Shrink Wrap is Shrinking my Brain!

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Opening our Moroccan boxes can be a wonderful experience, with the scent of rose oil and the brightly colored pouches and bags filled with all sorts of wonderful organic products to help you prepare a Moroccan feast . . . unless that sticky raw organic honey has escaped it’s cork-topped bottle!

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So in our effort to provide you with the best experience possible, I’ve come to the conclusion that something like a shrink band would be a good choice. This goes along with finding out they are called shrink bands! Measure the neck of the bottle or bottles, research shrink bands and how to apply, buy appropriately sized shrink bands, buy heat gun (not using a hair dryer, I find out), and watch a lot of YouTube videos on how to apply them.

In the last photo you’ll see a lot of little failed shrink bands. Not so easy! Seal, baby, seal! But I think I’m getting the hang of it.  All part of our on-going process to make an excellent product. No dripping honey for you!

On to the next issue.

 

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Passport Dinners: taste the world, one box at a time

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This? Or that?

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As I mentioned a bit ago, I’m in the process of re-booting my business. As happens with many of us who start with a passion and attempt to share that passion with the world via a business, down times do occur.

But with the help of my business mentor, Carolyn of Your Product Hub, I’m beginning to have clarity, focus, and renewed excitement about my evolving product.

So I’ve taken my previous Moroccan Feast box, along with LOTS of photos, and LOTS of lighting angles:

 

and re-imagined and re-created what I feel is a more authentic experience for my clients to throw their own Exotic Moroccan Feast:

 

And along the way there’s been “What type of bottles/jars do I use?”

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And, “Oops!, that jar leaks! Try another one!”

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And “Should I use tins? They’re kinda cute.”

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And “How about some fabric pouches? Or kraft paper pouches? What size? What color?”

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Then there was the previous organic Moroccan Mint tea bags:  Good.

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Next, Organic Moroccan Mint tea in cute little tins with a packet of Organic Cane Sugar, to sweeten:        Better . . . but messy!

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And lastly, biodegradable tea bags filled with fragrant Organic Moroccan Mint tea and a tin of Organic Cane Sugar, to sweeten:  Best!

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So the process of re-booting has been a challenge, a bit messy, engaging, yet fun!  Most small businesses have their challenges, but also great rewards. I think it provides a much better experience for my clients who are interested in exploring the world through food such as found in our Exotic Moroccan Feast.  On to the next box!

 

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Sunday Funday (& Memories) at Whole Foods Market

Recently I dragged my spouse into Whole Foods Market, conveniently located next to one of my favorite beer/brunch places, Bier Garden in Encinitas, CA, to look for a protein to prepare for Sunday dinner. We agreed to head to the fish counter, which is always well stocked with a wide variety of fresh offerings from the sea.

Right in front of us was a chilled container brimming with fresh trout. Yes, please! We were both remembering days of living, and fishing, in Colorado.
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When we were in our 20’s we lived in the mountains just west of Denver about an hour. Many Fridays after work we’d head up the mountain, stop by our work-in-progress home we were building, throw a few things in the car, then head to one of our favorite camping spots.

This particular spot was found by driving off the main highway to a couple of smaller roads to a rutted road through a herd of cattle, then deep into the pine trees. Only a few spots were here, nestled along a stream that would lull you to sleep at night, under the canopy of trees that shaded you during the day, and covered with pine needles from which made for a nice, soft cushion beneath our sleeping bags.

I loved the hand pump for the water, which was always crystal clear and super tasty. Of course, that went for most of the well water in the mountains. Even the well water at our home was crystal clear, tasty, and super-cold. With the addition of a little naturally occurring uranium (yep, I worked at a lab and had it tested).

Hal, the spouse, would head down to the wider part of the stream, throw in his line, and more likely than not pull out a brookie or two, or other trout, or stream salmon. Cooked in a large cast iron pan with a little oil and cornmeal and dinner is served, along with a few beers.

So we decided to prepare these fresh little trout two ways: simply stuffed with lemon slices and parsley with a little salt and pepper AND dredged in buttermilk and cornmeal, both thrown in a pan with a little oil, and finished in the oven. Maybe 7 minutes max and we have memories of camping in Colorado with the best that nature has to offer.

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It was nice to recall the memories of Colorado and fresh-from-the-stream fish, along with a few beers, San Diego IPA style, of course. No silver bullet here! Ah, Sunday Funday!

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Passport Dinners: taste the world, one box at a time

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The Business of a Business You Love

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I began my Passport Dinners business as a offshoot of my love of both food and travel. And I LOVE to throw a party. And if it’s a theme party, all the better!

When my girls were quite young, we introduced them to one of our favorite types of dinner parties, the Moroccan feast. A roomful of friends resting on pillows scattered on the floor. Fragrant warm, sweet, and savory foods brought out on big platters to be devoured, convivially and festively, by the handfuls. No silverware here! Just large napkins or hand towels to wipe up the evidence.

So Passport Dinners was designed to encourage others to create a similar experience with friends and family, not just experiences of Morocco, but Spain, and Italy, and Mexico. And not just places I’ve visited, but places I’ve wanted to visit and explore the foods and cultures of. I’ve been slowly plowing away, slowly increasing sales, but not coming close to the success I originally imagined.

And I’ve had many doubts, such as when I hear, “So, you’re still doing that?” And when my motivation lags and I haven’t picked up the chef’s knife in months to create a new dish. And when my computer crashes and my new computer and old software aren’t compatible.

I’m sure I’m not alone in my desire to share a passion and at the same time to create a business that is successful. Many companies have grown from modest beginnings to quite impressive heights. Auspicious goals are worthy of time and energy.

Enter my business mentor, Carolyn of Your Product Hub. She advised me, “If you’re hearing ‘No. No. No.’,” especially if these No’s are in your own head, it’s time to re-evaluate and chart another course. Am I still passionate about my core idea? Yes. Do I want to invest considerably more time (and more money) to create a better product? Yes. Do I want to add value to my product? Yes.

So here begins the great re-boot of my company, my vision, my passion. And with someone at my side to encourage me and, of great importance to me, to focus me. I’d love to share my process and my progress through this re-invention of my original passion, one box at a time. More to come.

Yes, I’m still entertaining my own family with a favorite, the Moroccan feast. My girls are all grown up and do a lot of their own entertaining, often with a theme and always with great food. And one of my daughters has had the great opportunities to travel to and/or live in Spain and Morocco. And we’ve added a son-in-law to the festivities. Yes, I still LOVE to throw a party!

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Rio, I’ll Be Watching

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There are lots of opinions about the Olympics.  Good, bad, uplifting, indifferent, commercial, political . . .

“All its manic neediness, demanding attention from all corners of the globe, 24 hours a day for two weeks straight, dishing out prepackaged, overdramatized “sport” to the delight of corporate sponsors everywhere.” (http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/local/news-columns-blogs/joetopia/article39210417.html#storylink=cpy)

The opening ceremonies with the Parade of Nations. The best athletes ALL those nations present to “wow” us in the next two weeks with their prowess of the human body, coming together on a global stage in a tenuous peace.  And a nod to ancient history in Greece with a fledgling democracy and their Olympic festivals to honor the “athletic ideal” (http://www.pe04.com/olympic/olympia/).

No matter what your views of that once-every-two-or-four-years extravaganza, the Olympics, you should have a cocktail, right?

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I’m going with the best-known Brazilian cocktail, the Caipirinha, “little peasant girl”.  I’m using Pitu “the lobster” cachaca (pronounced kah-sha-sa), made from fresh cut sugar cane juice and typically not aged whereas rum is made from molasses, a by-product of cane juice, and aged.

So what does it taste like?  Here we go!

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For my tastes, a little like a white rum mixed with tequila, and similar to Pisco (which, also, always reminds me of tequila), the brandy hailing from Peru and Chile.

Per serving, use 1/2 lime cut into quarters and muddle with 2 tsp. sugar to release the juice and a little of the oils of the lime peel.  Add 2 (or 3) shots of Cachaca, pour over ice, and get ready to enjoy the Games!

Saude (sah-oo jee)!

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Passport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.  It’s not just dinner.  It’s a party!

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Memories of South America

IMG_3006I have the good fortune of being married to a man who, as a child, lived in South America for seven years, both Chile and Argentina.  And I’ve been able to travel with him TWICE to both countries, mostly to attend class reunions with kids (now adults) he went to school with.  These friends of his now live all over the world, many here in the U.S.

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Classmates from International School Nido de Aguilas

 

 

 

 

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Parrillada for Class Reunion

 

 

 

 

 

So when our Supper Club chose to have a wine and food pairing evening (A World of Wine, and the Foods That Love Them), South America, specifically Argentina, was on the menu for the spouse and me.

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We’re busy preparing our two (make that three) dishes to pair with a Torrontes wine, a dry yet fruity white wine from the Riojano region of Argentina, tucked near the Andes where the climate is dry and the nights are cool.

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So we’ll be pairing two types of the national snack food, empanadas, both beef and cheese, along with sweetbreads, aka mollejas.  I’ve covered the preparation of sweetbreads before (https://passportdinnersblog.com/2013/08/02/neither-sweet-nor-breads-offal-by-any-other-name-is-delicious/), those delicious little grilled morsels that pair so well with wine.  Today I’ll walk you through my empanada steps.

First, the empanada pastry:  You can purchase empanada dough online.  La Tienda, La Saltena, Goya, and Blancaflor are all sources or brands that can be used.  Or you might be lucky enough to live near a Latin market.  If you choose to make your own, here’s the one I used this time:  http://laylita.com/recipes/2008/06/11/empanadas-mendocinas/.  My mother-in-law simply uses a flour tortilla dough.  I have also used a pie crust dough.  All will get you yummy, edible results.

Cheese and Onion Empanadas:

You’ll need olive oil, sweet onion, cheese (I used mozzarella, but I would choose a more robust one next time, such as manchego), marsala wine, a little sugar, some chopped parsley, and egg wash for the dough.

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Olive oil

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Sweet onions

 

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Marsala wine

 

 

 

 

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A little sugar

 

 

 

 

 

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Saute until caramelized

 

 

 

 

 

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Fill each dough portion with cheese, onion mixture, & parsley

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Brush edge of dough portion with beaten egg white

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For step-by-step instructions on how to fold (repulgue) an empanada, watch the video below from Global Table Adventure.  Edges can also simply be pinched or crimped with a fork.

 

 

 

While filling and sealing your empanadas, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Brush tops of empanadas right before baking

Bake empanadas for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Once baked, remove from baking stone/sheet and place on wire racks to cool.  Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.  If not baking right away, empanadas may be frozen for later.  Just add the egg white brushing right before baking.

Empanadas mendocinas (beef):

You’ll need 1 lb. ground beef, olive oil, chopped onion, paprika, cumin, chili powder, green olives (pitted, no pimentos), hard boiled egg, boiled & chopped potato, chopped green onion, and salt & pepper.

 

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Olive oil

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Ground beef, brown in olive oil

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Onions

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Potatoes

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Paprika, cumin, & chili powder and mix together

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A little water; simmer about 5-7 minutes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Browned ground beef; boiled egg, green olives & green onion

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Fill each dough portion with ground beef mixture

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Brush edge of dough portion with beaten egg white

 

 

 

 

 

 

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For step-by-step instructions on how to fold (repulgue) an empanada, watch the video above from Global Table Adventure.  Edges can also simply be pinched or crimped with a fork.

 

 

While filling and sealing your empanadas, preheat oven to 400 degrees.

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Brush tops of empanadas right before baking

Bake empanadas for 12 to 15 minutes or until golden brown.  Once baked, remove from baking stone/sheet and place on wire racks to cool.  Can be eaten warm or at room temperature.  If not baking right away, empanadas may be frozen for later.  Just add the egg white brushing right before baking.

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Salud!

 

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Passport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.  It’s not just dinner.  It’s a party!

 

 

 

 

Cool, rainy weather. Warm, savory dinner.

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Winter in southern California has been challenging.  November and December afforded us the opportunity to pull on the warmer coats, wrap up in scarves, and zip up the winter boots.  But then the cold weather, and the rain, all but disappeared.

But March has given us a taste of winter again, just a few days before Spring actually begins!  El Nino is splashing us with some much-needed rain.  And the heater is coming on in the mornings.  And morning walks outside are punctuated with frosty breath from both me and my german shepherd, Wolfgang.

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This much-desired cool, rainy weather reminded me of an item I received in my Foodie PenPal box,  a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty, chicken pot pie soup mix.  The Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie is served with square-cut noodles and no pastry, unlike the pot pie I am familiar with.  From Wikipedia I discovered:

“In the Pennsylvania Dutch region, some people make a dish is called “bot boi” (or “bott boi”) by Deitsch-speaking natives. Pennsylvania Dutch pot pie is a stew and has no pastry.  It is usually made of a combination of chicken, ham, beef, or wild game with square-cut egg noodles, potatoes, and a stock of onion, celery and parsley.”

The Pennsylvania Dutch are a cultural group formed by early German-speaking immigrants to Pennsylvania and their descendants.  And it appears to me that their food reflects their German heritage with hardy meals to warm and nourish the body.

The Chicken Pot Pie Soup Mix (Cherchies brand) came with the pot pie noodle (or is it pasta?) squares, a packet of dehydrated vegetables (onion, red bell pepper, carrot, celery), salt, sugar, soy protein, garlic, parsley, white pepper, turmeric and other spices.

When did noodles become pasta?  The spouse and I had a conversation about the terminology earlier this week.  Our mothers refer to all pasta as noodles.  My position is that it’s marketing.  As one comment in an article stated (http://www.chowhound.com/post/noodles-pasta-793188):

“Roughly the same time that squid became calamari, which is also about when corn meal became polenta, but much later than when rocket became arugula.”

Back to the Chicken Pot Pie Soup Mix.  The directions asked for:

  • 1 lb. cooked chicken (I poached chicken breast in chicken broth), cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 4 T. olive oil
  • 10 cups water

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After about 20 minutes, the dish is complete and ready to nourish and warm your body.  Or a bunch of bodies.  This package made 9 cups!  So, one last hurrah for winter.  Spring is right around the corner.  Short sleeves.  Flipflops.  Spring flowers.  I’ll be ready!

 

www.passportdinners.com

Passportdinners.com

Passport Dinners brings you DIY (Do-It-Yourself) themed adventure dinner party kits for you to taste the world, one country at a time.  It’s not just dinner.  It’s a party!