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.

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