Saturday, October 20, 2012

Mu Shu Chicken

I have been thinking of what meals I've made recently that would be Paleo friendly and this was one I thought of. This dish is traditionally eaten on crepes, but since we're not eating flour I just used lettuce and made a sort of lettuce wrap. I could have also made a coconut flour crepe, but I was really hungry and didn't want to mess with it this time.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups cabbage thinly sliced (Napa cabbage or regular cabbage will work in this recipe)
1 onion thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups shitake mushrooms, sliced (woodear mushrooms would work too)
5 eggs, scrambled
1 bunch scallions,  sliced into long slices
1 cup bean sprouts
2 tbsp. coconut oil
Salt to taste

First slice the chicken breast into thin long strips. Season with salt.    Add 1 tbsp. of coconut oil to a non-stick pan and turn the heat up to high.  Saute the chicken in batches until it is cooked through and browned.  Set aside.  While the chicken is cooking, slice your onion.  The thing I really like about this dish is the charred flavor you get from all of the veggies.  The trick to achieving this flavor is to place your wok over your burner and turn to high.  Add the onions without any oil and let them cook undisturbed for a few minutes.  Take a spatula and stir to saute them evenly, but do not over cook.  Transfer to a holding plate.  Next slice your cabbage and do the same thing with the cabbage that you did with the onions, again remembering not to overcook.  The veggies in this dish should be nice and crunchy.  Transfer the cabbage to your holding plate.  Next add a little coconut oil to your wok and add in the sliced shitake mushrooms.  Cook over high heat until the mushrooms brown.  As your chicken cooks, transfer it to your holding plate.  Next beat the eggs and cook them in a non-stick pan (I used the one I cooked the chicken in).  Once the chicken and eggs are cooked, add all of the contents of your holding plate to the wok.  In addition to this add the eggs, bean sprouts and scallions.  Toss evenly.  Serve immediately.   I served this with some sambal, and typically some hoisin would go well with this, but that isn't paleo so I opted out.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Grilled Mahi with Sun-dried Tomato and Bacon Jam

As you may have noticed, it has been a while since my last post.  Really it has a lot to do with the fact that we started changing our eating habits quite a bit lately.  We recently cut out all grains, most dairy (except for cheese every now and then), refined carbohydrates and all refined sugar.  Our diet consists mostly of lean meats, fresh veggies and fruits, nuts seeds and coconut and olive oil.  We  are doing something similar to the Paleo diet, but we're not fully paleo as every now and again we eat beans and we're not eliminating dairy 100% just scaling WAY back.  All of this started because I have some serious food allergies, and a few health issues that I am trying to correct by modifying our diets.  I have been finding blogging difficult because I am still trying to figure out what works and what doesn't.  I've made a few really yummy dishes and this here is one of them. 

So far the diet is going well.  Every now and again i'll get a craving for something I can't have like bread or rice, but in all honesty, the cravings have subsided tremendously.  It was much harder in the beginning.  We have also been working out and I know that has been helping out too. I've lost a few pounds, but I've got a long way to go.  I find that he most challenging part of this diet is how expensive it is, and really if you're looking for convenience, then this might not be for you.  You basically have to cook and prep everything yourself because most things on grocery shelves have added sugars, soybean oil, corn additives and lots of other stuff that if you're like me, have allergies to, you'll have to omit or make yourself using allowable ingredients.  The other challenge is coming up with enough dishes in the rotation so that you don't get bored.  This is where planning has been crucial. I find that if I plan ahead, then I won't be scrambling at the last minute after a long day of work trying to figure out what to make.  I am still learning as I go, and if I come up with any recipes that are keepers i'll share on here.  

*disclaimer- I will refer to our new diet as Paleo even though we are not following it exactly.  It is just easier to refer to this way... and it is awfully similar, we're just not as strict with it as others.

Side note: We also don't eat pork or shellfish and the bacon I've used for years has been turkey bacon.  It never really quite tasted like the real thing, but it was the best substitute I could find.  That is, until I discovered beef bacon.  It tastes just like the real thing and is so delicious. We are so happy to have some bacon back in our lives!

Without further ado, here is the recipe for this dish:  I had mine with some spaghetti squash and B. had his with some Zucchini noodles.

For the Jam:
1 large onion finely diced
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
8 slices bacon (I used beef bacon)
1 pint baby bella mushrooms
1/3 cup diced sun-dried tomatoes
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup chicken stock
Salt and cracked pepper to taste

First, cook the bacon until crisp.  Transfer to a plate lined with paper towel.  Reserve a little of the bacon fat and use that to saute the onions and garlic.  Next add the mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes. Stir all of the ingredients and cook until tender.  Next add the chicken stock and the balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and black pepper to taste.  Mix everything well and transfer to a serving bowl.

For the Fish:
2 pieces of Mahi fillets (use one fillet per person)
1 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Add the oil to a non-stick pan and turn the pan up to medium high heat.  Make sure you pat the fish dry (this will ensure you get a nice sear on the fish).  Next season the fish with salt and pepper.  Place on the pan undisturbed for 2-3 minutes.  Season the other side of the fish and flip over.

Place a serving of the Jam on your plate.  Place the fish fillet on top of it and place a little more of the jam on top.  Serve with your favorite veggie.  I had some spaghetti squash and it went really well with this.  B. liked it with the zucchini since he doesn't care for spaghetti squash.  If you're not doing paleo you could serve this with rice, or pasta such as orzo or angel hair.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Grilled Rosemary Chicken with Balsamic Sauce

Today was a busy busy Sunday! Time flew today, but we sure got a lot done- I updated my iPod, cleaned, packed lunches and made this simple and spring-inspired meal.  Putting the chicken in a brine made them really juicy and full of flavor without adding extra fat.  Grilling them on our BBQ grill also gave them that nice smokey grill taste. It was a perfect meal for our busy Sunday, but quick and easy enough for any night of the week.

For the brine:
4 cups water
2 tbsp. salt
3 tbsp. sugar
1/4 freshly squeezed lemon juice

Mix all of the ingredients well until the sugar and salt have dissolved.  Place a quart-size freezer bag inside a deep bowl.  Make sure you wash the chicken really well first and then add it to the bag.  Next add the brine liquid and seal the bag, removing as much excess air as possible.  Place the bowl in the fridge for a minimum of four hours, but for best results, leave overnight.

Ingredients for the chicken:
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast per person
1 tbsp. freshly chopped rosemary per chicken breast
1 tbsp. olive oil per chicken breast (but do not exceed 4 tbsp. if making 8 or less chicken breasts)
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove the chicken from the brine and place on a cutting board.  Butterfly each breast and score it on either side season with the salt and pepper.  Repeat until you have done this to all the pieces.  Add the chicken to a bowl and then add in the olive oil and rosemary and move around to coat everything evenly.  Turn on your grill  to medium-low and let it heat for about 15 minutes before placing the chicken on it.  Let the chicken cook undisturbed for about 8 minutes before flipping over.  Brush the cooked side with  half of the the balsamic glaze- recipe below. After the chicken is cooked completely, remove from the grill and slice into strips.  Drizzle the glaze over the top of the chicken right before serving.

For the Balsamic Glaze:
1 cup balsamic vinegar
3 large garlic cloves, grated
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/3 cup chicken stock
2 tsp. fresh chopped rosemary
1 tsp. cracked black pepper
salt to taste

Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan and let it simmer on low heat until about half of the liquid has reduced.   The consistency should be thick, but not goopy, enough to coat a spoon, but easy enough to spoon over the chicken.

I served the chicken with jasmine rice, and a trio of raw veggies:  asparagus, thinly sliced red onion, and thinly sliced tomatoes seasoned with lots of cracked black pepper, salt and a little extra virgin olive oil.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Veggie Delight

Lately, I've been making things that are quick, easy, and don't involve a lot of clean-up. I came up with the veggie delight sandwich- totally a knock-off of the subway sandwich, but so much yummier.  I finally had a little down-time over the weekend and decided it was time to get back to blogging with this recipe.

I've been busy with other things too besides work- In November I became the proud owner of my very first Ocarina and my life hasn't been the same since then.

Then the other thing that has been going on is that we've started watching Battlestar Galactica... it is so good we don't want to think that it will ever be over...

But back to the reason why I logged on anyway, the veggie delight... my new favorite sandwich.  It sounds simple and boring, but trust me when I tell you that you won't believe how much taste is packed into this baby.  You should go try this, like right now.

1 whole wheat baguette
2 tbsp. butter
1 garlic clove, grated
1 large tomato, cut into thin slices
1 red onion cut into thin slices
1 bunch scallions cut into thin rounds
1 1/2 cup broccoli cut into thin slices (with stalks)
1/2 cup sliced button mushrooms
2 tbsp sliced black olives (I usually add this, but was out of them today)
1 jar mild banana peppers (this is really the star of dish)
1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
lots of freshly cracked pepper
Olive oil- to drizzle on top at the end
Salt to tase

First, slice the baguette lengthwise.  Grate the garlic into a small bowl or sauce and add the butter.  Melt the butter and let the garlic infuse it.  With a pastry brush, add a thin layer of melted butter to the bread and place on a baking sheet.  Toast in a 400 degree oven until the bread is slightly crunchy.   Remove from the oven.  While the bread is cooking, slice all of the veggies and begin layering on top of the bread, first the tomato, then the mushrooms, then the broccoli, then the onions, then the scallions, then the olives and lastly the banana peppers.  Sprinkle a little Parmesan cheese on top, and season with salt and pepper.  Lastly drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil over the top and eat immediately.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sweet Potato Cakes with Black Bean and Corn Salsa

This recipe is quick and great for a party appetizer.  Since sweet potatoes are in season, I had a few on hand and thought I'd use em up.  You could totally make this a vegetarian meal by omitting the turkey bacon.  I love how cute this little appetizer is lol.

For the sweet potato cakes:
2 cups mashed sweet potatoes
2 eggs
1 cups flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1 tsp. baking powder
4 tbsp. butter
1 green onion stalk, sliced into thin rounds
1 pinch cumin
2 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. black pepper
salt to taste

Pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees/ Combine all of the dry ingredients in a bowl.  Next add the mashed sweet potato to a deep mixing bowl.  Next add in the eggs, butter and green onions.  Combine all of the wet ingredients, before adding in the dry ingredients.  Once all of the ingredients are in the same bowl, combine well, making sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl.  Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and place a dollop of the mix onto the surface of the cookie sheet- it should look like the size of a lemon (in diameter).  Flatten them down a little with your spatula and bake for 25-30 minutes.

 For the salsa:
1 can black beans, drained
1 cup corn kernels, thawed
5 strips turkey bacon, diced
1/4 cup red onion finely diced
1 tomato cubed
1 stalk  green onion, plus more for garnish
3 garlic cloves, grated
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/8 tsp. cumin
salt to taste

Add the corn, tomatoes, black beans, onions, garlic and green onions into a bowl. Cook the bacon in the oven at 400 degrees until it is crispy.  Slice the bacon into thin pieces and add to the bowl.  Next add in the lime juice, olive oil, black pepper, cumin and salt and combine every thing well.

For the garlicky sauce:
2 tbsp light mayo
2 tbsp. light sour cream
1 garlic clove grated
1 tsp. fresh lime juice
salt to taste

Combine all of the ingredients well.  Making sure to remove any lumps- you want a velvety smooth cream.

Assemble  by placing a sweet potato cake down on a serving dish. Next spoon a dollop of the sauce, followed by a scoop of the salsa.  Garnish with some sliced green onions.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Grilled Rib Eye Steak with Roasted Tomatoes and Sweet Potatoes

Last night, I made grilled rib-eye steaks with roasted cherry tomatoes and sweet potatoes.  I like my steak to taste like steak, so the marinade is really simple just a few ingredients.  The potatoes and tomatoes were roasted simply with a few garnishes.

Ingredients for the steak:
2 rib-eye steaks
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic
1 tbsp. butter
lots of freshly cracked pepper
salt to taste

First place the steak on a plate and drizzle a the olive oil on both sides of each piece.  Grate the garlic and smear it over the tops of both sides of the steak.  Season with lots of freshly cracked pepper and salt and place in a zip lock bag and place it in the fridge.  Marinate for four hours.

Once you're ready to cook the steak, add the butter to a cast-iron skillet and turn the heat up to high.  Scrape off the garlic from the steak (if you add it now it will burn) and season again with salt and pepper.  Place the steaks in the skillet and allow it to cook on high heat for about 4 minutes (or until a nice crunchy layer forms) before flipping. Let the bottom layer cook until it's nicely browned on that side too.  Then cover with foil and lower the heat to medium.  Continue to let the steak cook until it reaches your desired doneness- feeling the center using this method as a guide. Let the steak rest for about 5 minutes before cutting into it.

For the tomatoes and sweet potatoes:
Season the tomatoes with a little olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper and roast at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. Prick the sweet potatoes all around with a fork and cover with foil.  Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Slice the potatoes in half, add a little butter, salt and brown sugar over the top.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Apricot Glazed Turkey Breast

This recipe has a story behind it, one that I’d like to share as part of my entry in the Spreading Smucker’s® Traditions Recipe and Essay Contest.

When I was in my early twenties I moved to Ohio to be with my husband. That time in my life was exciting and filled with new changes. Thanksgiving came shortly after I arrived. I had just moved and couldn't afford to go home to spend it with my family. Although I missed everyone, it was also one of the happiest moments of my time in Ohio. That year, I planned an elaborate meal for the two of us. We often drove by the Smucker's plant in Orville, Ohio and that gave me the idea for the Thanksgiving turkey I prepared. I kept the same recipe that my grandmother had always used, but I added an apricot glaze. To some it may have been just a Thanksgiving turkey, but to me, it represented much more- the love I had for my family's traditions, and my excitement for contributing to those traditions with my own personal touch. I made all of the Thanksgiving fixings and we had dinner in our quaint little kitchen. Although we were not able to spend that Thanksgiving with our family, we were comforted by the familiar flavors of home in our first Thanksgiving meal together.

2 turkey breasts split in two (brined for 8-12 hours previously)
8 cloves of garlic
1 large grapefruit
2 limes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup Smucker's Apricot or  Peach Preserves
1 package turkey bacon (optional- I did one breast with the bacon and one breast without)

First, remove the turkey from the brine and place the breasts in a roasting pan.  Grate the garlic into a paste and divide in half.  Use half of the garlic and spread it evenly on both breasts.  Season the turkey well with salt and pepper and squeeze the juice from one lime and one grapefruit over the turkey.  In a separate mixing bowl, add the apricot preserves, the remaining garlic, salt, pepper and the juice of the other lime and the other grapefruit and whisk well.  Using a basting brush, brush on half of the glaze over the each of the turkey breasts.  Cover with foil and place inside a 325 degree oven.  Cook for 45 minutes and remove the pan from the oven.  Remove the foil and at this point if you'd like to use the bacon, drape it over the turkey breast. Baste the breasts with some of the drippings. Next, brush the remainder of the glaze over the turkey breasts and place back in the oven to cook for another 25 minutes.  Right before serving, place the roasting pan under the broiler to crisp up the skin/bacon.  Remove from the oven and let the turkey breast rest for 8 minutes before slicing.

Please visit to enter an essay of your own.  Good luck to all!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Simple Roasted Salmon

I have been sort of lazy in my blogging as of late. It might be caused by the extreme heat we've been feeling in Texas this summer.  If you don't live in the Midwest, it's hard to really describe unless you're experiencing it.  It feels like the sun is shooting lasers at your skin if you're outside for more than 5 minutes.  There is no cloud coverage at all.  We had a slight reprieve when the temperatures dropped dramatically to 90 degrees during the day! Needless to say, this heat just zaps any energy you have.  It reminds me of the twilight zone episode called Midnight Sun where people are suffering extreme heat exhaustion because the sun is burning constant all day and night.  So what does this have to do with my blogging you might ask? Well the truth is that I just don't feel like cooking things that are hot, or cooking at all for that matter.  There have been days where I'll have cereal for dinner or crackers and deli meat.  The days that I do cook, I try to make stuff that isn't too heavy, and the last thing I feel like doing is messing with camera equipment, staging the shoot etc.  I am beyond ready for fall.  I have been trying my best to get into the spirit of the fall season but it's really hard to do that when it's still 108 degrees in the late afternoon.  I did manage to make a light roasted salmon which I served with a fresh green salad.  This is fast, easy and not too heavy if you're feeling the heat too.  Plus it doesn't take that long to cook so your oven won't emit heat for that long.  We all know how high the electricity bills are coming in trying to cool off our homes in Texas!

1.5 lbs. fresh salmon fillets
1 bunch green onions
1 small onion cut into thin rounds
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. butter
1-2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
freshly cracked pepper
salt to taste

First, pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.  Place the salmon in a baking dish and season with salt and pepper.  Cut thin pats of butter and place them on top of the salmon and underneath. Place the onion rounds under the salmon.  If you want to spray your baking sheet with non-stick spray that is probably a good idea to prevent the salmon from sticking.   Place in the oven for about 6 minutes.  Remove from the oven and flip the salmon over.  Season with salt and pepper.  Slice the green onions and grate the garlic.  Rub the grated garlic over the salmon and sprinkle the green onions on top.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the top and cook for another 4 minutes.  Remove from the oven and serve with a nice crisp salad.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Fresh Corn Soup

I made this soup for the first time about a month ago, when I saw that corn on the cob was on sale for 20 cents a piece.  This soup is light yet filling. Paired with a fresh green salad, it makes a lovely weeknight meal. My only gripe is that I made this after dark and the pictures didn't come out that great, but I intend on swapping out the pictures the next time I make this.

6 cobs of corn (you could use three cups of frozen corn kernels if you're in a hurry)
1 quart chicken stock
1 tbsp. flour
1 small onion
2 tbsp. butter
4 tbsp. cream
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

First wrap the corn in foil and bake them in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let them cool enough for you to handle without burning your hands.  Next remove the kernels of corn from the cob and set aside.  Chop the onion and set aside.  Add the butter to a pot and let it simmer on medium heat until the butter turns slightly brown and nutty.   At this point add in the onions and let them cook until they become tender.  Add the flour to the pot and then add in the chicken stock, corn nutmeg, cayenne pepper and salt. Make sure you taste the soup before adding the salt because the chicken stock also has salt in it.  Whisk vigorously to break up  any clumps of flour that may have formed. It's not a whole lot of flour so it should be fairly easy to incorporate.  Let everything simmer for about 5 minutes before transferring all of the contents of the pot into a blender.  Blend on high speed for about 4 minutes.  It seems like a long time, but blending it well will give you a gloriously velvety soup.  Add all of the contents back to the pot and add in the cream. Stir the soup to combine the cream well and serve hot.

Side note: if you want to make this a vegetarian soup, just swap out the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Blackened Bass

Last summer my assistant went on a fishing trip and caught a ton of stripped bass.  I had never had stripped bass, but coincidentally, had researched the possibility of going out on fishing excursion for just that.  I grew up in Miami, and my dad was a fisherman for some time.  He did it for sport and was really good at it.  His love for for fishing was passed on to my brothers and I.  But alas, I moved to north Texas where there is nary an ocean in sight.  The closest one is probably Galveston, but that's still a ways away.  I had never done freshwater fishing, but there are several lakes in the area where you can fish for stripped bass, largemouth bass, sunfish, and several varieties of catfish.  I never went on that fishing trip because it was super expensive to hire a guide for half a day, and you could only catch 2 fish per person.  I figured I'd just go and spend the money on a nice piece of fish from whole foods since that was a sure thing.  My assistant went on a fishing trip again this summer, and she brought me back a nice fillet of stripped bass. I had never had it, but it was really good.  The texture was really firm and the fish was mild.  I was so thankful to her for bringing me a piece- I am now reconsidering that fishing trip since I liked it so much!

1 lb. bass fillet (or any firm white fish)
2 tbsp. Cajun seasoning (I use this one)
2 tbsp. butter
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 tsbp. lemon juice
1/4 cup sliced green onions
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tsp. salt

First pre-heat your oven to broil on the medium setting.  Place the fish in a baking dish.  Grate the garlic and with a butter knife, spread a thin layer of the garlic over each piece of fish.  Next sprinkle the Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper over the fish.  I normally don't use seasoning blends as I find that I like to make them myself, but this is the exception- this is a great spice blend and is very versatile. Cut the butter into thin little slices and place the pats on top of the fish.  Squeeze the lemon juice over the fish and broil for about 9 minutes on the middle rack of your oven.  Garnish with the green onions and add more lemon if desired before serving.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Buttermilk Oven-Fried Chicken

Last weekend I made a southern inspired meal which consisted of  sweet tea, buttermilk oven-fried chicken, cornbread, coleslaw, mashed potatoes and home-made pound cake with a citrus cream.  Fried chicken is something we rarely eat, but about once a year we'll get a hankering for it.   I attempted to make fried chicken for the first time during the memorial day weekend, but it was a complete train wreck.  The recipe I followed looked great in the pictures, but the chicken itself was gross, the breading was not crunchy, in fact it was soggy in parts, and didn't have much taste.  I decided to create my own recipe this time and I think it was MUCH better. Letting the chicken marinate in buttermilk really yields a super moist texture that is only complemented by the crunchy exterior.

1  chicken (2-3 lbs but no bigger)
4 cups buttermilk
3 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. paprika
2 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. pepper
canola or peanut oil for frying

Begin by cutting the chicken into pieces.  Make sure you wash each piece really really well.   Get in there and remove all of the gross bits like the veins and excess fat along with that clear goop that the chicken tends to have. Rinse each piece with vinegar and set aside.  In a large gallon ziplock bag, add the buttermilk and then begin adding the chicken.  Store the chicken in the fridge overnight to marinate.

The next day set up your breading station.  In a shallow bowl add the flour and all of the seasonings and combine well.  Begin taking each piece of the chicken and dredging it in the flour.  Set aside until you're ready to begin frying.

The next steps are crucial if you want to get a nice crispy texture on the outside.  Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line the bottom of a baking sheet with parchment paper to prevent sticking. In a large non-stick shallow  pan, add enough oil to come up about one inch from the bottom.   Turn the heat on to medium high, and let the temperature come up to 360 degrees.  Once the oil is hot, begin adding the chicken in.  Do not crowd the pan because you'll cause the temperature to drop and this will give you an oil texture instead of a nice light crunchy texture.  Allow the chicken to cook until it has a very light golden color on all sides.  Make sure you use tongs to turn the chicken and to remove it from the pan- using a fork will pierce the meat and cause the juices to flow out yielding a dry texture- NOT what you want in fried chicken.  Transfer each piece of chicken to the parchment lined baking sheet and bake for about 35-40 minutes, making sure to turn the chicken once through the baking process.   To keep the chicken crispy, place a cooling rack on top of a baking sheet and then place the chicken pieces on the cooling rack to drain any excess oil.  Season with a light sprinkling of salt all over and serve hot.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Yuquita Frita (Fried Cassava)

I am embarrassed to say that I have only posted one recipe using yuca, and the fact that this blog is called the YUCA Diaries means I need to start adding more yuca recipes pronto!  So this is a simple yuca appetizer or side dish that is probably the counterpart to American French fries. I rarely fry food, but this is one of those occasions where I made an exception. These were served with a garlicky dipping sauce. Without further ado... here is the recipe.

1 package frozen yuca
6 cups water
2 tsp salt
oil for frying (I use canola)

Add the water , 1 tsp. of salt and frozen yuca to a pressure cooker and cook on medium high for about half an hour or until the yuca is really tender. Dump the yuca into a colander to drain. Set aside to cool a bit.  You'll want to cut the yuca into strips similar to the size of steak fries.   Add oil to a non-stick pan and turn the heat up to medium high.  Once the oil is hot, add the yuca in and let it cook undisturbed until it's golden brown.  Transfer to a cooling rack and season with a little salt.

For the dipping sauce:
1 cup light mayo
1 bunch finely chopped Italian parsley or cilantro (whichever you're in the mood for.  I used parsley this time)
2 large garlic cloves, grated
2 tbsp. water
3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/8 tsp. soy sauce
salt to taste

First add the mayo to a mixing bowl. Next grate the garlic and chop the parsley and add it to the bow.  Mix well.  Finally add in the water, lime juice soy sauce, and salt and combine well. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Grilled Chicken according to Dana

If it weren't for the story attached to this post, I may not have considered this "blog worthy". You see, pollo a la plancha, or grilled chicken, is a very simple, almost no-brainer of a dish. It's basically a boneless, skinless chicken breast that is grilled with some onions, and is available in every Cuban restaurant in Miami. It's healthy and perfect for a weeknight meal. But this dish will forever hold a special place in my heart because of the following story.

When I was very young and growing up, I had a very very dear friend named Dana. Dana and I were inseparable, truly joined at the hip. Dana was, and still is one of the quirkiest people i've ever known. She is extremely funny, but the kind of funny that is so without trying to be. One of the best kinds of "funnies" in my opinion. Dana and I were together a lot, and it was not uncommon for her to come to dinner with my family and vice-versa. One day, we went to this very popular restaurant establishment called "Islas Canarias (Canary Islands) for dinner. The waiter comes around and introduces himself, brings the menus and says he'll be back to take the order shortly. So we're all looking at the menu and when the waiter comes around everyone starts placing their order. Finally the gentleman gets to Dana and asks, "and what can I get for you, young lady?" Without batting an eyelash, she blurts out "I'd like the "pajaro planchado please". Needless to say, this started a wave of hysterical laughter in the restaurant that only got louder and louder. I almost choked on my drink, my brothers were cracking up and the poor waiter (whom was an older, serious fellow) had to hold back tears of laughter. Dana was dying of embarrassment which made it all the funnier and the more we tried to stop laughing the harder it was. It was so funny- the kind of funny where your stomach hurts, you can't breathe, and you're wiping tears from your eyes. For those who don't speak Spanish, she had just referred to the grilled chicken breast as an "ironed bird" instead of "chicken on the grill"-and although it doesn't translate well into English, was one of the funniest things I'd ever heard. It was one of those "you had to be there moments" but suffice it to say that every time I have this dish it is "parajo planchado" and not "pollo a la plancha".

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 lime
1 tsp. salt
1 small onion, cut into thin rounds
2 tsp. olive oil

The trick to making this dish really flavorful and juicy is to butterfly the breast, and then pound it out so that it's nice and thin. You also don't want to cook the chicken any longer than you have to, otherwise it can be as dry as the sole of your shoe. Since the chicken is very thin, it wont take long at all.  About 2-3 minutes on each side. Begin by seasoning the chicken breasts on both sides and setting aside.  In a large non-stick skillet or grill pan, add the olive oil and turn up to high heat.  When the pan get really really hot, add the chicken breasts and let them cook until they get nice and slightly golden.  Flip them over, squeeze a generous amount of lime juice over the chicken and finish cooking on the other side.  Transfer the chicken to a plate.   Next add the onions to the pan, season them with a little salt, and saute them for a few minutes, until they're nice and translucent and have sweetened.  Place a bed of onions on your serving plate and then place the chicken on top of the onions.  Serve with white rice and black beans, or a large green salad for a healthier option.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Delicioso Appearance!

As some of you may have seen here before or through my Facebook or twitter updates, I recently went down to Miami to record a guest appearance on the show, Delicioso, hosted by Ingrid Hoffman and Maggie Jimenez.

Back in November, they ran an online poll where the public was asked to vote for their favorite blogger.  I received the most hits and was invited to the show as a result.

The experience was surreal. I showed up at the set early in the morning.  Like a true Cuban, I showed up with a small entourage... my mom, grandmother and brother all came along for moral support.  And I needed it, I definitely started to get a little nervous when I walked in and saw all of the cameras, personnel, lights. I felt better after receiving a warm welcome from Maggie, whom I had met in Dallas when I interviewed for the original segment, and from one of the producers who helped make my appearance on the show possible.  It was very cool to be able to see how the show was produced an recorded.

First they filmed Ingrid's cooking segment, then they filmed the celebrity guest segment and then it was my turn.  I started getting incrementally more nervous, but finally I told myself to get a grip and I went up there, had the mic hooked up and said a quick prayer in my head, asking that I not look like a fool on national TV!  I spoke to Ingrid and Maggie for a little while before the segment was being shot, and then just dove right in.

They were both very gracious hosts, you could tell that they've got this down to a science.  They were so comfortable on camera that it made me feel more relaxed.  They asked me several questions, like why I started blogging in the first place.  I answered and said that I had really wanted to write a cookbook, but had no idea how, and that the blog seemed like the easiest and most convenient way to start documenting my recipes.  They asked me a few other questions and to be honest, I was so nervous that I could not, for the life of me, remember what I had said. It was only after watching the show that I realized what I said. After the segment was recorded, I was able to take a few pictures with the hosts.  I had a great time on the set and am thrilled to have had the opportunity.

Below are a few pictures of the shoot:

Monday, June 27, 2011

Perfect Home-made Popcorn!

I have said many a time here before how popcorn is my favorite snack.  Popcorn and frozen yogurt actually, I can't quite pick between the two, it really just depends on whether I want something sweet or savory.  Popcorn is one of those things, that no matter how full I am, if I smell it, I want it.  It makes watching movies so much more enjoyable, but after reading an article that named movie-theater popcorn as one of the worst foods of all time, I no longer treat myself to the buttery, crunchy delight.  This inspired me to make  delicious popcorn at home.  Microwave popcorn doesn't even count as far as I'm concerned.  But not all popcorn was created equal either.   There is a right way to enjoy popcorn in my opinion:  using only three ingredients and cooked on the stove.  Something else I'd like to point out is that there are all kinds of gourmet popcorn kernels available- the perfect gift for the popcorn lover in your family.  They range from the whitest of white all the way to  midnight black. Some yield fluffy large kernels and others yield crunchier smaller kernels.  Tastes also range from mild and crisp to nutty and buttery.  Today I'll show two varieties, and my favorite way make home-made popcorn.

The first variety I made was the standard golden Orville Redenbacher popping corn.  The actual corn kernel is large and plump, and has a beautiful golden color.  The popped kernel yields a mild flavor, pops really fluffy and large and has a slight yellowish hue to it.

The second batch I made is known as "black jewel" popcorn.  The description on the site says " black jewel kernels are smaller with a tender hull that shatters when it pops. This means you get fewer hulls in your teeth and gums. Fewer hulls mean black jewel popcorn is also easier to digest than yellow kernel popcorn. Black Jewel is a very flavorful, crunchy textured popcorn that pops snow white with black centers.  I found this description to be very accurate.  I will add that this variety has a much more noticeable "corn" flavor.  After trying them back to back, you realize how mild the standard variety is.  I personally like the black jewel variety better.  Also worth noting, the black jewel produces less volume than the standard yellow.  I had to use twice the amount of kernels to yield the same amount of popped corn that the yellow variety produced.  This is because the black kernel is smaller in size and not as fluffy.

Here is a picture of  the black jewel  kernels when they're un-popped and popped.

Now look at the difference side by-side:

Recipe for my favorite popcorn:

3  tbsp.  popping corn kernels (double this amount if you're making the black jewel variety)
2 tbsp. coconut oil (not extra virgin or it will impart the coconut taste)
2 tsp. popcorn salt

Add the kernels and oil into a pot with a lid and turn the heat up to medium high.  Leave the lid off until you start to hear a slight sizzle.  Place the lid over the pot and when you hear the first few kernels pop, turn the heat down to medium.  Turn off the heat once you hear the popping slow down a bit- about 1-2 minutes.  Let the pot rest for about one minute before removing the lid.  Transfer the popcorn into a large bowl and sprinkle the popcorn salt over the first few ladle fulls of popcorn.  Continue to add the popcorn to the bowl and season the top with a little more popcorn salt before serving.

Side note: it is very important that you use popcorn salt.  Popcorn salt is just salt that is very fine, but because it is so fine, it sticks to the popcorn.  Regular salt won't stick to the kernel and you'll have bland popcorn. Also. good to know, this popcorn keeps well in a zip lock bag for about a week.  I usually make a big batch and then put them in individual bags to take to work.  I hope you'll enjoy this recipe as much as we do, all in all it is a healthy snack that is full of fiber, whole grains, and gluten free. Plus, your house will smell like the movies for a little while which makes it great for those cozy blockbuster nights with your honey.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Death of My Dearly Beloved Grandmother, Ata

After a long hiatus in blogging, I am back to my regular routine. Several things took place over the last couple of weeks; I started a new class, flew home to record the Delicioso show, and experienced the death of my grandmother.  Now that the dust has settled, it has finally hit me: my grandmother is gone. This past week was tough, but it sort of feels like everything happened in frames, almost like a movie. After the stress of flying home in a rush, planning the funeral arrangements, contacting relatives and friends, being there for family, and finally laying her to rest,  I am emotionally drained.  The reality has set in.  I won't hear her voice anymore, or get to ask her how her day was, or what she made for dinner.  She won't ask me over and over why I've been married for almost 10 years and I still haven't given her any great-grandchildren, or why I moved so far away.

I take solace in the fact that she lived a long life, and that I was able to say goodbye.  I saw God's hand in how everything played out.  I wasn't supposed to travel home this summer at all.  I started taking a photography class and decided that I didn't want to miss any of the sessions, but out of the blue, one of the producers from the Delicioso show called me and asked me if I could make it over to Miami so that I could film a segment of the show.  I was in Miami for a few days and was heading home first thing Friday morning.  I decided to spend some time with my grandmother Thursday afternoon.  I spent a good three hours with her in her house.  Talking and laughing with her.  She told me stories of my childhood, and some of her youth as she usually did.  I picked up my keys to leave about after an hour of our visit, but for some reason, I decided to stay a while longer.  I did this three times but decided to stay, thinking to myself that I didn't know when I’d see her again.  Right before I left, she asked me to hang up her clothes, and I can't explain it, but I got this overwhelming feeling that moment would be the last time I'd be in her apartment.  I remember looking at all her things with this feeling of sadness and nostalgia thinking to myself what a clean and organized “viejita” she was.  I gave her a big hug and stroked her silver hair for the last time before heading home. I was even able to video tape her telling me a story. I spent the day with her for most of that Thursday.  I received a call Friday evening from my brother saying that my grandmother had suffered a heart attack and was in critical condition.  She died Saturday morning at dawn.

Most people would rationalize this loss and say things like "she was ninety-six, and lived a long life" or "at least she died quickly and didn't suffer".  And although these things are true, it still doesn't take away the enormous hole that is in my heart now that she is gone.  She is a big part of me, and I am so thankful for all the love she gave me throughout my life.  My grandmother was an orphan when she was very little. She never met her dad and her mother died when she was four.  She lost her daughter at the age of seven and her eldest son at the age of seventeen to sicknesses that in today's world are curable.  Yet despite all of these things, she was able to move on.  She demonstrated a resilience that was always astounding to me.  Despite those tragedies, she was filled with life, laughter and love.  She didn't have much to give in terms of wealth, but she gave what she could: herself.  Everything she did, she did for my brothers,  my dad and me.  She was selfless and demonstrated unconditional and unwavering love for us and those around her.

I have so many lovely memories of her.  She was truly always there for us, and for me. I depended on her in ways that I can't quite explain.  I am a self-sufficient adult, who is stable, healthy and happy, yet I always looked at her through the eyes of a child.  She kept my childhood alive through her stories and the memories she created. It feels as though a piece of my childhood is gone now that she is not with me. She influenced me in so many ways, from my love of the kitchen and cooking to always being loyal to my family above all, regardless of what may have happened.  She was loved by so many, and it was not surprising to see how many people mourned her loss.

Although the wound is still fresh, I know in time it will get easier, but I also know I will never forget her- she will always be a part of me. I will never forget how she greeted me when I arrived from Dallas  to visit her for this last time.  She smiled and laughed when she saw me as tears of joy streamed down her face. What a reception that was.  It is not every day that one receives a welcoming like that. But my grandmother was an exceptionally loving person who truly loved without restraint. Even though I try, I can't seem to get her off my mind. I miss her so much already and she's only been gone a few days.  I look forward to the day when I can sit down next to her and give her a hug and she can ask me about those great-grandchildren again.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Mozzarella-Stuffed Bruschetta Turkey Burgers with Sweet Balsamic Glaze

I started the gym again and after the pain I put myself through on that elliptical, I didn't want to just blow it on something super fattening.  I was in the mood for a nice satisfying dinner that was also healthy.  I saw this recipe on foodgawker,  last year and added it to my favorites.  I have been meaning to make it for some time now, and was glad I thought of it last night.   The recipe was easy to make, high in protein, low in carbs and full of fresh veggies.  I think this is going to make a comeback again real soon in my kitchen.

Recipe Adapted from Iowa Girl Eats, serves 6

For the burger:
2.5 lbs. lean ground turkey
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 garlic cloves, grated
1/2 red onion, grated
1 tsp. olive oil
6 tbsp. shredded mozzarella cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Begin by placing the ground turkey into a mixing bowl.  Add the Parmesan cheese, the basil, oregano, salt, and pepper to the bowl.  Next add in the grated garlic, onion and olive oil and combine well.   Form a thin patty and then place one tbsp. of the mozzarella cheese on top of the patty leaving a rim around the edge with no cheese.  Place some more of the burger mixture on top of the patty, covering the cheese and pinching the edges to lock in the cheese.  Place a non-stick skillet (one with a lid) on medium high heat and let the pan get hot.  Place the burgers in the pan and brown well.  Flip the burgers over and allow them to brown on the other side.  These burgers are sort of thick, but you'll have to cook them all the way through since you're using poultry.  An easy way to do this is to place the lid on the pan and bring the heat down to low.  Allow the burgers to cook undisturbed for 10 minutes.

For the brushetta topping:
8 Roma tomatoes, diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
2 garlic cloves, grated
2 tbsp. freshly chopped basil
1 tbsp. freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste ( I used lots of freshly grated pepper for this)

While the burgers cook, begin making the topping and balsamic glaze (recipe to follow).  Begin by dicing the tomatoes and adding them to a mixing bowl.  Finely dice the onions and add them to the bowl, along with the grated garlic clove.  Chop the parsley and basil and toss into the bowl.  Next add the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and combine everything well.

For the Balsamic Glaze:
1  1/2 cup aged balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 of a  small garlic clove, grated
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper

Add all of the ingredients to a small saucepan and let it simmer on medium heat until it reduces to the consistency of maple syrup.  Assemble the burgers by placing the brushetta topping on top of each burger and then drizzling with the balsamic glaze.  I served this with a garlicky pea puree.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chicken, Mushroom and Orzo Chowder with Lemon

I made this soup recently when it was stormy and rainy outside.  Something about rainy weather just makes you reach for something warm and comforting and this fit the bill.  It goes really well with a nice piece of crusty garlic bread.  Also, good to know, this soup freezes really well.  If you're going to freeze it, just chop the parsley and spinach and add it to the soup when re-heating.

1 whole chicken, cut into pieces
2 quarts chicken stock
1 large onion
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
5 cloves garlic (grated)
2 carrots
1 tsp. olive oil
2 cups sliced mushrooms
5 cups fresh chopped baby spinach
1 cup fresh chopped parsley
2 tbsp. cream
1/8 tsp. cumin
2 whole lemons
1 cup dried orzo (you could sub this with white beans if you're trying to watch the carbs or want to make this gluten free)
lots of freshly cracked pepper
salt to taste

First wash the chicken well and cut it into pieces.  Place the chicken into a stock pot along with the chicken stock, bay leaf and thyme.  Allow the chicken to cook on medium high for 25 minutes.  Remove the chicken and place on a cutting board. Strain the stock and put it back into the stock pot.  While the chicken cools, dice the onion, slice the mushrooms and grate the garlic.  Transfer to a non-stick skillet and saute with a tiny little bit of olive oil ( 1 tsp.). Allow the veggies to cook on medium high heat.  Remove the skin off the chicken and begin shredding into large strips.  Add the spinach to the skillet and saute until it slightly wilts.  Transfer the chicken back into the stockpot along with the ingredients in the skillet.  Stir everything well and begin peeling your carrot.  Cut the carrot into cubes and add to the pot.  Bring the soup up to strong simmer and let it cook for 10 minutes before adding the orzo.   Add in the cumin and pepper. Squeeze the juice of the lemons and stir well. Cook until the orzo is al dente.  Finish off by adding the cream and the chopped parsley.  Remove the bay leaf and the thyme stalk before serving and add a little extra lemon to your bowl if desired.  Serve with crusty garlic bread.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Japanese Cheesecake

Hi everyone! Sorry I've been missing in action for a little while.  I've been cooking, but lately I haven't really made anything quite blog worthy.  Not until this cheesecake at least.  For the sake of 'keeping it real' I am not going to lie.  This thing was such a mission to make.  It wasn't hard at all, but there are a lot of steps and you'll have lots of dirty bowls by the time you're done. But please don't let that deter you. Once you take the first bite,  you'll realize it was totally worth the trouble.  This cheesecake is much lighter than it's American cousin,  creamy and subtly sweet. The texture is almost like a souffle. When you pair it with fresh mango, it's a masterpiece. I made this for mother's day, and although I had a traumatic experience that day,(sliced my finger with a really sharp knife as I was cutting a bell pepper, bled like crazy, and fainted twice- I know what a sissy!) it had the same effect as when you get a lollipop at the Dr.'s office after a shot.  The good news is you won't slice your finger since you don't need any knives to make this!

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese
4 tbsp. butter (2 oz.)
3 eggs (separated)
1 tbsp. sugar
1 ½ tbsp. cornstarch
½ cup milk
¼ cup sugar

 Start by preheating your oven to 350°F. Next begin separating the egg yolks from the whites and putting them into separate bowls. Put the bowl of egg whites into the freezer until the edges being to freeze. In a large mixing bowl, blend the cream cheese on high speed, until you have a nice creamy, soft texture, scraping the sides of the bowl to break up any lumps. Add the butter to a small saucepan to soften and slightly melt and add the butter to the cream cheese. Blend again for about 3 minutes on high speed. You want to have a fluffy airy mixture. Set this bowl aside.

Next add ¼ cup of sugar to the egg whites and beat until you have a soft meringue. Set aside.

Add the cornstarch, milk, and 1 tbsp. of sugar to the bowl with the egg yolks. Whisk everything well and place the bowl over a double boiler, stirring consistently until the mixture becomes very thick. Add this mixture to the cream cheese and combine well. You’ll want to scrape the sides of the bowl and the bottom to make sure you’ve incorporated everything well.

Now we’ll begin gently folding in the egg whites, about 1/3 of the mixture at a time.

Line your pan with parchment paper. You’ll want to make sure the parchment comes up about 1” above the pan. Pour the batter into your pan and place in a water bath. Bake at 350°F for 15 minutes, lower the temperature to 320°F and bake for another 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, but leave the cheesecake in the oven for another 40 minutes before removing. Cool the cheesecake and cover the pan with foil. Refrigerate overnight or at least for 4 hours. Slice and serve with some fresh mango.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mutter Paneer... My Favorite Indian Dish

Mutter Paneer is my favorite Indian Dish. It is from North India and its also vegetarian.  B. and I had it for the first time a few years ago at this great Indian restaurant in Panama City.  It's the best Indian food we've had to date. Paneer is an Indian farmer's cheese, and in this dish, it is cooked in a beautifully spiced sauce with peas.  Simmered to perfection and great for dunking Naan into.   I've seen this dish also made with cottage cheese, but I prefer it with the solid cheese.  It was my first attempt at making this dish and it was really really good.  All I needed was the Mango Lassi to complete the meal.

2 cups cubed paneer (or solid frying cheese)
1 tbsp. light olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
4 garlic cloves, minced or grated
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tbsp.  yellow curry powder
1/2 tsp. garam masala
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1 small red chili (minced, for a milder version, remove the seeds before chopping)
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup plain yogurt
3 tbsp. cream (light)
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt to taste

First begin by cubing the paneer.  In a non-stick skillet, place a little canola oil into the pan and turn the heat up to medium.  Next add in the paneer and begin browning. Turning over once the bottom side is golden brown.  Once all of the cheese is browned, transfer to a holding plate.  Next begin making the paste by adding the grated garlic, ginger, curry powder, garam masala, cumin, turmeric, and  cayenne pepper  into the skillet with a little canola oil.  Let the paste simmer on low heat, while you chop up the onion.  Add in the onion to the skillet and pour in the can of crushed tomatoes to the pan.  Next, add the yogurt, cream,chopped chili and salt and whisk everything to remove any lumps from the yogurt.  Let the sauce simmer for about 15 minutes on low heat.  Add in the lemon juice, frozen peas and the paneer and stir well. Let everything simmer for another 5 minutes and serve.  Garnish with some freshly chopped cilantro.

Side note: In case you're wondering what is in the bowl next to the paneer, it's coleslaw.  I know you may think it is weird, but the sweetness and crunchiness of the coleslaw is so refreshing against the spiciness and creaminess of the curry that they really compliment each other.   All I'm sayin' is don't knock it till you try it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Pechugas Rellenas (Stuffed Chicken Breasts)

My mom has been making this dish for as long as I can remember.  It is definitely one of her specialties.  They're pretty easy to make and are great for when you're entertaining.  I made this dish one time recently after I got married and we were hosting a dinner party.  One of the guests referred to them as "footballs" because they're lined with bacon and after they're cooked they resemble a little football.  I promise you they don't taste like a football though.  This is a family favorite that I hope you'll enjoy too.

Side note: I make these with turkey ham and turkey bacon because I follow kosher laws, but my mom makes hers with regular ham and bacon.

4 chicken breasts (or however many you need)
4 slices  Havarti cheese
4 slices Cheddar cheese
4 slices  turkey ham
1 package turkey bacon
2 tsp. creole seasoning (optional- I use the Chef Paul Prudhomme brand, the poultry magic variety)
Salt to taste

First begin by pre-heating your oven to 400 degrees.  Rinse the chicken breasts well, pat them dry, and butterfly them.  Once they're butterflied, season with the creole seasoning and salt.  On one side of the breast, place a slice of ham, a slice of Havarti and a slice of cheddar. Fold the other half of the chicken breast over and begin wrapping the chicken in the bacon.  You may have to secure the bacon with toothpicks if you're using turkey bacon because it's not as "elastic" as the pork kind.  The turkey kind is much leaner and doesn't have nearly as much give.  Repeat this process until the whole breast is covered, and all of the chicken breasts are assembled.  Place the chicken breasts on a baking rack that has some elevation.  There will be a sauce that collects in the bottom pan which is what we'll use to drizzle over the chicken once it's done.  Bake for 15 minutes on each side of the chicken and remove once the bacon is slightly crisp.  Let the chicken rest before slicing into rounds.  Serve with white rice and a nice green salad.

While the chicken rests, collect the sauce at the bottom of the pan and transfer to a sauce bowl. Break up any big clumps and drizzle over the chicken.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Matzo Crusted Chicken

Every year we celebrate the Days of Unleavened Bread, where we remove any products that contain leavening from our homes and do not consume any leavening for the duration of the festival days which lasts for 7 days.  I made the breading for this chicken using ground up matzos and some other ingredients.  The chicken was beautifully crunchy and golden when it came out of the oven and tasted great too. Just thought i'd share this recipe- even if you're not celebrating these days, the recipe is delicious nonetheless.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 box matzos
1/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
4 tbsp. butter, melted
1 garlic clove
salt and pepper to taste

The first thing to do is turn the oven up to 375 degrees.  In a food processor, blend the matzos until you have a fine meal.  Transfer the crushed matzos to a large mixing bowl.  To the matzos, add in the Parmesan cheese, the cornmeal and a pinch of salt.  Butterfly the chicken breasts and season them with a little salt and pepper.   Add the flour to a bowl, and beat the eggs in a separate bowl.  Place the flour, egg, and matzo bowls side by side.  Begin by dredging the chicken breasts in the flour, next in the egg, and finally in the matzo mixture.  Transfer the chicken to a plate and allow them to rest for a few minutes.   While the chicken rests,  grate the garlic clove into a small saucepan and add the butter, and melt. Take out a non-stick baking sheet and lay the chicken on top of it.   You'll want to make sure that you have a non-stick baking pan, otherwise the breading will stick.  If yours isn't non-stick, you could line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper.  Begin brushing the melted butter lightly on the top of the chicken, then flip them over and brush the other side with the rest of the butter.  Bake for 25 minutes or until nice and golden brown.  The chicken itself shouldn't take that long because once you butterfly the breasts, they're much thinner and cook much faster.

I served this with savory spinach pancakes, topped with yogurt sauce, roasted sweet potatoes and regular potatoes, and roasted asparagus.  I'll blog the spinach pancake recipe soon. They were awesome.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Spicy Schezwan Eggplant

A  few weeks ago, I asked you what veggie you would like to see more of through the Yuca Diaries' facebook page.  There was an overwhelming response for eggplant.  Secretly I was so happy about this, because eggplant happens to be one of my favorite vegetables.  Did you know that in Italy it is known as the "poor man's cutlet"? It is such a versatile veggie. So I embarked on my mission to cook up a tasty eggplant dish, but to my dismay, I went to four different grocery stores only to find out from the produce manager that the crop had been ruined because of bad weather.  I was overjoyed when I found my beloved eggplant about three weeks later.  So without further ado, here is what I made when I finally got my hands on it.

4 Chinese eggplants
1/4 cup sliced green onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
1″ knob of ginger, minced or grated
1/3 cup canola oil

 For the sauce:
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp. duck sauce
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. chili paste or Asian hot sauce like Sriracha

First slice the eggplant into planks, about 2-1/2 inches long. Add the canola oil to a wok and turn the heat up to high. Add the eggplant in batches. You may have to add a little more oil for the second batch. Saute the eggplant on high heat, stirring occasionally.

Let the eggplant get golden brown on all sides. In a separate bowl, combine the ingredients for the sauce and whisk until you have an even mixture. Mince or grate the garlic and ginger and transfer to the wok with all of the eggplant.

Make sure the heat is set to high and then add in the sauce, tossing everything around really well. Add in half of the green onions and mix well. Reserve the rest of the green onions for the garnish.

Serve with steamed rice.

Sunday, April 10, 2011


Baklava is one of those dishes that always seemed so difficult to make.  And although it was a bit laborious, it definitely wasn't difficult.  The assembly is much like you prepare a lasagna.  I wanted to try making this dish myself because I find that usually the baklava you buy in the store or at restaurants tends to be too sweet or taste too much like honey.  I totally omitted the honey for this recipe and I think that was a good call.  I can't take credit for that, my husband was the one who told me to leave it out since he's not a big fan of the taste of honey.  Anyhow, this dish is unleavened, which means it's perfect for the Passover season, and incredibly delicious to boot.

40 sheets Filo dough (one box, thawed completely)
2 cups ground walnuts
2 cups ground pistachios
2 sticks butter (226 grams or 8 oz.)
1 can butter flavor cooking spray (you won't use the whole can, but I don't know the exact measurement of what I used)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tbsp. cinnamon

*For the syrup:
3 cups water
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar

The first thing you'll do is pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Place the walnuts and pistachios into a food processor and pulse until you have a fine nut meal.  Transfer the nuts into a large mixing bowl an mix in the cinnamon and sugar set aside.   Next,  begin making the syrup by adding the water and sugar to a sauce pot and letting it simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until the mixture has thickened a bit- it should have the viscosity of cough syrup. I know that sounds kind of gross, but I couldn't think of anything else with that same thickness.

Side note: Most recipes for Baklava call for honey, but I personally find the honey to be too overpowering and sweet.  The brown sugar in the syrup gives it enough taste without being too strong.

Continuing on with the recipe...

Melt the butter in a bowl and using a pastry brush, brush the bottom of your baking pan with a little butter.  Next place one sheet of the filo dough.  Word of caution- you have to work fast with the filo dough otherwise it will dry out and the edges will begin to curl or crack.  Alternately , you can place a damp towel over the dough to combat this issue.  Also, make sure the dough is completely thawed, otherwise it will be really difficult to handle.  Spray the top of the filo dough with a little cooking spray and layer another sheet on top.  My method was to butter every fifth sheet and spray all of the other ones in between, otherwise this dish would use a TON of butter.  You'll want to repeat the layering process until you have 20 sheets laid down in the bottom.  After you have the 20 sheets laid down, add half of the nut mixture on top of the filo dough and spread evenly. Lay another 5 sheets of filo dough, spraying and buttering the first and last sheet.  After you've laid 5 more sheets down, place the remaining nut mixture on top of the filo and finish by layering and buttering the last 15 sheets of filo over the mixture, making sure to use butter for the top layer.  Using a really really sharp knife, score the baklava into diamond shapes. Bake for one hour and remove from the oven to cool for about 15 minutes.  Spoon the syrup mixture over the top of the dessert, cover with foil and refrigerate overnight or for at least four hours before serving.

*You might want to make a little extra syrup because I found that once everything had a chance to soak overnight, it was a little dry, so I made a second batch of the syrup, cooled it completely in the fridge and drizzled it over the top right before serving.  I guess you could also double the syrup and reserve half for the second day.  That would have been easier, but I had no idea that it would need more the next day.  Live and learn...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Shredded Chicken and Mayacoba Bean Enchiladas

I read an article recently about legumes that really inspired me to try some new beans.  I also realized that I've never made enchiladas.  I decided to make this dish not knowing how it'd turn out.  Thankfully they were delicious and even though they're enchiladas, I tried making them healthier than the traditional recipe by not frying and using reduced-fat ingredients.

 For the Beans:
1 package (16 oz.) dry Mayacoba beans (also known as Peruvian beans or Canary beans)
8 cups water
1 garlic clove, grated
2 tsp. salt

The first thing to do, is wash the beans to remove any twigs or debris.  Next transfer the beans to a pressure cooker with the water and salt.  Close the lid and turn up the heat to high.  Once the steam begins to come out of the pressure cooker, lower the heat to medium.  Let the beans cook for 30 minutes before turning off the heat.  I hate waiting for the pressure to release, so what I do is run cold water over the pressure cooker in the sink.  Remove the lid and check to make sure the beans are tender.  If not put the lid back on and cook for another 5-10 minutes, but they should be done within 30 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans to a food processor bowl.  Add about 3 tbsp. of the bean water from the pot, a little salt and grate the garlic clove into the bowl.  Blend the beans until you have a smooth consistency.   Set aside until you're ready to assemble the enchiladas.

To make this dish a little easier, you could just mash the beans with a potato masher, but that will yield a more chunky consistency.   If you don't have a pressure cooker, you could soak the beans overnight and then just boil them in a pot with the same amount of water for about one hour.

For the Chicken:
5 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 medium onions, preferably white or yellow
1 green bell pepper
2 tbsp. minced green chili of your choice (like jalapeno or pasilla)- I omitted this because I didn't have any on hand, but for those of you who like it hot, go ahead and add these for some kick.
6 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 tbsp.  olive oil
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

First boil the chicken breasts in a large pot of water.seasoned liberally with salt.  Once the chicken breasts are cooked through, transfer them to a cutting board and allow them to cool.   While the chicken is cooking, begin mincing your green pepper, garlic and green chilies.  Dice the onion finely and add the olive oil into a large non-stick skillet.  Turn the heat up to medium high and add in the chilies, onions and garlic to the pan.  Saute for about 6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  While the veggies cook, take two forks and begin shredding the chicken breasts.  Transfer the chicken to the skillet and season with the cumin, salt and pepper.  Allow the chicken and veggies to cook together for about 3-4 minutes before turning off the heat.  In a separate mixing bowl, combine the sour cream and cheese and add it into the skillet, making sure to combine everything really well.

For the enchilada sauce:
2 tbsp. butter
2 tbsp. flour
3 cups chicken stock
1 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup shredded Monterrey Jack cheese

First add the butter to a non-stick sauce pan.  Next add in the flour and make a roux.  To that, add the chicken stock and whisk vigorously, breaking any clumps of flour that may have formed.  Next add in the sour cream and the cheese and blend well.  Season with a little salt.  Set the sauce aside until assembling the enchiladas.

For the assembly:
8 flour tortillas
cooking spray or melted butter
1 cup shredded Monterrey jack cheese
1/2 cup fresh cilantro to garnish.

First pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees.  Next take a scoop of the beans and spread if evenly over one side of the tortilla.  Next add in a scoop of the chicken mixture and roll the tortillas.  Spray a 9x13 baking dish with a little cooking spray and place the enchiladas, seam down in the pan.  Repeat this step until you have filled the entire pan with the enchiladas.  Next spray the tops of the enchiladas with cooking spray, or brush with melted butter.   Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 10 minutes or until the tortillas are slightly crisp.  Remove the tray from the oven and pour the sauce over the top of the enchiladas.  Next sprinkle the cheese over the top and place the pan back in the oven for another 10 minutes or until the cheese is golden and bubbly.  Garnish with some freshly chopped cilantro and serve.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Strawberry Cheesecake Tart

I don't know why I've always been intimidated by the idea of making cheesecake.  It's one of those things that seems so difficult to prepare, but alas, it was actually quite simple- at least this recipe was.  All you do is make a traditional crust, throw some ingredients into a food processor, bake and cool.  Nothing to it.  I made up the recipe as I went along and it turned great.  I decided to make this in a tart pan instead of a spring form pan, which yielded a somewhat thin cheesecake, but I kind of prefer it this way.

For the crust:
1  1/2 cup graham cracker crumbs
1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs ( I ran out of graham crackers and had to improvise.  You could use only graham crackers for this.)
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
2 sticks butter (226 grams or 8 oz.)

To create the crust, add the crackers and sugar to a food processor and blend until you have fine crumbs.  Add the crumbs to a mixing bowl and then stir in the melted butter, making sure to pour the butter evenly throughout the top of the crumbs.  Use a spatula to incorporate the butter into the crumbs well, making sure to dig into the bottom and fold upward.  Add the crumbs to your tart pan and begin forming the crust by pressing the crumbs into the bottom of the pan and up the sides.  Make sure you pack it well so that you have a firm crust.  Set aside until you're ready to pour in the filling.

For the filling:
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, softened
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 cup light sour cream
3 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 egg, plus one yolk

Begin by pre-heating your oven to 350 degrees.  Add the cream cheese to your food processor and blend until it's soft.  Remove the lid, scrape the sides and blend again.  This will help eliminate clumps of cream cheese.  Next add in the condensed milk sour cream, eggs and lemon juice and blend until you have an even and silky consistency.  You may have to remove the lid and scrape the sides and bottom of the food processor bowl a few times to break up any pieces of cream cheese.  Add the mixture into your tart pan and bake for 25 minutes.   Once the cheesecake is baked, remove from the oven and cool for 30 minutes before  covering with foil and transferring to the fridge.  Allow the cheesecake to cool for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Assembly ingredients:
2 cups fresh strawberries
1/3 cup sour cream

When you're ready to assemble the cheesecake, take it out of the fridge and remove the bottom of your tart pan.  Transfer the cheesecake to a cake tray or serving platter.  Next dollop the top of the cheesecake with the sour cream and smooth evenly over the top of the cheesecake.  Wash the strawberries and remove the tops.  Begin cutting the berries in half and begin decorating the top of the cheesecake with the berries.   I did a round design, alternating between the inside and outsides of the strawberries for a little contrast.   Slice and serve.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Corned Beef with Sweet Guinness Glaze

I love it when corned beef goes on sale!  It's one of those things we don't eat very often, but  I truly love it. I served this with some roasted baby carrots and some spinach mashed potatoes. The perfect end to our weekend.

1 package corned beef (about 2.5-3 lbs.)
8 cups water

For the sauce:
2 tbsp. honey
2 tbsp. dijon or coarse mustard
1 garlic clove, grated
4 tbsp. Guinness

First remove the beef from the package and rinse off the liquid it's packed in.  Make sure to rinse it really well.  Place the water into a pressure cooker and then add in the beef.  If the corned beef has a little seasoning packet in it, go ahead and add that to the water.  Close the lid and cook on medium heat for one hour.  Once the pressure has released from the pot, take the meat out and place it, fat up, on a cookie sheet.  Trim off the excess fat from the top of the corned beef.

Next prepare the glaze by combining the mustard, honey, Guinness and garlic in a small mixing bowl.  Blend everything well and brush the tops and sides of the beef with this glaze.  Broil the beef about 6" from the burner until you have a nice golden color.  Remove the tray from the oven and slice the beef.  If there are any sauce drippings, collect them (adding a little water to thin it out) and serve over the beef.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Chicken Satay with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Satay is one of my favorite Thai appetizers.  When we lived in Miami, our favorite Thai restaurant was called Tani Thai, and had the best chicken satay.  They brought the skewers on these mini hibachi grills where you'd place the skewers to keep them warm while you ate. Fast froward a few years later and we still haven't had satay as good as that one.  I tried making satay last night for dinner with a spicy peanut sauce.  This dish was easy and a great way to use up boneless, skinless chicken breasts.  Serve with some refreshing cucumber salad and some Thai fried rice and you'll have a great meal.

Ingredients for the Satay:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
4 shallots
5 garlic cloves
3 tbsp. palm sugar (you can use dark brown sugar as a substitute)
2 tsp.ground coriander seed
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. cumin powder
2 tbsp. canola oil
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp. freshly grated ginger
2 kaffir lime leaves (If you can't find this, use some lime zest- about 1 tsp. You can also use lemongrass.  Just the tender stalk, minced)
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
2 bird chilies (if you can't find this, you can substitute with your favorite red chili, just use about 1 tsp and remove the seeds.  You can also use chili paste)
2 tsp. salt

Add the shallots, ginger, garlic, chilies, kaffir lime leaves, and lemon juice to a mini food processor.  Transfer to a mixing bowl and then add in the turmeric, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, lime juice and sugar.  Whisk well and then add the oil and salt.  You should have a thick paste at this point.  Slice the chicken breasts horizontally to think out the slices.  You could also pound out the breast to make it thinner.  Begin cutting the chicken into long strips and adding it to a zip-lock bag with the marinade.  Refrigerate for one hour.  Skewer the chicken onto bamboo sticks.  Spray your grill with a little non-stick spray and turn the heat up to medium high.  Place the skewers down on the grill and let it cook undisturbed for about 5 minutes on each side, baste the chicken with any remaining marinade about halfway through the cooking process.

For the peanut sauce:
5 shallots
3 garlic cloves
2 bird chilies (red chilies)
1 tbsp. canola oil
2 tsp. freshly grated ginger
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tsp. ground coriander
3 tbsp. palm sugar (or brown sugar)
1/4 cup boiling water
2 tsp. soy sauce
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 cup coconut milk

First roughly chop the garlic, shallots and chilies and saute them in a non-stick pan on medium heat with the canola oil.  Add in the grated ginger and cook for about 2 minutes before adding in the peanut butter.  Using a spatula, begin stirring the peanut butter as it melts into the sauce. Next add in the coriander, lime juice, soy sauce , coconut milk and sugar.  Cook everything until the sugar dissolves. Transfer this sauce into a blender or food processor and add in the water.  Blend until you have a smooth and creamy consistency.  Serve with the satay.