Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Arroz con Pollo (Chicken with Yellow Rice)

Growing up in a Hispanic family I ate a lot of Hispanic food! My mom is a first generation American but her parents were Cuban; my dad is from Nicaragua, so I must say I have the best of both culinary worlds. The foods from both of these countries are delicious. Throughout my childhood, I grew up next door to my grandmother (maternal) and she cooked dinner everyday, thus my mom cooked dinner everyday too. I suppose you can say I learned it from these two ladies that dinner at the table every night is a must. My grandmother, to me, like all grandmothers, was an amazing cook. She thought her cooking was horrible which I never understood. As a kid, I would watch her prep for dinner and dump everything into a pressure cooker (an appliance I finally bought to try). The rest of the afternoon I would hear the whisper of the pressure cooker in the kitchen as it would also fill her house of the delicious dinner that was a few hours away. One meal she made that I never seemed to like was Arroz con Pollo. I have never been a fan of yellow rice and to this day I never understood why I never enjoyed this dish. This weekend I decided to make this dish myself to see if maybe with age (ha!) I would change my mind. I certainly did! It was moist and yummy. I do think my grandma would have been happy with the way it turned out. You will see in the recipe I added tumeric, do not despair it is just for coloring, it has no taste. The mayonnaise is my twist and it makes the rice moist; if you prefer a drier rice omit the mayo. Enjoy!

3-4 chicken breasts, cubed into 1 inch pieces
olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped (or any color you have on hand)
1 small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup rice
1 (14.5 oz) can chicken broth
1/2 cup beer
1/8 teaspoon saffron
1 (14.5 oz) stewed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon tumeric
1-2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1. In a pan over medium-high heat, add oil, brown and cook the chicken pieces. Set aside.

2. In the same pan, add the pepper, onion and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir together for about 1-2 minutes.

3. Stir in broth, beer, tomatoes, saffron, salt, pepper and paprika. Bring to a boil then lower to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

4. After the rice has simmered, add the turmeric for extra color. Put the chicken and its juices back into the pan with the rice and stir to combine. You can now also add the mayonnaise to your liking.

5. Serve with Sweet Fried Plantains and an avocado salad. Enjoy!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Simple Creamy Leek Soup


Now that we are getting "cooler" weather in Florida, and by that I mean in the 70's and breezy, it's time to break out my recipes for soups, stews and generally all-around heartier meals. I am starting off with one of my very favorite Simple Creamy Leek Soup. Aside from the leeks, you probably already have most of the ingredients in your pantry. What I like about this soup is how simple it is to make, and how beautifully the flavors of the leeks shine through. It is hearty, rich and truly satisfying. This recipe will serve four as part of a multi-course meal or two if it is the meal. I love to serve it with buttered, toasted baguette slices and a mixed greens salad, simply dressed with oil and vinegar. It's a great meal to have on a lazy Sunday afternoon and then take a snooze on the back patio ... like we all did today, including our dog, Lennon. 

Serve 2 - 4

1 stick of butter, plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
4 Leeks, thinly sliced. Use only white and pale green parts*
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, finely diced
1 celery rib with leaves, finely diced
2 small red potatoes, peeled and finely diced (1/4" dice)
3 1/2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat a deep sauce pan over medium-low heat, add butter and allow to just slightly bubble but not brown, add oil, followed by leeks, onions carrots and celery, add a small pinch of salt to sweat the vegetables. Saute for 8-10 minutes, reducing heat, as needed, to keep from browning. Stir frequently.
Stir in potatoes, stock, wine, salt and pepper. Bring up to a low boil, cover and reduce to heat to simmer, cook until potatoes are tender.
Using a blender or an immersion stick blender (my personal favorite), process soup until thick and smooth. You can pour through a sieve if you want an even smoother consistency, but for me it is fine as is. If you are using a blender work in batches and take care to vent to avoid scaling yourself. Keep soup warm.
Using a whisk or hand-held blender, whip cream until thick.

Ladle soup into deep bowls and add a dollop of two of the cream. Serve with buttered and toasted slices of french bread.

*Save green parts in freezer to use in home-made stocks.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkin-Banana Walnut Bread with Butter-Whiskey Glaze.

A Two for Tuesday Recipe 
Anytime I have over-ripe bananas, I have to make my favorite bread, Pumpkin-Banana Walnut Bread. And if that isn't irresistibly delicious on it's own, I use my Butter-Whiskey Glaze all over it. Well, I don't just glaze it, I let it soak in to the warm bread.

This produces an almost bread pudding like custard-y texture, that is warm, gooey and the whiskey in the glaze provides a nice little kick. The pieces of  toasted walnuts scattered through out, add an unexpected delightful crunch, coupled with the warmth of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves, making it a slice of heaven on a fork. 

Serves 8

1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 cups AP* flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves
2 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup toasted* walnuts, chopped

Simmered Beef Tips and Carrots


A Two for Tuesday Recipe 
Ever been in a cooking bind where you didn't plan on cooking but somehow wound up having to make dinner on the spot? That was me last week. Tuesday night I took out a pound of eye-round to slow cook the next day. When my boyfriend comes home from a long day Tuesday night, he tells me he will be home late Wednesday to not worry about making dinner. Now I had already taken out the eye-round but I just figured I'd season it and just use it Thursday for the slow cooker... it'll be marinated for a whole day so it'll make for a great stew. I go about my Wednesday, running errands, jogging, then I get a phone call at around 6pm. It was my boyfriend, telling me he'll be home on time, that it'll be Thursday when he's late. Now, obviously, we could have resorted to buying food but to me, it's an expense that can be avoided and unnecessary. So I told him, oh don't worry, I'll whip something up! I went into panic mode! What do I do?? I'm used to planning my meals. I opened my fridge and just starred at it then it all hit me. I saw my eye-round meat (cut into 1-inch pieces, marinating in salt and pepper and red wine) from earlier that day, a half full bottle of barbecue sauce, onions, tomato paste and carrots. It all started coming together. I was taking a risk, mixing ingredients that I'm not used to mixing, but I figured today was the day to experiment...we could always have take out if my experimenting failed! I felt like a mad scientist working in the kitchen, working fast and frantically moving around. I don't know about you, but there is a certain time of day where even your kitchen closes, it just becomes a "quicky mart" for milk or cookies. Within about hour I had finished my culinary experiment; behold a recipe that we both enjoyed! I think I enjoyed it more though, because I went crazy trying to figure it all out. I hope you enjoy this "on a whim recipe" that turned out to be very tasty!

1 lb eye-round, cut into 1-inch pieces, marinated overnight in 1 cup of red wine with salt and pepper.
1 tablespoon olive oil
4-5 carrots, cut diagonally
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 tablespoon barbeque sauce (any of your choosing)
1 can beef consomeé 10.5 oz (or homemade, if you prefer)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Pineapple Pork and Long Bean Stir-Fry


My garden has finally started producing some beautifully delicious vegetables! I had an abundance of Chinese long beans and Chinese cabbage and what better way to put these delectable vegetables to good use than in a Pineapple Pork and Long Bean Stir-Fry. I love how tender the pork becomes when tenderized with baking soda, then marinaded in ginger, garlic and soy, with a little heat from a few Thai chilies! The Chinese long beans, similar to string beans, add that a mild asparagus-like flavor. The Chinese cabbage, similar to bok choy, is sweeter and softer than green cabbage. Not only is this dish beautiful to look at, it has a very big "yum" factor, that I think you will enjoy! And, The Hub, my eternal taste-barometer, barely came up for air, and when he did it was to ask if there was enough for seconds. Yup, it's a hit!

Serves 4-6

To super tenderize the pork:
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 pounds pork loin, sliced into bite size strips

Sprinkle over top of pork and with clean hands, massage into strips. Allow to tenderize for 30 minutes. Rinse pork strips under cold water, repeat once more to make sure all traces of baking soda are gone.
Want to learn more about tenderizing with baking soda? Check out my post Baking Soda as a Tenderizer.

To marinate the pork:
2 pounds pork loin, sliced into bite size strips
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
1-3 Thai chilies, seeded, membrane removed and finely chopped (optional)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Spicy Coconut Curry Grilled Shrimp


A Two for Tuesday Recipe 
The last few weeks of extended daylight are within reach, which means I won't be using the outdoor grill as often during the weekdays. By now you probably know that we love curry, coconut and Thai chilies and what better way to use these beautiful and fiery spices and ingredients than with grilled shrimp! A little time to marinate, a few skewers, a scorching hot grill and you are on your way to the most delectable shrimp dish my Spicy Coconut Curry Grilled Shrimp. I love pairing this with sliced avocado wedges and a squeeze of lime.

Serves 2 - 4

1 pound of large shrimp, peeled* and deveined
1 tablespoon coconut milk solid
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon of cumin
1 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1-3 Thai chilies (or to taste) finely minced
2 tablespoons of finely grated ginger root
1 tablespoons of minced cilantro
4 tablespoons of toasted coconut flakes
1 lime cut into 8 wedges
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Hearty Lentil Soup with Sweet Potato & Ham


A Two for Tuesday Recipe 
Ah lentils. They are delicious little nutritious morsels, that I believe are a legume that has gone overlooked. Lentils are hearty not mention that they have a lot of nutritional benefits. Want to know what they are? Here are a few fun facts about lentils: lowers cholesterol, full of fiber benefiting your heart, blood sugar and digestive health, good source of protein, increases energy and can help lower your weight by making you feel full. If those aren't some great benefits to get lentils in your life I don't know what is. To me, it's a power food. The recipe I've provided compliments the lentils with added vegetables to make this meal heartier. Obviously, to make lentils you will need some type of liquid... you can choose water or follow my tip; half ham stock and half chicken stock. Ham stock you ask? I use Goya Ham Flavored Concentrate; they are little packets of granulated ham that you add to water. Voila: ham stock! I like to use chicken stock as my other half of liquid to add even more flavor. I use this recipe with split peas as well (green or yellow). You can use pieces of cut sausage in this soup as well as regular potatoes instead of sweet potato. Edit as you wish but do try this recipe it is delicious!

1 16oz package lentils
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 ham hock
1 ham steak, cubed or cubed ham
4 cups ham stock
4 cups chicken stock
1 bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
splash of white wine (optional)
2 sweet potatoes, chopped

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Drunken Tres Leche Cupcakes

 A Two for Tuesday Recipe 
There is a lot of speculation as to where Tres Leches Cake (Cake in Three Milks) originated. A quick search online will produce a myriad of answers (I'll wait while you search). Back? See, what did I tell you! The first time I had Tres Leches was at my in-laws, who happen to be Nicaraguan, and at around that time Tres Leches started to appear on the Miami food scene. This happened to coincide with the (mass) immigration of Nicaraguans to Miami in the early 80's - so my biased conclusion - it's a Nicaraguan dessert! If you've never had Tres Leches Cake, it's basically a sponge or yellow cake that is soaked in three milks; heavy cream, condensed milk and evaporated milk and then topped with a thick, creamy meringue. To say that this dessert is sinfully rich and delicious is an understatement. I wanted to make a more portable, not as "soaked" version, of this creamy cake, I also wanted it to have a bit of a "kick" in the form of a little rum (okay, a lot of rum). So after a few tries, my Drunken Tres Leches Cupcakes were born. I don't like a mushy cake and the batter that I use in both the cupcake and cake version stands up very well  to soaking. The texture and mouthfeel are perfect - not too dry and definitely not mushy. As to the rum, use a good quality rum and if you've never tried Nicaraguan rum, give Flor de Caña a try, it's become one of my favorite rums. Putting this decadent dessert into a cupcake makes it way more appealing for on the go eating or just all around anytime eating!

Makes 12 cupcakes

For the cupcakes:
6 eggs + 3 egg yolks, set aside the egg whites for the meringue.
2/3 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of butter, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups flour, sifted
3 teaspoons baking powder, sifted
1/2 teaspoon salt

Slow-Cooked Kale and Ham


A Two for Tuesday Recipe 
I don't know about you but sometimes I may order a meal because of the sides it comes with.  I recently had a delicious kale cooked with ham at a local eatery that was out of this world. So, of course,  I set out to recreate the kale I had and I am really thrilled with how delicious it was. My version has a wonderfully smokey scent and the taste ... hammy with hints of bacon ... is comfort food all the way. Warm, and hammy, it's a perfect side dish.  Because this is a slow cooked kale, the bitterness that turns some folks off of kale, disappears and the kale itself takes on a slightly spicy taste that is simply amazing. If you have your doubts about kale, this recipe may turn you into a fan!

1- 1 pound bag of kale
2 quarts of ham stock*
1- 2 ham hocks
8 ounces of  ham steak, diced
1 package of center cut bacon*, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 or more Thai chilies (optional), cut in half and lightly smashed

Monday, October 7, 2013

Tropical Citrus Grilled Chicken

The last days of daylight lingering around till seven are slowly starting to disappear and before that happened I wanted to savor a simple, yet delicious grilled chicken, my Tropical Citrus Grilled Chicken to be exact.

This is one of my favorite grilled chicken recipes because it has all the flavors that I associate with a meal that is inspired by a tropical climate ... citrus, pineapple, garlic and cumin. This recipes starts out roasting in the oven and is then finished off on the grill.  I've found that this combination keeps the chicken from overcooking on the grill and produces a much juicier and flavor packed chicken. I use bone-in and skin on chicken thighs in this recipe. I think chicken thigh is the best part of chicken because it tends to not dry out, and it certainly packs a whole lot more flavor then chicken breast. Once you've tried this recipe, I think it'll become one of your favorites too!

Serves 4

4 limes - zest grated and juiced
2 lemons - zest grated and juiced
2 sour oranges - you can substitute with 1 medium orange, zest grated and juiced
8 ounces pineapple juice
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 pounds of chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)
Additional limes to squeeze over cooked chicken

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Peeling Ginger Root Effortlessly & Without Waste

Did you know a grapefruit spoon is perfect for peeling ginger root? 
It really is! 

I had just finished eating my morning grapefruit and was going to start prepping tonight's dinner which uses ginger root, when I realized my grapefruit spoon was the perfect gadget to peel it.

In case you don't know or have never seen one, a grapefruit spoon has a serrated edge almost all the way all around and is very pointy. I've used a regular spoon to peel up ginger root and it works fine except around the corners and nubby parts. It just doesn't reach in enough and either you end up cutting it of and trashing it or it breaks off. The grapefruit spoon does an excellent job of removing the peel and getting into those corners and around the nubby parts. If you use a knife or peeler to remove the peel, you are probably cutting/peeling off way more ginger too than you need to. If you have a grapefruit spoon lying around in the back of a kitchen drawer, give this a try, I think you'll be pleased with how easily it comes off and you'll have a lot less waste too!