Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Platanos Maduros (Fried Sweet Plantains)

Luckily plantains are found in most supermarkets these days. Depending at what stage you get the plantains it should take about a week for them to turn dark brown to black. Do not store in the refrigerator, leave them out in a dark, cool place. Sweet, spicy and tart you will love this. I dislike sweet things but I love savory sweet...and these are so-ooo savory and sweet with a kick!

3 to 4 very ripe plantains (heavy black spotting to a fully black skin)
1/4 cup olive oil
pinch salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
juice of 1/2 a lime

Peel the plantains and cut (diagonal) into one-inch thick slices. Sprinkle with salt to taste and cayenne pepper. Heat the oil until medium hot. Fry the pieces briefly, about a minute or two per side. Reduce heat to low and continue cooking, turning occasionally until they are brown and caramelized. Squeeze the lime over the pieces and serve.

Tip: You might have to fry the plantains in batches, try not to crowd them in the skillet.

Servings 6

Monday, November 29, 2010

Colombian Exotic Fruits

Maracuyá (pronounced mah-rah-koo-jah) or Passion Fruit

The passion fruit is round to oval, about the size of a grapefruit, with a soft to firm, juicy interior filled with a lot of seeds. The fruit can be eaten raw with a dash of sugar or used for making juice. The unique tropical flavor is a combination of sweet and sour, something like mango mixed with star fruit. Passion fruit flavored juices can be found fairly easily in the US.

Tomate de Árbol (Tree Tomato or Tamarillo)

Tomate de árbol is eaten by scooping the flesh from a halved fruit. It is also great for cooking by adding the pulp to chutneys, soups or stews. In Colombia the juice is very popular too - adding a little water and sugar. The pulp is tangy and a little sweet.


The lulo has orange skin and the flesh looks like a green tomato, it is tart and tangy and is almost exclusively for making juice. It has a citrus flavor sort of like a mixture between a rhubarb and a lime. It does not do well in large-scale cultivation so that is probably why it is not seen much or exported. A special drink in Cali is the Lulada which is made from the pulp of the lulo, mixed with water, sugar and ice cubes.

Cranberry, Pecan Banana Bread

This is one of my favorites, the mild flavor of the banana mixed with the tart cranberry and crunchy pecans....yum. In an earlier post I was explaining how hard it is to bake in Bogotá at such a high altitude - well now you can see for yourselves. My delicious banana bread looks like a flat brick :) I have made this in Miami and it rises over the loaf pan and looks beautiful. My little brick was still delectable though - I love to slice it, spread with a little butter and toast it until crispy.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
2 large very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, at room temp
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups cranberries, dried
6 cardamom pods, crushed

1. Preheat oven to 325º
2. Grease and flour 2 loaf pans.
3. Cream together butter & sugar. Beat in eggs.
4. Stir in baking soda and salt into flour - mixing well.
5. Fold in banana; stir in vanilla
6. Add cranberries and pecans into batter. Add the cardomom.
7. Transfer batter to loaf pans evenly. Bake about 50 minutes or until inserted knife comes out clean.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Turkey á la King

4 oz can sliced mushrooms, drained
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp black pepper
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup milk
1/4 cup dry sherry
1 1/2 cups leftover turkey, cubed

1. In a medium pot, melt butter and sauté celery 2-3 minutes
2. Add mushrooms and sauté 2-3 minutes
3. Add flour and seasonings; stir for 1 minute
4. Slowly add in broth and then milk; boil, stirring constantly until thickened (about 3-5 minutes)
5. Add turkey and sherry until heated through

Tip: You can also use cooked chicken instead of turkey. Serve over a bed of rice, toast points, biscuits or pasta.

Servings 4

What is a Chiguiro?

Today I would like to share a funny story with you, please follow the link below. It is an excerpt of a post I wrote while in India...things you need to know - I am Mici (family nickname) and Diana is my sister who unfortunately eats just about anything. A chiguiro is the world's largest rodent, that people eat here for some reason, including my dear sister.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Guayaba (Guava)

Guayaba is a very popular and common fruit in Colombia. It is available, like almost every other fruit, as a juice, but is also often found in jams, pastries, and other desserts. This classic tropical flavor is sweet and something like a tangy apple. The skin is also similar to an apple so you do not have to peel it before eating. You can get it as a thick paste as well, for cooking (look for it in the hispanic section in most supermarkets). I have not seen this fruit fresh outside of South America but you can taste it by trying the paste or getting the pulp for juice in the freezer section. I will also be posting a recipe for homemade ketchup with guava...it's so good!

Guava and Cream Cheese Pockets

1 puff pastry sheet, thawed and cut into 18- 2.5" squares
1/2 lb block guava paste , cut into 1/2 inch strips
1/2 lb (250g) block PHILADELPHIA Cream Cheese, chilled cut into 1/2" strips
egg wash (1 egg yolk with 1 tsp milk, whisked)

1. Preheat oven 400º
2. Place 1 strip guava and 1 strip cream cheese on pastry square.
3. Fold the sides of the square over the filling sealing the edges.
4. Place seam side down on a greased baking sheet. Brush the top of each pastry with the egg wash
5. Bake 18-20 minutes.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Colombia Is Passion...

While I am here I wanted to spotlight how beautiful and diverse this counrty is. I think it is safe to say that we all know what a bad reputation Colombia has, well if you are feeling adventurous on your next vacation give Colombia a try. It has something for everyone: deserts, beautiful ocean coastlines and secluded islands, the Amazon which now has a 5 star floating hotel, the mountains and much more... Just to be clear I am not being paid nor do I work for the tourism board lol. Check out this article to get more details....


The altitude in Bogotá (8,622 feet above sea level) is a major problem if you want to cook, much less bake. You have to make major adjustments and still nothing is ever guaranteed. Everything takes twice as long to cook, it's getting the perfect combination that you strive for. The pressure cooker that has always scared me a little, is a necessity here, it cuts the cooking time for some things by hours.

The airport runways are longer (it seems like an eternity for a plane to lift off which is not pleasant when you know there are huge mountains right in front). Since the air is thinner, it's harder to breath and it does take a few days to acclimate but on the bright side if you play golf the balls go on forever...and ever...and ever....it makes you feel like a pro.

At an altitude with thinner air that includes less oxygen the human body reacts by raising the BMR (metabolism) between 6-28% in women and men....YAHOOO... I have already lost a few pounds despite pigging out but unfortunately it only lasts a few days and it all returns quickly as soon as you touch down in the States. It was good while it lasted....

Chai Tea

Okay yesterday was a day full of food and giving thanks...a lot of food. Today I thought I would add a nice soothing Chai Tea. I first discovered this in India and there are millions of variations and methods of making it, I copied this recipe from my favorite one and it is just like the original. Now that times are tough for so many people, buying a $5 Chai Tea at Starbucks looks less and less attractive. The recipe is easy to double or triple so you can enjoy mug after mug of this delicious tea for pennies a day. Cardomom pods (pictured below) is a key ingredient and nowadays it is fairly easy to find, oh and it is great.

1-1/2 cups water
1 stick of cinnamon
8 cardomom pods, crushed
8 whole cloves
2/3 cup milk
6 tsp. sugar (or to taste)
4 black tea bags

Put 1-1/2 cups water in saucepan.
Add the cinnamon, cardomom, and cloves and bring to a boil.
Cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the tea bags, boil 5-10 minutes longer
Add the milk and sugar and bring to a boil until the milk rises*.
Strain the tea into two cups and serve immediately.

To serve top with whipped cream and/or powdered nutmeg and cinnamon.

* when the milk starts to rise you will have to remove from the heat immediately so it doesn't overflow. Do not leave unattended

Pepinos - What are they?

It is said that a pepino is a cucumber but clearly this one is not, the actual translation is a pepper but again it is not a pepper. I have only seen it here in Colombia and it has a tatse to die for. You can stuff them like you would peppers/tomatoes or slice it up and saute in a bit of butter and cream. I took the picture of the stuffed 'pepinos' before my mom poured on the white sauce because after that you can't tell what it is....nor do you care.....so yummers!

This is one of the few things I have googled and 'still' can't find an answer...what is this strange, delicious, slipper looking vegetable???? Is it only known here in Colombia? I think so ...and I would be happy if it was served at every meal....yesterday I could have stuffed my turkey in there.....so good!

I love the food in Colombia...so many variations and so simple....because the food here is down home.. no frills, not fancy just GOOD!
Let me correct myself... we are spending Thanksgiving in Colombia...the food has a lot of frills and it is very fancy....(mom stop twisting my arm :) Other than the last 16 hrs in the kitchen, it's no fuss..... really no fuss...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Curuba (pronounced coo ROO bah)

Is a fruit commonly known in English as banana passionfruit. It grows wild in Colombia in mountainous regions between 6000 to 9000 feet above sea level. It is high in vitamin A, C, B1, B2 and B3 and also a good source of calcium, phosphorus and iron. It is used to make juices, jams, ice cream or you can just pour the contents in a bowl add a bit of cream and some sugar. It is tart and has a lot of seeds but if you get the chance give it a try. You can find the pulp in the hispanic frozen section of most supermarkets.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Easy Homemade Arequipe, Dulce de Leche or Milk Caramel

Arequipe is made by cooking milk and sugar until they thicken into a luxurious pale orange caramel. It is considered the national dessert in Colombia. The two most common ways to eat Arequipe is either sandwiched between 2 obleas (paper-thin communion wafers, varying in size) or straight out of the jar using a spoon. On the coast you can find this dessert sold in coconut shells, probably not very sanitary but authentic. As I have said I am not a huge sweets fan but whenever I get the chance I indulge - in Miami you can already find Arequipe in the latin section of most supermarkets.... Eddy's even has a Dulce de Leche ice cream flavor that is scrumptious! It is very versatile, my x-husband used to brew his own beer and the secret ingredient in one of his batches was arequipe - it was so good!

1. Place a can of sweet condensed milk in a pot of boiling water for 2-3 hours, constantly adding water to keep the can covered.
2. Let cool, open the can and enjoy!

Caution: If the pot is allowed to boil dry, the can will overheat and explode. Do not leave unattended please... You can not imagine the mess!

Granadilla (pronounced grah-nah-dee-jah)

This is my all time favorite fruit.... commonly known in Colombia as 'mocos de carbonero' which translates to 'coal miners buggers' lovely right? I don't mean to turn you off of this delectable fruit but it is not exported and if you can, you will only find the juice so you are safe! It has a lot of seeds that are wrapped in the actual fruit and it is like nothing you have ever tasted....so fragrant and tasty....
The idea here is that you crack it open on your head and then you can open it up - I am sure a counter top works just as well but here you do it on your head....Then you just proceed to suck out the insides.....yes there is nothing dainty about eating this fruit just stick your mouth into the hole and suck..... you don't really bite either (the seeds are bitter) and then swallow... If you are reluctant to look like an animal eating this beautiful fruit you can also get juices ready made - which do all of the fun work for you.

My mom once told me that if I swallowed a seed, a tree would grow inside me.....has anyone else heard that? Well I can safely say no tree has grown inside me - so digesting seeds are not a problem....which is great because most fruits here have a ton of seeds.

'The name granadilla is derived from the Spanish-language noun granadilla, which was originally the diminutive of granada (pomegranate/Punica granatum), the name of another plant with similar fruits and similar tasting seeds that is not closely related to granadillas. The granada, in turn, was called so because of the grains/seeds of its fruits.' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Granadilla

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Best Pie Crust

Buttery, flaky, yummy! I don't bake much nor do I like sweets, so why am I posting a recipe for a pie crust you ask? For one it's almost thanksgiving so you will need a fool-proof crust for pies and secondly I made this a few weeks ago and it turned out great. I wanted to share a somewhat easy pie crust for the non-bakers out there. After tasting this crust I doubt I will ever buy another store bought one again. Now I have to work on a savory crust recipe, will post after I do some experimenting.

2 1/2 cup all-purpose unbleached flour, plus extra for rolling
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 cup chilled vegetable shortening
1/2 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
6 to 8 tablespoons ice water

1. In a food processor, add the flour, salt, and sugar until combined.
2. Add the vegetable shortening and process until the mixture has the texture of coarse sand, about 10 seconds.
3. Scatter the butter pieces over the flour mixture and process with 1-second pulses until butter bits are about the size of peas, about 10 pulses.
4. Put the mixture into a medium bowl.
5. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons of ice water over the mixture. Using a rubber spatula, fold to mix. Press down on the dough with the broad side of the spatula until the dough sticks together, adding up to 2 tablespoons more water if the dough does not come together.
6. Flour your hands generously. Sprinkle a rolling pin with flour
7. Divide the dough into two balls and flatten each into a 4-inch disc.
8. Wrap both separately in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour before rolling.
9. On a lightly floured surface roll pastry 2 inches larger than an inverted pie plate
11. Fold pastry into quarter folds and ease into plate, pressing firmly against bottom and sides.

2 - 9 inch pie crusts

Monday, November 22, 2010

Rice Corn Casserole

You might read the list of ingredients and think this recipe doesn't sound very interesting (I thought that too at first) but once you try it, you will be amazed at how delicious it is. It has become a favorite, we usually have this with BBQ chicken or roast beef and a side salad. Besides being easy to throw together you can also do it ahead and keep in the refrigerator until ready to bake.

4 cups rice*, cooked
1 10 oz bag frozen corn, thawed and drained
3 TBSP onion, minced
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 cup milk
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper

1. Combine all ingredients, except the paprika
2. Pour into a buttered shallow 2 quart casserole, sprinkle top with paprika
3. Bake in a preheated 350º oven for 45 minutes

* check out my entry for perfect white rice

Servings 4

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Apple Bacon Stuffing

1 loaf french bread
1 lb. bacon, diced
1-1/3 cups chopped celery
1-1/3 cups sliced leeks
1-1/3 cups chopped apples (mix green and red apples)
1 8 oz jar sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped fresh, flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
2 Tbs. chopped fresh thyme
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup melted butter
1 cup chicken broth, more as needed
2 eggs, lightly beaten
cooking spray, for baking dish

1. Cut the bread into bite size pieces until you have 8 cups.
2. Place the bread on a rimmed baking sheet and bake in a 275° F oven, until it is crisp and mostly dry, stirring occasionally - 15-20 minutes
3. In a large skillet, cook the bacon over medium heat
4. Add the celery, leeks, mushrooms and apples and cook, stirring occasionally, until they're slightly softened. Add salt and pepper
5. Add to a large mixing bowl; Add the bread, parsley, sage and thyme
6. Pour 1/4 cup sherry, butter and chicken broth to the mixture
7. Toss the mixture, stirring occasionally for a few minutes until the liquid is absorbed. Add another 1/2 cup of broth if mixture is too dry (you want it to be moist not soggy) Add up to another 1/2 cup of broth if necessary.
8. Taste and adjust salt and pepper.
9. Stir in the eggs and blend everything well.
10. Heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish with cooking spray. Pour in the stuffing cover tightly with foil, and bake until about 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue to bake until the top is lightly browned and crisp, another 20 minutes.

Servings 8

Cranberry Sauce

Well it's that time a year again....cranberry time! I love cranberries and when thanksgiving comes around I buy tons of bags to freeze and have throughout the year. I can't imagine why they don't sell fresh cranberries year-round. This sauce goes well with just about anything - try it with roasted chicken or fish.

2 cups fresh cranberries, rinsed
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
2 TBSP ginger, minced
1 TBSP orange zest
1 cinnamon stick

1.Combine the orange juice and sugar over medium heat; bring to a boil.
2. Lower heat add the cranberries, ginger, orange zest and cinnamon stick
Continue cooking until the cranberries pop about 10-15 minutes. Let cool
slightly. Serve at room temperature.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Chilling Chili

Who doesn't love a hot bowl of Chili? I have tried many and always come back to this recipe. I also make it vegetarian by omitting the ground meat and adding 2 other 15.5 oz cans of beans (1 can black beans and 1 can chick peas)

2 lbs. beef, ground
1 onion, chopped
3 tsp salt
1/4 cup chili powder
2 cloves garlic
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp cumin
24 oz can tomato sauce
2 cups water
4 cups beef broth
4 TBSP flour
3 TBSP white vinegar
1 (15.5 oz) can red kidney beans, drained

1. Saute beef and onion until beef is no longer pink
2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally

Tip: Serve in bowls with diced red onion, shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream and chives. Also great with a scoop of rice at the bottom of the bowl or saltines

Servings 6

Tomato Sherry Soup

Now that it is getting chilly try a great warming tomato soup. If you are like me (I need carbs :) and do not feel satisfied with a soup, serve with a grilled cheese panini and some avocado slices.

6 TBSP butter
1 onion, finely diced
4 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup sherry
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped

1. Sauté onions in butter until translucent over medium heat.
2. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, sugar, salt, black pepper; stir.
3. Lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes
4. Add sherry continue to simmer for 2-3 minutes.
5. Remove from heat; add cream, stir to combine.
6. Add parsley and basil to taste. Serve

Tip: To serve add some grated parmesan on top
If you want a smooth soup after the 20 minutes run the soup through a sieve.

Servings 6

Friday, November 19, 2010

Scrambled Eggs In Puff Pastry Shells

This is great for breakfast, brunch or even a light dinner, serve with a few strips of bacon. It is so easy to make anytime, just remember to keep the puff pastry in your freezer so whenever you want to make this you are ready. I don't know why but anytime I include puff pastry in a meal it is just a touch more elegant and special even if it is just a regular weeknight meal.

1 package frozen puffed pastry shells
1 (4.5 oz) jar of sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup swiss cheese, shredded
2 TBSP chives, chopped
8 eggs

1.Bake puff pastry shells according to package directions
2.Whisk eggs together with the salt and pepper.
3. Melt the butter in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, coating the pan evenly.
4. Add the mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes; lower heat to medium
5. Add the eggs and cook folding them from one side of the pan to the other until the eggs start to curdle, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Add the swiss cheese and chives, continue to fold until the cheese is melted and the eggs are set
4. Gently spoon the eggs into the pastry shells and serve.

Serves 6

Simple Salmon

This is an easy salmon recipe packed with flavor but without overpowering the delicate flavor of salmon. I make this all the time after a long day, it's healthy and easy.

1 1/4 lbs. center cut salmon fillets, cut into 4 portions
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
6 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 TBSP stone ground mustard
1/4 cup parmesan, shredded
2 tsp lemon juice
2 TBSP fresh parsley, chopped

1. Preheat broiler. Line a baking sheet with foil, then coat it with cooking spray.
2. Place salmon pieces on the prepared pan; season with salt and pepper
3. Combine sour cream, cream cheese, mustard, parmesan and lemon juice in a small bowl. Spread evenly over the salmon
4. Broil the salmon 5 inches from heat; 10 - 12 minutes or until it flakes easily with a fork
5. Top with parsley and serve

Tip: Serve with lemon wedges; steamed buttered asparagus and buttermilk mashed potatoes. Reheat any leftover sauce in the microwave and serve along side the salmon.

Serves 4

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Smashed Carrots

2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP onion, diced
1 lb carrots, peeled and cut into rounds
1/4 cup orange juice
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 cup feta cheese
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water add the carrots and cook until tender about 15-20 minutes; roughly mash and set aside
2. Melt butter in a medium pot. Add onions and sauté until translucent
3. Add the orange juice, heavy cream, feta, thyme, salt and pepper
4. Add the carrots, and mix well until heated through and serve

Servings 6

Looking For Food In India...

In 2008 I went to Dharamsala, India to volunteer for a few months, where there is a large Tibetan community in exile. I helped design a website for Volunteer Tibet and taught English to monks. Oh and to find myself...This is where the Dalai Lama calls home (in exile at least). I was in a tiny town mostly inhabited by Tibetans but with many Indian owned restaurants. Let me just say I think I like western style Indian food a lot better, the same goes for Chinese food.... I digress but I lost a ton of weight - I could slip my once comfortable fitting jeans down without unbuttoning.

The pic above is what I called 'green poop' (doesn't it look like a cow pooped in my bowl?) it was actually spinach paneer but NOOOOOOO! Vegetables are cooked so much that it was a rare day that I was able to distinguish any in my food. Look at the pea in the 'brown poop' (featured below) - that was one of the lucky days.
It also didn't help when I could see the very unsanitary views of the 'kitchens' - the violations were many and not for the faint of heart but I survived and I didn't go there for the fine cuisine so all in all it was a great experience and I did go to a few days of teachings by the Dalai Lama, completed a 5 day silent meditation retreat, did lots of yoga and I managed not to get food poisoning or at least none that required medical attention.

Now to the 'brown poop', I was eating at a restaurant with a german friend who happened to pass out seconds after finishing dinner. Out cold for at least 3 minutes which is eternal if you don't deal well with emergencies (like me). She ' woke' up feeling incredibly sick but at least she was conscious. All I kept thinking was OMG am I next? Thankfully we hadn't ordered the same thing but needless to say that particular restaurant was checked on my list of places to never return.

I was a temporary vegetarian while I was there, I wish I could say by choice but if the meatless dishes looked like the specimen above imagine what a yak or goat dish would be like? I didn't want to find out. Since my trip I haven't been able to eat Indian food like I used to - something changed. I bought a ton of Indian Cookbooks and some hard to find spices so I could make things back home - they are all still unopened in a closet - black mustard seeds, ramdana, methi and asafoetida - maybe I should give them away.

Well I had many, too many issues trying to find food in Dharamsala so I will share a few more in the future. Stay tuned.....

I had a blog while I was there so if you want to see my many food issues check it out at http://www.justonevolunteer.blogspot.com/

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ají (Colombian Spicy Sauce)

Ají is used on everything in Colombia, from empanadas to eggs. You can make it as spicy or mild as you like, simply adjust the cayenne pepper. Everyone back home has a different way of making aji but after a lot of trial and error this is my favorite recipe - not too spicy (I am a major wimp) but still with a little kick. I use ají on everything so get creative and put a little on pizza, rice, soups, stews, meats, potatoes.... anything. It goes great with the Arroz Con Pollo below.

1 1/2 cups water
4 TBSP cilantro, minced
2 TBSP spring onion, finely diced
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix everything in a glass container, blend well and serve

Tip: The ají will keep in the refrigerator for about 5 -7 days

Variation: This version only keeps 2-3 days but it is also good - add 2 TBSP tomato, finely chopped

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken and Rice)

3 cups rice

1 cup warm water

1/4 tsp saffron threads

2 tsp. turmeric
2 TBSP olive oil

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 large yellow onion, finely chopped

1 cup celery, diced
1 cup carrot, diced
4 tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced

2 slices bacon, chopped
1 tsp. cumin
2 tsp oregano, dried

1 TBSP paprika

2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup ketchup
2 TBSP tomato paste
2 tsp white vinegar
8 oz. canned tomato sauce
1 lb. chicken thighs and drumsticks, skinless
8 oz beer, any variety

2 cups chicken stock

2 TBSP capers, drained
1/4 cup pimento stuffed olives
1 cup frozen peas, thawed and drained

juice of 1/2 lime

1. Place the rice in a medium-sized bowl. Stir the saffron threads and turmeric into the warm water, then add the water to the bowl with rice, stir. Set aside.
2. In a heavy pot over medium-high heat add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onions, and bacon and cook for 5 minutes. Add the garlic, onion, celery, carrot and tomatoes; cook 5-8 minutes.
3. Stir in the cumin, paprika, salt and pepper and continue to cook for another 5 - 10 minutes.
4. Add the ketchup, tomato paste,vinegar, tomato sauce and chicken to the pot, stirring to ensure the chicken is coated, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, turning the chicken over every few minutes.
5. Add the beer, chicken stock and raise the heat to high. When the pot begins to boil, add the contents of the bowl with the rice. Add the capers and olives
6. Bring the liquid back to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Continue to simmer for 20 minutes, undisturbed. Remove from heat, stir in the peas and lime juice and let the pot sit for 5 - 10 minutes, covered.

Tip: At this point I remove the chicken from the pot, let cool slightly and shred into bite size pieces then add back to the rice, blend well and serve.

Serve with lime slices, aji and a squirt of ketchup. Also pairs well with ripe fried plantains or avocado slices

Servings 6

Minty Lettuce Soup

Once you taste the final product nobody will guess it's lettuce, I was skeptical when I first tried it but I was very pleasantly surprised at the creamy, delicious flavor. How many times have you had to throw out lettuce because it turned brown in the crisper better known as the rotter? Now you can put it to great use.

2 heads iceberg lettuce, roughly chopped
1 cup onion, sliced
1/2 cup packed fresh mint
6 cups vegetable broth
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP all purpose flour
1/2 cup cream

1. Put the lettuce, onion, mint and vegetable broth in a large pot.
2. Bring to a boil then lower heat to medium and simmer for 25 minutes; cool slightly
3. Place in a blender for one minute then strain; set aside
(You will have to do this in 2 stages to not fill the blender too much)
4. Melt the butter in a medium pan over medium heat, add the flour and stir one minute.
5. Add the soup and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.
6. Remove from heat, add the heavy cream and salt & pepper to taste

Tip: To serve add a sprinkle of parmesan cheese and a fresh mint leaf to decorate. You can also use any variety of lettuce you have on hand, romaine works great too.

Servings 4

Chicken Stew

This is one of my favorite dishes, it's easy and delicious. The yuca and cilantro are what make it unique so give it a try. Yuca is a root vegetable similar to a potato but has a completely different flavor, once you try it (if you haven't) you will be hooked.

4 chicken drumsticks, skinless
4 chicken thighs, skinless
1 TBSP olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped tomato, seeded
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
1 TBSP chicken granules
1/8 tsp saffron, ground
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
4 small potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 pound frozen yuca*, thawed and cut into 2"pieces
2 1/2 cups water

1. Remove the thick fibers in the middle of the yuca, if any
2. Place the yuca pieces into a pot of boiling water with 2 tsp salt for about 8 minutes; set aside
3. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until translucent, 3-5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper and sauté for 6 more minutes.
4. Add the chicken, water, chicken granules, and saffron. Cover and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
5. Add the potatoes, yuca and cilantro and cook for an additional 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are done.
6. Serve rice in a shallow bowl then top with the stew, garnish with a sprig of cilantro

Servings 4

*Yuca, sometimes called cassava can be found in the hispanic area of the freezer section - GOYA is a good brand.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Hibiscus Tea (Flor De Jamaica)

I first had Hibiscus tea in India and when I stopped for a visit in Colombia it was everywhere.... Not only is it tasty but it is good for you - yeah! Something I actually like and it's good for me.... It's tart like cranberries but sweet as well..
It's originally from Africa and was later introduced to Mexico. It has great medicinal values - it is said to be a diuretic, natural laxative, and best of all it lowers cholesterol and blood pressure. In Colombia you can find the actual dried flowers, here in Florida I have only found the tea but it's just as good, you can find it in most health food stores. So if you find it, get it....very soothing and delicious.

Perfect White Rice

I love rice and I eat it at least once a day - everyday. I mix it up a lot but I have to have rice in some form. I might add a bay or kaffir leaf during cooking, or a squeeze of lemon and might switch it up using vegetable broth instead of water or once cooked I might add shredded carrots, chopped parsley, raisins or almonds, just about anything - rice is very versatile (by versatile I mean what you can add to it, the cooking method has to be exact). I don't just eat plain white rice, I agree it doesn't taste like much, but if the main course is saucy that mixture with the rice is divine.

I don't buy into the whole 'cut the carbs' theory. It is customary in Colombia to eat a lot of rice so maybe I can tolerate carbs more than most - I spent most of my formative years there. I have brown rice occasionally, which is healthier but it's just different. After making rice for many, many years I have finally perfected it so here it is.
Note: Making rice is like baking, you have to be precise so don't change anything... I am very passionate about my rice, sorry!

1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup rice
2 cups water (heated 2 minutes in the microwave)
1 tsp salt

In a medium pan with a tight fitting lid add the oil over high heat.
Add the rice and simmer 3 minutes until very hot and the rice is translucent.
Add the tsp salt to the hot water, mix well and add to the rice (being careful it will splash a bit)
Stir quickly 1 second and leave it alone until water is mostly absorbed you will begin to see little holes in the rice (remember to leave on high heat and do not stir)Place a piece of foil over the pan (to secure no steam escapes) and then cover with the tight fitting lid.
Reduce heat to the lowest setting and cook for 22 minutes (DO NOT OPEN OR DISTURB THE RICE DURING THE 22 MINS)
Once the timer rings uncover, remove the foil and gently fluff with a fork, turn off the heat, cover again and let sit 5 minutes. Serve.

Tip: 1 cup raw rice equals 3 cups cooked

Servings: 4

Fettuccine Alfredo

This is not a dish for anybody on a healthy diet or attempting to lose weight but if you can cheat once in a while or as a special treat I recommend it highly. It is a delicious classic. Our brunch menu, years ago before the health craze was:
Eggs Benedict with extra Hollandaise sauce, Fettuccine Alfredo, Waldorf Salad, Cinnamon Rolls and Mimosas, Coffee, Tea or Hot Chocolate. Now I can eat, but I still can't imagine eating all that in one meal - at the time it was great. It wasn't at a restaurant either it was all home-made. Enjoy.

1 lb fettuccine, cooked and drained
3/4 cup butter
2 cups heavy cream
2 TBSP lemon juice
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 tsp nutmeg, ground
salt & black pepper to taste
2 cups grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1. In a medium saucepan, melt butter; add heavy cream and lemon juice.
2. Season with garlic powder, nutmeg, salt, and pepper.
3. Simmer for 5-8 minutes over low heat, stirring constantly.
4. Remove from heat and stir in parmesan. Add parsley, blend well.
5. Serve over the fettuccine. Sprinkle a bit more parmesan on top.

Tip: I prefer to mix the sauce and fettuccine all together, so I add it in with the parmesan and mix well.

Serves 6

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A-B-C Delight (Apple, Bacon & Cream Cheese)

3 large Apples, cored and sliced crosswise 1/4 inch thick
1 pound Bacon, cooked and crumbled
6 oz cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
1/4 cup chives, chopped

1. Preheat oven to 425º. Place apple slices on greased baking sheet and bake 10 minutes.
2. Flip apple slices and generously spread cream cheese on each slice. Top with bacon, cheddar cheese, and chives. Bake again about 5 minutes or until cheese is melted

Holiday Corn Bread Stuffing

This is the best stuffing I have ever had, it has a lot of ingredients but it is easy to make, just a little prepping time. It is worth it, simply delicious

4 cups cornbread cubes (made fresh or store bought)
1 lb pork sausage
1 TBSP olive oil
1 cup celery, diced
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 lb sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pistachios
1 tsp sage
1 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp paprika
1 cup + 2 TBSP butter, melted
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 can (7oz) corn, drained
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup yogurt, plain
1/4 cup Madeira wine
1/2 - 3/4 cup turkey stock (to moisten)

1. In a medium pan saute the pork sausage, breaking it apart until cooked through. Set aside
2. In a skillet add the olive oil, celery, onion and mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes
3. In a large bowl combine all of the ingredients up to the Madeira. Gently mix well, if too dry add turkey stock as needed. You are now ready to stuff the bird.

Tip: You can also spoon the stuffing into a greased casserole and bake in a preheated 350º oven for 45 minutes.

Fried Rice (Chow Faan)

2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup cooked shrimp
1/2 cup ham, diced
4 cups cold cooked rice
1 cup green onion, diced
2 TBSP dark soy sauce
1 TBSP light soy sauce
1 tsp salt
4 TBSP oil

1. Heat wok. Add 1 tsp oil and reheat. Stir fry eggs for 20 seconds. Set aside.
2. Add 1 tsp oil and stir fry onions and celery for 1 minute. Set aside.
3. Add 1 tsp oil and stir fry peas for 1 minute. Set aside.
4. Add 1 TBSP oil and stir fry ham and shrimp for 2 minutes. Set aside.
5. Add 2 TBSP and stir fry rice until heated through
6. Add all other ingredients season with salt and soy sauce. Mix well and serve.

Tip: Make sure all ingredients are diced to the same size as the peas.

Servings 4-6