Holy Frijoles!

Last month I spent 10 days in Medellin, Colombia. From the moment I got there all I kept hearing was how amazing their Frijoles were. I was like… “how good can beans be?”, I mean they’re beans…right?  We ate out often and I refused to order Frijoles-  why in the world would I go to another country to eat a bowl of beans?

We came upon this little town at the top of a steep hill that has been preserved as a museum. It is called Pueblo Paisa. In this town there was a restaurant where we decided to have a very traditional lunch, I finally gave in and ordered the bowl of Frijoles. Can I just say… OHHHH MYYYYY GOSSHHHH!!!

OMG

YO! This was not a bowl of beans, it was an experience. First of all the beans were beyond amazing cooked to perfection, they were buttery and seasoned oh so well. The consistency was that between a stew and a chili. They also top it off like we would chili. It was covered with wonderfully ripe Avocados, perfectly fried pork cracklings, sweet corn and French Fry POTATO CHIPS!!  Who the hell thought of this? The bowl of beans was also accompanied  with a side of perfectly cooked fluffy white rice, sour cream, ahogado (these are tomatoes and onions diced and sweated out over butter) and Aji (this is the Colombian’s version of hot sauce ). Moral of this story! When in Rome do as the Romans do – Eat the Beans!

20160404_141852

For my mother in law’s birthday I decided to recreate this dish…of course A La Carmen. So I present to you Frijoles, according to carmen. I hope you enjoy as much as I enjoyed making it for my mother in law and my family.

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs of Dry Red Kidney Beans
  • 1 medium sized carrots cleaned, peeled and grated
  • 1 medium sized onion grated
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes diced in small cubes.
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of Sofrito
  • Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  • 3 teaspoons of Cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 whole cloves of garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 chicken bouillon packets
  • Pinch of Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1 Green Plantain, peeled and cut in 1/2 inches.

Directions:

  • Wash your beans. Cover the beans in water and allow them to soak overnight.
  • Drain the beans, rinse through one more time and cover the beans with water in a pot. Be sure to use a pot with a lid.
  • Add the bay leaves, garlic, onion, tomato, chicken bouillon packets/cubes, carrots, sofrito, cumin and red pepper flakes.
  • You will place covered pot over medium high heat for 2 hours.
  • At this point your liquid will have evaporated some. Stir in some water as you do not want your beans to dry out. Make sure the beans are always just covered with liquid.
  • Add the green plantains and salt to taste. Cover for an additional hour on medium heat.

Condiments:

Just like Chili you can really top this dish off with whatever floats your boat. Below are the items I used.

  • Pork Rinds – Traditionally this is covered with home made pork crackling but I  did a Sandra Lee on this and went semi-homemade so I had my hubby pick up a bag of pork rinds. It was not the same but it was still yummy.
  • French Fry Potato Chips
  • Diced Avocado
  • Sweet Corn – I’d like to tell you that I picked corn in a field and stripped the kernels but no such luck, I opened a can, drained and rinsed. It was still amazing.

 

20160427_185425

Corned Beef En Salsa Con Papitas Fritas or as we say “CONBEEF” Canned Corned Beef with Fries

Corned Beef With Rice 2Corned Beef with Rice

Serves 4-6

This was/is the go to dish for anyone of Puerto Rican descent when you are in a rush or when money is tight. I don’t think I know anyone from the island that hasn’t had this dish; you will never find it in a restaurant though. This will only be on mom’s kitchen table.

Esto es lo que se llama “Comida de Pobres” pero caramba que RICO!
{This is what we call “A poor mans meal”, but boy oh boy is it good!}

Ingredients:

1 can corned beef
1 small can of tomato sauce
1 large potato cut into thin fries
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
2 tablespoons of Sofrito (want this recipe? click on the link)
1 envelope of Sazon
1/4 tsp of salt (optional)
1/2 beef Boullion cube

Directions:

  1. Peel and cut the potato into small thin French fries. Heat oil and fry potatoes while the potatoes are cooking do the following:
  2. Open the can of corned beef, remove the meat into a bowl and shred with a fork until most of the clumps are separated.
  3. After the potatoes (fries) are cooked remove and drain (keep some of the oil about 2 tablespoons – (using low flame) in the same pan add the garlic. sauté for a few minutes, careful not to burn it.
  4. Add the sofrito and can of tomatoes sauce. Using the same tomato sauce can, fill with water (once) and add the water into the pan. Stir to incorporate completely.
  5. Add corned beef and stir making sure the meat is coated completely with the sauce. Cover and simmer on low medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  6. Once the Corned beef is completely cooked you can add the fries.
  7. I serve this over white rice and alongside a simple mixed salad (lettuce, tomatoes, corn and avocado) with an oil/vinegar dressing.

Buen Provecho!

*You can substitute the fries for sliced fried sweet plantains.

Crispy Potatoes

There are 2 very important things you have to do with this dish to make sure it is a successful one.

1.) Slice the potato very thinly and

2.) Be patient. This dish takes two hours to make, there are no shortcuts.

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons of unsalted butter (melted)

4 tablespoons of Extra- Virgin Olive Oil

8-10 potatoes, peeled. I used Russet potatoes.

1/2  large yellow onion peeled and sliced thinly.  (Large yellow onions is what I had on hand I imagine you can use 1 small one)

Red Pepper Flakes (to taste)

Salt (to taste)

Pepper (to taste)

Seasoned salt (to taste)

4 sprigs of thyme

3 garlic cloves cut in half

A few suggestions:

I tried using a mandolin for the potatoes but the slices were not thin enough. I had to cut them by hand. A very sharp knife is a must.

Prior to peeling the potatoes you might want to place them on the dish you plan on using so that you know how many you should actually use.

Be generous with the butter-oil mixture. You need to cook the potatoes completely and do not want them to dry out.

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 375.

In a bowl combine oil and  melted butter, set aside.

Brush the bottom of the baking dish generously with the butter-oil mixture.  Sprinkle a pinch of salt and pepper to the bottom of the dish as well.

Slice the potatoes super thin and arrange in your dish.  ( I used a round 9″ baking dish but I am sure you can use a square one as well. ), in between each section of sliced potato add in a sliced onion and 1/2 a garlic clove.

Pot 2

Once the potatoes are arranged brush with more  butter-oil mixture.

Pot 3

Season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.

Bake at 375 for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Remove from the oven and brush on more of the butter-oil mixture, sprinkle seasoned salt and tuck in the sprigs of thyme.

Place back in the oven for another 30 minutes.

Once done, remove the sprigs of thyme and garlic, serve hot.

Pot 5

Buen Provecho!

Sofrito

sofrito

Sofrito

This is the ultimate go to, indispensable must have recipe in every Puerto Rican household. Having said that, it is really easy to make with ingredients you can find at your market. Best part of all it freezes nicely. I will have some tips below on how you can make this work for you.

Sofrito will without a doubt change the way you cook.

Ingredients:
2 medium yellow onions, cut into large chunks
20 -25 cloves garlic, peeled
2 Cups of cilantro, washed
7 to 10 ajices dulces (see note below), optional
5 leaves of culantro otherwise known as recao (see note below), or another handful cilantro
2 large red bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks
2 large green bell pepper, cored, seeded and cut into large chunks
½ tablespoon of Salt
¼ teaspoon of pepper

Directions:
1. Chop the onion in the bowl of a food processor until coarsely chopped.
2. While the motor is running, add the remaining ingredients one at a time and process until smooth.
3. The sofrito will keep in the refrigerator for up to 15 days.

** Ajices Dulces, are tiny sweet peppers with a hint of heat. They range in color from light to medium green and yellow to red and orange. Warning: They are not Scotch Bonnet or Habanero chilies (which they look like).
If you can find ajices dulces in your local markets, add them to sofrito. If not, you can replace with more cilantro and add a pinch of red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper. Culantro is not cilantro. It has long leaves with tapered tips and its edges are serrated. The flavor of culantro is 20X more potent than cilantro, so be careful with this addition as well. If you can’t find it, skip it.

You can freeze sofrito in ½ cup batches in sealable plastic bags. They come in extremely handy in a pinch. You can even add sofrito straight from the freezer to the pan in any recipe that calls for it and most of mine will.

My Sunday Dinner – My much needed hug.

I needed a hug this week. Who am I kidding I needed more than a hug, but I would have settled. It was a rough week, filled with exhausted attempts of being Mom, Wife, Business Owner and Insurance Agent. Throw in a sick child that we had to run to a hospital ER and hold back from school for the week and you have a mess. Me, I was the mess. I made it though! My child is back at school, I am back in the swing of things and I must say that is partly because of the therapeutic cooking session I provided for myself.

Sunday Dinners have been oh so symbolic for so many including myself. I do not partake in the tradition on a weekly basis, it has never felt right to do so when your family is not complete on said Sundays. This Sunday my children were not all with me but I could not wait for the next to get the hug I needed so I created it anyway.

My hug consisted of Pot Roast, Garlic Mashed Cauliflower, Buttered Peas and Corn and last but not least my Feta-Tomato Salad.

POT ROAST

IMG_1128

Ingredients:
3-4 lbs of chuck roast
Vegetable Oil (approx. 2 tablespoons)
1/2 cup of chopped Carrots
1 medium red Onion cut in 4
1 medium yellow onion cut in 4
1/4 cup Tomato Sauce
1 cup of Beef Broth
Adobo (Red Label) 1 1/2 tablespoon
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
3 crushed heads of Garlic
2 bay leaf
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons Sofrito If you need this recipe – Click here http://wp.me/p2gfav-32
Dutch Oven

So many have asked me what the secret to my succulent and fork tender pot roast is, the answer… my dutch oven. That is why I have it listed as an ingredient. Can you make one just as good in a roaster pan? Yes. I certainly have but I am all about working smart and not hard. This recipe is fool-proof and you don’t have to deal with the pot roast in any way shape or form until the timer goes off.

Directions:

  • Season your meat on all sides with the Adobo, Salt and Pepper.
  • Get your dutch oven really hot, then coat the bottom with vegetable oil and sear all sides of the meat. Once you have seared all of the sides remove the roast from the dutch oven and set aside on a plate for a moment.
  • To the dutch oven you will add the onions, carrots, and garlic. Let all of those flavors get acquainted with the juices left behind from the roast. (about 3 minutes)
  • While the veggies are hanging out, in a bowl mix the Sofrito, Tomato Sauce, Worcestershire and Beef Broth.
  • The veggies at this point should be sweating and starting to get soft, nestle the chuck roast into the dutch oven amongst the veggies.
  • Now you will pour the wet ingredients that you just mixed over the roast. Place the lid on the dutch oven and pop into the oven for 3 to 3.5 hours.

GARLIC MASHED CAULIFLOWER

IMG_1114

I have had a helluva time trying to make mashed cauliflower. They retain a lot of water so the consistency was not a good one. So I ignored my momma’s rules, played with my veggies and this was the happy result.

Ingredients:
1 head of Cauliflower
Salt and Pepper to taste
Olive Oil
Parmesan Cheese
3 Garlic Heads (Smashed)

Directions:
Preheat your oven to 375.

  • Make an aluminum purse, you will be adding the florets to the tightly sealed “purse” and placing in the oven. I made two of them for 1 head of cauliflower.

IMG_1119

  • Clean your cauliflower and break the florets up.
  • Place the cauliflower in the aluminum, drizzle a little bit of olive oil, add a pinch of salt and pepper and add the smashed garlic heads.
  • Seal the edges tightly. Place on a sheet pan and bake at 375 for 40-45 minutes.
  • Once baked through let the cauliflower and garlic cool slightly before placing in your food processor.
  • Add the parmesan cheese and pulse away. Once it is the consistency you like put it in a bowl and add more seasoning if needed. You can also put in a baking dish, add more cheese and pop in the oven for another 15 minutes at 400.

IMG_1130

#YUM

BUTTERED PEAS AND CORN

This is a quick and easy side dish that tons of moms have up their sleeve, but just in case ya don’t know what I’m talking about… Here you go.

Ingredients:
1 Can of Sweet Corn (drained and rinsed)
1 Can of Sweet Peas (drained and rinsed)
1 Tablespoon of Butter (Sweetened and Salted)
1/4 teaspoon minced Garlic
Salt and Pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  • In a small pan on medium low heat melt the butter. Once melted, you will brown the garlic.
  • Once the garlic is a nice tan color you will add both the drained and rinsed veggies. Heat thoroughly (about 3 minutes), add salt and pepper (to taste).

Serve immediately.

FETA-TOMATO SALAD

IMG_1121

Ingredients:
1 pint of Grape Tomatoes (halved)
2 ounces of Bulgarian Feta – Crumbled (Any feta will do I just happen to love the creamy nature of Bulgarian)
1/4 cup of Sweet Corn
Half of a medium avocado – cubed
2 tablespoons Fresh Basil-Chiffonade (Cut into long, thin strips)
Balsamic Vinaigrette to taste (Recipe to my Balsamic Vinaigrette below)

Directions:
Toss all of the ingredients gently, very gently. You do not want to mash anything just combine.

 

Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 cup Olive oil
1/2 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 teaspoon of minced garlic
1 teaspoon of honey
1 tablespoon Oregano
1 tablespoon of basil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper

Whisk all the ingredients together. If you want it a little creamier/thicker in consistency add 1 tablespoon of Dijon Mustard.

 

IMG_1137

BUEN PROVECHO!

Chupe de Mariscos (Seafood Chowder)

This past holiday season for me was a chance for redemption. I felt the need to make up for the 2012 season. I was so overwhelmed and busy that I did not get to enjoy the holidays at all, worst of all my kids noticed that I was not my best. I don’t even remember what I cooked which is a big deal because… well I love to cook! This year I took time for my self and my family and planned each menu with love. For NYE I stepped away from our traditional roasted pork and rice and opted for Seafood. The Menu consisted of Ceviche, Paella, Scallops and Chupe de Mariscos.

This recipe is my take on Peruvian Seafood Chowder. I love Peruvian food. Who am I kidding? I love food period! I hope that you love this dish as much as my family and guests did.

Ingredients: 

10 Cups of Chicken Broth

1 lb of Shrimp

1 lb of White fish cut  (I like to use Red Snapper but you can use whatever white fish you like)

3 medium-sized potatoes cubed

1/2 cup of chopped carrots (bite size)

1 tablespoon of minced garlic

1 small onion (chopped)

2 tablespoons of Sofrito

1 cup of sweet peas

1 cup of sweet corn

1 tablespoon of tomato paste

2 cans of evaporated milk

6 eggs – *tempered* – See below for instructions

2 tablespoons of Oregano

Salt to taste

Pepper to taste

1 teaspoon of Red Pepper Flakes

1/4 cup of Cilantro

2 tablespoons of butter

First you will set to boil the Chicken Stock. Salt the stock to taste. While this is going you will want to mince your garlic finely and chop your onion, potatoes, carrots and cilantro.

In a small pan you will melt the butter and saute the onions & garlic. Keep an eye on the garlic, do not let it burn.Image

Once the chicken stock boils add the sautéed onions. garlic. potatoes, carrots, tomato paste, oregano, pepper and sofrito.

Once the veggies are cooked through and soft you will add the fish and shrimp. Shrimp and Fish will take about 15 minutes to cook through. While this is happening you will want to start steaming the evaporated milk and tempering the eggs. (Instructions on this below). When the fish have been cooked halfway through you will add the milk with *tempered eggs, peas, corn and allow for the cooking process to be completed. Add more salt or pepper if needed.

Garnish with chopped cilantro!

Image

Buen Provecho!!

* Tempering an egg – To temper an egg, or multiple eggs, you need a large bowl and a whisk. Give the eggs a brief whisk in the bowl. Take your hot milk mixture and, working with just a few teaspoons at a time, pour it into the eggs as you whisk continuously. Adding the milk in this slowly prevents the eggs from being cooked instantly from exposure to heat. Keep adding the milk in very small increments until all of it has been added. Strain the egg mixture back into your saucepan, removing any bits of egg that might have gotten cooked, and proceed with your recipe as written.

Stewed Oxtails

Stewed Oxtails

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ pounds oxtails
  • 1 tablespoon of Adobo (You can make your own house seasoning, see below)
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 can beef broth
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon of red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 medium sized yellow onion, cut into 8 big chunks/pieces
  • 3 medium sized red potatoes cut in quarters.

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

  1.   Sprinkle the oxtails liberally with Adobo on both sides.
  2.   Coat the bottom of a heavy oven-proof Dutch oven (or an oven proof heavy pot with a tight lid) with the vegetable oil. Once heated, add the oxtails and sear on all sides. Remove and set aside.
  3. Scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the beef broth, Worcestershire sauce, red pepper flakes, minced garlic, basil, oregano, bay leaves, tomato sauce, and the reserved oxtails.
  4. Stir all ingredients together.
  5. Cover tightly, place in oven for 2 hours
  6. Remove from oven and bring to a simmer on stove top. Add the onion wedges and     potatoes. Reduce the oven temp to 300 degrees F.
  7. Cover and put back into the oven for another 30 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Serve oxtails with the vegetables over hot buttered rice.

Adobo (House seasoning)

  • 1 cup of salt
  • ¼ cup of pepper (white or black)
  • ¼ cup of garlic powder
  • ¼ cup of onion powder
  • ¼ cup of oregano

Mix all ingredients and put in containers that can be sealed. This can be stored for 4 months and used as your “go to” condiment on all meats, poultry and fish!

HEALTHY TIP: You can add mushrooms and carrots to make a heartier healthier stew. You can also serve over a bed of seasoned roasted cauliflower and broccoli!

Family Favorite Recipe

I am wrapping up my cook book, and much like a lot of things in my life this book as well as this recipe in particular happened out of pure accident.

This particular recipe was created out of necessity as I remember clearly that I quite literally had about $5.00 which I had procured in tips waiting tables for the night, working the graveyard shift at a 24 hour cafe.

I hope you enjoy it as much as my family and friends have.

Pasta con Atun y Salsa Rosada (Pasta with Tuna & Pink Sauce)

Serves 6

Prep time: 3 minutes

Cook Time: 12 minutes

Cost per person: $0.98

1 box of your favorite pasta

2 can’s of tuna (in water) – drained

1 can of sweet peas – drained (15oz) – optional

1/4 cup of mayonnaise

1/4 cup of ketchup

1. The pasta should be cooked in a large pot of salted, boiling water then drained. Follow directions on the box). Add the drained peas and tuna to the pasta.

2. In a separate bowl mix the mayonnaise and ketchup.

3. Add the sauce mixture to the pasta. Toss until the sauce has been incorporated completely.

4. ENJOY!

What Goes On Behind Closed Doors

I sometimes wonder what goes on behind closed doors in homes. When I drive by and see a bunch of balloons tied to the stairwells I can only assume there is a celebration of sorts going on.

Such was the case in my home this past Sunday, my home was buzzing with energy and activity. I prepped, cooked and cleaned the night before. I was up until 3 in the morning, working hard making sure that everything was quite literally picture perfect and ready to go for the following day. You see, I have just finished my cook book and had the photographer coming in to take pictures of the recipes in the first chapter. 

I had 15 recipes ready to go; I had a table full of props that included fresh veggies, fruits, flowers, and plate wear. It was an exciting but arduous process. Thankfully there was lots of sunlight and this allowed for great pictures in natural lighting vs. artificial lighting. I hear that this is a huge deal!

In addition to that my photographer, Sylk Negron from Sylk Photography was amazing. She really helped in making the process run very smoothly. Not to mention that every picture came out fantastic! I tried to document my experience of the day by taking pictures myself. My efforts however do not in any way, shape or form compare to the ones captured through a professional’s lens.

At the expense of seeming like the neighborhood peeping tom I admit that I am now doubly curious as to what happens behind closed doors. As I sit at a red light and look around I sometimes catch glimpses of people in their homes moving around. I wonder, “hmmm, is it normal humdrum life or are they too prepping for an exciting, possibly life changing event?”  

,

Confessions of a Momtrepreneur

 I am a mom of 4 and a business owner. In addition to owning my insurance practice I find myself always seeking for additional revenue streams as well as ventures that will allow me to express my creative side.  All of this and I still have to be sure to get dinner on the table, keep house, help kids with homework and serve as a chauffeur.  Never mind “tending to my husband”. I am always asked “How do you do it?” and my response is always the same… “You do what you have to do”.  I know that the response I give is of little solace, especially for those who are looking to tap into their own entrepreneurial side. The reality is that a lot of these things do not always get executed the way I’d like them to.  I try to prep a couple of meals on Sundays so that during the week I can just toss the salad that goes along with the casserole or have “kits” prepped so that I can throw it in the slow cooker, but the reality is that I have found myself reaching for the hamburger helper box, running to the nearest Jewel for the ready made rotisserie chicken or better yet the phone for takeout. I have given up hope on my linen closet looking like the ones in the display at Pottery Barn and the fact that my Christmas tree is still up is of no consequence.  I have now decorated the Christmas tree as a birthday tree.  I used it as decoration for my sisters birthday dinner because I didn’t have time to take the tree down and go to the store and get balloons and proper decorations.  So I improvised… Bottom line, I am trying to keep it together as best I can.  It is more important to me that I leverage my time wisely and that means I am either taking “money making” meetings with potential clients or I am making beautiful and meaningful memories with my family as I spend true quality time with them.  Everything else is just white noise.  Isn’t this the way it is for everyone though? Don’t we all have “crazy” times in our lives where some things need to be allowed to fall on the wayside or we run the risk of actually becoming crazy?  I can sleep when I die and I can keep the picture perfect home when I can afford a full time maid!