Rwandan Beef Stew

Rwandan Beef Stew

For more than five years, my wife Molly has sponsored a child through global aid organization Compassion International. That means she sends money through Compassion each month to benefit the child’s family, corresponds by letter with the child and occasionally sends special gifts via the agency.

Molly’s child, who shares the same birthday in January, lives in the east-central African nation of Rwanda, a country ravaged by war and genocide, even decades after its most well-known time of tragedy. Compassion often shares information about life in Rwanda through its magazine and other materials we receive by mail and online.

In one of Compassion’s magazines, the organization shared a recipe for Rwandan Beef Stew, along with background information that children in Rwanda look forward to times when they can eat roasted goat or beef stew because they don’t often have meat available to eat.

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I decided we should enjoy a Rwandan Beef Stew to think about Molly’s sponsored child, her family and all of the nation’s people who experience life so much differently than we do in the United States. We are blessed to be able to eat meat most every day, and we were especially blessed by Compassion sharing this meal with us as a thank you for our gifts to a child in need halfway around the world.

Here’s how you make the Rwandan Beef Stew.

What You Need:

2 pounds stewing beef (you can use a smaller package)

1 chopped onion

3 large green plantains, sliced

2 tablespoons peanut oil (you can use another oil)

4 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 teaspoons salt

1 beef bouillon cube

1 large peeled, de-seeded, coarsely chopped tomato

¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

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What You Do:

1. Brown the beef and onions in oil using a heavy, large pot over gentle heat.

2. Add plantain slices that have been rubbed or soaked in lemon juice.

3. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

4. Add the remaining ingredients and enough water to cover.

5. Keep adding water where necessary, cooking until the meat is tender.

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We cooked our stew for almost six hours, and it was delicious! We were amazed how much the plantains tasted just like potatoes after cooking that long! This particular recipe reminded us very much of beef stew we’ve eaten in the Southern United States throughout our lives. It’s amazing how we can find similarities with people and experiences in very different places! All we have to do is open our eyes and try.

Visit compassion.com/sponsor for more information about helping a child in need.

3 Food Books We Love

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Molly and I are both North Carolina natives. Specifically, we each grew up in a separate corner of Gaston County in the western part of the state, her in Cherryville and me in Alexis. We’ve lived our entire lives here, with the exception of about a year total that I spent in Alabama and Florida. I lived in eastern North Carolina for about four years, and together we’ve crossed the state many times, stopping at local restaurants along our journeys.

So, with more than 60 years of combined eating experiences in North Carolina, we know this state’s food well. And we love this state’s food, from barbecue and burgers to homestyle plates and pies. That’s why we also love these books about North Carolina cuisine so much, because their authors share our deep love, appreciation and devotion to the delicious array of food in our home state. They also share our preference to eat at local, one-of-a-kind restaurants when they’re visiting North Carolina’s many great big cities and small towns.

1. Bob Garner’s Book of Barbecue, North Carolina’s Favorite Food, by Bob Garner, published by John F. Blair

Bob Garner loves North Carolina food. That’s evident when you watch his restaurant reviews on UNC-TV’s North Carolina Weekend program, which is where we first discovered Garner several years ago. He particularly appreciates a great plate of Tar Heel barbecue, which is the subject of this book that offers such an interesting overview of North Carolina barbecue history, cooking methods and restaurants across the state.

2. North Carolina’s Roadside Eateries: A Traveler’s Guide to Local Restaurants, Diners, and Barbecue Joints, by D.G. Martin, a Southern Gateways Guide published by the University of North Carolina Press

D.G. Martin’s vast collegiate, military, legal and media experiences have kept him traveling North Carolina over the years, and that has afforded him many opportunities to sample and revisit many of the state’s great local eateries. This book is a fantastic guide to North Carolina restaurants, organized along interstate lines as a companion for pinpointing places to eat when you’re on the road.

3. Tar Heel Traveler Eats: Food Journeys Across North Carolina, by Scott Mason, published by Globe Pequot, an imprint of Rowman & Littlefield

As host of Raleigh-based WRAL-TV’s renowned Tar Heel Traveler segment, Scott Mason has studied North Carolina restaurants and shared them on the screen for years. As a follow-up to his excellent Tar Heel Traveler book, which contains many great dining suggestions of its own, this particular version highlights some of the most unique and outstanding eats North Carolina dishes up.

Have a book on North Carolina food or the cuisine of another Southern U.S. region you think we should read? Comment on this post at FoodieScore.Blog, or send us a quick message here. We never get too full when it comes to great Southern food ideas, especially in our home state!

Foodie Travels: Mamie’s Drive In, Laurel Hill, N.C.

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For North Carolina beach travelers from Charlotte and points west, it’s a common conundrum: Where can we stop and eat on the way? When the eastward destination is a place like Wilmington, Wrightsville Beach, Carolina Beach or Southport, there are several good joints to discover. But there may not be a more local, beloved place than Mamie’s Drive In, almost halfway between Charlotte and Wilmington along Route 74 in Scotland County.

Mamie’s opened more than 50 years ago and continues to serve favorite American fare like homemade cheeseburgers, hot dogs and meat-and-sides plates the way its late namesake did for so many years. It’s a humble place, where you walk into a small building, step up to a small order window and then have a seat in the small dining area or at a few tables out front.

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We enjoyed the Southern hospitality of the staff on our visit and the simple, satisfying meal—my cheeseburger and fries, my wife’s chicken strip plate. And the food was fast, a good thing for travelers ready to reach the beach or get back home after a few days of sand and sun.

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Many folks opt for a couple of barbecue joints on the route to the coast, but I’d argue that you won’t find a more iconic, down-home stop than Mamie’s. That tradition was honored by Our State magazine in its 2010 list of “100 Foods You Must Eat in 100 Counties.” Its place in the state’s food lore was then further cemented by a segment on WRAL’s Tar Heel Traveler in 2017, highlighting its adoration by both beach-goers and locals alike.

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So if you find yourself headed east (or west) on Highway 74 and asking the question about where you’ll eat, just pull into Mamie’s. You’ll get a good, fast, affordable meal, and you’ll become part of a longtime tradition for both locals and visitors to Scotland County, N.C.

Mamie’s Drive In, 9460 Andrew Jackson Highway, Laurel Hill, N.C.

Culinary Confessions: What We Pay for Groceries

Culinary Confessions

This is the first post in a new occasional series we’re calling “Culinary Confessions,” a feature focused on opening the books on our eating habits and sharing our shopping, cooking, dining and diet strategies with you. We hope you enjoy!

We take great pride in our home cooking and the recipes we share through #FoodieScore. We’re also quite resilient and proud to seek the best deals we can find on food, both at grocery stores and in restaurants.

When it comes to groceries, we see no point in paying more than necessary for items in our cart. Why should we buy milk for $2.50 when we can get it for $1, or a bag of chips for $3 when we can get it for 75 cents? That mindset is the reason we buy a lot of non-name-brand products, and it’s why we shop at Aldi, which operates stores in 35 U.S. states.

We fully endorse Aldi’s model built on its own unique brands, a discount-shopper-friendly store layout and self-bagging. We rarely prefer the name brand of a product to a generic-style version, and in some cases we actually much prefer the generic! Aldi’s double-stuffed chocolate cookies, for example, have more cream and a better chocolate cookie taste than actual Oreos. And Doritos, we’re sad to say, taste no different to us than a simple bag of ‘nacho-flavored tortilla chips.’

Since switching 95 percent of our grocery shopping to Aldi—we do still relegate occasional products to other stores when necessary for a recipe ingredient—we’ve cut our grocery spending for our household by half. There are two of us, and we use about $150 of our budget each month for groceries, whereas we spent about $300 a month before making changes. We shop twice a month, planning ahead with a list to avoid forgetting items that will send us back to the store—a trap for unnecessary extra purchases that are as dangerous to your wallet as those impulse items at the checkout.

The new total is still higher than it could be. We’ve made a healthy shift in our eating, but we still allow treats in our diet, so we haven’t cut our food allowance to the bone. Still, we try to shop based on what meals we have planned, with a heavily calculated list prepped before going to the grocery store. That way we roll right down the aisles when we shop, passing by most of the impulse buy temptations. And we buy less food that gets wasted because we purchase based on what we’re already anticipating we’ll eat.

So what do we pay for common items that are part of our basic everyday diet? Take a look:

Grocery List

How much do you pay for these same items? Are you willing to pay less by sacrificing brand loyalty? If the answer is yes, you could save quite a bit of money that you can enjoy for something else, or you can bank that savings each month!

Let us know what you think of our basic strategy. And share your own food tips with us! You just might have a Culinary Confession!

Lemon-Buttermilk Icebox Pie

Lemon Pie

Our family loves the sweet tartness of a good citrus pie, especially of the lemon or key lime variety. And perhaps no one enjoys such a pie more than Molly, our pie specialist. She recently found this recipe for a Lemon-Buttermilk Icebox Pie in Southern Living magazine, and we knew it was destined to be a hit, especially with her dad Stacy and my mom Chris.

Southern Living’s recipe actually worked in a sort of a la carte fashion, where you could pick your specific crumb crust, either use buttermilk or make your own, then fashion a sweetened whipped cream topping. Molly put together all of the pieces perfectly, so much that the pie was said to be better than Edwards brand’s frozen pie variety, which has been popular among Tessnear family members for many years. My grandpa, the late Lee Quinn, especially enjoyed cool, light desserts, and I believe this recipe would’ve been right up his alley. Here’s how you put this delight together in the A-plus order Molly selected.

The Crust

1 ½ cups crushed graham crackers

¼ cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons melted butter

Vegetable cooking spray

Directions: Crush your cracker crumbs, sugar and salt in a food processor until well combined. Add melted butter and process again until well combined. Press on bottom, up sides and onto lip of a lightly greased (with cooking spray) 9-inch pie plate. Freeze 30 minutes to 1 hour or while preparing fillings.

The Filling

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 tablespoon loosely packed lemon zest

½ cup fresh lemon juice

3 large egg yolks

¼ cup buttermilk (see note below if you don’t have any)

Directions: Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk (or use electric stand mixer as Molly did) milk, lemon zest and lemon juice. Beat egg yolks with a fork in a small cup for about 4-5 minutes. (If you have a hand mixer as well, the original recipe suggests beating the egg yolks at high speed 4-5 minutes or until yolks become pale and ribbons form on surface of mixture when beater is lifted. We don’t have two mixers, so Molly decided beating the eggs with a fork was good enough.) Gradually mix in sweetened condensed milk mixture and blend until thoroughly combined. Mix in buttermilk. (If you don’t have buttermilk, you can make it with regular milk or whipping cream. Add 1 tbsp. of lemon juice or vinegar per cup of milk or cream.) Pour mixture into prepared crust. Bake at 325 for 20 to 25 minutes or until set around edges. (Pie will be slightly jiggly.) Cool on a wire rack 1 hour. Cover pie with lightly greased (with cooking spray) plastic wrap and freeze 4 to 6 hours.

The Topping

1 cup heavy cream

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Directions: Beat cream and vanilla at medium-high speed until foamy. Gradually add powdered sugar, beating until soft peaks form. Makes about 2 ½ cups. Use as topping for slices of pie. You might also add a lemon wedge to garnish each piece.