Chocolate Pan de Yucca

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Pan de Yuca is very popular here in Ecuador. Not only is it quite delicious, it’s easy to make. Also known as chipas in Argentina, pan de queso in Colombia, and pao de queijo in Brazil. I made Pan de … Continue reading

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Dijon Mustard Substitute

Dijon Mustard Substitute
Dijon mustard is named for the region in France where it was derived. It is a unique mustard for its ingredient verjus, which is juice that comes from unripe grapes. You can use substitutes in place of it by combining garlic, onion, honey, dry mustard powder, olive oil, salt, Tabasco sauce and dry white wine to make your own Dijon mustard.

Verjus is the pressed juice of un-ripened grapes, and can be red (made from either purely red grapes or a red-white mix) or white (made from white grapes). While acidic, verjus has a gentler flavor than vinegar, with a sweet-tart taste that is often used to heighten the flavor of many sauces or mustards. The word verjus derives from the French term vert jus, literally “green juice,” which refers to its source—the high-acid, low-sugar grapes that winemakers thin from the vines just when the crop is beginning to ripen. This early crop of unripe grapes is pressed, resulting in verjus. Unlike wine, however, verjus is not fermented, and is not alcoholic, meaning that its use in a salad dressing or sauce will not interfere with the flavor of the accompanying drinking wine. Widely used in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, verjus has become more popular in recent years and is produced by many American wineries; it’s also widely imported from France. Red verjus has an earthier flavor, while white verjus has a crisper taste.

Dijon Mustard
2 C. dry champagne or dry white wine
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 C. white onion, finely chopped
4 oz. dry mustard powder
3 drops Tabasco sauce
2 Tblsp. honey
1 Tblsp. canola or sunflower oil

Place the champagne or white wine in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the minced garlic and chopped onion to the hot mixture. Bring back to a boil and continue to boil for five minutes. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and allow it to cool completely.

Remove the onion and garlic by pouring the mixture through a fine strainer. Put the strained mixture into a saucepan and add the cooled champagne. Add the dry mustard powder and whisk until completely blended.
Heat the mixture on medium heat, stirring constantly with a wire whisk until smooth. Stir in the Tabasco sauce, honey, salt, and continue to heat and stir until the mixture thickens.

Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool completely. Poor the cooled Dijon mustard into a plastic or glass container and store it in the refrigerator. Although the Dijon mustard can be used immediately, leaving it at least 48 hours will allow the flavors to blend.

Chicken Provence Stew

This recipe is a delightful surprise if people are just expecting yet another stew, as it gives a good surprise to flavors which are anything but the typical stew.  The wine, Herbs de Provence, and tapenade are critical in this recipe. I’ve used the store bought Herbs de Provence and I’ve made my own.  My preference for overall flavor is to make my own blend of Herbs de Provence, which I include a recipe for below because my own mix is generally fresher and the distinctive taste for Herbs de Provence shines through, in comparison to the store bought mixture.

Because I’m in Ecuador, I had to make a few tweaks to this recipe.  I cooked a whole chicken and used the broth and the chicken from that; I refuse to pay the price for canned tomatoes here so I use fresh tomatoes.  I like the red ‘new’ potatoes for this but in Ecuador the potatoes are much different so I had to use them.  They are much more dense…..I personally prefer the ‘new potatoes’.

Herbes de Provence is a mixture of herbs from Provence, France.

Chicken Provence Stew

2 medium carrots, peeled

3 tsp minced garlic

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 turns of the pan

1 medium zucchini (diced)

1 small to medium red bell pepper (diced)

1 medium red onion (diced)

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tblsp Herbs de Provence, available on spice aisle or (make your own – Donya’s recipe as follows:  1 tsp each dried sage, rosemary, marjoram, and thyme)

1 ½ lbs small red skinned potatoes (diced)

4 C. dry white wine

1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes

1 qt chicken stock

1 lb chicken breasts, diced

1 tsp cocoa

¼ tsp stevia

1 small jar black olive tapenade, 4 ounces or (make your own – Donya’s recipe below)

2 Tblsp chopped flat-leaf parsley

Heat soup pot on medium heat.  Chop carrots into 1/4-inch dice, then add garlic, and stir to coat in extra-virgin olive oil. Chop and drop in the zucchini, bell pepper and onion next, 1/2 inch dice. Season all the veggies with salt and pepper and herbes de Provence. Cook the veggies together 5 minutes. While the vegetables cook, dice potatoes. Add wine to vegetables and reduce a minute or so. Add the tomatoes, cut potatoes and stock to the pot, cover the pot and raise heat to high. Bring the mixture to a boil, then add cut chicken and simmer 8 to10 minutes, until the potatoes are just tender and chicken is cooked through.

Serve stew in shallow bowls and stir in a rounded spoonful of black olive tapenade at the table. Top soup with chopped parsley and pass crusty bread at the table for dipping and mopping.

Donya’s Black Olive Tapenade

1 cans black olives

.5 oz anchovies – drained well (Napoleonis is a good brand)

4 oz capers – drained

olive oil

Combine all ingredients in small chopper.  Use olive oil until texture is like a pesto.


Irish Cream

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In the ‘spirit’ of the holidays, I toast you all with a glass of my special chocolate Irish Cream; ‘ May your Christmas and your New Year be healthy, safe, and full of chocolate!  Salud!’ One can spend a fortune … Continue reading


The Ultimate Chocolate Dream – Chocolate Triffle

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Authored by Robert Lobitz - Any true chocolate lover knows that the year 1828 was one of great historical significance. This was the year that the cocoa press, which removed the cocoa butter and solidified chocolate, was made. This in turn … Continue reading


Chocolate Carne Colorada (gluten free) & Kitchen Tips

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Carne Colorada receives its name from the reddish / orange color the meat absorbs from ground achiote or annatto seed. Carne Colorada is a typical dish from the provinces of Carchi and Imbabura in the northern highland region in Ecuador; it is … Continue reading



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Finally, I found Cacao!  I am so excited.  I was going through some very serious withdrawals and they would get much worse as my mind would start panicking and thinking that I may not get any until someone came from the US to … Continue reading