Thursday, December 29, 2011

Bread & Soup

Just in time for the new year. A restoring, warming soup (it is 32 degrees today here in Providence, brrrrr). This soup has the usual suspects: tofu, cubed and deep fried in sesame oil, crushed garlic, sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, baby bella mushrooms, fresh spinach, soy sauce, and red pepper flakes. I first make a veggie broth (I use veggie bouillon cubes)--then I add all the "hard" vegetables (carrots and sweet potatoes), I let it boil for about 3 minutes, then turn it down to a simmer--I then add the garlic and soy sauce let that simmer together for about 5 minutes, then I add the butternut squash, the mushrooms, red pepper flakes and spinach.  I let the soup simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes and let stand for another 10 before I serve it. 

I like to serve this soup with this "Easy Little Bread" -- this bread is actually simple to make and very, very delicious. 

I drizzle honey on it while it is still warm. This bread also makes a great breakfast snack (here, I ate it slathered with apple-honey butter).


This bread and soup are perfect food as we gear up to celebrate the New Year! 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tuesday night pasta


Pasta, like rice, can be made into endless delicious combinations—here I made a simple whole wheat regate (I boiled the pasta and set it aside). Then I sautéed fresh, crushed garlic, a red pepper, one tomato (cut into small pieces), and fresh spinach in olive oil, then I added the pasta mixed everything and added a dash of salt and a few red pepper flakes (for heat). This dish takes well under 20 minutes to prepare and is a winner every time.  


Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas baking extravaganza...

I decided to bake two classics from my childhood: "Polvorones de Nuez" and "Coconut Macaroons" and give them as Christmas gifts this year. Who doesn't enjoy a sweet treat? They were remarkably easy to make and tasted as amazing. Actually, the macaroons tasted amazing but the "polvorones" were out of this world! 

                                          Polvorones de Nuez 

**The only change I made to the original recipe was that I ground the almonds in a blender, and made almond flour--instead of chopping the almonds.

                                          Coconut Macaroons 

I bought these adorable boxes at a craft store (they came with a lid, bow and tag), and packaged the cookies.

Ready for Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Food, nostalgia and ... God ?

Christmas Season 2011. It's here it's now. I am ready, even excited, about the promises that come with a new year, a new beginning, full of possibilities. And yet, I am feeling nostalgic about a place or maybe it has to do with a feeling that a place evokes. So I cooked. I made my healthful version of mangú (boiled plantain, mashed with garlic, olive oil, salt, a bit of vinegar, and sauteed white onions), on top I poured gandules guisados (stewed pigeon peas - softened fresh peas, tomato sauce, garlic, homemade sofrito, one packet of sazón, salt to taste, dried and crushed oregano flakes, cubed pieces of calabaza). On the side, I made a romaine lettuce and spinach salad tossed with apples, VT maple syrup, and balsamic vinegar. 

I ate it. Then I thought about last year's Christmas Season, which we spent in Puerto Rico. Nostalgia set in. All the iconic images of San Juan and its beauty came rushing into my thoughts. I smiled.

I thought of my favorite things about spending the winter in Puerto Rico. The gentle breeze, the rogue winter seas, the stunning colors of the trees and flowers--the greens and blues that inundate the landscape. 

And I thought about roots and routes: both are meandering, flexible, shape-shifting. Roots are grounded, bounded to the earth. Routes as in travel and movement are boundless. 

I thought about the higher presence that I feel when I look at my son, at nature, when I taste the flavors that come from food or when I take the first sip of a cold beer on a hot day.

I remembered the icons of God and saints I saw during a winter walk through San Juan. In itself, the name of the city pays homage to a saint -- it is only befitting that the old city is full of saints and the image of God (disclaimer: this is not how I imagine God to look like). 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Late fall fun by the sea

On a recently unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon (and I am really talking unseasonably warm--70 degrees in late November in New England!?!), we set out for a hike in one of our favorite spots. It is a rocky beach overlooking the Atlantic Ocean -- this place is like a Japanese rock garden by the sea.

Before we headed out, I made a pot of vegetable and brown rice soup because I knew we would very hungry upon our return. This is your classic "throw in the pot every vegetable you have in your fridge" kind of soup, add garlic, salt and a few flakes of red pepper, let it simmer and enjoy!  (it always tastes better the second day)

I am obsessed with rock gardens. I am even more obsessed with rock sculptures. So I made this small sculpture at the beach in homage to the beautiful day.

We amused ourselves by looking at the rocks, trying to find heart shaped rocks to bring home to our garden.  

We walked the trail that leads to a sandy beach. 

 We we got back home we noticed the crocus I planted in October were blooming!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

My mother's harina de maíz

My mother has made farina, cornmeal (harina de maíz), cornstarch (maicena), or oatmeal (avena) at least three mornings each week for as long as I can remember. Her "harinas" (literally translated as 'flour'), taste like an early morning dessert. She adds lots of sugar, cinnamon powder, and vanilla extract into the boiling milk, then she slowly stirs in the 'harina' until it becomes thick, soft, mushy. My mother's 'harinas' taste awesome! 

In the spirit of healthful eating when I make 'harinas' I substitute the cow's milk for (vanilla) almond milk, I add two teaspoons of brown sugar, half teaspoon vanilla and half a teaspoon of cinnamon, when this boils I slowly stir in the 'harina' of choice (about 1 to 3 teaspoons depending on the desired consistency).  

Adding a dollop of unsalted butter makes it taste like my childhood every time!

I especially enjoy eating 'harinas' on chilly winter mornings -- they are both warming and sustaining. I like to eat my 'harinas' with a freshly pressed cup of apple or orange juice to add some nutritional balance to my breakfast.

Monday, November 21, 2011

whimsy, part 1

In a world saturated by streaming media, as well as the sameness that springs from mass production (AND consumerism), it is nice to linger on the whimsical details that make daily life a little more satisfying. I am talking about the tiny animal figurines that inhabit the spaces in and around our kitchen.

The wise wizard owl and his pupil.
These owls are hand-me downs from Rina. She owns a very impressive collection of tiny animal figurines, which she has acquired on her travels around the world. My owls are attentive little "watchers" and live perched on my kitchen window, where they seem happy to quietly witness our kitchen activities. 

scratching pitbull, wooden pig and bouncy snake
This unlikely trio, a pitbull (from the "homey" collection), a fat wooden pig, and a turtle (a gift from Alexandra), hang out on top of the stove. 

salt and pepper shakers
These vintage BLT salt and pepper shakers (a salvation army find), and the salt and pepper Warren Kimble chickens (a gift from Julia), sit on the stove opposite the "unlikely trio." Together these trinkets bring a touch of whimsy to the kitchen. Not to mention the remembrance of friends and family who over time have passed these lovely pieces to me. 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Tofu & Veggies

One of my favorite dishes is this version of a tofu, garlic, veggie and soy sauce stir fry over rice. This dish is warming and filling: perfect for the chilly days of fall! First, I cube the firm tofu and fry it in olive oil until it is brown and crispy on all sides.

Then I add the veggies to the wok (leafy greens, green beans, peas, chives, 1 cubed tomato, mushrooms, garlic cloves, peppers, broccoli) or whatever else you have in your fridge. 

Once all ingredients are cooking, I add a spoon of "Chili Garlic Sauce" (I like the Túóng Ót Tói Viet-Nam). 

Then add low-sodium soy sauce liberally and toss everything together, add two tablespoons of water and cook on medium-high for 10 minutes. (Do not add salt to this dish, as the soy sauce has plenty of it).

Ready to eat!