Most of time I really don't care about sports very much. I've been known to turn off the Super Bowl in the first half because football is just so boring to me. But when the Olympics come around I am obsessed and I have to catch every moment that I can. Of course I love to watch the primetime sports like gymnastics and swimming, especially since I used to be a swimmer myself, but I also love watching the more obscure sports that don't always get much broadcast time otherwise. My son and I were just watching archery and fencing the other day and loving it. I remember a time when my sister and I couldn't take our eyes off a badminton game. My dad and I like to see who is winning in the shooting events. (Congratulations to U.S.A's Ginny Thrasher for coming out of nowhere to win the first gold of this year's games in 10m air rifle!) Maybe that's why I love it so much. In addition to the Olympics being filled with incredible feats from the world's best athletes, I get to see sports that I personally find more interesting than what is typically on t.v. otherwise.
Another thing that is fun about the Olympics is getting to learn about and explore other cultures. I enjoy seeing the unique, culturally significant uniforms of certain countries in the parade of nations, or seeing an interesting flag or unknown abbreviation and figuring our where in the world that athlete comes from. Of course there is also learning about the country that is hosting the Olympics, in this case Brazil. And what is one of the best ways to explore a culture? Through it's food of course!
To kick off the Olympics I did a little research and made some delicious Brazilian treats to eat while we watched the opening ceremonies. Two of them were savory - Pao de Queijo, gluten free cheese bread bites that I think may start bringing to potlucks because they are delicious, easy to make, and really cute! It does use somewhat of a specialty ingredient, tapioca flour, but it is actually pretty easy to find in most grocery stores these days, and compared to other specialty flours, is not too expensive. The other savory bite was Coxinhas, a chicken and cheese dumpling with a crispy fried exterior. I also made a sweet treat - Brigadeiros. Though often described as a fudge ball, it's really more of a chocolate caramel covered in sprinkles, and nothing about that sounds bad, am I right?! Those of you familiar with the Mexican treat dulce de leche will recognize the process of turning sweetened condensed milk into a caramel. Let's start our culinary tour of Brazil with dessert first!
One 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
3 Tbsp cocoa powder
1 Tbsp butter
Sprinkles or other coating of choice - chocolate sprinkles are traditional, I used gold and silver to represent Olympic medals, you could also use something like nuts or coconut.
Combine sweetened condensed milk, cocoa, and butter to a saucepan.
Cook over low heat, stirring constantly for about a half hour. The mixture should be smooth and thick. When you make a line down your pan with your spatula, it should take a couple seconds before the mixture floods the empty space. When it cools you should be able to shape it like playdough.
Remove the mixture from the heat and let it cool. Butter the palms of your hands to prevent sticking, and taking about a teaspoon at a time, roll the mixture into a ball and then roll in the sprinkles and set aside. I was able to make about 20 brigadeiros with this recipe.
Pao de Queijo
1/3 cup olive oil
2/3 cup milk
1 1/2 cups tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)
1/2 cup of grated cheese (whatever you like best will work. I used sharp cheddar and parmesan, though you may want to reduce the salt when using parmesan)
1 teaspoon of salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees and grease a mini muffin tin.
Put all ingredients in the blender and pulse until smooth.
Pour batter into greased mini muffin tins, about 3/4 of the way full and bake for 20 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before eating. They taste good cold too!
Makes about 2 dozen
for the filling:
4 oz of cream cheese
4 oz canned chicken (or cooked shredded chicken. Would be good with leftover rotisserie!)
2 green onions
salt and pepper
for the dough:
2 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups flour
for the coating:
plain breadcrumbs or cracker crumbs
oil for frying
Mix all filling ingredients together and set aside.
For those of you have ever made homemade playdough, the process for the dough will look and even smell a little familiar! Don't worry though, this dough tastes much better than play dough!
Put stock, oil and salt in a pot and simmer. Once the liquid comes to a simmer, add the flour and mix together with a wooden spoon. Continue to stir until the dough is barely sticky and no dry spots of flour remain. It will pull away from the sides of the pot to form a ball.
Remove dough from the pot and let cool. Once cool enough to handle take about 2 tablespoons at a time and form a disc. Place about one heaping teaspoon of filling in the middle and bring up the edges of the dough and pinch to close.
Once all the coxinha have been formed, roll them in the egg whites, and then in the bread crumbs. Pan fry in hot oil until golden brown, about 3 minutes on each side. Season with salt and pepper while hot.
It is recommended to serve them hot, but I enjoyed them while they were cold too! Makes about 12.