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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Cuban Frita Burgers

When I lived in Miami, there were burgers of all kinds--Korean Fusion burgers from Sakaya Kitchen and their delicious food truck, there were Colombian burgers with sweet and savory sauces of all varieties imaginable, and Cuban burgers, called fritas.  While Colombian burgers were probably my favorite, the frita (free.tah) is the most practical to make at home with ease.  These burgers are smoky and garlicky with a nice sweet zip from the ketchup.  You definitely do not need any sauces or anything like that on these burgers, as they are packed with flavor.  Cheese is optional, but potato stix are a must.

These red-tinged burgers are aromatic and irresistible and are sure to please your guests.  Even the pickiest eater will be won over by this Cuban treat.  If you're lucky, you can go old fashioned and sub the ground pork for Spanish chorizo.  Be careful here as it must be Spanish, not Mexican chorizo.  You want that nice paprika-laced sausage that isn't the least bit spicy.  In Miami, they sell ground Spanish chorizo in the pack, just as you can buy ground beef here.  If you can find Spanish chorizo around, it's even better.  Either way, you're in for a real treat!  I hope this delicious frita becomes a staple in your home, just as it is in mine.  For me, it's the only way to eat a burger at home, well...this and portabella mushroom and beef combo.  Enjoy!

Cuban fritas

1/2 - 3/4 lb ground pork
1 lb ground beef
2-3 TB ketchup (or 2 TB tomato paste can also work)
5 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 onion, finely diced
1 tsp cumin
1-1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
1 TB cilantro leaves (measure before chopping) then chop (most people don't use this, but I love it)

1.Mix together by hand all ingredients above and grill as normal.

2. Top the burgers with shoestring potato stix, a slice of cheese.  Typically, you use American cheese, but I like provolone too.  In fact, I like to use one slice of each, yum!

References for inspiration

Monday, January 19, 2015

Homestyle Chicken and Dumplings with Rotisserie Chicken (Gluten-free and Traditional Recipes)

Chicken and dumplings is, hands down, my favorite dish of all time!  It's simple, warm, comforting, and hearty.  Having a bowl of chicken and dumplings is like a warm hug from grandma.  It just melts away the troubles of the day.

When I was younger, my mother would make chicken and dumplings, and it was delicious!  Whenever she didn't make it, I would ask my grandma, and she would always cook up a pot of her yummy chicken and dumplings.  I loved both versions, but my mom tended to make the soupier version, while my grandmother would make the thicker soup with more flour in it.  I was always partial to the thicker version and it's comforting creaminess, although there is actually no cream or milk in it.  If I am not mistaken, they both used cream of celery or cream of chicken for their base.  I know for sure that my mom does.  However, in the interest of cutting sodium and preservatives, I say try making the thick soup base yourself.  It takes no time, and you know exactly what's in it.  

Due to having to be on a gluten-free diet, I went without this dish for two years.  After much trial and error, my mom finally came up with  this trick for getting cornstarch to create results much like those of a flour roux.  It works great, and I was finally able to have chicken and dumplings just like my mom and grandmother used to make again!

While both my mom and my grandma used a fresh whole chicken, this version uses a rotisserie chicken to save time.  With this small adjustment, you can have chicken and dumplings for an easy weeknight meal, and it will be ready in a flash!  To adapt this recipe for a fresh chicken, just cut the chicken into pieces (I would also remove the skin) and cook until it is falling off the bone.  I hope you fall in love with this delicious classic soup, just like I did.



All dark meat of a medium rotisserie chicken, pulled in medium chunks (by hand, simple and rustic, remove skin)
6 c homemade chicken or turkey stock
½ onion, diced
2-3 stalks celery, cubed
Two carrots, sliced into 1/4" rounds
1/3c – 1/2c frozen green peas, thawed
1 stalk fresh thyme
Trader Joe's 21 seasoning salute to taste
Salt to tastes
Generous amount of coarsely ground black pepper (fresh is ideal)
1 TB butter (for finishing)


2 cups water
about 3 TB cornstarch (can skip this and simply whisk 2 TB flour into a cup of soup broth and whisk in before adding back to soup for traditional recipe)


2 c flour (sub with gluten-free AP flour mix for gluten-free)
1 TB baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 TB butter
1 c milk


1.       1. Add chicken chunks, celery, thyme, and onion to stock, cover, and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Allow to continue cooking.
2. Meanwhile, begin the slurry by whisking cornstarch into water and bringing to medium heat in a small pot.  Season with salt and pepper and whisk constantly, until thickened.

3. Once thick enough, stir in a few ladles of broth until homogeneous and add to soup.

4. Prepare dumplings by stirring together all dry ingredients and cutting in butter with a pastry blender to form a coarse sand. 

5. Form a well, pour in milk, and gradually blend in flour until well blended.  On a floured surfaced, knead until smooth, uniform dough forms.  Will be slightly sticky.

6. Roll dough out to about ¼” thickness and slice into strips about 1.5” – 2” wide and 2-3” long.

7. Add carrots to soup and stir in dumplings.  Adjust salt and pepper.

8. Cook covered for about 15 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

9. Stir in thawed peas and cook for 5 minutes more. 

10. Stir in butter, adjust seasoning, and serve.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Creamed Corn Custard Bread or Nicaraguan Torta de Elote--Revised

I absolutely love this recipe.  It's actually a Nicaraguan recipe, but it reminds me so much of a few old soul favorites.  I am a Southern girl, and I love my cornbread and spoon bread too!  Spoon bread evokes memories of sitting in the kitchen chatting with my family with my grandmother standing over the stove.  She was not always the best cook until the past few years, but she was always the expert on the most traditional of  Southern fare--think hoe cakes, chicken and dumplings, spoon bread, fried squash, collard greens, ham, etc.  This dish reminds me of warm, comforting spoon bread.  It's almost like the result of combining a fresh corn corn bread with spoon bread.  It really is the best of both worlds!  My family absolutely loves it!  It's such a special treat, but it's one of the easiest things you'll ever make.  If you're concerned about fat, you can cut the eggs back a bit, but you can't touch the butter.  It will wreck the dish.

This wonderful dish bakes up fluffy and tender with a rich, butter, deep corn taste.  It's far better than the cornbread with fresh corn kernels that can be a bit off-putting to some, since the corn often dries up and creates an unpleasant textural contrast.  The corn in this dish remains moist, tender, and plump.  Most of it, in fact, just becomes one with the batter.  Oh my!  I think I'll have to make this tonight!!

If you have picky eaters in your family, don't call this cornbread, or it will mess their little heads all up.  This dish is quite far from regular cornbread.  It's not dry or gritty in the least bit, and there's no corn flour.  This bread is moist and custardy, so be sure not to lose your own battle for yourself with picky eaters by calling this cornbread.  Their expectations will be all messed up, and they won't be open-minded to it at all.

Creamed Corn Custard Bread or Nicaraguan Torta de Elote

1 c fresh corn kernels or frozen corn
1 stick butter, melted
1 can condensed milk
5 TB sweet rice flour*
2 TB potato starch*
1 TB baking powder
5 eggs

*These ingredients can be subbed for all white all purpose flour, if you are not on a gluten-free diet.

1. Preheat oven to 350F.

2. Blend all ingredients together in blender until blended just until combined.

3. Bake in a greased loaf pan or square pan.

Reference: https://es-es.facebook.com/notes/cocina-nicaraguense/receta-de-torta-de-elote-o-pudin-de-maiz-contribucion-de-gloria-corea/10150236798180076

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Ultimate Coconut Black Sesame Bundt Cake (gluten-free and traditional recipes)

In my kitchen, I go through spurts of experimenting with different types of global cuisines.  In the past week, I've been doing lots of Thai food.  This cake is inspired by traditional Thai dessert flavors, albeit not at all influenced by traditional Thai textures.  Black sesame is a very common ingredient in desserts of many kinds, and coconut is a ubiquitous ingredient when it comes to traditional Thai desserts.  Palm sugar is typically used for both savory and sweet dishes in Thailand, and plays an important role in many traditional baked desserts, such as the beloved toddy palm cake.

This cake is pretty easy.  You don't even need an electric mixer.  It's a great weeknight cake, since no mixer or frosting is necessary.  If you desire topping, whip up heavy cream with powdered coconut milk and sugar until heavy peaks are achieved.  Please note that a cake with this topping is only good for a day or two before the whipped cream begins to weep.  Refrigeration and avoidance of hot weather are also a must if you do the whipped topping.  You could always make it on the side and serve a dollop with each slice :).

1 c flour (or gluten-free flour sub blend., in my case)
1 c fine unsweetened  desiccated coconut/coconut flour*
1- 3/4 granulated white sugar
1/4c softened palm sugar (microwave for 30 seconds)
1 TB baking powder
1 tsp salt
3 eggs, room temp.
1 stick butter, melted
1/2c vegetable oil
2 TB black sesame seeds**
2 tsp vanilla, preferably Bourbon vanilla***
1 tsp coconut extract
1c + 2 TB milk (or Indian yogurt or sour cream)
2 TB white rum or cachaca

* found at your local Indian market or often in gluten-free aisle of fine supermarkets
**found at SE Asian market
***TJ sells a great one at a great price

1. Preheat oven to 350F
In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt until well-blended.  Set aside
3. In a large, microwave-safe bowl, melt butter in microwave and allow to cool slightly.
4. Whisk in oil, vanilla, coconut extract, rum, white sugar, and palm sugar until blended uniformly.
5. Whisk in eggs, one at a time.
6. Alternate whisking in flour mixture and milk, one third at a time, starting and ending with flour.
7. Stir in sesame seeds until combined.
8. Bake for about 1 hour, or until cake springs back when touched in center.
9. Allow to cool,slice, and enjoy.

References/Inspiration: http://bit.ly/1qTTcDh