Category Archives: Goal: International Recipes

2023 Goals Accountability: The Good, the Meh, and the Ugly

Following my tradition from last year, I wanted to share how I did with the 14 goals I set for myself. I had some success, some of which were very fun, some partial successes, and some goals I completely failed at.

The Good…

I had five goals that I succeeded at all the way:

  1. Physical Goal #1: Get to the point where I can jog a 10K: This was the first goal I completed, when Peter and I ran the Bolder Boulder on Memorial Day (5/29) last year. About a month earlier, I was starting to warm up, planning on doing the 10K at the end of the summer, when a friend who knew about my goal had asked me if I had ever run the Bolder Boulder. That race was only barely over a month later, and I wasn’t certain if I could get ready in time. But one of our investors at Gravitics had gone from being in shape for a 5K to running a marathon in only a month, so I figured getting ready for a 10K might be possible. I got a heart rate monitor watch so I could do the aerobic threshold running that a friend had told me would help me build my endurance the best, and then started running almost every day. In the end we did it, running the race non-stop. My time wasn’t amazing, right around 1hr 30min, but that was me running non-stop for 1hr and 30min! Anyhow, given that three years ago, I couldn’t make it a quarter way around a track without wheezing, I’m pretty proud of this one.
  2. Spiritual Goal #3: Attend the temple with Tiff at least once per quarter and with the boys at least once per quarter: I finished this one in late October on 10/26/2023, shortly after getting laid off by Gravitics. We had managed to go somewhat consistently, but once I was laid off, I started going more frequently. All told, it was also a great experience.
  3. Intellectual Goal #1: Cook at least one new recipe per month, with at least on recipe this year from each of the six inhabited continents: This was probably the funnest goal. Some of the non-international recipes weren’t particularly memorable, but it was fun trying out cuisine from all over the world. I’ve posted some of the recipes here like the Indian Butter Chicken and Naan, the Peruvian Pollo a la Brasa and Aji Verde Sauce, but we also did Ratatouille and Honey Garlic pork chops from Europe, Tourtière (a French Canadian meat pie), a spicy Kenyan Chicken Jollof Rice dish, and finished up by doing an Aussie Burger, complete with roasted beet root, and a New Zealand Jelly Slice for dessert on 12/15/2023. This was one of my more unusual goals from last year, but I’m glad that I chose it.
  4. Intellectual Goal #3: Finish at least two significant crafts projects (making things that involve multiple components that weren’t a premade set from someone else): I actually didn’t think I was going to make it, having not really done anything for this goal at all through the first ten months of the year, but I actually had three cool craft projects that I wrapped up in November/December. The first one I can’t show many pictures of because it was for work. But right before I got laid off by Gravitics, I had completed a major proposal effort, so I rewarded myself by buying a Snapmaker 2.0 3-in-1 3D printer, with a lot of upgrade modules. When I got laid off, I thought at first that maybe I should return the printer, but when I realized I had paid for it on my credit card, and if I returned it, I’d only get back about 2/3rd the price, and then have to keep paying for the other 1/3 without ever having used the machine, I decided to keep it. A few weeks later, a friend of mine whose startup was moving asked me if I still had the printer. Apparently their printer was already packed up, and they had a short-fuse project for a client that needed parts designed and 3d printed. In the end, I ended up making almost as much off of that project as I would have from two months at Gravitics, and ended up designing, and printing 9 parts (3 from PLA, but most of them from Nylon), and machining about another four pieces from G10 fiberglass boards. It wasn’t perfect, especially since I hadn’t had a chance to really dial in my printing parameters before jumping into it. But the client was able to assemble the system, and run the tests they needed, and I got to learn a lot about my printer. The other two projects were Christmas presents, one a drawing board for Jamie (that included a riveted on clipboard clip), and one a water color palette for Tiff (that we bonded in about two dozen metal water color pans). We finished this one on 12/23/2023.
  5. Spiritual Goal #1: Read the New Testament and Book of Mormon cover to cover: I finished this goal on 12/26/2023. This was probably my fourth time all the way through the New Testament, and probably my 34th or 35th time through the Book of Mormon in English.

Those were all the goals that I completed all the way. Many were fun adventures, others just the result of trying to be consistent. Now on to my partial successes…

…The Meh…

I had another six goals that I at least made headway on.

  1. Physical Goal #2: Finish getting my 5K race time down under 30min: Of my partial successes, this one was the one I came closest to achieving. In the fall, after we got back from summer vacation, I started training again for doing a 5K over Thanksgiving, using a training routine from my Polar Pacer heart-rate monitor watch. I figured that two months would give me enough time to get ready, and we decided to sign up for a race out in Springfield, OR again (the same place I ran my first real 5K race two or three years ago). In the end, I set a personal record, but missed my target with a time of 30min 26s. Given that any further 5Ks I ran would be at much higher altitude, and that the weather was rapidly shifting to winter, I realized I likely wouldn’t be able to get this goal completed this year. But I at least came pretty darned close. And a personal record is still a personal record.
  2. Social Goal #3: Invite neighbors or church friends over for dinner at least 2x per quarter: I didn’t keep good track of how often I had done this, so I don’t know for sure how well I did, but I think we only had people over maybe 5 or 6 times this year. Still likely better than if I hadn’t set the goal, so worth celebrating as a partial.
  3. Social Goal #1: Take Tiff on meaningful dates at least 1x/month: We had some good dates/activities this year, including a 20th anniversary trip to Hawaii in August. But once again, I didn’t keep close track of this goal, and am pretty sure I probably only had about 8-9 of the months where we went on at least one date, and I’m not sure if all of them were particularly meaningful.
  4. Family/Home Goal #1: Do at least two home or yard improvement mini-projects per month: I did do a lot of mini projects over the year, but probably nowhere close to 24 of them. And I didn’t keep close track of it. But some of the things we got done included setting up new shelves in the garage and basement, getting a food storage area setup downstairs, fixing two of our sofa chairs whose legs had broken, cutting down the brush around our back patio, weedwacking the 6ft tall weeds in our back yard, repairing my broken desk, and building out my home office. Not perfect, but there were definitely some wins in there.
  5. Physical Goal #3: Finish getting to the point where I can do all five Home Fitness bodyweight exercise sets at full reps, without having to take extra breaks in the middle: In 2022, I got a bodyweight exercise app that I started in on. By the start of 2023 I was just transitioning into doing the hardest of the three levels — Advanced, for all five types of exercise (Abs, Chest, Arms, Legs, and Shoulder/Back), but at around 1/2 of the reps they suggested per exercise. By the time I switched my focus in April to 10K training, I had gotten the Legs and Chest exercises to full reps, but with lots of breaks. I never really got back into this consistently enough to pick this up, and after the 5K, one of my shoulders was hurting in a way that I wasn’t sure doing a bunch of pushups was safe. So while I made some progress on this at the start of the year, I never finished this one all the way.
  6. Spiritual Goal #2: Do something meaningful for each ministering family at least 1x per quarter: I started off ok with this, but it tapered towards the end of the year, especially with how busy stuff got over the summer, lots of trips, then getting laid off. I don’t have great excuses on this one. I did some ministering, but only felt like I did much for one of the families.

At least in this case I made some effort towards achieving the goals, even if I didn’t succeed all the way. Without further ado, on to the last category, where I couldn’t even say that.

…The Ugly

I had three goals in this category, where I really feel like I didn’t make any real headway on them.

  1. Social Goal #1: Visit somewhere in Central or South America for at least a weekend, where I will have to speak Spanish: I’ve been teaching myself Spanish for about 8yrs now using Duolingo, and in 2022 I finished reading El Libro de Mormon in Spanish, cover to cover. But I still didn’t speak Spanish very well, so I wanted a goal to force me to learn how to speak Spanish. While I did do some work on Spanish speaking with a new app that was better optimized for teaching you to speak (Pimsleur), I never got far enough that I felt I could make the trip. I had been intending to visit a friend down in Equator for a weekend, but between my lack of preparation, and Tiff getting congestive heart failure, I decided to punt on this goal for this year.
  2. Family/Home Goal #2: Finish reading at least one book each on parenting for autistic and NLD kids: I did read like 2 or 3 chapters of NLD Super Stars, but that was about it.
  3. Intellectual Goal #2: Wrote at least two substantive (technology, policy, etc) blog posts series of at least three posts long each: I’m kind of embarrassed by this one. I used to be pretty prolific with Selenian Boondocks. But while I did write a few recipe blogs, and I think one opinion blog post, I don’t think I wrote a single substantive blog post last year. This is two years in a row that I’ve completely failed to resuscitate my blogging mojo.

Anyhow, that’s my report for 2023. Next up, tomorrow I hope to do a writeup on my 2024 goals, what I changed, and what I want to try that’s new. All told I’m still pretty happy at all of the full and partial successes, though some of the complete misses sting a little.

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Oven Roasted Peruvian Chicken (Pollo a la Brasa) and Green Sauce (Aji Verde) Recipes

This is a relatively simple recipe for some nearly authentic tasting Peruvian-style roasted chicken, and a slightly spicy green dipping sauce that goes really well with it. While authentic Pollo a la Brasa would be cooked on a rotisserie grill, this recipe is for oven baking. I based my recipe on this recipe, which includes some extra tips and a video, with some of the spice quantities nerfed slightly to placate picky eaters. This was my second set of international dishes I’ve been experimenting with as part of one of my 2023 annual goals of cooking new dishes from each of the inhabited continents.

Peruvian Chicken (Pollo a la Brasa) Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 6-8lb whole chicken
  • 6 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup lime juice (~2 limes)
  • 8-12 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 2 Tbsp cumin
  • 4 tsp paprika
  • 4 tsp white sugar
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tsp oregano

Directions:

  1. Start by making sure the chicken is properly thawed in the fridge, if it was previously frozen. This should take ~24hrs per 5lb of chicken. Once thawed make sure to remove any giblets or other innards, make sure the chicken is patted dry with paper towels.
  2. Preheat the oven to 475F.
  3. Use your fingers to carefully separate the skin from the meat around each end of the opening, and place the chicken on a roasting pan rack.
  4. Mince the garlic, and in a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lime juice, garlic, kosher salt, paprika, white sugar, black pepper, and oregano.
  5. Spoon some of the spice mixture under the loosened chicken skin so it can be in direct contact with the meat. Also coat the outside of the chicken with the mixture, using a cooking brush. If you have chicken string, you can use it to tie the legs together, if desired. I would suggest orienting the bird with the breast facing upward.
  6. Once the oven is up to temperature, place the chicken in the oven and roast it at 475F for 20 minutes.
  7. After 20 minutes, use a baster to base the chicken with juices, while lowering the oven’s cooking temperature to 350F.
  8. Roast the chicken in the oven at 350F until it is at a safe temperature of at least 165F. For this sized bird, this should take approximately 1hr 15min. Baste the chicken every 20-30min during this time.
  9. Once the chicken is up to temperature, remove it from the oven, and let it rest for 10-15min before cutting/serving. It is best eaten hot with a side of the hot dipping sauce, and either roasted potatoes or homemade french fries.

If you have an air fryer large enough to roast a whole chicken, you can also cook it in the air fryer. In that case, I would put it in, with the breast side down initially, and roast it at 360F for 30min, basting it every 15min, flip it over to breast-side-up after 30min, and then roast it for another 20min at 360F, basting every 10min, and checking the final temperature to make sure it’s at least 165F. When cooked, the skin should be fairly dark in many spots, but not burned.

[Update 1/28/2024: At my brother, Jeremy’s recommendation, I tried making this using bone-in/skin-on chicken thigh pieces instead of a whole chicken, and it worked really well. It still tasted just as good, and cooked a lot faster. I used the same ~8lb of chicken, but didn’t try separating the skin to coat it with the marinade — I just dipped the pieces in the bowl to make sure they were thoroughly coated, then put on the baking sheet. I cooked the pieces at the same 475F for 20min, basted them with drippings, then put them back in for another 20min at 350F, and all but one of the pieces was clearly above the 165F threshold by that point. I think if I had spaced them out a bit more evenly, all of them would’ve been done by that point. So, it’s a little more Americanized than doing the whole bird, but has the same great taste, and a lot less time or work.]

Peruvian Green Dipping Sauce (Aji Verde)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (loosely packed) of fresh cilantro
  • 1-2 whole jalapeño peppers
  • 1/2 – 1 Tbsp aji amarillo paste
  • 2 Tbsp grated cojita cheese
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp lime juice
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/8 tsp kosher salt

Directions:

  1. Puree all of the ingredients in a blender, and refrigerate until time to serve.

That’s literally it. Just toss it all in a blender, puree it, and then let it chill while the chicken cooks.

Notes:

  1. If you don’t live near a Latin American grocery store that carries the paste, you can buy Aji Amarillo paste on Amazon. Theoretically you could substitute a habañero pepper, but I haven’t tried that.
  2. If you can’t find cojita cheese, grated parmesan cheese can be used as a substitute.
  3. If you want a less spicy sauce, you can remove the seeds from the jalapeños before adding them in, and use the lower range of the amount of recommended peppers and aji amarillo paste.

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Naan Bread Recipe

This Naan Bread Recipe, based on this recipe by Becky Krystal is the perfect complement to my previous Instant Pot Butter Chicken recipe.

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 3 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
  • ~3/4 cup of warm water
  • Cooking spray oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp melted butter

Directions:

  1. Before you start, set the buttermilk out to allow it to warm up to room temperature.
  2. Mix the flour, baking powder, and kosher salt together in a large bowl.
  3. Pour the buttermilk over the top of the flour mixture, and quickly stir it in using a large spoon. The flour will still be fairly dry with some wet clumps.
  4. Stir in water, a few tablespoons at a time, stirring in with a spatula or wooden spoon. Continue stirring in water until the flour comes together to form a soft ball (should take ~3/4 cup). It should be soft and slightly sticky.
  5. Knead the dough by hand for 1-2 minutes, using the ball to pick up any dry flour in the bottom of the bowl. If it’s too sticky to handle, you can use some flour to dust your hands.
  6. Spray a baking sheet with the spray oil, then divide the dough into six equal portions. Roll each portion into a round ball, and place on baking sheet.
  7. Melt the butter, and then coat each of the round dough balls with butter.
  8. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. The dough needs to rest, but won’t rise much.
  9. About 10 min before that 30 minutes is up, preheat a large cast-iron pan or skillet, a little below medium heat.
  10. Dust a work surface with some flour, and then take out one dough ball (leaving the others covered with plastic wrap), touch both sides of the dough ball to the floured surface to get flour on both sides of the ball. Then roll it out with a lightly-floured rolling pin, until it is approximately 8-9 inch diameter and roughly circular. You can rotate the dough by 90 degrees with each rolling motion, to make it roughly even. But the shape doesn’t need to be perfectly round.
  11. Once the skillet is hot, add the first portion of flattened dough. Cook for 1-3 minutes, uncovered, until lots of bubbles have appeared and the bottom surface is dry and has lots of brown spots.
  12. Flip the dough over with tongs, and then cook it covered for another two minutes until there are plenty of dark, almost charred spots on the top and bottom of the naan bread. You may need to lower temperatures to reduce charring.
  13. While the first naan bread piece is cooking, roll out the next piece, and then repeat steps 10-13 until all six are cooked.
  14. You can brush the cooked naan with more of the melted butter if you have leftovers from brushing the dough balls in step 7. If you’re really fancy, you could mix in some minced garlic with the butter to brush the cooked Naan with to make a garlic naan.

Serve this with the previously mentioned Instant Pot butter chicken and cooked Basmati Rice for a nice Indian-style dinner that is relatively easy to cook, and really tasty. I don’t do a lot of breads or baking, and this recipe is pretty forgiving.

This is the second of my international recipes that I’ve been trying out as part of one of my annual goals for 2023, to try out recipes from each of the inhabited continents.

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Instant Pot Butter Chicken with Potatoes and Peas

As part of my goal this year to cook new international dishes, I wanted to share this is a great and fairly simple Indian butter chicken recipe. It is based on a recipe recommended by someone I follow on Twitter, but with a minor tweak to the amount of Cayenne Pepper, and added potatoes and peas.

Servings: 8-12

Ingredients:

  • 28oz can of Diced Tomatoes
  • 10-12 cloves Minced Garlic
  • 3-4 tsp Minced Ginger
  • 2 tsp Turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 2 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 tsp Kosher Salt
  • 4 tsp Garam Masala
  • 2 tsp Ground Cumin
  • 3-5 lb Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
  • 8oz Butter
  • 1 cup Heavy Cream
  • 1/2 cup Chopped Cilantro
  • 1-2 lb potatoes
  • 1-2 cups Green Peas

Directions:

  1. Add the Tomatoes, Minced Garlic, Minced Ginger, Turmeric, Cayanne Pepper, Smoked Paprika, Kosher Salt, half of the Garam Masala (2 tsp), and Ground Cumin to the Instant Pot, stir thoroughly.
  2. Rinse and cut the Potatoes into large chunks — 1 inch cubes or bigger, and add them to the mixed tomatoes and spices. Add the chicken pieces over the top of the tomatoes, spices, and potatoes.
  3. Turn the Instant Pot on to it’s Pressure Cook setting, with a timer set for 10 minutes on High.
  4. If you want to serve this on rice, you can start the rice at about this point. I’d recommend 2-3 cups of either Jasmine or Basmati rice to go with this much butter chicken.
  5. Once the Instant Pot pressure cooking cycle is complete, let the Instant Pot naturally vent for 10 minutes, and then manually release the rest of the pressure.
  6. Remove the chicken pieces using a pair of tongs. If desired, cut the chicken into chunks of similar size to the potatoes. Set the cut chicken aside.
  7. Remove the potatoes from the Instant Pot using tongs, and put them with the cut chicken pieces.
  8. Take the sauce from the Instant Pot and puree it in a blender or using an immersion blender. Return the pureed sauce to the Instant Pot, and add in the Butter, sliced into thin slices to melt easier. Once the butter has melted in, add the Heavy Cream, the other half of the Garam Masala (2 tsp), the Chopped Cilantro, and the Peas.
  9. Mix together thoroughly, and add the chicken and potatoes back in. If necessary reheat for 3-5 min using the Instant Pot sauté function.

The amount of chicken, potatoes, and peas to add is up to you. The original recipe would have only called for 2lb of chicken, and separating half of the sauce, but by adding in potatoes, peas, and extra chicken, the amount of sauce seems about right. I used frozen peas and thawed chicken, though apparently you can use frozen chicken too. Depending on how much chicken you put in, you may want to add in a little extra salt. And finally, if you’re dairy free, you can substitute coconut oil and full-fat coconut milk in place of Butter and Heavy Cream.

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