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Monday, December 23, 2013

Jewish Cranberry Holiday Chutney

When I lived in Northern Virginia, one of my absolute favorite  places to eat was Chutzpah (HOOTZ pah) Deli in Fairfax.  It is a delicious New York-style Jewish deli owned by former New Yorkers who just love cooking and serving up great food.  The food is hearty, and tastes like someone's grandma is cooking in the kitchen, portions are huge, and quality is great.  It's the type of food that you'd be proud to serve your family. 

Well, one of my favorite dishes from Chutzpah was their open-faced brisket and gravy sandwich with mashed potatoes and cranberry chutney.  Talk about gooooood!  Inspired by Chutzpah and a recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, New Kosher Cuisine, by Mollie Katzen, this recipe is a real hit with everyone who is fortunate enough to try it.  It's fresh, it's healthy, and it has just the right touch of cinnamon to make you feel warm and cozy, and loved by someone special.  Try it for yourself, and it's sure to be a real hit!  This recipe alone is the reason why I stock up on fresh cranberries to freeze so that I can enjoy this deliciousness year round.

"How do I eat it?" and "what do I eat it with?" you might ask.  Well, you can eat it with your turkey if you feel so inclined, but I love it by itself as a snack or an after-dinner treat.  I love it on my holiday plate as a side, and I love it as a healthy snack with lunch.  In the Jewish deli, it's sold alongside hearty sandwiches.  You can enjoy this dish sweet or savory, and even with your morning oatmeal or yogurt.  I am not a cranberry sauce person, even when it's good cranberry sauce, but this is just a dream-of-a-dish.  It's a simple way to wow anyone at your next family gathering.  It is truly fabulous on a plate and, for me, the only reason to stockpile those bags of fresh holiday cranberries in your freezer to enjoy a taste of this dish all year round.  If you can't cook, you will shock them and prove them all wrong if you show up with this very special treat.  Well, enough talking...get cooking!

Jewish Cranberry Chutney
1 bag of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
about 2 c sugar (taste it as you add.  It should still be tart.)
Scant ½ c combo of tangerine, orange or fresh pineapple juice* (I find just 2-3 TB works better)
1 cinnamon stick
1c coarsely chopped walnuts
About 1-1/2 c chopped fresh pineapple
Segments from 3 tangerines (you will use their juice above)

1. Place first 4 ingredients in a pot over low to medium -low heat.  Be sure to add sugar in portions, as you may need less, depending on sweetness of fruit.  You want the end result to be tangy, not flat and all sweet only. 
2. Allow to simmer for 12-15 minutes, or until cranberries burst.  Don't rush the process by turning up the heat, or your cranberries will be tough and bitter.
3. Remove the cinnamon stick.
4. Stir in pineapple, tangerine, and walnuts.
5. Refrigerate until cool and serve or freeze for later use.

Note: This has great shelf life if you can keep yourself from eating it!

This is a great recipe to play around with.  Substitute pecans for the walnuts.  Use pineapple or orange juice instead of tangerine.  Use canned mandarins instead of fresh citrus.  Use cloves or allspice in place of cinnamon stick.  This is a super versatile and forgiving recipe.  Have fun with it!


Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Hearty Ground Beef and Veggie Chili

Hearty Ground Beef and Veggie Chili

1lb ground beef
1 handful baby carrots and 1 stalk celery, sautéed until softened and pureed with a couple TB water
1 medium onion, chopped
1 medium bell pepper, chopped
 3 red serrano peppers, thinly sliced
3-4 cloves garlic, smashed
3 fresh tomatoes, chopped                         
2 heaping TB tomato paste
½ TB cumin
½ tsp cinnamon
1 pinch oregano
1 tsp chilli pepper
¼ tsp Mexican style hot chili powder
A few dashed Hungarian hot paprika
2tsp cocoa powder
2  maggi chicken bouillon cubes, dissolved in ½-1c water
2 TB maseca
1 cup chopped portabello mushroom
Lots of salt

Few Dashes of pepper

1. In a small pan, sautee the onions, bell pepper, and serrano peppers in a TB lard or vegetable oil until translucent.  Stir in garlic and sautee until fragrant.

2. Meanwhile, over medium heat, sautee ground beef, being sure to break up the beef with a spatula, until it begins to brown.  Strain oil off.  Stir in onion mixture, tomato paste, and carrot mixture.  Sautee for a few minutes.

3. Stir in dry seasoning and continue cooking.  

4. Once beef is almost done, taste for salt and stir in chicken bouillon and maseca.

5. Once beef is done, stir in portabello and chopped tomatoes.  Continue cooking until veggies have softened a bit, but still have bite, and the beef is fully cooked.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Easiest Dinner Ever AKA Smoky Chickpea and Tomato Soup

Ever wonder what in the world to do with all of that juice on the bottom of the roasting pan after baking a ham?  I say keep it and freeze it up!  It's one of the best things you could have on hand for the tastiest bean soups all season long.  We made ham last month and, since I was craving chickpeas, not to mention a super quick dinner after a stressful week of getting ready for the kids to come back to school, I decided to whip out my trusty ham broth.  Few things make a bigger flavor impact with minimal effort than leftover ham broth.  I say keep the bone and use it to make a stock or throw it into beans, cabbage, or greens too.  Works like a charm each and every time!  Since I also stock up on red, yellow, and orange bell peppers when they are on sale, quarter them, and freeze them too, this recipe was a breeze.  Cuban-inspired, but done to my tastes, you and your family are sure to enjoy this dish with my favorite legume--chickpeas!  So here it is, a quick and  easy, hearty recipe for protein-packed chickpea and tomato soup.  It's so easy, your kids can cook dinner for you for a change ;)!

Smoky Chickpea and Tomato Soup

1/2c – 3/4 c dried chickpeas, soaked overnight with ½ tsp baking soda and drained
Mixed bell peppers (mixed red, orange, and yellow bell peppers, equiv. of 1 whole pepper), in quarters
½ large white onion, in quarters
1 can spicy red pepper diced tomatoes
4 cloves garlic, minced
About 1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin
1 bay leaf
Black pepper to taste
1-1/2 c Seasoned homemade ham broth, already brought to a rolling boil in a separate pot (do not use packet, use a ham bone and water)*

*Add more or less broth to your taste for a thicker or thinner soup
**My ham broth was seasoned very well, so I didn't need any salt.

Spice Things Up!
If you want to switch it up a bit, try adding in bite-sized beef or lamb chunks, or even potatoes, yuuuuum!

1. Stir together all ingredients and allow to cook on low for about 5 hours, or until the chickpeas are tender, not mushy or falling apart.

2. Remove bay leaf.  You may wish to remove the onion and bell pepper as well, leave it in, or puree it and add it back to the soup.  Whatever you choose, serve with steamed white rice and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spicy Cameroonian-style Grilled Marinated Fish *Poisson braise alla camerounaise*

enough mildly flavored white fish for four people (I like to use swai)

3 TB vegetable oil
1/4 large onion
3 cloves garlic
1 small plum tomato
1 handful parsley (about 1/4, stems and all)
1 small piece of ginger (about a 1" piece)
about 1 tsp or so salt
2-3 tsp pebe (cameroonian homemade hot sauce) *

*If you don't have this, simply add in 1/4 habanero pepper.

1. Preheat oven to high broil.  You will broil the fish uncovered for about 15 minutes.

2. Place all ingredients in blender until very smooth and uniform.  You do not want any chunks.

3. Oil pan well with vegetable oil.  Pat fish dry with paper towels.  Brush fish with marinade on one side.  Halfway through cooking, flip fish gently using two spatulas and brush other side with marinade.

4. Check fish for flakiness with a fork.  Once the flesh flakes easily, it is done.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Fried Green Tomatoes *Gluten-Free and Standard Versions*

3 green tomatoes
1c stone ground yellow corn meal
1/8c potato starch*
1/8c pre-cooked cornmeal (such as harina PAN)*   **
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 pinch dried oregano
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 dash garlic powder
1-1/2 tsp salt

1 egg
1/2c milk

oil for frying
*If you are not on a restricted diet, I recommend subbing these ingredients with unseasoned breadcrumbs for the ultimate crunch, yum!
**Found in the Latin aisle at most supermarkets or at your local Latin market

1. Preheat oil to 375F.  You can deep fry or shallow fry for this recipe
2. Wash tomatoes, trim them, and slice them into thick rounds (about 1/4").
3. In a shallow bowl, blend together all dry ingredients until evenly combined.
4. In a separate shallow bowl, whisk together eggs and milk until well blended.
5. Place tomatoes in milk mixture, dredge them in flour mixture and shake off excess.  Take a second dip into both bowls and to the fryer we go!
6. Fry until golden brown, drain on a paper-towel-lined tray and enjoy :).

Bonus:  If you're a dipper, blend together your favorite mayo and a TB or two of prepared deli mustard with some of your favorite spices and there you have it.  If you have no idea what your favorite spices are, give some of the ones used above a try  ;).  Now you've got yourself a little remoulade!  Sounds fancy, no?  and to think, you didn't even know what your favorite spices were.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

Rice Pudding from Leftover Rice

2c cooked rice, crumbled with your hand or a fork to remove clumps
3-1/2c milk
4 egg yolks, lightly whisked
zest of 1 lime
zest of 3/4 of an orange
1-1/2c turbinado sugar
1 cup dried fruit (raisins or whatever other dried fruits your heart desires, just chop larger fruit)
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp salt
1TB dark rum
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp butter, cut into cubes

Mix it Up!
Sub. in cranberries or mix them with raisins.

Sub. lime with the zest of half a lemon plus 1\2 tsp lemon extract

Add a couple dashes of nutmeg.

Sub. cooked rice with 2\3 c raw rice, add an extra egg yolk, and use a total of 5 cups  milk

1. Preheat oven to 350F
2. Bring a medium size pot of water to a boil.
3. Meanwhile, blend all ingredients, except butter, together thoroughly, being sure to incorporate the sugar and egg yolks well.
4. Place rice, milk, egg yolks, zest, sugar, dried fruit, cinnamon stick, and salt into a tempered glass or ceramic cooking vessel and blend well.
5. Place the glass or ceramic cooking vessel into a large pan (a rectangular cake pan works well).  Make a bain marie by pouring the boiling water into the outer pan, being sure to avoid any of the water getting into the rice pudding.
6. Bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes to avoid curdling.  Cook at 300 F for 2-1\2 hours,stirring every 15 minutes in the first 30 - 45 minutes.

7. Stir in rum and vanilla and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes for a total cook time of 50 minutes to one hour.  The custard should still look a little loose.  Remove it as this point, as the carryover cooking will allow it to set completely without curdling.  Stir in butter and serve or allow to cool to room temperature.  Enjoy cold, heated, or at room temperature, but be sure to store under refrigeration.

*Your rice pudding will not brown with this method, but it also will not curdle and will be perfectly creamy.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Tropical Cobb Salad

Tropical Cobb Salad
1 large ripe mango, cut into chunks
1 medium-sized ripe avocado, cut into chunks
1 whole chicken breast, marinated, grilled, and chunked
feta, goat cheese, or blue cheese, crumbled (I used Loralie blueberry goat cheese with vanilla)
3 hard boiled eggs, sliced into chunks
5 slices of bacon, crumbled
a mixture of red lettuce, spinach leaves, cilantro (stems removed), chopped and washed thoroughly
light, tangy dressing of choice

Tangy Citrus Vinaigrette
1-1/2 TB white balsamic vinegar
1 TB fresh orange juice
1 TB fresh lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
zest of 1/2 orange
1/2 garlic clove, grated
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 rounded tsp salt
10 shakes of cayenne pepper
9 TB grape seed or olive oil

Chicken Marinade
3 green onions
1/4 red bell pepper
1/4 onion
1/2" piece of ginger
1/4 habanero pepper
1/4 tomato
1 heaping teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 TB olive oil
1 sprig fresh thyme, stems removed

1. Allow chicken to marinate for at least an hour.

2. Grill or bake chicken.  I used my Foreman grill.  Cut into chunks.

3. When serving, toss desired portion of greens in light amount of dressing.  Top with a few chunks of the following: eggs, avocado, mango, and a good portion of chicken.  Top with crumbled cheese and bacon.  Drizzle a little dressing.  Enjoy :)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Delicious Red Lentil Soup My Way

5 cups water
1 cup dried red lentils*
1 white or vidalia onion, chopped
2 cups chopped potatoes
1/4 red bell pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, left whole
1 indian finger chilli, chopped in half, width-wise
1 tsp fresh ginger, sliced
1 TB tomato paste
2 tsp salt
1/3 c chopped fresh cilantro, stems removed

*Found at your local Indian market

1. Add first all ingredients, except cilantro, to a pot, cover and bring to a boil.

2. Lower heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until lentils and vegetables are tender.

3. Stir in chopped cilantro.

4. Puree to desired texture in small batches in a blender or using an immersion blender.  Enjoy.


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Traditional French Fluffy Almond Sponge Cake - Financier aux amandes

A financier is another one of those things that I had heard of, but never actually seen or tasted before I made it myself.  I had heard of chefs making financiers, whatever that was, and people made it sound so delicious, but I was skeptical.  I like the nice, moist style of cakes that I would argue that we Americans do better than Europeans.  The European sponge-y style of say, the genoise, or the panetela is just not my thing.  Dry, airy sponge cakes will never be my fancy, no matter how much fat they pack into them.  Financiers, however, are different.  How did I know?  I looked at the ratio of fat to dry ingredients, as well as the absence of egg yolks, which was awesome.  The high percentage of yolks is what creates the dry sponge cake texture that I typically try to avoid in my kitchen.

After looking at a few yummy recipes in my Desserts Festifs cookbook by Sylvie Ait-Alie that I ordered on Amazon France (thank you, global marketplace), I decided that a financier actually looked like the perfect dessert endeavor for my weekend.  I did not, however, opt to use a recipe from this book, as these are fancier cakes that use financiers as the base.  I just wanted to try the basic financier first to ensure that I would like it before I made a more fanciful creation down the road.

After Googling some recipes in French, this is a translation of the recipe I used.  The result was the perfect, dainty little cake with a beautiful golden crust, and an other-worldy soft and fluffy interior.  The texture reminds me more of a moist chiffon cake than a sponge cake, although technique-wise, it is a sponge.  Because of all of the egg whites, there is no need for leavening, and the almond and brown butter provide enough flavor that vanilla is unnecessary.  This cake is characterized by a light almond flavor and a nutty background flavor, thanks to the brown butter.  Simple, easy-to-make, and delightful, this cake is sure to be a crowd pleaser at your next brunch, tea party, or elegant shower.  Take advantage and take it to the next level using a variety cute mini brioche pans, mini loaf pans, or diamond shaped mini loaf pans for added elegance.

Financier aux amandes


50g white AP flour
50g almond flour*
130g powdered sugar

4 egg whites
70g butter

*You can make this yourself using chopped skin-on almonds, chopped blanched almonds, or slivered almonds ground into a uniform flour in the blender, coffee grinder, or food processor.  Simply sift and re-process any chunks that do not pass through the strainer.

1. Preheat oven to 375 and grease pans well with shortening.

2. Chop butter into pieces and melt in a small sauce pot over medium-low to medium heat.  Allow to continue boiling until a light golden brown color is achieved.  Swirl the pan occasionally throughout this process.  If any bits form at the bottom of the pan, be sure to strain them out well.

3. Using a fork or a whisk, blend together the AP flour, almond flour, and powdered sugar.  Set aside.

4. Beat in egg whites with an electric mixer until well-blended.

5. Once butter is browned, allow to cool slightly before using electric mixer to incorporate into batter.

6. Bake cakes for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown on the edges and cake begins to separate from the sides of pan.  Cake is done once it passes spring test, but you may brown further, if desired.

7. Remove cake from pan immediately after baking and allow to cool.  This is not the type of cake that you want to taste while hot, as it will taste eggy.  This taste will dissipate once the cake has cooled.  Cool completely and enjoy :).

I think next time I will add in some lemon zest and almond flavoring to create a bolder flavor, as the cake already tastes like vanilla.  The cake has a simple tastiness to it, as is.

add some lemon zest, add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, add 1/2 tsp almond extract, add a combination of extracts, drop sliced almonds over the top of each cake before baking, top with sweetened fresh berries before baking

References: --video recipe

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Smoky and Zesty Cameroonian (Central African) Beef Kabobs/ Brochettes a la camerounaises

I love Cameroonian food!  I love the deep, smoky, spunky flavor of the grilled meats with the sweet plantains, the everything!  The blend of ginger, garlic, onion along with tomatoes and hot peppers give Cameroonian food its unforgettable punch.  I have loved it and I have dreamed of recreating the delectable Central African flavors at home from the time I tried this lovely cuisine at the old Roger Miller restaurant that was once in Silver Spring, MD.  I was finally able to get my hands on some great recipes.  Although I searched for good recipes before, to no avail, I never thought to search in French.  Hello!  I had much better luck this time.

Below is one of the first Cameroonian recipes that I tried at home.  It is super easy to make and you can do it with things that you likely already have in your kitchen.  The flavor is deep, smoky, not-too-spicy, and has the perfect bite from the vinegar.  You'd never recognize the cayenne.  The blend of spices creates a delicious flavor that you and your family won't forget!

Cameroonian Beef Kabobs/ Brochettes a la camerounaises
1 lb beef (cut into bite-sized pieces) (use a cut that is good for kabobs)
1 white or vidalia onion
1 TB fresh ginger
5 cloves of garlic
2 chopped tomatoes or 1/2 can tomatoes in tomato sauce
1/4c apple cider vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cayenne pepper
3 TB oil

1. Blend all marinade ingredients into a homogeneous paste with a mortar and pestle or in the blender.  You do not want any chunks.

2. Pour marinade over meat and allow to marinate under refrigeration for a minimum of three hours, but ideally overnight.

3. Grill along with chopped onion and bell peppers on skewers that have been soaked in water for at least an hour (prevents burning).  Don't forget to brush your veggies with oil so that they cook nicely.  Enjoy :).


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mmm, mmm Delicious Creamed Corn

I absolute love old Southern food.  It makes me feel so comforted.  I feel in touch with my past by cooking the foods of my ancestors.  I can almost see my great grandmother standing over the stove cooking the same dishes for her family.  There is something so intimate about sharing your history through food.  

Creamed corn is an old-fashioned Southern favorite in every sense.  It uses ingredients easily found locally with simple flavors that pack a huge punch.  It's a amazing what a little bacon grease can do.  I added in the bite of cayenne, and it makes all the difference!  This is not intended to be a sweet creamed corn, although those versions exist too.  This is a smoky creamed corn with a spicy bite in the background, and just enough sugar to enhance the corn flavor, not mask it.

6 ears of corn*
2 TB bacon grease (no subs!)
1/2c  of water **
1/2 - 3/4c milk
1 rounded tsp sugar
1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
generous amount of salt and pepper to taste
2 TB flour

*or about 3 cups or less of frozen corn.  No canned!
**If using frozen corn, use water reserved from briefly boiling corn to thaw.


1. Scrape off corn kernels, if using fresh corn.  If using frozen corn, cover corn with water in  a pan and bring to a boil, uncovered.  Boil for 3 minutes to thaw.

2. Heat a pan over medium heat.  Meanwhile, blend together milk, water, flour, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper.  Stir in corn.

3. Once pan is hot, add oil.  Once oil is hot, pour in corn mixture.

4. Cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, stirring very frequently to prevent sticking or clumping.  If the mixture becomes too thick, simply add additional milk or water.

5. Towards the end of the cooking time, taste and adjust seasoning as appropriate.

6. Serve with another old-fashioned Southern favorite, such as pork chops, fried chicken, pork neck bones, navy bean soup, or anything else your heart may desire.  Yum, yum, yum!

Cuban Style Churros *Churros Cubanos*

Living in Miami, churros were one of those very special iconic treats.  Although churro shops were a dime a dozen, nothing is like a good Cuban churro, the best of which everyone knows is found only at King's Ice Cream on Calle 8.  Go figure.  King's is a Cuban style ice cream spot known more for it's churros than anything else.  I was a sucker for the churros with guava sauce, yum, yum, YUM!

King's is one of those old school spots that has been there since the beginning of time.  As they say is the case in most places in Cuba, they have kept everything original at this Miami mainstay, right down to the churro machine and the water fountain.  King's isn't the prettiest place on the block; in fact, you'd walk right by it without thinking twice, but anyone who lives in Miami knows that it's the place to go in Little Havana for some great churros.

Here's a recipe that I found for traditional Cuban style churros.  This style of churros is nothing like the Mexican version.  They are more airy and have a thinner crisp than their Mexican cousins, much akin to the traditional Spanish churro.  I think they are far superior in texture and, ironically, they contain almost no added fat in the batter.  They're simple, easy-to-make, and absolutely delicious.  Make this easy yet impressively delicious treat for your friends and family, and they're sure to disappear!

Churros cubanos

1c flour
1c water  (some people will use water and half milk)
1/2 tsp butter
1/2 tsp salt
just enough oil for deep frying
granulated sugar for dusting
1 pastry bag or large ziplock with the corner snipped out.
a 1M decorating tip (very cheap and at any craft or baking store)

1. Heat oil over med high heat, 390F, if you have a thermometer.

2.  In a separate pot, place water, butter, and salt in a pot and allow it to  reach a rapid boil.

3. Once water is at a rapid boil, add in all of the flour at once, remove pan from heat and stir mixture briskly with a wooden spoon until a smooth dough is achieved.  The dough will be very thick, so your arms may tire quickly.

4.  Insert tip in piping bag, load it up with dough (not more than 1/2 to 3/4 for optimal control) 

5. Begin piping churros onto a plate in prep for frying.

6.  Once oil is very hot, carefully lift churros off of plate and fry until light golden brown, being sure not to overcrowd pot.

7. Drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle generously with granulated sugar and serve immediately.

8. Serve with chunky strawberry glaze or traditional hot chocolate sauce, if desired, or enjoy with just sugar.  Yum!

*Yields about 20 medium length churros, enough for 3or 4 people


Monday, April 1, 2013

Chunky Strawberry Glaze for Cakes and Pastry

Ever go to the supermarket and see that strange, fruitless, "strawberry" glaze near the strawberry section in the produce aisle?  Well, it's weird folks, just weird--looks weird, tastes weird, smells weird.  It's weird.  Anyhow, it's so easy to make your own, so why not!  It's cheap, easy, versatile, and a true crowd pleaser.  Drizzle it over bunt cakes or ice cream, use it as a filling for a layer cake, or even a donut.  You can even use it to top unsweetened plain yogurt for an amazing breakfast or afternoon treat!  Yum, yum, yum!  Well, here it is, homemade strawberry glaze.  Enjoy!

 Chunky Strawberry Glaze


2-1/2c washed and hulled strawberries, mashed with a potato masher
1 c water
1/2 c sugar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice, lime juice, or 2 tsp cointreau or triple sec (optional)
2 rounded tsp cornstarch
1. Cook for 10 minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently, and being sure to taste for sweetness.

2. In the last few minutes of cooking, add two rounded teaspoons of cornstarch to a mug and whisk in cool water to form a slurry.  Once homogeneous, stir into hot strawberry mixture.  Bring to a boil for a few more minutes.

3. Remove from heat and stir in add in 1/2 cup chopped or sliced strawberries.  The result should be almost like a looser preserves.  When used to top cakes, it cascades just slightly over the sides to create an elegant effect without being too runny.

4. Enjoy this delicious topping over cheesecake, angel food cake, chiffon cake, or any other pastry or cake that could use a fresh fruit kick.

Inspired by:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Cuban Style Homemade Custard - Natilla cubana a mi manera

I love homemade custard.  When I was in Miami, I absolutely loved the Cuban natilla from the bakery or the pastry cream in the delicious Cuban pastries.  This is my version of the Cuban favorite.  It has more egg yolks and no cornstarch, as used in the old school version, so it is richer.  Mmmm, mmm.  This recipe is creamy, flavorful, but not too sweet, and it has a delicious flavor boost from the lime zest and cinnamon.  Enjoy a small bowl of this tasty treat for dessert.  It's so deliciously indulgent!

Natilla Cubana - Cuban Style Homemade Custard

3 egg yolks
1/2 c + 2TB sugar (natural or turbinado sugar preferred)
1c milk
1 piece/strip of lime zest
1 small cinnamon stick or half a cinnmon stick
1 split vanilla bean, 1 tsp vanilla, or 1 tsp vanilla bean paste

1. In a heat safe bowl, whisk the yolks along with 1/3 of the sugar until a thick ribbon consistency is achieved.  This means that when you lift a spoonful of the mixture and pour it, it forms thick ribbon like folds.

2.  Meanwhile, place the milk, lime zest, cinnamon stick, and vanilla over medium heat.  Once boiling, strain and pour the milk over the yolk mixture, whisking rapidly.

3. Once well-blended, return the blended mixture to the pan and return to medium heat, stirring constantly.

4. Once the mixture reaches a boil, allow to boil for two minutes, continuing to whisk.  At this point, return the thickened mixture to the heat safe bowl.

5. Top the mixture with either sifted confectioner's sugar or small pats of butter to prevent the formation of a skin on top of the custard.  Allow to cool and then refrigerate before serving.

*This is a fairly small recipe, so if you have a larger family, it can be easily doubled.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken the Old Fashioned Way *Low Iodine Too!*

This is a recipe for one of my favorite Jamaican dishes.  My best friend used to cook a lot of traditional foods, and I remember savoring this dish with a nice thick Jamaican dumpling on the side.  Yuuuum, yuuum!  These days, lots of people have abandoned the burnt sugar base in exchange for the convenience of soy sauce for color.  I take it back to the old school, and respect the demands of a low-iodine or low-sodium diet by using caramelized sugar to obtain the characteristic dark, rich color of Jamaican stew chicken.

Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken
*Serves 6

1 whole chicken or 4 pounds of bone-in chicken pieces
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic
1/4 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1 tsp whole allspice
about 6 sprigs of thyme, whole
juice of 1 lime
1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper, whole
1 1-inch piece of ginger, cut into wide sticks
4 TB sugar (preferably natural brown or turbinado)
2 TB tomato sauce or diluted tomato paste
2 medium potatoes, cut into larger chunks
2 medium carrots, chopped in rings
salt and pepper to taste
about 2-3 TB flour for coating
oil for frying
4 cups water

1. Chop chicken into bone-in bite-size pieces using a sharp, durable knife and a hammer to drive the knife into the meat.

2. Next, you can either use the chopped ingredients for the marinade or throw all but the thyme and allspice in the blender.  Marinade chicken in onion, garlic, green pepper, green onion, lime juice, allspice, thyme, salt, and pepper for at least 1 hour.

3. Once marinated, scrape off excess marinade, them lightly coat chicken with the flour.  You can mix it with clean hands or a spoon.  The objective is to get a thick paste, not an actual clean coating.

4. Heat two TB of oil in a large pan over high heat.  This and the remainder of this recipe will be completed in an uncovered pan.  Proceed to brown meat in the oil.

5.  Meanwhile, in a small sauce pot over medium-high heat, place sugar and allow to sit until dark brown.  Do not stop once it is golden, and do not stir.

6. Once dark brown, add 4 cups of water and allow to boil until the burnt sugar released from the pain and forms a dark sauce.  Add this liquid to the pan once all of the chicken has sufficiently browned. Add reserved marinade.

7. Add in potatoes, carrots, hot pepper, and allspice.  Adjust salt level, if necessary.  Continue cooking over high heat, gently stirring often.

8. Once liquid has reduced to just over the meat, add tomato sauce and ginger.

9. Continue cooking over medium-high to high heat until potatoes are tender, but not too soft.  The sauce will continue to darken throughout the cooking process.  This is a good thing.

10.  Once potatoes are done and liquid has sufficiently reduced to create the look of a braised meat, as opposed to a soup, serve with Jamaican rice and peas or white long grain rice.

Jamaican-Style Peas and Rice *Low Iodine*

Since my diet is a bit more limited than normal, I try to incorporate flavorful foods whenever I can and just make the appropriate modifications without sacrificing flavor.  In this instance, the sacrifice was the beans.  Most beans are not permitted on a low iodine diet, neither canned nor fresh, especially not the traditional red kidney beans that would be used in this recipe.  If you do not have any dietary concerns, you can pop in a can of red kidney beans.  You can either drain the juice or count it as part of your liquid.

*makes 4 servings
1 cup of rice 
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
about 1/4c chopped green pepper
1 scotch bonnet, habanero, or cherry pepper, whole and stem- on*
1 tsp thyme or about 4 or 5 fresh whole stems (remove stem later)
1 green onion, chopped (I didn't have it, so I didn't use it.  No worries!)
1/2 tsp allspice powder
1 cup coconut milk or hydrated powdered coconut milk
salt to taste, about 2 tsp 
black pepper to taste
oil for sauteing

* If you don't like spicy food, maybe just use 1/4 pepper.  Do not chop the whole pepper or it will be far too hot!  Leave it whole

1. Rinse Bruce twice and then drain.

2. Meanwhile,  in a medium-size pot, saute the onion and green pepper until softened and translucent.  Salt them to season at the beginning of the process.  Add the garlic in the last minute or so.

3. Remove pot from heat, add coconut milk, and add water until liquid level rises to your first knuckle when you place your finger straight down to stand on top of the even-out layer of rice.  You are measuring from the top of the rice, not the bottom of the pan.  You only need enough water added to reach this level.

4. Return pot to the heat.  Bring water to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.

5. Continue stirring until water reduces to the point that you can see the bottom of the pan when you stir.

6. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes over low heat.

7. Remove from heat and let sit covered for 10 minutes.

8.  Remove any thyme stems and remove the hot pepper.  Fluff rice and serve.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Multi-Grain Muffins **Low Iodine and Almost Vegan**

This is yet another find for low iodine and vegan diets.  It's not for everyone, but I happen to love grains of all kinds.  If you like bran muffins and multi-grain bread then you'll love these muffins.  They are packed with nutrition and are very tasty.

1/2 c multi-grain oatmeal
5 TB brown sugar (1/4 c + 1 TB)
2 TB oil or softened vegetable margarine
1.5 tsp cinnamon

1 c multi-grain oatmeal
1-1/2 c white flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
2 TB shredded frozen coconut (Walmart, Asian market, Latin market)
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup unsweetened natural applesauce
2 TB honey
1/2 c coconut milk
1/4c - 1/3 c chopped walnuts or pecans
1/4 cups raisins (optional)
1/2 c + 2 TB brown sugar
1/4 c vegetable oil
2 egg whites

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Line a muffin pan with baking cups

3. Prepare topping by blending brown sugar, oats, oil or margarine, mixing well.

4. Prepare muffins by combining flour, oats, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  In a separate bowl, blend egg whites, applesauce, coconut milk, brown sugar, and oil.

5. Stir in dried coconut, nut, and raisins, if using.

6. Fill the cups with a spoon of batter, just enough to cover the bottom.

7. Spoon in a layer of streusel.

8. Fill the cups 3/4 of the way full with more batter.

9. Bake 18 minutes, or until golden brown on the edges.


Walnut Chip Pancakes...that happen to be *Vegan and Low Iodine*

First off, thank goodness for vegans!!  Phew!  Now that I've gotten that off of my chest, I have to admit that I used to be a bit of a special diet hater.  I could deal with vegetarians, and even relate to them, but there was something about veganism that irritated me.  How could you dare go to someone's house and expect them to comply with your dietary needs, how can you study abroad and think that people should change everything in their kitchen to vegan just for you?  Selfish!

Well, well, well, here I am, more like a vegan than I'd ever hoped to be, but not by choice.  Health changes have forced me to temporarily forgo diary of any kind, although I can have meat.  This baker had to learn to give everything an eggless and butter-free makeover.  One of the first recipes I made to comply with my new dietary restrictions was the most basic of them all--pancakes.  My first try was delicious and tender, but it had a crumbly mouth feel, and the coconut milk flavor was stronger than I preferred.  With a few small modifications, I give to you the perfect vegan pancakes!  Test them on anyone!  They'll never know and I'll never tell...shhh!

Walnut Chip Pancakes
1 cup flour
2 TB baking powder 
1/4 tsp salt (regular, not iodized)
1 heaping TB of sugar
1c coconut milk*
2 TB oil
1 TB honey 
a few drops of butter flavoring
1 tsp vanilla extra
1/2 - 1 tsp cinnamon 
1/8 - 1/4 c chopped walnuts (unsalted)
about 1/8 c Godiva dark chocolate chips
Additional oil for cooking

1.  Set stove to medium-low heat.

2.  Stir together flour, baking powder, salt until well-blended.

3. In a separate bowl, combine together milk, oil, honey, vanilla, butter flavoring, and cinnamon.

4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients with a whisk until smooth.  

5. Once combined, stir in chopped walnuts and chocolate chips.

6. Once pan is heated, add oil, allow to heat, and spoon batter into pan.

7. Cook pancakes until bubbles appear in the middle of the pancake.  Carefully flip and cook until golden brown.

*In addition to regular coconut milk, you can either use powdered coconut milk hydrated with water, or you can use the 5 oz can of coconut milk with additional water added to complete the full cup needed