit, and fall in love with the California wine country all over again.  So when we don't have Wine Country virgins in town (who really should be first introduced through Napa in my opinion) our preference is actually some of these lesser known regions.  We prefer them for the more laid-back, humble feel and because they make wine (and sometimes food) just as good as the more famous and expensive regions.  So here are my favorite regions beyond Napa and Sonoma and a few recommendations for where to taste, eat and stay for each...photos to help inspire can be found here:
Weekly Menu: June 10-16, 2012
Sunday:  Last few days of vacation...Cuzco, Peru
Monday:
Tuesday:
Wednesday: Quick and Easy Take-Out - First Night Back from Vacation   
Thursday: SavoryGirl's Tortellini Soup
Friday: Leftovers: Tortellini Soup 
Saturday: Veggie Omelets & honey toast  (DIY)
Okay, so we're finally getting back from vacation this week, but since it's always a bit hectic and exhausting the first few days you're back we're keeping it pretty simple in terms of dinner, which may not be that helpful for you.  So if not, please feel free to check out any of my previous menus or favorite recipes  to fill in the gaps.  We'll get back in the swing of things next week, I promise!
SavoryGirl’s Tortellini Soup

I’ve been eating this soup since I was a kid, my mom used to make it all the time and it’s still to this day it’s my go-to food when I need some comfort or I'm not feeling well.  Back when my mom used to make it we always used the frozen Angelino tortellini, but I haven't been able to find those (or any frozen tortellini other than cheese for that matter) in years.  They were pretty awesome because they were meat tortellini...but now we have to use the more gourmet and expensive fresh kind since that's all we can find.  Although the newer dried tortellini in the pasta aisle work quite well also.  The beauty of this dish is that it’s SUPER quick & easy!
Weekly Menu: June 3-9, 2012
Sunday Nona’s Umbrian Lentil Soup
Monday Grilled Grouper w/ Apricot Ginger Relish, Grain & Veg
Tuesday Leftovers: Lentil Soup
Wednesday Leftovers: Fish Tacos with beans & spicy brussel sprouts  
Thursday Beef Tataki with side noodle salad (DIY)
Friday Eat Out
Saturday Leftovers: Beef Tataki
We're still on vacation...but now we've moved from Ecuador to Peru.  Dining at Astrid y Gaston in Lima (one of the top 50 restaurants in the world!), heading to Cuzco and then hiking & camping our way up Machu Picchu for four days.  So while we certainly aren't following this menu this week, we did follow it this time last year so I thought I would share it as a resource for you while we are away.  The Beef Tataki dish is phenomenal. If this menu doesn't work for you, remember you can always peruse my 18+ months of previous menus or favorite recipes and make a menu that works best for you.  Happy eating!  Peruvian foodie photos, stories & video to come...