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Butternut Squash Blue Cheese Gratin with Walnut Rosemary Crumble

November 10, 2017
Butternut Squash Blue Cheese Gratin with Walnut Rosemary Crumble Recipe |

A few years ago, I posted about a really great pumpkin dish I had when we were living in southern Brazil. Pumpkin is used there year round, and not solely associated with fall and the holidays as it is in the U.S. So I’d often find it on the lunch buffets, a popular business dining option during the week. 

So this dish I speak of combined roasted pumpkin and Gorgonzola cheese. It was the best combination with the sweet pumpkin and pungent cheese. 

I made it the same way that I could guess it was made there, but ever since that encounter I’ve envisioned a more exciting and luxurious version. Perhaps one with a different winter squash, fit for the holiday table. 

I finally got around to acting on those visions this year.

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Arugula Sundried Tomato Tostadas

August 29, 2017
Arugula Sundried Tomato Tostada Recipe |

A lot of things stick with me from our time living in Brazil. Much of it is related to food.

As simple as it is, probably the most prominent of these is rucula e tomate seco. I think the first time we had it was on a pizza, then I found it as a sandwich. 

Arugula and sundried tomatoes aren’t uncommon in the States, of course. I had just never had the two together, and it’s a rather brilliant combination. The peppery arugula and the sweet tomatoes go so well together. 

It’s the sandwich that I think of most. Sandwiches were hard to get used to in Brazil. At that point, we were trained to want subs. Big sandwiches, loaded with ingredients.

And a sandwich always has a side, right? Chips, fries, at least a pickle. I can still remember one of my husband’s coworkers who frequented Brazil saying something similar to, how weird is it that you don’t get anything with sandwiches here?

I was glad we weren’t the only ones that had noticed. 

These days, after being back in the U.S. for nearly 10 years, I’d trade my side without question if someone could make me my favorite rucula e tomate seco sandwich like I had at our small sandwich shop there. 

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Brazilian Chicken Fritters [Coxinha de Frango]

April 8, 2016
Brazilian Chicken Fritters from the Cookbook Churrasco | Review and recipe on Fake Food Free

I always say that when we lived in Brazil if I’d known what I know now, I would have written a cookbook. I walked away from that 3 years with so many interesting food experiences, and thanks to friends there, a greater knowledge of how to prepare some of our favorite foods. 

Other than the jumbo cookbook in Portuguese that I brought back with me, I rarely come across books in English that highlight Brazilian cuisine. So when those rare occasions arise, I jump on the opportunity to get a copy. 

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Crispy Egg Custard Tarts (Pastéis de Nata) from My Portugal by George Mendes

February 3, 2015

These egg custard tarts are a classic Portuguese dessert and one that brings fond memories of our time living in Brazil. I was so happy to find a good recipe in the cookbook My Portugal by George Mendes so that I could make them in my own kitchen and share the recipe with you. 

   Crispy Egg Custard Tarts (Pastéis de Nata) from My Portugal by George Mendes | Fake Food Free 

I was sitting with my friends Juliana and Fernando enjoying a bowl of Caldo Verde on one of the rare cool days that occur during the months of June and July. It was the week of the world food festival in Maringa-PR, Brasil, when the town square turns into a food-lovers paradise with booth after booth of edible offerings representing numerous countries around the world.

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Ginger and Black Peppercorn Hot Tea Recipe

October 8, 2014

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

June 10, 2014
Brazilian-inspired Simple Salad with Lime Recipe |

I revised my definition of the simple salad after our time in Brazil.

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 |
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 |
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 |

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

October 12, 2011

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


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

October 13, 2010

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

September 20, 2010

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

July 30, 2010
 A simple summer salad recipe with garden tomatoes and peppers. 

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 barbecues (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 barbecues we attended at the houses of friends.

These barbecues 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.

Cherry tomatoes from our Kentucky garden

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.

Tomato Pepper Salad Recipe | Fake Food Free


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 thinly sliced bell peppers (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.


Sweet and Simple Tomato Pepper Salad Recipe |


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.