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Chickpea & Sweet Potato Soup (Ethiopian-inspired)

Just gonna put a quickie out today.  I seem to have fallen behind in so many things over the past couple of weeks.  Visiting, commenting, organizing, thinking!  That's me...yes woman.  Has a hard time turning things down.  Figure I can fit it in somewhere...I can do it all!  Maybe if I try real hard.  Maybe if the day would have at least 8 more hours in which to accomplish the various tings on my list...some of which I've surely already forgotten.  One thing that's been on that list for the past month is cooking up something Ethiopian.  One. Whole. Month.  That's how long I've been sitting on this...pondering.  My dish ended up more Ethiopian-inspired (flavors) than authentic Ethiopian, I think...  Ahhh.  And I really wanted to make some Injera bread to go with it.  That was really my main goal.  BUT, my former omelette pan-slash-crepe pan is s-h-o-t SHOT.  Why?  Because even though I swore when I bought it that I would ONLY use it for omelettes, crepes, or fried of course got used for many other things.  Sticky things, scrapey things, smooth-nonstick, easy-flip surface-ruining things!  Soooo, instead I bring you a simple soup-ish (was going for a stew...sigh) Ethiopian-inspired dish...

Ethiopian-inspired Chickpea & Sweet Potato Soup
from the kitchen of girlichef

olive oil
~3 c. chickpeas (~1/2 lb. before cooking)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
1" pc. of ginger, minced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 roma tomatoes, peel & pureéd
4 c. vegetable broth (or any bone broth if not vegetarian)
2 lg. sweet potatoes, peel & diced
~2 Tbs. Berbere (an Ethiopian Spice mix, recipe below)

Toss the drained chickpeas with a bit of olive oil and spread on a parchment lined sheet tray.  Cook in a 450 degree F oven for ~30 mins., stirring once, until the chickpeas are very dry and golden.

Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a med-large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic, onion, and ginger and stir until soft and fragrant.  Add the Berbere and stir for a minute or so to release the oils in the spices.  Add bell pepper and pureéd tomatoes, cook another couple minutes.  Add roasted chickpeas, sweet potatoes, and broth.  Stir, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover partially and cook until the sweet potatoes are tender.  Check seasoning and season w/ salt & pepper if necessary.  If stewy enough, serve over Injera bread...or simply eat from a can always dip some flat bread.

Berbere Spice
adapted from several recipes I found around the net

2 tsp. cumin seeds whole
7 ea. cloves, whole
3/4 tsp. cardamom seeds
1/2 tsp. black peppercorns, whole
3 ea.. allspice berries, whole
1 tsp. fenugreek
1/2 tsp. coriander seeds, whole
10 small dried red chiles, stemmed
3/4 tsp. dried ginger 
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. sea salt
2 1/2 Tbs. mild paprika
1/8 tsp. cinnamon

In small pan, on a low heat, toast cumin, cloves, cardamom, peppercorns, allspice, and corainder for ~2 minutes, shaking constantly.  Let cool slightly.  In a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle, finely grind together the toasted spices and chilies.  Store in airtight container.

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Making Beef Stock (bone broth)

Isn't it funny how the littlest things can make you me so excited!?  The other day, while at market, I pushed my cart by the meat counter and coolers and one small section of the cooler caught my eye...I saw a locally raised sticker on a little section of beef.  It also had the 4-H logo on it...and well, the local 4-H fair in our county recently ended, so I don't know if the market was a winning bidder on some beef cows or if it was donated, but either way...those of us who were fortunate enough to be at market that day were definite winners!  There were short-ribs, a few cuts of steak...and then there were the cuts that were more in my price range- the beef bones for soup.  I picked up a couple of with smaller cuts that exposed a bit more marrow, fat, & bits of meat, and some of the larger, knuckle portions.  I was pretty pleased with myself for picking the right day & time to go to market...with visions of stockpots dancing in my head

Making homemade stock or bone broth is something that is not only's also logical!  You may even do it already without even realizing it!  Do you save that turkey carcass after your Thanksgiving meal and throw it in a stockpot along with some veggies to make a hearty broth the day following the feast and thanks?  Do you throw some pigs feet or ham hocks into your soup pot while simmering beans?  Do you Use those chicken and turkey necks to make a flavorful gravy for your holiday meals?  Well...then you're already nourishing yourself and using the age-old technique of making bone broth...or stock from bones and utilizing every part of the animal that gives us our food. 

"Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals. It contains the broken down material from cartilage and tendons--stuff like chondroitin sulphates and glucosamine, now sold as expensive supplements for arthritis and joint pain."*  Plus, the gelatin that is released from cooking the bones for long periods of time facilitates digestion by attracting digestive juices to food in the gut.  Plus, it tastes good and cures all that ails ya...just think homemade chicken noodle soup!

Normally, you would roast the bones in the oven before hand when making beef stock, but it was particularly steamy in my kitchen on this summer day, and I decided I couldn't bear to add the the pool of sweat that was already soaking the waistband of my pants.  Stock is a very forgiving, loving vessel...I never weigh out my bones or measure my water or calculate the amount of veg and herb I'm adding...I just sort of go by what I have and what feels right.  So, I'm giving you the way I do it. If you're looking for a more precise starting point, check out my sources at the bottom of the page and click through to the WAPF article for a precise recipe. Oh, and something I do that could be helpful to you...whenever I'm trimming carrots, onion, celery, mushrooms, garlic, parsley, etc...I make sure I've washed them very well first, then I add all the trimmings, ends, stems, etc. to a gallon-sized freezer bag.  I label it 'stock' and stick it in the freezer and keep adding to it until the next time I'm ready to make stock.  I simply pull the bag from the freezer and dump it in when it's time for me to add the veggies and  herbs to my stock.  If I think it's not enough, I'll simply chop up a few more onion, carrots, celery, whatever to add to the pot.  Some people look down their nose at adding carrot peel or onion peel to the stock...pish-posh.  There are plenty of nutrients in those peels!  As long as they're clean, I see no reason not to.  Afterall, I'll eat the whole carrot, but I peel them for presentation purposes when I'm not just eating them out of hand.  Admittedly, I don't eat the onion peel, but I've always added it to the adds color, as well.  In restaurant kitchens, I always added an onion brule (blackened the cut halves on a flat top) to add color, but I don't usually do that at home...unless I really want to make a deep, colorful stock for something in particular (in which case, I'd go ahead and roast the bones, too).  It also adds a deeper color to vegetable and chicken stocks...but I wouldn't recommend it in a delicate fish stock.

Beef Stock
(bone broth)

Various Beef bones
cold, filtered water
mushroom stems (optional)
Garlic cloves, smashed
Parsley stems
thyme sprigs
bay leaves
Black Peppercorns
whole cloves

Place beef bones (raw or roasted) in bottom of a large, deep soup/stock pot.  Cover with the water by ~4".  Slowly heat to a boil over medium heat.  Once it comes to a boil, quickly reduce heat to a very low simmer.  You will see scum rising to the surface...skim that off.  It is all the impurities rising from the bones.  Continue to cook over a very lazy bubble (you should just see the bubbles popping up around the edges) for an hour or two, skimming scum as needed.  At this point, most of the scum should be gone.  Add in your veggies, herbs and peppercorns & cloves.  Allow it to return to a slow bubble and continue to cook (steam, almost), partially covered for another 4 hours...or even up to 12!  Keeping the stock from boiling is what will keep it clear and clean...the boiling stirs up all the ick and makes it cloudy.  Okay, remove from heat and ladle the liquid into a large container through a strainer (which I line with a damp coffee filter).  Cool quickly in this container or transfer to smaller jars for storing, if you wish.  Once your stock has gotten cold in fridge/cooler, you will be able to peel off the small layer of fat that forms on top, if  you wish.  Leave a generous inch of headroom in the container if you plan on freezing the stock.

I ended up with just over a gallon of stock this time.  Just over half went into the freezer and the rest I kept in the fridge for using over the next couple of days.  Once it cools, you will be able to see how it turns a bit gelatinous...remember, that's a good thing!  And if by chance it doesn't turn very gelatinous, no worries.  It'll still nourish your body...and  your soul.

~traditions passed down by my grandmas
~my culinary school instruction
~*Sally Fallon Morrell via the WAPF website...which is beyond helpful in your sourch for nourishment in all forms!

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"Good broth will resurrect the dead."  ~South American proverb

Vegetable Biryani

What do Indian food and Muslim traditions have in common?  I know close to nothing about either...that's what!   Sure, ask me about Mexican food and you're bound to get a quick response.  Ask me about Indian food...then bask in the uncomfortable silence well, silent except for the crickets in my brain...chirping away.  I am all set to remedy that situation, because I am nothing, if not an eager student.  I love learning about different cultures, religions, beliefs, countries and the food and people that go along with them. 

There were a few motivating factors behind todays post.  One being that we've been eating a lot more veggies on a regualr basis at home than we used to.  On purpose.  I decided for all of us that we were going to eat more mindfully...the majority of the time.  So, we've been eating a lot less meat.  Not that we stopped liking meat...but, since I am no longer working on a regular basis, meat is more of an occasional meal contribution now.  As Michael Pollan suggests, we treat it more as a garnish.  Another factor being that I'm really enjoying the book Real Food Has Curves lately.  Great tips, great references, delicious recipes...Biryani being one.  And yet another motivator being that I happened upon an event over at Taste of Pearl City that asks for submissions of recipes that can be eaten during Ramadhan, a month-long Muslim holiday. When describing Ramadhan, Umm says "Ramadhan is the month, where muslims fast from dawn to dusk without food or water. This fast is obligatory on all adult muslims - men & women - unless exempted. Hijri is the Islamic calender which starts commemorating the year when Prophet Muhammed (SAW) immigrated from Mecca to Medina with his companions. Iftar is the event where muslims break the fast at the end of the fasting day at dusk.  Normally we break the fast with few dates, juice, porridge but after that we have a meal which will be based on different ethnicity. So this meal can include rice, pasta, bread, noodles, roti's , curries etc."  Well, okay then...I'm always up for new adventures...and everything just sort of came together as the inspiration and driving force behind me trying something new.

Okay then...Biryani.  According to Wikipedia, Biryani (or Biryanibiriani, beriani, بریانی) "is a set of rice-based foods made with spices, rice (usually basmati) and meat, fish, eggs or vegetables. The name is derived from the Persian word beryā(n) (بریان) which means fried or roasted."  Muslim travelers & merchants were supposedly responsible to introducing Biryani to India.  Pretty fitting to learn that my reasoning all comes together, just so.

Vegetable Biryani
slightly adapted from Real Food Has Curves by Bruce Weinstein & Mark Scarbrough
yield: 4 svgs.

1/2 c. long-grain brown rice, such as brown jasmine or brown basmati  I used regular long-grain brown, as it's what I had
1 1/4 c. water
1 Tbs. Sesame oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 medium tomato, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped 
1 Tbs. minced peeled fresh ginger
6 c. mixed vegetables...cut small.  I used a mixture of fresh corn, yellow beans, carrots, cauliflower, purple cauliflower, zucchini, yellow squash, kale
1 1/2 Tbs. Garam Masala *see recipe below
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. plain yogurt
1 Tbs. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. almonds, walnuts, or pecans, chopped
 1/4 c. raisins, preferably golden I used purple, chopped
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish

Mix rice & water in medium pot; bring to simmer over med-high heat, stirring occasionally.  Cover the pot, reduce heat to very low, and simmer slowly until rice is tender, ~35 mins.  Set pot aside, off heat, while you prepare rest.

Position a rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sesame oil, then add the onion, tomato, garlic, and ginger.  Cook until the onion has begun to soften & tomato breaks down, ~5 mins., stirring occasionally. 

Stir in veggies, garam masala, cinnamon, and salt.  Stir over heat until quite aromatic, ~5 mins.  Stir in yogurt and lemon juice.  Cover the pot, reduce heat to low, and simmer slowly until veggies have begun to break down, ~20 mins, stirring occasionally.  Stir in nuts & raisins and set pot aside, off heat.

Spread half the rice in bottom of a 9" square baking dish.  Pour all veggie mixture on top; spread evenly to corners.  Top the dish with remaining rice, again spreading it evenly across the baking dish. 
Cover with aluminum foil and bake 15 minutes.  Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.  Preheat broiler and place rack ~6" from heat source.  Spread melted butter over casserole and set under broiler just until rice begins to get a little crisp.  Set aside at room temp for 5 minutes before turning whole thing upside down onto serving platter.  I wish there was a way to crisp the rice on what ends up being the top...well, if you have a torch, you probably could. Sprinkle with chopped cilantro. 
Fortunately, I have a very well-stocked spice cabinet...and although Garam Masala wasn't included in it is now!!  I made my own using the method given in the book.  I had everything I needed; I just had to grind up the coriander seed, allspice, and cardamom (after extracting the seeds, ugh).  Well worth it...just made sure to make extra so I could jar it up and save it for future uses!

Garam Masala
Mix together: 1 part ground allspice, 1 part cayenne, 2 parts fennel seeds, 4 parts mild paprika, 4 parts ground cumin, 4 parts ground cardamom, and 8 parts ground coriander. 
Biryani was a flavor sensation like I've never experienced...warm, crunchy, comforting, sweet, and soft- all packed into each bite!  I can't wait to try more variations on Biryani and to sprinkle some Garam Masala on my scrambled eggs tomorrow morning...

Wait.  There are Indian curries.  I've made them... I'm totally NOT rewriting this post.  I'll just say, I'm not completely unfamiliar with Indian food...I adore Indian's all the rest I'm pretty unfamiliar with. 

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Making Yogurt cheese...and then making sandwiches...and then making mmmmmmm noises.

I'm a simple girl.  I like simple things.  Like sandwiches.  I like all the components separately...but I like 'em all put together, too.  There's really  nothing like sitting down with a fresh baked loaf of bread, a hunk of cheese, maybe some good meat or veg or fruit.  And a bottle of wine.  I'm pretty sure I was meant to live in a different part of the world.  Yes, of course I can...and like that right here.  But I feel like I should be sitting in my Tuscan Villa...or my Mexican Hacienda...or my French Farmhouse...or behind my Irish Pub...or my english Cottage...while doing so.  Some day. 

One beyond-super-easy cheese you can make all on your own to eat with said bread, wine, and other accompaniments is Yogurt cheese.  Plus, it just happens to be one of our current challenges over at Forging Fromage (along with gouda and cloth-banded cheddar).  It's seriously the simplest cheese I've ever made...and a great starting point for anybody who wants to get their toes wet in the world of home cheesemaking! It's made by draining the liquid (whey) from the yogurt by hanging it for at least 8 hours.  The result is basically like cream cheese...only with a snappy tang to it!

Yogurt Cheese
from jam it, pickle it, cure it by Karen Solomon

32 ounces plain yogurt

Line a large bowl with a clean, thin cotton or linen towel I used butter muslin, positioning the middle in the bottom of the bowl. Pour the yogurt into its center.  Gather the for corners of the cloth and tie to form a bag.  The whey should be leaking from the bottom.  Tie over a large bowl or over the sink...either from a kitchen cabinet or rig it up in the fridge like I did here...and let it hang, undisturbed, overnight or for at least 8 hours.  I think I actually ended up forgetting about was in the fridge in it hung for a good couple of days or so.  But the extra hang-time didn't hurt it one bit.  It was creamy, tangy, and mighty tasty.  Oh, and did I say way too simple!?  At this point you can use it as-is to do anything from shmearing on bagels to baking a cheesecake...or you can stir in fresh herbs and/or lemon juice, scallions, olives, sun-dried tomatoes or drizzle it with a little infused olive oil...the possibilities are endless. 

I used some of it for activity I love doing...and saying.  Shmear.  I combined it with some freshly baked sourdough bread whose scent wafted in one of those cartoon-like drifts straight up my nose...beckoning me from a local bakery early this morning.  The garden still has plenty of kale.  I was craving prosciutto.  And somehow a jar of pungeantly sweet sundried tomatoes ended up in my pantry suspicious.  This simple sammie to satisfy this simple girl was inspired by one I've been wanting to make from MB's Kitchen Express.

Kale & Prosciutto Sandwich with Yogurt Cheese

Grab a huge handful of washed Kale and slice it into 1/2" ribbons.  Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a pan, add kale and cook until just wilted & soft.  Season with the juice of half a lemon, some crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and freshly ground black pepper.  Toast up some slices of sourdough bread and spread them with a thick layer of fresh Yogurt Cheese.  Then top with the kale, a couple of sliced sundried tomatoes in olive oil, and a few slices of thin prosciutto

Wash it down with a glass of cool white wine on a hot sunny day!
REAL, good, simple, everyday food.

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Culinary Smackdown...Battle: Sandwich!

Homemade Coconut Milk

No, I do not live in the Tropics boo, but that does not stop me from being totally ga-ga over tropical ingredients.  Pineapples, mangoes, bananas, RUM, sugar cane, and of course...coconut!

The shredded, sweetened stuff you buy at any grocery store in the baking, it's okay I guess...but after about one giant pinch, it's cloyingly sweet.  And for some reason, it's really hard to find unsweetened, shredded coconut around I just do it myself.  Take that.  All you need is a little muscle.
You can do it with either  one of those "easy-break" coconuts...the ones that are sort of scored across the middle...or a regular old harder-to-break variety.  I've found that it doesn't really make much of a difference.  Start by screwing a corkscrew through each of the eyes of the coconut- wiggle it around a bit once it's all the way in, to make the hole as open as possible. Remove the corkscrew and pour the coconut "milk" through a strainer into a bowl.  Waste not, want not. 
Once you've drained them of their liquid, place a flat-head screw driver flat against the center of the coconut and pound in with a hammer.  The shell will crack...move it around the shell and repeat until the crack runs all the way through and you can separate the two halves.  Now, grab a thin, flexible butter knife and slide it between the meat and the shell.  Slide the knife in and pull back like a lever to release the meat.  Sometimes you get large chunks...sometimes not so large.  Once all the coconut is free from the shell, use a veggie peeler to peel off the outer brown "skin (?)" that remains...leaving you with just the creamy, white coconut meat.
At this point, eat a few chunks as a reward for all of your hard work.  You can use it like this if you wish...or if you need it shredded/grated, simply use a hand grater if you're in the mood for more physical labor...or run it through the shredding blade in a food processor.
Now, use your fresh, naturally sweet, shredded coconut as you will.  Store in the fridge...but not for too long.  No preservatives mean it doesn't last as long. 

Homemade Coconut Milk
from The Best Recipes in the World by Mark Bittman
yield ~2 c.

1 c. unsweetened, shredded coconut I used freshly grated

Combine the shredded coconut with 2 c. very hot water I used the coconut milk I extracted from the coconut, and added hot water to make 2 c. in a blender.  Pulse on and off quickly, then turn on the blender and let it work for 15 seconds or so.  Let sit for a few minutes.

Put through a strainer, pressing to extract as much of the liquid as possible.  Discard the solids and use the milk immediately or store, covered, in fridge for a few days.  Use in place of canned coconut milk!!
This is made from all raw ingredients (and is from Mark Bittman) and so I'm submitting it to IHCC because our theme this week is Raw Foods!  I'm also submitting to the events below...

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Sopes (fried masa boats)

Soooo.  By now you know of my love for all things Mexican.  Does it really surprise you when I put up another Mexican food post?  I thought not.  Would you believe that sometimes I am not in the mood to cook.  Sometimes I am simply in the mood to eat.  That, my friends, is when Mexi steps in.  He's pretty good at sensing it, too...sometimes he's not, but I think those are times when he's actively trying not to sense it cuz he's not in the mood for cooking, either...but when the stars align just right, he starts cooking without warning.  Last weekend was one of those times.   Now, about six months ago when our friends returned from their twice a year pilgrimage to Mexico jerks, they never take me, they brought us back a press...for making sopes, gorditas and such fine, not that big of jerks.  It actually sat in the kitchen being shuffled from side to side for the longest.  You know how something can be right in your face, but almost invisible at the same time because you've looked through it so many times?  Well.  Mexi's usually the one to make the sopes & gorditas he fake-whines, but it's sort of his thing.  The thicker-masa projects, not the whining.  He's used to just rolling up the balls of dough and patting them out by hand...but something must have reminded him that we had that press, because before I knew it, he was turning out sopes like it was nobody's business- muy rapido!
In some areas of Mexico, sopes are made as small as a haf-dollar and eaten more as antojitos (appetizers or small snacks) others they're made a bit larger, so that sitting down and eating 3 constitutes a nice meal.  If you go any bigger than, oh...say...3 diameter, you're looking at something different altogether.  There are many different shapes and sizes of masa shells...thick, thin, crunchy, soft...sopes are crisp on the outside when you bite into them (from a quick dip in hot oil), but warm and toothsome on the, they're topped with all kinds of delicious's a flavor, texture, temperature explosion!  Commence eyeballs rolling back into your head and extreme shudder of pleasure.

from the kitchen of girlichef
yield: ~14 (3" diameter) shells

2 c. Masa Harina
1 c. Unbleached AP flour
2 c. cool water
canola, corn, or veg oil for frying

In a large bowl, mix both flours and water together with your clean hands.  Mixture should just hold together, but not be too sticky or too crumbly.  If too sticky, add just a sprinkling more masa and mix in.  If too crumbly, add just a sprinkling more water and mix in.  Form into a ball and set aside to rest, covered with a slightly damp kitchen towel for a few minutes.

Set a heavy skillet (we use a cast-iron comal) over medium-high heat and let it get hot.  On another burner, place a larger skillet w/ ~2" sides for frying...yes, you have to fry these.  Fill it with oil to about 1/2" depth. 

Divide your dough into 14 even pieces (more if you want smaller, antojito-sized sopes).  At this point, you can form all of the disks at once, to streamline the process...or press as you go, whatever you find works best for you.  If you're fortunate enough to have a press (different from a tortilla has an indentation, or well to allow for thicker disks), cut a large baggie in half, place the dough balls between and press.  If you do not have a press, form the dough into a disk between your palms and fingers.  You should end up with a disk of dough ~1/8-1/4" in thickness.
Place the disks onto the blazing hot comal and toast until they start to turn golden on the first side.  Carefully flip it over and repeat on the other side...probably about a couple of minutes each.  Set aside on a large plate or tray until all the dough is toasted.  At this point you should turn on the heat under your oil (you want it to get to about 375 degrees F). Working carefully, pinch together the outsides of the toasted disks to make a ridge...this will expose some of the inner, uncooked dough.  Check out Mexi's expert work below.  Repeat until all the sopes are formed.
Okay, once all of your edges are pinched, it's time to give 'em a quick dip in some hot oil to finish them off!  Make sure the oil is at 375 degrees F.  If the oil's not hot enough, the dough will just taste greasy and gross...and it won't crisp up.  So, since your oil is hot enough, using tongs or a slotted spoon, lower a couple of disks into the hot oil (however many will fit without crowding...don't let 'em touch) and fry until deep, golden yellow, turning to get top side as well.  This will crisp up the outsides and give them an awesome crunch and also finish cooking the dough on the inside.  Remove to paper towel-lined plate or tray.
Depending on the region in Mexico you are in, sopes are topped with anything from simply beans and shredded meat to cactus strips and crisp veggies or cheese.  Use what you have...use what is in season.  My all-time favorite topping is a warm chorizo & bean topping with salsa, crisp lettuce, cilantro, crema & crumbled queso fresco.  But I'll eat whatever we happen to have at the time.  To make the chorizo/bean mixture, fry up some fresh chorizo, drain the grease then add cooked pinto beans to it and smoosh them all together with a potato masher until smooth.
Muy Ricos!

Sopes (Fried Masa Boats) on Foodista