Ginger and Black Peppercorn Hot Tea Recipe

This hot tea combines ginger and black peppercorns for a slightly spicy drink that will warm you up. A recipe I learned from friends while living in Brazil, it is a non-alcoholic twist on the Quentão we used to drink there during the winter.  

Ginger and Black Peppercorn Hot Tea Recipe | Fake Food Free

During one of the Julys we spent in Brazil, I helped a friend host a party for her English students and she made this tea. I know what you are thinking — hot tea in July? But remember, U.S. summer = Brazil winter, and where we were in the south, it did get pretty fall-like.

It is a non-alcoholic version of the warm wine drink, Quentão, that is enjoyed during Festas Juninas celebrations. This drink, often described as a mulled wine, was made in large volumes with very, um, affordable wine and often cachaça so it’s surprising that I liked it, but the spicy flavor of the fresh ginger won me over. 

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Brazilian-inspired Simple Salad with Lime Recipe

Brazilian-inspired Simple Salad with Lime Recipe | fakefoodfree.com
I revised my definition of the simple salad after our time in Brazil.
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I thought what I was eating prior was a simple salad until I had my first bite of a salad there. I remember thinking — but where are the candied walnuts, the blue cheese, the cranberries, and could I have a little dressing?
It took simple to a whole new level and it took it a while to grow on us, but it did. Occasionally we even find ourselves craving that same simplicity almost 5 years later.
I had the opportunity to spend one afternoon with a friend there while she prepared us dinner and it allowed me to see first-hand how such a salad comes together. First, everything is the same color. No flecks of white from feta cheese or bursts of red from cherry tomatoes. No, it was all, equally as pretty, shades of green.
First lettuce, then parsley and finally a few rings green bell pepper. Next, the secret salad ingredient – salt. I have to admit I had never salted a salad straight from the shaker until we moved there. No pepper, though. Black pepper was non-existent where we lived.
The salt is what made the dressing flavors pop. And what I mean by dressing is loads of olive oil and fresh squeezed lime juice.
Brazilian-inspired Simple Salad with Lime Recipe | fakefoodfree.com
When I was trying to use up a few leftover vegetables last week, I decided to return to the basics and recreate a similar salad for dinner. I made a few changes like cilantro because I’m not in love with parsley, red bell pepper because I had it on hand, green onion for the same reason and kale because there was a handful I didn’t want to go to waste.
I went ahead and massaged the kale in olive oil. If you haven’t done this before it reduces bitterness, softens the leaves and really makes all the difference. Just pour the oil over it and rub it in with your hands, working it for a few minutes.
Brazilian-inspired Simple Salad with Lime Recipe | fakefoodfree.com
Regardless of whether you use kale or not, a good olive oil is essential for this salad. With such simple flavors, it must be delicious. I’ve mentioned Oregon Olive Mill before and I love their extra virgin olive oil. They recently sent me a new variety called Frantoio. It’s a single Italian olive varietal with a buttery flavor and a peppery finish, which I love in a good olive oil. I was waiting for something simple to use it with so that the olive oil’s flavors would stand out and it worked perfectly in this salad.
When the kale is ready to go just layer on the other ingredients, toss with a little (or a lot) more olive oil and lime juice and it’s ready to serve.
Brazilian-inspired Simple Salad with Lime Recipe | fakefoodfree.com

Brazilian-inspired Simple Salad with Lime

Makes: 2 to 3 servings
2 cups finely chopped kale leaves
1 tbsp + 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cups chopped romaine lettuce
⅓ cup finely chopped red bell pepper
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 green onion sliced
Juice of 2 limes
⅛ tsp fine ground sea salt
Place the kale in a medium bowl and add the 2 teaspoons of olive oil. Massage the kale for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add the lettuce, bell pepper, cilantro and onion. Drizzle the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and lime juice over the salad. Sprinkle on the salt. Toss to coat all the ingredients and serve.
Disclosure: The olive oil mentioned in this post was sent to me for review purposes. I was not required to post about it and received no compensation for doing so. It is an excellent olive oil and I’m happy to share about it.

Thanks for reading! All images and content are the property of Fake Food Free unless otherwise stated. Please do not republish full recipes and images without written permission. What is okay? Feel free to Pin images, share links to my posts or share the photo in a round up post with the title of this recipe and a link back to the post. Confused about copyright and food blogs? Here is some helpful information on Recipe Attribution. If you want to use a photo or full recipe, just ask. I’m sure we can work something out. 

Roasted Pumpkin with Gorgonzola

If you need a new roasted pumpkin recipe, look no further! This dish combines the flavors of sweet winter squash with rich Gorgonzola cheese. It’s a recreation of a dish I enjoyed when we lived in Brazil. 

Roasted Pumpkin with Gorgonzola | Fake Food Free

 

About three months before we moved back to the US and ended our time living abroad in Brazil, I took a trip. My husband was headed off to Ireland on business and I just happen to find a crazy good deal on a flight to Belo Horizonte.

I’d met a couple expats there through blogs, so I hopped a plane and headed off on my own little adventure. My new friends there showed me the ins and outs of the city of Belo Horizonte as well as Ouro Preto. To this day Ouro Preto ranks as one of my favorite places visited.

Ouro Preto - Brazil | Fake Food Free

At the beginning of my trip, we stopped by one of their favorite places for lunch. A per kilo buffet lunch which was the most common form of lunch I came across while living in the south and visiting the north.

The food was good and the selection was pretty typical. Fresh salads, pastas, meat and fruit. Although there was one dish that stood out and I’ve never gotten around to making it until now.

Roasted Pumpkin with Gorgonzola | Fake Food Free
 

It’s one of those dishes that is so simple, but it’s the simplicity that makes it so good. It’s basically roasted pumpkin topped with crumbled gorgonzola. I’ve never been exactly sure of the herbs or flavorings used in the original dish so I made up my own with a bit of rosemary and onion.

This makes such a great side dish or top it with some roasted walnuts or black beans for protein and call it a meal.

Roasted Pumpkin with Gorgonzola | Fake Food Free

Roasted Pumpkin with Gorgonzola

Makes: 2 – 3 servings

½ small pumpkin, peeled and cut into large chunks (about 2 ½ cups)
1 sprig of rosemary
¼ medium onion, sliced
Olive oil
¼ cup crumbled Gorgonzola or Blue Cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Prep

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Place the pumpkin in a single layer in a baking dish. De-stem the rosemary and place the leaves with the pumpkin. Add the onion. Toss to coat all ingredients with olive oil.

Bake for 10 minutes. Stir the pumpkin, and bake for 10 more minutes or until the pumpkin is tender, but not mushy. Remove from the oven, salt and pepper to taste, place the pumpkin in a serving dish and top with crumbled Gorgonzola. Serve immediately. 

 
 
Thanks for reading! All images and content are the property of Fake Food Free unless otherwise stated. Please do not republish full recipes and images without written permission. What is okay? Feel free to Pin images, share links to my posts or share the photo in a round up post with the title of this recipe and a link back to the post. Confused about copyright and food blogs? Here is some helpful information on Recipe Attribution. If you want to use a photo or full recipe, just ask. I’m sure we can work something out. 
 

Birthdays 29, 30, 31 and 32

If you would have asked me in my early 20s where I would spend birthdays 29 through 32, I probably would have told you at home. As it turns out, I spent (and am spending) those birthdays in 4 different cities, in 3 different countries.

Today I can’t help, but look back and marvel at how incredible life is. Someone recently asked me how my expat experience changed my outlook on life. After a little thought, I came up with an abbreviated version of this.

Our whole lives people tell us to set goals and work toward them, to dream and achieve it. I fully agree with setting goals and dreams, but I also encourage people to be flexible. As much as you think you know exactly what you want out of life at this very moment, don’t forget to let life happen.

Don’t let your goals and dreams get in the way of where life wants to take you. Work with life and allow it happen to you while constantly re-evaluating those goals and dreams.

You just might find that it takes you someplace amazing, exactly where you were meant to be at any given time. Someplace like 4 birthdays spent in 4 different cities in 3 different countries…

Number 29 – My first sushi experience in Maringa-PR, Brasil

Number 30 – Hiking Ilha do Mel (Island of Honey) off the state of Parana, Brasil

Number 31 – A cooking class in Chiang Mai, Thailand followed by Happy Birthday sung to me in our room with a cake from those working at the hotel where we stayed.

Number 32 – Celebrating the fact that this is the first time in 3 years that I’ve been with my extended family around my birthday. Complete with a birthday week with my husband, one of my mom’s cakes, sweet potatoes from my dad’s garden, foodie gifts from my in-laws, and playtime with my pug.

Remembering Morretes and Barreado

I realize that I won’t be able to keep using the phrase, “when we were in Brazil,” forever. As days and years pass, those experiences will become less current and less relevant in my life. That saddens me a bit.
I feel I still have so much left to share of my time there. As the one year anniversary of our departure approaches next month, I’m reminded of a few things I still have yet to post about.

Not long before we moved back to the States we took one final trip to Curitiba with the intentions of heading out to Ilha do Mel again. After making the two hour drive to the coast and sitting in the car at the boat dock for about 30 minutes as it poured rain, we made the decision that while we wanted to see the island again, it wasn’t worth trekking through rain with no gear for the day.

Disappointed, we began the somber drive back to the city. As we continued we began to talk about Morretes, a place many had told us about, but that we hadn’t yet made it to. It is a historic town, nestled between the mountains on the way from Curitiba to the coast.

Many people take the scenic train from Curitiba, a bit of a local tourist excursion. After a quick Google search and a phone call we exited off the highway and began the process of reviving this mini-vacation which we thought was a complete loss only a few minutes before.

Morretes is a tourist-filled little town that is designed for such a population. However, it is not the type of tourist destination you are likely thinking of. It is popular among Brazilians from the surrounding areas, not international visitors. So while the historic display boards in the center of town do contain an English translation, we didn’t hear a word of it during our visit. We loved it.

This small city was incredibly intriguing even during a rainy, dreary day. It holds a significant amount of history for the country in relation to the days of gold discovery and its export back to Europe. However, if you ask someone why they visited Morretes you will likely get the answer “Barreado.”

Yes, they travel there for the food. My kind of people!

Barreado (ba-he-a-doo) is a traditional food from that state of Paraná, and now, Morretes is one of the only places you can find it. It’s surprising that it hasn’t spread to other areas because it was overwhelmingly popular. It was obvious everyone was there to eat it, and every single restaurant in town served it.

We ended up at Olimpo which looked to be new in town, maybe not as historic as the others, but it had a great balcony. Honestly you can’t miss it, or the other places which serve the dish. This town is completely centered on this specific food.

The meal began with an assortment of bolos – basically fried balls, most with fish or vegetable. Then there was a salad bar filled with lentil, wheat berry and mushroom salads along with fruits and vegetables. And if you were so inclined, you could have a shot from the massive jar of cachaça which was filled with marinating fruit. This was common in many of the restaurants we visited during our time in southern Brazil, but not in a jar with this much fruit!

Barreado is a meat stew made with beef, bay leaf, cilantro and other herbs. It is sealed in a clay pot to cook for 12 to 18 hours. Once at your table you eat it with mandioca (cassava, yucca) flour, rice and fried bananas.

Now this picture, I have to admit with embarrassment, is not the appropriate way to eat barreado.

You see, the waitress brought our food and asked us if we were familiar with the dish. We said no and apparently she must have slipped another question in there that we didn’t hear because she took our no to mean we didn’t want an explanation.

Only after we were halfway finished did we see a demonstration at another table. You are supposed to mix the meat with lots (and I mean lots) of mandioca flour. Stir it up and mash the meat, add broth, stir it more and then eat it with rice.

It literally looked like a meat paste when the waiter was done and I have to admit, not appetizing at all. Therefore, we kept eating it our way even after the demonstration.

I was completely surprised how much I enjoyed this dish. Usually when it comes to beef stew it all tastes the same, but the flavor of barreado really stood out from anything I’ve had before. There was an intense, rich and smoky flavor, not to mention the slow roasting made it incredibly tender with no visible fat in sight.

Along with a meal of barreado, ginger was a highlighted ingredient in the area. The small feira taking place during our visit was offering candies made of ginger and the ice cream shop we passed had a ginger flavor as well. I really wanted to try it so I was happy to learn our dessert would be bananas with ginger ice cream.

It was unique and delicious – spicy with fresh ginger and went so well with the bananas and cinnamon.

Looking back at meals like this makes me wonder how I ever complained about the food available to me in Brazil. I’m always reminded of how much I owe to the whole expat experience and the country. It taught me that my perceptions of must-have ingredients are simply that – perceptions, not at all necessities.

Considering the laborious preparation technique and equipment needed to make barreado, I doubt it is something I will ever be able to recreate. That definitely makes for one unique foodie experience that I’ll never forget.

 

 
A little more about barreado.

Sweet and Simple Tomato Pepper Salad

Living in Brazil taught me a lot about food and cooking. First I had to overcome the mini-stove and let go of my perceptions of must-have ingredients. Then the learning and appreciation began.

The lesson I’m remembering this summer is that the simpler a food, the more delicious it can be. A single, fresh ingredient, whether meat or plant, matched with one spice, an herb or an oil can bring out more natural flavor than a recipe that includes 25 exotic ingredients.

I felt like I understood the concept of simple food before our move, but being exposed to local Brazilian cuisine made me realize I had a lot left to learn.

The main place that this lesson was reiterated to me was the churrascaria, those famous Brazilian barbeques (or churrasco if you are describing the cooking style or going to one at a home). I feel incredibly fortunate that I was able to experience this type of dining and food from the source, and not at an overpriced Estados Unidos version, as authentic as they might be.

It starts with the meat. The meat is seasoned with salt. A lot of salt (as in bags of the stuff), but still, just salt. Now this may not be the case everywhere, but it was at the barbeques we attended at the houses of friends.

These barbeques whether at a restaurant or a residence also included what would translate in the States as a salad bar buffet. However, not the layer-your-ingredients type of salad bar, but plates of vegetables in simple oil-based marinades, vinegar and herbs. Pastas were also included at restaurants and my favorite was always the spaghetti ao alho e óleo– spaghetti with garlic and olive oil. Again, pretty simple.

Now that we are being invaded by loads of cherry tomatoes I remember a lot about how we enjoyed tomatoes in Brazil. I’ve never especially disliked tomatoes, but I was never the type of person who could sit down and eat just a tomato with salt and pepper either.

Then, in Brazil, I came across tomatoes quartered, drizzled in olive oil and fresh lime juice, topped with either parsley or cilantro and seasoned with salt and pepper. Wow, there was something about that citrus juice and those herbs that made a tomato so much better!

I am crazy about the little orange cherry tomatoes we have in our garden this year. They are so sweet you think you just popped a sugar cube in your mouth. In an effort to avoid taking away from their already delicious flavor, I’ve been including them in simple salads that mimic the flavors we had in Brazil.

This specific salad isn’t exactly the same, but I wanted to use all the ingredients from our garden with lots of color. I decided to switch out the lime juice for lemon this time, and parsley for fresh basil. Any variety of peppers will do, but I used a combination of orange, red and yellow because I am thrilled that we have a few from the garden.

If you want to go all out, I highly suggest using aged goat cheese. That is my absolute favorite, but unfortunately I just ran out of it last week, so here I’ve used feta which is good in a pinch.

Enjoy the simple flavors of summer!

Sweet and Simple Tomato Pepper Salad

4 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
½ candy onion, thinly sliced
1 cup bell peppers, thinly sliced (I used a combo of orange, red, and yellow)
5 to 7 fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/3 cup crumbled feta or aged goat cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

The preparation is easy on this one. Simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl, stirring gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes before serving. Sprinkle on more basil or cheese just before serving if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

This recipe has been submitted to the Souper Sunday weekly roundup at Kahakai Kitchen.

Travel Secrets eBook for Charity:Water

A few months ago I participated in a game of blog tag over on The 3 Star Traveler which allowed me to share some of my best kept travel secrets. This fun project was initiated by Katie of Tripbase and after the huge response from travel bloggers it was decided that the tips would be turned into an ebook published by Tripbase and used as a way to raise money for charity.

The Travel Secrets ebooks launched today! They are full of helpful travel tips from experienced travelers and cover just about every continent around the world. My tips for the morning journey in Ubud, Bali and the Patara Elephant Farm in Chiang Mai, Thailand were included in the Travel Tips book, and my tip for Ilha do Mel in Brazil is featured in the Worldwide Beaches book. However, you all might be interested to know that there is a Foodie Travel book as well!

The ebooks are free and for each download Tripbase will donate $1 to Charity:Water, an organization that works to bring freshwater wells and clean drinking water to people in developing nations. One hundred percent of public funds donated to this organization go directly to water projects.

I’m thrilled to be a part of this exciting project! Please take a moment and click on the badge below to download a Travel Secrets eBook. It costs you nothing, but a little space on your hard drive. As a result, not only will you have an excellent travel resource at your fingertips, but you will be helping to support a great cause.

I helpedpeople get clean water
led by Tripbase

Jackfruit Muffins

What exactly is a jackfruit?

Well, it is likely the largest fruit you’ve ever seen. My first encounter with them was in Brazil, the photo at the right was taken in Ubud-Bali, Indonesia. When I say big, I mean when they are sitting on the ground they would come up to about mid-thigh, some perhaps even to your waist.

I might also mention that they are quite scary. There were many growing in the park around the zoo where we lived in Brazil. On more than one occasion I heard a ripe one fall out of a tree and hit the ground. Beneath such a tree you do not want to be. Loudest thud I’ve ever heard.

I only tasted them once when we were in Brazil at the local farmer’s market. It was a sticky, gooey piece of fruity flesh that tasted somewhat like a mix between a mango, banana and pineapple. I had a difficult time with the texture, but the fruit has a delicious flavor.

Despite my easy access, I never bought one. I often regret that decision now, but there were two reasons for this. The first was their size. About 98% of the time I went to the market by myself and this required a 20 minute walk each way. Yeah, lugging a fruit the size of my lower body back to the apartment wasn’t going to happen.

Second, anytime we got into a conversation about jaca (the Portuguese word for jackfruit) we were warned of the sticky flesh. Apparently it is no less binding than a good glue and I heard horror stories from friends about how they spent days trying to get it off their hands after they would eat them outdoors as kids. I really didn’t want to tackle that either.

Before we left Brazil, Tracey at the Tangled Noodle posted a recipe for Langka Muffins. Langka is jackfruit in the Philippines. What a language lesson you are getting in this post!

After seeing the recipe, I wanted to try it, but still didn’t get up the courage to buy fresh jackfruit. Then, when we were in Thailand I tried a jackfruit shake that was incredible and my interest grew.

The next thing I knew we had moved back to the US and I found canned jackfruit at our international market. I know it is a bit backwards for a real foodie to have access to the fresh and go for the canned, but the canned I knew I could handle.

I was a bit surprised by the texture of the fruit in the can. It was much different than what we had in Brazil. This might have to do with the fact that the fruit I had in Brazil was overripe and they probably harvest the canned variety early, or it could have been the syrup, or maybe it is a different variety that grows in different regions. Who knows?

I know one thing though, Tracey wasn’t kidding! Those muffins are delicious! I modified the recipe a bit to use whole grains, coconut oil and some mascavo sugar I have left from Brazil. I also topped some of them with coconut before baking.

Jackfruit Muffins
Modified from Langka Muffins at Tangled Noodle

2 cups white whole wheat flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
¼ cup minimally refined sugar
½ cup milk
1/3 cup virgin coconut oil, melted
1 egg, beaten
1 cup chopped jackfruit with ¼ cup syrup reserved
½ cup coconut, unsweetened, shredded (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease the bottom of each muffin tin. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In a separate bowl whisk together the sugar, milk, oil, egg and jackfruit syrup.

Gradually add the wet ingredients to the dry. Stir in the jackfruit just until everything is combined. This batter will be very thick. Divide into 12 muffins. Press coconut into the top of each muffin if using. Bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until muffins are browned and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool and remove from pan. Makes 12 muffins.

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The randomly selected winner of the Galaxy Granola from last week’s Granola Pancakes post is Kate! It doesn’t look like you have a blog connected with your profile so email me at lori (at) fakefoodfree (dot) com so that I can get you your free bag.
Update: As of Thursday (4/29) at 8:00am EST I still haven’t heard from Kate regarding the granola win. I’ll wait until noon tomorrow for you to email me, if not, I’ll choose another winner!
 

Baked Pastel Romeu e Julieta

I encountered many food combinations while living in Brazil that quickly became favorites, but none of them compare to guava and cheese. This sweet and salty combo is better known as Romeu e Julieta.
After my first week there I quickly learned that Romeu e Julieta was a name for a flavor that came in many different forms. I was first introduced to it by way of eating slices of the white cheese, queijo fresco, topped with slices of goiabada which was like a solid, sliceable jelly of goiaba (guava) jam.
Later when I traveled to the state of Minas Gerais I learned that it is delicious with Canastra, a cheese specific to an area of that state. The goiabada there is a more spreadable form like a cross between a pudding and a jam.
Where we lived in Maringá I found Romeu e Julieta in the first form I mentioned as well as combination of the guava jam and mozzarella cheese. Some restaurants also served the guava jam with requeijao which is often described as a white cream cheese. Really it is more like a white from cheese whiz minus the spray can, but without any strong flavor or tang.
A form of Romeu e Julieta could be found on every menu in town and most often it was not just cheese and jam. There was Romeu e Julieta pizza, pudding desserts, ice cream and pastel. Ahhh, pastel.
Ask any ex-pat in Brazil about pastel and you’ll get the response, “Mmmm…pastel.” It will be accompanied by a look of contentment and a bit of day dreaming.
Pastel is by far the best type of street food I’ve come across in my travels. Around our city there were booths at the local farmer’s market which sold them like fair food, but then there were also free standing restaurants such as Roberto’s which was exactly one half block away from our apartment.
Believe me; restraint had to be practiced daily.


Pastel is two layers of a puff pastry–like crust that is filled with all kinds of goodies. Then it is deep fried until puffed, toasty brown and flaky. You have to bite off a corner to let the steam escape and wait patiently before you dig in.


There were over 20 options at the restaurant by our apartment – beef, olives, cheese, mushrooms, chicken, heart of palm, broccoli, arugula, sundried tomatoes or a combination of two or three fillings together. Then there was the dessert menu pastel with coconut and chocolate, apple and nuts, and of course, Romeu e Julieta.
My husband’s coworker just came in from Brazil and prior to her visit she did some shopping for me. One thing on the list was goiaba jam. I’m sure guava jam is available in places like California in the US, but so far I haven’t seen it around Kentucky so I got it special order, shipped via suitcase.
When I heard that FOODalogue’s stop of the South American tour was Brazil this week, I knew I wanted to participate. I pulled out my cookbook, 1000 Receitas da Culinária Brasileira, and found a recipe for pastel.


I knew I didn’t want to fry it. I eat fried foods on occasion, but I’m not big on making them at home. I decided I’d bake it instead. It turned out to be like a lovely little Romeu e Julieta pie. It’s not exactly like the pastel we were used to getting in Brazil, but it definitely provides that favorite flavor of guava and cheese that I grew so fond of during our time there.

Pastel Romeu e Julieta
Translated and adapted from 1000 Receitas da Culinária Brasileira, Pastel de frango

2 cups flour
½ cup butter, room temperature
Pinch of salt
Water as needed
Guava jam
Mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour and butter. Just like a pie crust, mix until the butter is pea-sized and incorporated well. Add water a teaspoon at a time until the dough comes together into a consistency that can be rolled out. It took about 1 tbsp for me.

Roll the dough to about ¼ inch thickness on a floured board and cut into 8 equal squares or rectangles. Place 4 squares on a cookie sheet and spread evenly with jam leaving a ¼ inch edge. Spread about 1 tbsp of jam thinly per square. Top the jam with thinly sliced cheese. Using water, lightly wet the edges of the squares. Place the second layer of dough on top and use a fork to seal the edges.

Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes until just before the jam begins to bubble out and the pastel is lightly browned. Remove, let cool slightly and enjoy warm. Makes 4 baked pasteis.

More Brazilian foods and recipes:

Açaí na Tigela
Beijinhos
Brigadeiro
Canjica

Sagu de Vinho
Moqueca
Strogonoff de Frango
Cauliflower & Mandioquinha Soup

Escondidinho de Frango
Foods of Minas Gerais
Brazilian Fondue
Pinhão

Seeking Out the Truth About My Sugar

Don’t you just hate it when you think you have things all figured out only to learn you were wrong. Much to my disappointment that is how I felt last week. It all started when I came across the wonderfully informative post about types of sugar by Oyster Food and Culture.
When we first moved to Brazil my sugar quest began. I hadn’t really intended to reduce or cut out white and brown processed sugar until I started to learn about the açúcar mascavo (which all online sources tell me is the same as muscovado) available there. Considering this comes from evaporated sugarcane juice my research lead me to assume that it was a better choice than our standard, nutrient stripped white and brown sugars widely used in the US.
When we got back to the US, I was horrified at the price of a tiny little box of it considering what I had paid in Brazil. I then turned to demerara sugar learning that it was a more natural form from evaporated sugarcane juice as well.
Knowing that raw sugar isn’t much better than refined white sugar nutritionally, when I came across that post last week I was a bit shocked to find that both muscovado (mascavo) and demerara were listed under raw sugars.
I’ve conversed a bit with LouAnn (Oyster Food and Culture author) about this and she double checked her sources and let me know that they indicate that those two sugars undergo heating before evaporation which classifies them as refined. I double checked my sources and this is what I’ve come up with.
First, let me address demerara because I’m less clear about how beneficial it may be. So far I haven’t found a detailed nutrient outline, but I now know that this sugar is heated and then evaporated which can classify it as being refined and processed. Read on though, because you may be surprised by what I found out about two other popular so-called unrefined sugars.
Okay, so on to the mascavo sugar.
After reading that post last week I just wasn’t ready to give up on it so easily. Perhaps it is a fondness of discovering it while living in Brazil and that connection to culture. However I was still determined to confirm it a better choice than refined white and brown sugars, including raw sugars.
So far every website which sells it has stated that it is unrefined, simply evaporated cane juice. Another site which doesn’t have references (grrr!) stated that it is slightly refined.
Still, I remained hopeful in my search when I came across the Diabetes Society of Brazil which states that mascavo does contain the vitamins and minerals associated with sugarcane which is the important part for me.
In the post I mentioned earlier, another sugar that claims to be unrefined is rapadura. What’s interesting is that it is produced in Brazil, but I never came across it in the supermarkets we frequented. However, my husband seems to remember trying it from the local feira and seeing it at roadside stands.
After being thoroughly confused something dawned on me that I’m a bit embarrassed to admit I let slip by. My husband worked closely with the sugarcane industry when we were living there and many of his coworkers were very familiar with the processes. So, I did some asking and this is what I found out.
First of all, both mascavo AND rapadura are heated. They are just heated for differing amount of times. The rapadura is boiled and concentrated into block form. In the words of my Brazilian source it is the most basic/natural type of sugar between the two. The process maintains mineral and a small amount of vitamin content.
Mascavo is taken just past boiling and is transferred to a crystallizer for cooling and evaporation. The good news is while it isn’t as superior nutritionally as rapadura the process does maintain some vitamin and mineral content and it is superior nutritionally to refined white sugar.
My source was kind enough to show me this chart from the Ministry of Agriculture in Brazil listing nutrient content of three sugars – white refined, mascavo and rapadura. Don’t be overwhelmed by the Portuguese. Most nutrients are similar in both languages just keep in mind that “a” in Portuguese is “to” in English and a comma is used where we would use a period. For example “1,5 a 7” is “1.5 to 7”.
You can see when you check out the chart that nutrients are most plentiful in rapadura, but that mascavo still has some healthy components left in it versus refined white sugar. What I haven’t confirmed yet is whether or not mascavo is, in fact, muscovado. I think it is, but I can’t confirm because our friend in Brazil had never heard the term muscovado. I’m still pretty certain that it is just a difference in languages though.
So the truth is that if heating is part of the refining process than even rapadura can’t exactly be considered unrefined even though it may be the best choice nutritionally. I also learned that the reason I didn’t see it in Brazil is that it isn’t common for cooking due to it’s block form, although I know a lot of real-food focused food bloggers do use it. Mascavo is more ideal for cooking at least it seems that way in Brazil. Regarding the refining process really the only unrefined form of sugarcane available is the juice like what is being pressed in the photo below, called caldo de cana in Portuguese.

Okay, I’m not sure how much you all have cared about this, but I must admit I feel a lot better. I’ m not sure that I will keep using demerara, but I still plan to check out rapadura and I’m happy with my choice of mascavo when I can get it.
Anyone else find it odd that the less processing the more expensive the sugar? Seems like it should be the other way around to me.
I’ll close by saying that sugar is sugar when it comes to calories and cavities. I just want a product that is less refined with more nutritional value when I do use it. I trust more natural sweeteners such as maple syrup and honey, but I also like to bake and sometimes a sugar product is necessary. That’s really why I felt the need to find out some answers for myself.

This post has been submitted as part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday.

First photo of sugarcane fields in southern Brazil.