Friday, March 30, 2012

Veggie Compote

This is a perfect food for the (still) chilly days of spring! (or a rainy day anywhere). It is a savory compote to be sure. And easy. Easy to make. You will quickly agree that it's nutritious without being boring in the taste department. 

-6 to 8 cups water 
-4 veggie bouillion cubes
-2 large heads of broccoli
-2 carrots, peeled and cut
-1 potato or 1 cup of squash
-6 to 8 baby bellas
-1 large tomato or 5 small grape tomatoes
-6 garlic cloves
-2 celery stalks, cut
-1/2 cup fresh cilantro
-1/2 cup soy sauce
-1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
-1/3 cup corn starch
-a dash of salt

What to do?
Add the water to large soup pot and the veggie cubes, let it boil. Then add squash or potato and carrots, garlic, broccoli (stems an all), bellas, celery, tomatoes, cilantro, soy sauce, red pepper, and salt. 
 Cover and let it cook together for 15 minutes until everything is soft.
Blend everything together in blender--adding the corn starch little by little while you blend your soup. You will have to blend it in several batches. After the blended soup is back in pot, cover and cook it on low for about 5 minutes. This makes about 8 servings.

 Ready to serve!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Beets! They are pure goodness! I love their strong color, their sweet taste. I like to roast my beets: I just cut each end and put them in the oven at 400 degrees, I add a few droplets of water to the pan so they don't dry out. I cover the pan with foil and let them roast for about 45 minutes to 1 hour or until they are soft. I let them cool before pulling off their skin. Then I slice and eat them as they are, in their own juice and sweetness. (I refrigerate the slices and eat them cold until they are gone). My friend Wanda makes a wonderful pickled beet spread, a recipe I will get and share here very soon. This is usually part of my fall menu, but the spring has turned a little cool, feeling like fall again. And I am craving bright food to  energize me  for summer!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fast cooking slow food

Like you, I have a job, a child, a thousand and one things to do everyday. A long list of chores, errands, commitments, etc. Life is busy busy. Most times I feel like I am just keeping my head above water. Don't get me wrong, I actually like being busy. I like having things to do. My point here is this: just because we are busy, doesn't mean we should neglect our health and specifically our diet. We should strive to eat whole, nutritious foods that will give us the gasoline (the energy) to help us be at our very best! And so this post is about the ways in which by doing a little extra work once every two, or sometimes even three weeks, you can actually make your everyday life easier. Here is what I mean.

I cut and cube all kinds of veggies (including calabaza [pumpkin], eggplant, peppers, onions, garlic, cilantro, parsley, etc.) and I freeze them. When I need any of these for my dishes I just pull them out of the fridge and add them directly to my food. 
 Exhibit A: pepper-medley ready to be frozen.
 Exhibit b. Onions
Exhibit c: Garlic (with the garlic you have two options: 1. you can freeze it or 2. if you plan to use garlic everyday, you can put it in a small bowl, drizzle a bit of olive oil and salt over it and put it in the fridge).

Now, on the matter of grains: as I have mentioned before I also like to buy bags of dry grains (beans & garbanzos), soften them using my mom's "old fashion" method and freeze them in separate containers that will be ready for use. See below.

 Submerge the dry beans in water over night. Do not salt water.
Boil beans for about 45 minutes (or until they feel soft, but not soft enough that the disintegrate). Do not salt water.
Let the beans cool off, drain and place in a container and freeze. One bag of dry beans will yield three of the containers pictured here. These containers each make about 1 1/2 cans of grains. I should mention that I also freeze tomatoes, tomato sauce (salsa), and tomato paste. Obviously, the freezer is my best friend in the kitchen.

If you get in the habit of doing some prep-work up front, you can save a lot of time when it comes to cooking your daily meals! It will be one less thing to do in your already busy life. 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Apricot-almond-coconut energy bar

This is a truly simple and delicious home-made power bar! I saw the recipe for "Chocolate-Apricot Nut Bars" in April's Whole Living magazine and had to try it. It is vegan, requires no cooking, and the best part of all: it's a quick energy bar that you can grab on the go! 

1 1/2 cups dried apricots
1/2 cup raw almonds, toasted (you cans substitute these with walnuts or pecans too)
2 Tbspn unsweetened shredded coconut, toasted
Coarse salt
1/2 oz dark chocolate, melted

What to do?
1. Pulse apricots, almonds, 1 Tbsp coconut, and a pinch of salt in a food processor or blender until everything is finely ground; 2. Line a pan with parchment paper, leaving an inch overhang on all sides. 3. Transfer mixture to pan and press firmly. 3. Drizzle mixture with chocolate and sprinkle remaining coconut. 4. Transfer to fridge and leave until firm, about 15 minutes. Slice into bars. Store in airtight container for up to 5 days. 

Enjoy a dose of energy with every bite!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Freshly foraged wild mushroom lasagna

I love Vermont! It is a magical, beautiful place! Thankfully, Malgosia, who is part of our family, lives there. These photos are from our spring 2011 visit to her house. The day we arrived she served a lasagna from freshly foraged wild mushrooms she collected during a trek through "the woods." She is an experienced wild food forager, a traditional practice she learned growing up in Poland. Malgosia is also an incredible gardener and has been growing most of her own vegetables and fruits for many, many years. The lasagna she served that day was wonderful, restoring food! She also made a salad straight from her plentiful garden, which Khalil helped her pick. I can't wait to visit VT again this season!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Wholegrain Pancakes

These are among the most delicious pancakes I have ever eaten! And I know a couple of people (my brother Mitch, and Rina [my husband's step-mom]), who make awesome pancakes. I especially like eating pancakes that are nutritious, grainy, and rich. This recipe delivers wonderfully tasty, nourishing, and wholesome pancakes. I top mine with maple syrup. The original recipe for these wholegrain pancakes is here, I tweaked the recipe and added salt, vanilla extract, and blueberries (though you could also add a tablespoon of toasted walnuts or pecans, and strawberries or bananas).


1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup cornmeal
3 tablespoons flaxseed meal
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 egg, beaten
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup blueberries (optional) 

What to do?
In a large bowl, stir together the whole wheat flour, oats, cornmeal, flaxseed meal, brown sugar, baking powder, and baking soda. Pour in buttermilk, egg, salt, vanilla extract, and blueberries. Stir just until smooth.

Melt butter in pan over medium heat, drop 
a spoon of batter and let cook until edge is brown, turn and cook other side.

These will fill you up for several hours, you'll be ready to take on the day!


Friday, March 16, 2012

Pastelillos de Guayaba

Amazingly simple and incredibly delicious! That about sums up these little tasty treats. All my life I have loved those puffy guava pastries dusted with confectioners sugar that are sold at most Latino bakeries. I wanted to eat a home-made alternative to those and voilá here they are! These taste amazing and make a perfect after dinner dessert, breakfast companion with coffee or a wonderful afternoon snack with your tea. They can be served warm (right out of the oven) with a dollop of vanilla ice cream on the side. But be careful, the guava paste will be very hot!

1. Small empanada discs
2. Guava paste
3. Seriously sharp cheddar (I like VT's cabot)

What to do?
-Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees
-Place disc on a clean surface
-Cut a slice of cheese and a slice of guava and place inside disc
-Fold disc and close with fork

 -Place on cookie sheet in oven for 25 minutes or until shell begins to brown.

Enjoy! I promise you will make this time and again!


Tuesday, March 13, 2012


I am a HUGE fan of edible mushrooms! I have made that clear here, here, and even here. So now that my fandom to fungi has been established, I'll share an extremely simple portobella recipe. Portobello/a mushrooms are loaded with healthy nutrients, are low in calories, and are high in fiber. A winning combination to be sure!

-Portobella mushrooms
-soy sauce, light in sodium
-olive oil
-fresh garlic, crushed
-garlic powder (optional)

What to do?  
-add olive oil to pan, let it heat up, add crushed garlic, portobellas, soy sauce and garlic powder--mix gently, let it cook together for about 5 minutes. 

Your simple, delicious, and healthful side dish is ready to serve! You can also use the portobellas to fill a wrap: just add goat cheese and romaine for a delicious meal.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Arroz con gandules

Rice with pigeon peas is certainly food royalty in my book! I adore this combination. As a vegetarian, I am a fan of gandules because they are high in protein. In my family, arroz con gandules is usually a staple of the special occasion table such as Christmas, birthday parties, weddings, baptisms and so forth. But because I love eating it so much, I make it a home several times a month. 

As a child I spent many moments shelling gandules at my grandfather's house; I also shelled them whenever someone gave my mother a bounty of fresh peas or when she bought them at the plaza del mercado. Even though my fingers would get all black and sticky, I would volunteer to shell gandules because I liked to eat them raw (I ate at least one from each pod). As an artisanal cook, my mother has always prided herself in making her gandules from fresh peas. There is absolutely no comparison between fresh peas and canned or frozen peas of course. Yet, in the absence of fresh gandules a can will absolutely do! Here I share my recipe for arroz con gandules, which I make using basmati brown rice (we gave up eating white rice here at home and have turned to brown rice wholeheartedly for its wonderful health benefits as well as rich nutty flavor). (*A note about brown rice: it requires more water as well as a longer cooking time at higher temperatures to cook well).

-1 1/2 Tablespoon olive oil
-2 Tablespoons sofrito
-5 cups water
-1 can gandules
-10-15 manzanilla olives + 1 teaspoon olive juice
-1 teaspoon garlic powder
-2 packets sazón con culantro y achiote
-1 teaspoon dried oregano (pulvorize with your fingers)
-salt to taste
-1 tablespoon finely cut and diced (fresh) red peppers or pimientos morrones
-2 cups brown rice

What to do?
Begin by adding olive oil to pot, let it heat up then add sofrito and sauté together for about 2 minutes. Add water let it boil, then add sazón, salt, peppers, garlic powder, oregano, olives and olive juice. Let it boil again, then add pigeon peas (do not drain liquid from can), then add rice. Set the stove to medium heat and cover-cook for 20 minutes. Then uncover and continue to cook for about 10 minutes or until water evaporates. Then set to lower heat, cover again and let cook for 15 minutes. Do not turn rice until you turn off stove. (Brown rice takes longer to cook, if at the end the rice still feels a little hard, add 1 tablespoon water and cook, covered for another 10 minutes on low heat). 

Make enough to last you a couple of days. You will want seconds and thirds! 
¡Buen provecho!


Friday, March 9, 2012

Coconut & Walnut Bars

Sweet treat alert! These coconut bars will make you happy. I promise! That's because they are loaded with coconut, walnuts, and white chocolate goodness. What can I say?! They are simply "pure awesomeness!"

-1/2 cup butter
-1 cup brown sugar 
-1 egg
-1 teaspoon vanilla extract
-1 cup all-purpose flour
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon baking powder
-1 cup sweetened coconut flakes
-1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or pecans)
-1/2 cup white chocolate chips (or chunks) (optional)
-Chocolate syrup (optional)

What to do?
-Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
-In a mixing bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add egg, beat well. Beat in vanilla. In another bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder mix together--then mix in slowly into the creamed butter mixture. Stir in coconut, walnuts (or pecans), and chocolate (batter will be thick).
 -Spread into a greased 8x8 inch pan. 
 -Bake at 350 degrees for 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick or knife comes out clean. 
-Cool, add chocolate syrup and cut into bars.
You can double or triple the recipe to make more bars. Yummy!


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The magic of papaya and bananas!

The papaya is the darling among my favorite fruits! It is so delicate and smooth, not to mention its glorious orange color and fragrant scent. Yes, I am declaring my love for papaya! I became a bona fide papaya and banana smoothie addict during the time I lived in Cayey, PR. Mainly because there was an amazing little frutera (fruit stand) just a few steps from my house. Aside from serving cold coconut water and selling all kinds of viandas and fruits (oh, how I miss eating fresh pineapple and quenepas!), they also made a wide combination of smoothies. I must have spent a good third of my salary on their smoothies (yes! it was worth it). Anyway, I was pining for that little frutera the other day and so in its honor, here I share the ever soothing wonder of the smoothie world: 1 cup papaya, 1 banana, and 2 cups apple juice and blend blend blend! The taste of heaven (or a tropical version of it) awaits you in every gulp!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Ensalada de Chayote

This salad is wonderfully subtle and refreshing. It is perfect for those days when potatoes just won't do. I first tried it when a Dominican friend made it, and it was so delicious that I had to share the recipe here. So Luz, you amazingly talented cook: thank you! (for so many delicious meals).

-5 to 8 chayotes
-1/2 white onion (optional)
-1 cup fresh cilantro
-1/4 cup olive oil
-1/3 cup lemon (lime) juice 
-1/3 cup vinegar
-1/2 teaspoon dried organo
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

What to do?
-Cut the chayotes into 4 pieces and place them in salted, boiling water. Let them cook for about 25 minutes or until they are soft (but do not overcook them). 
-Drain and let them cool off completely. Once they are cool, take the skin off and cube them. 
-Chop your onion and your cilantro. Add them to your cubed chayotes.
-In a separate bow mix your oil, vinegar, lime juice, oregano, and salt and whisk well so that everything comes together into a nice dressing.
-Add the dressing to your chayotes, onion, and cilantro.
-Gently turn chatoyes into dressing so that they are nicely covered with the dressing.
-Place your salad in the refrigerator for an hour (or longer), serve chilled. You can add your freshly grated parmesan before you plate the salad. This salad stays well in the fridge for several days.