garlic herb garden pizza

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Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup of warm water
  • 2 tsp of active yeast
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp dry basil
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp of oil

Toppings:

  • Calaloo (aka spinach) $200 GYD/bundle
  • Tomatoes (sliced) $100 GYD/bag of 4
  • Sweet Peppers (diced)  $100 GYD/bag of 4
  • Pineapple (diced) Currently 3 for $500 GYD
  • Shredded cheese $660 GYD/lb
  • Marinara Sauce (homemade or pre-made)

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl, mix together flour + oil + garlic + herbs + water w/ yeast. I usually leave the yeast in the warm water for a minute before adding to the dough mixture.
  2. Dough should be soft. If it is too moist, add a little bit of flour until the dough is less sticky.
  3. While the oven is pre-heating at 450F, roll out the dough. Sprinkle flour on top as you go to roll them out easier. I like thin-crust pizza’s so I cut my dough into three and rolled each out to about 8 inches.
  4. Chip and put all your toppings on.
  5. Bake in the over for about 15 to 20 minutes.


I catch myself missing food from home like thin crust pizza with stringy mozzarella cheese that melts in your mouth and yummy toppings that fall of the sides with every bite. But thankfully, I’m still able to make a lot of my favorite foods here in Guyana. It’s been fun challenging myself to try new recipes on limited resources. It takes a little creativity and some budgeting, but I get the job done.

Pizza isn’t hard to find in Guyana if you live on the coast. If you don’t go to Pizza Hut or Mario’s, your Guyanese Pizza is about 95% bread, 4% cheese, and 1% toppings. The toppings vary from things like pineapples, onions, sweet peppers to ketchup, hot dogs, corn, and bora (green beans). It’s not what I’m used to, but who’s to say it doesn’t work. That’s the beauty of pizza–you can put whatever you want on warm bread and melted cheese and be happy.

I’m a firm believer in eating pizza as an act of loving yourself. As a health promoter I feel obligated to say I wouldn’t recommend it all the time, but sometimes you just need it for your soul. So when you finally get that long-overdue day to yourself, sit in your stretchy pants and enjoy!

 

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food in guyana: part 2

PAPAYAS: They’re called “papaws” and they are my favorite fruit. You know when it’s ripe if the skin is soft and yellow. At the market, they usually sell them a little unripe so that you can let it sit for a day or two before enjoying. The other day at the market, I scored a papaya bigger than my head for $500GY ($2.50USD) I was proud of my harvest as I saw other people buying papayas the size of softball for the same price. I’m planning on planting one of my own soon and in 8 months time, I hope to see these little pieces of heaven growing in my backyard.

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ESSENCE: It’s always the first thing I taste when I bite into a piece of cake. I can always tell when they use it. It’s similar to any extract you might use in your baking, except it’s not extract. I don’t know what it is, but like many things in Guyana, you don’t question it. It’s essence.

BURGERS: If you know me well, you know burgers are my love language. Nothing beats a juicy burger with a beer and fries, am I right? Burgers in Guyana are chicken sandwiches though, unless you’re in my house. Then of course, a burger (according to my 5 year old host brother Jeremiah) is a sliced hotdog slabbed between cheese, mayo, mustard, and ketchup in a bun. Sometimes it’s cheese and mayo. Sometimes it’s just mayo. And lots of it.

SEVEN CURRY: If cook-up isn’t your favorite food, then curry is. And my gosh, seven curry is a wonderful thing. Inside a giant water lily-leaf, this Indo-Guyanese delicacy consists of seven different types of curry. SEVEN. Served on top of rice is pumpkin curry, dahl curry, potato curry, bagee (spinach) curry, belanjay (eggplant), edoe, and catahar. You can eat with a spoon, but come on. There’s no fun in that. The first time I had seven curry was at Meena’s (a family friend and kitchen supervisor at the Psychiatric Hospital) wedding. It certainly was a day of celebration. One for Meena’s happily ever after and one for my tummy.

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PLANTAINS: I remember passing by plantains at the markets back in the States, but I never thought to buy them. That was my mistake because I eat these all the time now. When it’s the end of the week and we’ve gone through our groceries, there will always be plantains. I can always count on them. Unripe or ripe, I like them fried.  You can of course boil them with sweet potatoes, mash’em up (or leave in chunks), and eat with some salt fish. Either way, I think me and all of Guyana can attest a tribute to plantains for keeping us full on days we don’t have enough money to buy other things.

BELANJAY CHOKA: Yum. An Indo-Guyanese dish that takes practice to make. It’s quite a lengthy process, at least for a beginner like me, but it’s worth the effort. It’s roasted belanjay (eggplant) stuffed with garlic and mixed with tomatoes, shallots, and celery. One day I was gaffing (aka chatting) with two of my friends, Vido and Kim (vendors from the Corentyne that sell produce on the road), about how much I loved belanjay choka. At the end of our conversation, they generously gave me a few belanjays and a bundle of shallots to try making it myself. And voila! The recipe will be up soon so stay tuned!

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Love always,
Mel

split pea cook-up

Today, me and my host family worked together to make lunch. Mom made Split Pea Cook-up, my little sister smashed garlic and cut tomatoes like a pro, and I made seasoned-baked fish and a salad to go with it. It was a good Saturday afternoon learning from each other and sharing what we all love–food.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I’m learning recipes simply by watching. This is my first attempt to write it down so bare with me. Come, leh we go!

SPLIT PEA COOK-UP

What is cook-up?

Cook-up is an Afro-Guyanese dish made of rice, coconut milk, some kind of legume/bean, and any rank (aka meat) of your choice. People eat this on several occasions: a baby shower, birthday, BBQ, or just because. It’s a Guyanese home favorite. There are many ways to mix it up and make it taste how you like, but what doesn’t change is how delicious rice is cooked in coconut milk. So freaking good.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dry split peas (or use 1 can if you can find some)
  • 2 cups of rice
  • 1 2/3 cups of coconut milk (or 13.5oz can)
  • 1 cup of water
  • onions (diced)
  • 5 stems of celery w/ leaves (diced)
    • if you’re in America, use about 3.
  • 1 hot pepper (diced)
  • salt/all purpose seasoning (in Guyana, you can use cook-up seasoning)

Directions:

  1. I’ve never pressurized anything before, but that’s how people do things in Guyana. My host mom gave me these sweet directions to share with you: place pressurizer on med-hot heat, add about 1 to 2 cups of water into the pot, add your peas, cover with lid, and let it pressurize until you hear the first whistle. Host mama says it shouldn’t take long. I’m going to guess between 5-10 minutes.
    • Of course, if you don’t have a pressure cooker and don’t want to boil your peas for a long time, you can just buy the can.
  2. Sautee celery, onion, and hot pepper in some oil on medium heat.
  3. Add split peas.
  4. Pour coconut milk and water.
  5. Add rice into the pot with everything else until it is fully cooked.
  6. Add salt and all purpose seasoning to taste.

SEASONED BAKED FISH

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Ingredients:

  • 1-2lbs of fish (cut into fillets)
    • Sorry, I don’t know what kind we used… but the flesh was white.
  • 3-4 stems of celery w/ leaves
  • 4 tomatoes (diced, large)
  • 1 whole garlic (minced)
  • 1 lime
  • salt
  • soy sauce

Directions:

  1. Marinated the fish with lime, garlic, oil, and a little bit of salt.
  2. In a one or two large pans, bake the fish (skin facing up) at 450F (or 240C) for 20-30 minutes.
  3. While the fish is baking, cut your celery and tomatoes.
  4. Once the fish is fully cooked, add the celery and tomatoes to the pan.
  5. Lightly pour soy sauce onto the fish. I don’t use much because the fish is already salty. We don’t want to over do it so make sure the fish ISN’T drowning in it.
  6. Place back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes until tomatoes are soft.

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Enjoy!!!

Love always,
Mel

Strawberry Salsa Chicken Tacos

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup strawberries (diced)
  • 1 roma tomato (diced)
  • 1/2 a bunch of cilantro (minced)
  • 1/2 cup green onions (minced)
  • 1 jalapeno (diced)
  • 3 limes
  • salt/pepper
  • chicken breasts
  • sour cream
  • 3 cheese blend
  • corn tostadas

Directions:

  1. Wash and chop up all your fresh ingredients.
  2. Mix together strawberries, tomatoes, cilantro, green onions, and 1/2 of the diced jalapeños to make the strawberry salsa.
  3. Squeeze one lime and sprinkle some salt into the mix.
  4. Marinate chicken with 2 limes, salt, and pepper.
  5. Cook marinated chicken breasts on med-high temp.
  6. Ensemble your tacos with a corn tostada, sour cream, chicken, cheese, and then the strawberry salsa on top!


They kind of take a bit of work with all the chopping, the cooking, and then putting it all together before you can sit down and eat… but man, they are so worth it. Homemade tacos are my favorite. I think I have the best times with friends and family over them. And I don’t know why or even how, but I can eat like 6 tacos (or more) when they’re made at home. There’s nothing like it 🙂

Not that tacos remind of anything other than how delicious they are, but today, I am thankful for time off from work, rainy weather, friends who understand you, and a God who is perfect in His timing.

Enjoy!

Love always,
Melanie Zimmerman

Turkey Pastrami Sandwich on Ciabatta

Ingredients:

  • 2 slices of ciabatta bread (or any loaf you fancy)
  • 4-5 slices of turkey pastrami
  • 1 egg
  • red-leaf lettuce
  • 1 tomato (sliced)
  • 1 cucumber (sliced)
  • 1/2 avocado
  • 1-2 slices of swiss cheese
  • white onion (sliced)
  • butter
  • spicy brown mustard

Directions:

  1. I started off by slicing all my vegetables (tomato, cucumber, onions) so that when it was time to put my sandwich together, I’d have everything ready.
  2. Next, I started frying my egg on med-high temp. I like mine runny so I went with a simple over-easy. Set aside on a plate once cooked.
  3. After, caramelize your sliced onions.
  4. Now, toast your bread. I usually toast mine on a pan bc I never thought to invest in a toaster when I got to college. Either way is fine! On a pan, I melt a small square of butter and place the bread right on top.
  5. Once your bread is nice and toasty, lay the swiss cheese on each side. Then your onions, red-leaf lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, the egg, avocado slices, and spicy brown mustard all in between. I like putting my deli meat at the top of my sandwich (but that’s just me).
  6. Press down on the sandwich, cut in half, or just dig right in!


It’s been awhile since I’ve spent more than 10 minutes in a kitchen. May was one busy month. With the end of the semester, celebrating my friends graduating college, weddings, and all the other little things in between I had to keep up with I haven’t felt like I’ve gotten any rest since the beginning of April. I can hardly believe it’s June already… Geez.

With all that said, I am so happy that I am able to take things slow today. My morning was spent having an exciting conversation with a sweet friend over a cup of coffee, taking my time at the grocery store, spoiling myself a little bit by buying locally made bread, and building myself a sandwich that reminded me so much of childhood. Although it’s a little different than the Pastrami Sandwich from Little Luca’s in San Francisco, the taste of peppered deli meat and mustard took me back to when I’d go to the beach with my Papa.

I still have a pretty full day ahead of me, but it was so good for me to take care of myself in this way. Rest is important. Even if you like being busy and feel more like yourself when you are. And trust me, I know, rest is hard.

I learned that when I tore my ACL. Before that, I was running a million miles per hour working to make ends meet, struggling to make good grades, being at this meeting and being at that event–I could hardly keep my head on straight. Then in a moment, my knee buckled in all the wrong ways and I was forced to sit down.  It was a hard 6 months of stillness because being still meant I couldn’t run. And at the time, I was running away from everything.

Without rest, our eyes grow a little weary and our bodies become a little weaker; recognizing and resisting evil may become harder too; and we certainly begin to break down and cave in.

Maybe “rest” looks like a day full of Netflix or sleeping or painting or running or whatever. I think that’s why the Lord gives us certain likes, interests, gifts and even talents in life to also be used to bring us into His arms for our own healing and delight too. I’ve shared this before, but for me it’s cooking. Sometimes I paint, but cooking up something delicious restores me in ways nothing else can. I thank God for that. I thank Him for giving me a way to spend time with Him, to be thankful, to process, and to enjoy rest all at the same time.

It’s a good thing it’s summer, right? Well, at least for some of us. I understand we have jobs and other important things to do, but I hope you can recognize when you need to slow down and allow the Lord to restore you for his glory.

 

 

 

Love always,
Melanie Zimmerman

 

 

 

Spring Steak Salad

Ingredients:

  • Any cut of steak (I basically chose my steak based on what was the cheapest cut)
  • blue cheese
  • strawberries
  • blackberries
  • arugula
  • kale
  • baby spinach
  • red-leaf lettuce
  • sunflower seeds
  • balsamic vinegar
  • olive oil
  • pepper
  • salt
  • 4 cloves of garlic (minced)

Directions:

  1. Cover a skillet in olive oil and begin browning the garlic.
  2. As the garlic cooks (which is honestly the best part bc omg the smell), season the steak simply with salt and pepper on both sides.
  3. Lay the steaks on the skillet and cook each side for about 15 minutes on each side at a medium temp. SIDE NOTE: I hardly ever eat steak (let alone make it) so the fact that they came out a PERFECT medium-rare… I felt like I really impressed myself tonight. My parents would’ve been proud. Especially my mama bc she’s the queen of grilling meat.
  4. While that’s cooking and smelling delicious, wash and cut your berries.
  5. Next, make the homemade balsamic vinegarette. It’s actually pretty simple. Just pour 1/4 cup of olive oil and about 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar into a dipping bowl. Throw in some pepper, salt, and maybe a little bit of garlic and voila! Or… you can just buy balsamic vinegarette. Whatever you feel like doing 🙂
  6. Chop your steak once it’s done!
  7. Lay your greens on a plate, add the berries, the sunflower seeds, THE CHEESE, the dressing, and of course your steak and enjoy!!!

At the beginning of the school year, I prayed to God that I’d experience the fullness of his joy and that I could feel it without ever wanting to deny it came from Him. Maybe it started off a kind of rocky, but the Lord has answered my prayers with himself and himself only.. and sometimes, that’s a process to understand too.

If I hadn’t surrendered to being placed upside down in my life for the last 7 months so Jesus could empty me of all the last remnants of my despair… I’m not sure the weight of his glory that fills my soul so heavily could be there.

I don’t think we’re always fully aware of where we put our treasures.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Matthew 6:19-21

I don’t know where your treasure is, but for me, it has been getting a “useful” degree, a career (or the satisfaction I got out of working towards one), being in a relationship with someone, or some kind of combination of it all that made me believe in some notion that I’m worth something in this world… But I laugh to myself as I continue to write this out bc I literally have none of those things right now. Yet, there’s no denying I’m the happiest I think I’ve ever been.

It’s bc I know without a doubt that I’m loved. That I’m a daughter of a king. And that I have been given the source of all joy… The heart of Christ. And those things will never change. Never disappoint or ever fail.

I know we’re all in different places in our lives, but geez, I’m so desperate for everyone to feel this way and know this truth no matter where they are.

I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

Ephesians 3:16-21

 

Love always,
Melanie Zimmerman

A Love Letter to Those Who Don’t Know What They’re Doing w/ Their Lives

I love joking with friends and family about starting our own restaurant together. We start dreaming about who will do what and it genuinely gets me so excited.  I know we’re mostly kidding, but sometimes I actually find myself believing in the possibility.

I know nothing about business or how to actually manage a restaurant, but I looooove the idea of people gathering together for a great time.  I want to bring in all sorts of people–college students, cranky and sweet grandparents, tired workers, restless kids, and hip people–in a place for laughter and conversations. I also love the look on someone’s face when they’ve tasted something amazing (especially when I know it’s my cooking).

I mean how awesome would that be to have a cute little breakfast & bar kind of place?! I’d serve (hopefully) the best coffee in town, decadent pastries, all sorts of mimosas, and the coolest breakfast bowls that’ll start anyone’s morning just right.

The dream goes on and then I realize, “Well crap, that probably won’t happen.” I start thinking about where my life is actually heading, how little money I have saved up, and the reality of uncertainty that stands before me as I get closer to graduation.

I freak out.

We’re at another giant window of possibilities. No clear path. Just a bunch of wild dreams and desires that we’ve had our whole lives… and the enemy is becoming more and more eager to place doubt and despair within them.

We follow the steps and the advice we were given to take by our academic advisors, our parents, and other spheres of influences just to gain status/security to come find out we’re either unhappy, unsatisfied, and unsure… still.

I mean, what is it that we actually want to hear?

Something Jesus has taught me this year is that the core of my dreams and desires are valuable. That the joy cooking, gathering around the table, and bringing people together gives me is worth something to Him. But it has been a challenge understanding that God’s will for my desires doesn’t always match up with what it would actually look like.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pursued something and my path to get there changed completely. Detour here, detour there. Or better yet, when I finally get to where I’m going and I realize it’s not really what I was meant for.

But even in that, there is purpose.

I have learned that the journey and the destinations are all part of how God has led me to his ultimate purpose–to experience His glory, love, and joy. To know and love Him through Christ. That every peak and valley, every change of course, and every path we take… Changed me, prompted me to repentance, and led me to a point where dwelling in the presence of my God gave me the most certainty in my life. A lot of my selfish ambition and prideful ideas of success were stripped away in the process and I found myself right here with you.

But we’re not stuck.

I still struggle with practicality and how all of this comes together, but I know that I am stepping further into my identity in Christ. There’s movement in that… even if you don’t see it right away…it’s leading you closer to knowing what God has planned for you all along.

Many plans are in a man’s heart, but the Lord’s purpose always prevails.
proverbs 19:21

 

Love always,
Melanie Zimmerman



—FEATURED RECIPE—

TUNA SALAD + GOUDA CHEESE MELT

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Ingredients:

  • 3 cans of tuna (in water)
  • 1 cup of celery (minced)
  • about 3/4 cup of plain non-fat greek yogurt
  • 3 boiled eggs (diced)
  • Pepper
  • Butter
  • Gouda cheese
  • Your favorite bread (I like sourdough, but I used oatnut bread)

Directions:

  1. Boil eggs for 15 minutes. Let cool and then dice them.
  2. While eggs are boiling, mince the celery stalks.
  3. Add eggs, celery, greek yogurt, and pepper to the tuna in a medium-sized mixing bowl.
  4. Toast your bread with butter. SIDE NOTE: If you have a panini press, your life is golden and all of this will be so easy to do. I personally don’t have one, but I think everyone should because they’re amazing. Anyway, if you don’t that’s ok! You can use a pan too. Just set temperature at medium-high, add butter to the pan, and lay the slices of bread down.
  5. Once both sides are slightly toasted, add slices of gouda cheese onto one piece of toast (or both) and the tuna salad onto the other. Place the slice of bread with the cheese on top so that it melts down into the tuna.To help with melting the cheese properly, I press down on the sandwich.
  6. One night I added sautéed kale to my sandwich and it was SUPER good. So maybe you might wanna try that one day too.

The great thing about making tuna salad (besides the fact that it’s freaking delicious) is that it’ll last ya a few days. Enjoy!