Wednesday, May 30, 2012

In Memory of Marlene Berg

Marlene Berg & Khalil, at his 3rd birthday December 2011

My good friend Marlene has now moved into the spirit realm. I know she did so peacefully. During her lifetime, Marlene made an indelible mark on many, many people, including my son, my husband, and me! I've known Marlene for over 15 years and during that time we shared many happy moments and some difficult ones too. She was overjoyed at the birth of each of her grand children, she went to my dissertation defense, and celebrated  with me afterward, she was ecstatic when her son completed his Ph.D. too  She placed a high value on excellence and was a tireless advocate of social justice, spoke passionately against racism, worked to ameliorate poverty, gave youth (of color) an opportunity to learn they too are valuable, talented, amazing and courageous! I will miss Marlene so dearly! I cannot count the ways in which Marlene changed my life forever. Thank you Marlene! Thank you my friend! Your lessons I will carry forever. And your example I will work very hard to carry on. I will pay it forward. That I promise. 

Oh heart, if one should say to you that the soul perishes like the body, answer that the flower withers, but the seed remains.  ~Kahlil Gibran

Monday, May 28, 2012

Tembleque (with butter toasted coconut flakes)

I LOVE tembleque! Always have. And of course, I turned to this cool and delicious dessert to honor the glorious blue and sunny days we've been having. Tembleque is a classic dessert from my childhood (in the Caribbean). My mother's version is much more complicated because she begins with a whole coconut, from which she makes fresh pressed coconut milk. As you can imagine, the wholesome, fresh version of this tasty classic is INCREDIBLE! 

The recipe I share here is pretty amazing: both in terms of flavor and also because of its  simplicity. All it takes is about 10 minutes preparation time and then it goes into the fridge for at least 2 hours. It will super impress your guests and certainly will satisfy the taste buds! Tembleque is an instant hit!

1 can coconut milk
1/3 c. cornstach (maizena)
1/4 tspn salt
1/3 cup sugar
1 tspn vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut flakes
1/2 tspn butter
1 tblspn cinnamon 

What to do?
Put half the can of coconut milk in a small sauce pan, add sugar, salt and vanilla and heat to a boil. In a small bowl, add the cornstarch and the rest of the coconut milk and mix well together with a fork until there are no lumps. Begin adding this mixture into the boiling coconut milk, stir vigorously--don't stop or you will get lumps--stir until the mixture turns smooth (if the mixture is runny, mix 1 more tablespoon of cornstarch with a little water, and add it to the cooking mixture until it turns into custard consistency). Cooking time is about 5 minutes (you must stir while it cooks). Remove from heat and pour in a baking pan or in individual cups. Then in a small pan melt the butter and add the coconut flakes--toast them until they are golden brown. Add the coconut flakes to the top of the coconut custard, then add cinnamon to taste.  Put in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. It will keep in the fridge for several days, but I doubt it will last very long!


Friday, May 25, 2012

Simple & Delicious Coleslaw

Cabbage is such a versatile veggie! I am in a cabbage phase at the moment. I have always loved coleslaw and specially during the summer. The other day when we grilled veggies, I made this wonderful coleslaw as a side dish--the cabbage head in the photo--was so big that we had coleslaw for 4 days (yum!). 

1 cabbage
2 carrots
1 small onion (I used a red onion)
1/3 to 1/2 c. (depending on size of cabbage) apple cider vinegar
1/3 to 1/3 c. honey 
2 tablespoons vegan mayo
What to do?
Remove the upper leafs of the cabbage and discard (I compost it), cut the cabbage and place in a large bowl add the apple cider vinegar put it aside. Peel the carrots with the potato peeler add to the cabbage. Cut onion into small pieces, shock the onion by adding the onion to boiling water for 30 seconds, then run under cold water for about 1 minute. Dry onion to the cabbage combine. Add honey and mayo combine. Put in fridge for at least 1 hour before serving.  


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Blooming on...

The other day as I worked in the garden, my son Khalil (3 1/2 years) decided to surprise me by planting his (solar) "dancing flower" in the garden among my plants! 
Here in Providence we get coastal fog from the Atlantic Ocean. Just the other night, as I walked our doggies Kaki and Amiga, a gentle mist was falling through the thickness of coastal fog. And our neighborhood was really beautiful and serene. So I decided to take a few photos of the garden at night. 


Monday, May 21, 2012

Agua de Jamaica

As I have mentioned several times, the warm weather has thankfully arrived! (and I am extremely happy about it!) And so to celebrate it, I have turned to cooling foods and drinks. My mother gave me a bag of dried flor de jamaica leafs that she bought at her local Latino market--needless to say as soon as it got warm I made a pitcher of agua de jamaica (hibiscus tea) to quench our thirst (my son calls this drink "juicy tea"). It is simple to make and best of all, it tastes wonderful!

 Ingredients (simple version)
-Flor de Jamaica leafs
-light brown sugar

 What to do?
In a medium pot (a soup pot will do), boil 10 to 12 cups of water, then add about 1/3 of bag of dried leafs and brown sugar to taste -- let it boil together for 4 minutes. Let it cool off for a few minutes, then using a large colander pour the mixture into another pot (draining leafs from juice). Let it cool completely, then transfer to a pitcher and refrigerate. It tastes best when juice is completely cold--but if you can't wait, pour juice into a glass with ice. 

**For a spicier drink, you can add any one of these: cinnamon sticks, a few small pieces of crushed fresh ginger, lime juice, mint leafs, or allspice berries to the boiling mixture. If you want to turn this wonderful "juicy tea" into a summer cocktail, you can also add vodka and garnish it with orange slices. 

Whichever way you decide to make it, I am certain it will cool you off during the hot days of summer. Salud!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Red Cabbage Slaw

This is an awesomely delicious salad! Seriously. It is colorful, nutritious, and amazingly good. Now that the weather is warming up (finally!), I am turning to cold foods to keep my body and soul in balance. And yes, food has the power not only to balance your health, but also your well-being. 

1 red cabbage
2 carrots
1 small red onion
1/3 c. raisins
1/3 c. walnuts or pecans 
1/3 c. cilantro
1/2 c. apple cider vinegar
1/3 c. honey
1/3 brown sugar
2 tblspns mayonnaise (optional) 

What to do?
First, chop onion and shock it--put onion in boiling water for 30 seconds, then drain in cold water, put it aside. In large bowl, add cider, honey, sugar, and mix together--add raisins and soak them for about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, remove the outer leafs from cabbage, then chop it into thin strips. Peel carrots with potato peeler--add the cabbage, onion, carrots, mayonnaise and gently combine all together. Lastly, add the nuts and cilantro and gently combine together. Put the salad in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour--chill well before serving. This salad will keep well in the fridge for several days, and specially if you skip the mayo (or if you use vegan mayo).



Wednesday, May 16, 2012


 Khalil, Narragansett (may 2012) 

Be where you are; otherwise you will miss your life. 

When we look deep into the heart of a flower, we see clouds, sunshine, minerals, time, the earth, and everything else in the cosmos in it.
-Thich Nhat Hanh

Adopt the pace of nature. 
-Ralph Waldo Emerson



Monday, May 14, 2012

Spring day picnic!

Grilling season has officially begun! We've had several warm days in a row (and I am of course, very excited!). To celebrate the warm days of spring, I grilled zucchini and eggplant -- and made a simple ravioli and a tasty sangria -- we ate dinner and drank  cocktails in our patio under the lazy afternoon sun.

Ingredients (for ravioli)
2 packages cheese ravioli
1 tblspn cup ravioli water
1/4 c. olive oil
2 c. fresh spinach
6 garlic cloves
2 ripe grapevine tomatoes
1/2 cup fresh basil

What to do?
Make ravioli according to specifications on package--when you drain save some of the water. In a large pot, add olive oil, crushed garlic, and spinach, and the ravioli water--cook on low for about 3 minutes. Then add the ravioli and salt (to taste)--turn to low and add fresh basil and cubed tomatoes--cover and let it come together for about 5 minutes. Turn off and serve. 

Ingredients (for Sagria)
Lime seltzer water or ginger ale
Red wine
1 orange or 1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 lime

What to do?
Put 1/2 bottle of red wine in pitcher, add one can of ginger ale or 1 1/2 cups seltzer water, squeeze orange juice in pitcher, add orange pulp (or add orange juice), squeeze half the lime into pitcher. Stir, add ice and serve. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Roasted squash & dumpling soup

This spring has been so mercurial: two days of warmth and sun, then four days of gray skies and chilly rain. On rainy afternoons, I turn to the two things that make the day instantly better: a good soup and a hot bath! Here is the recipe for a soup I made to warm up my stomach and soul on a recent chilly spring afternoon!

-10 c. water
-1 small squash
-10 bella mushrooms
-2 carrots
-1/2 cup broccoli
-5 garlic gloves
-1/4 c. soy sauce
- 1 tblspn sesame oil
-1/2 tspn lime juice
-3 veggie bullion cubes
-1/2 tspn red pepper flakes (optional)

For dumplings:
-1 c. flour
-1 tblspn olive oil
-1/2 tsnpn salt
-1/4 water (adjust as needed)

What to do?
-Peel and cut squash into cubes, place in baking dish and roast in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes (or until it is soft).
-To make simple dumplings pour flour into a bowl, add water, olive oil and salt. Using your hands work the dough, adjust water and flour so dough is dry in your hands--then make dumplings by rolling small rounded-balls. 
-In large pot boil water and bullion cubes to a rolling boil then add soy, sesame, lime juice, and pepper flakes. Add carrots and garlic. Let it boil again. Now add mushrooms, broccoli, squash and dumplings. Let it cook on medium for 12-15 minutes, then on low for 5. Turn off, cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Thinking about rice and beans

The other day I received a catalog from Berg, which features their 2012 titles. I was immediately intrigued by a new book titled: Rice and Beans: A Unique Dish in a Hundred Places. The book closes with a chapter by Sidney Mintz who "takes a broad look at Atlantic cuisines and the legacy of African slavery." (I affectionately call Mintz my "anthropological grandfather").
Rice and beans has always played a significant role in my cultural and dietary life. On the cultural side, rice and red beans (specifically) are Puerto Rico's "national food." Often rice and beans are at the center of a meal, and other foods are then added on (meats, viandas, salads, etc). Originally, rice and beans was food made by and for the poor: peasants, the enslaved, sailors, urban-slum dwellers, and workers of all kinds. As is common, the foods of the "masses" become "national" both because this population constitute the majority of the people in a country, and also because it is women (and men) from this social-strata who do most of the cooking in the houses of the rich. Naturally, these cooks then import their dishes into the kitchens and stomachs of wealthy men, women and children making what was once "poor people's food," everyone's food.

Growing up in an economically-poor household, we could always afford rice and beans. As I said in previous posts my mother likes to buy dry beans and soften then. Eating softened beans is of course, much better because one is not ingesting all the additives, sodium, and preservatives contained in canned beans. From a young age, I had an aversion to meat  and as my mother says: "you've always wanted to eat rice and beans, that's all you wanted to eat!" And I ate rice and beans almost daily. Sometimes I ate rice and pigeon peas or rice and garbanzos. When we were at the very end of our food supply, we would eat rice and corn. Well, rice and beans is a wonder food! It is a protein-rich nutritional powerhouse. These days I make brown rice instead of white rice and I soften beans for a super natural result!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Kale & Collard Chips

It is no wonder these are all the rage right now! These green-leaf chips are super simple to make, taste amazing, are low in calorie, and high in fiber, are incredibly good for you and (just like regular chips), once you start eating them you won't be able to stop. The good news is that these are really, really good for you! So go ahead and indulge!

-Collard or kale 
-Olive oil

What to do?
-Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Wash, cut, and dry your kale or collards. Place in deep salad bowl, add 1 tablespoon olive, 1 teaspoon salt and combine gently. Place each piece in a cookie sheet, then in the oven and bake for 10 minutes. Cool and enjoy!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Kale slaw

I love, love, love greens (kale, collards, swiss chard)! And my vegetables beds are fully stocked with these, so you will be seeing lots of "green leafs" related postings in the near future. This is a good thing actually since we should eat dark, leafy greens often (at least 3 times per week), as these are nutritional powerhouses (with an incredible concentration of nutrients in every bite)! 

The other day I stopped in at the Whole Foods salad bar to grab some lunch (I was rushing from one work site to another), and I tried their kale slaw. It was delicious! And I was determined to try a kale slaw recipe of my own at home. For one thing, making a large batch of kale will last several days for a fraction of the salad bar cost and I was sure I could improve an already delicious recipe. I went to work on it and here is what I came up with and honestly, it is one of the best salads I have ever eaten (my husband said the same!). I came up with my own recipe based on this one and this other.

-a bunch of kale
-2 carrots
-1 orange
-1 lime
-1 small red onion
-cider vinegar
-sesame oil
-brown sugar
-eggless vegan mayo
-crushed peanuts
-salt (to taste)

What to do?
Cut the kale into small pieces, wash, dry and place in a bowl. Slice carrots with potato peeler. Mix kale and carrots together. Squeeze half the orange juice onto the greens, then half the lime juice--combine gently, but thoroughly. Put it aside.

Cut the red onion into small pieces. Shock the onion by boiling water: first, add the onion to the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then to cold water for about 1 minute. Dry onions and add to salad. Combine 1 teaspoon cider vinegar with 1 teaspoon brown sugar, and 1 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil, mix and add to salad. Add 2 tablespoons mayo. Combine salad together, gently but thoroughly. Finally, add 2-3 tablespoons crushed peanuts. Refrigerate for at least an hour and serve. 

 This slaw is truly amazing! Even if you think you don't like kale, try it, I think it will change your mind (and taste buds)!