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Fall is here! Clean out that fridge and freezer!

Well. Just six weeks ago my husband and I moved from one side of the country (east) to the southwest again. Now that the move is over fro...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Spanish tapas

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving!

I sit here in my bed planning the last things I need to do for dinner tomorrow with family. My mind turns to the fact that I will  be responsible for more than just the Appetizers (TAPAS) and knowing that I am always asked to put finishing or correcting touches to food by my family. Thanksgiving is a time of retrospection, being with family and sharing the good as well as the bad. Some years it feels like there is more bad than good, but thankfully we remember the good times more often than not. Must be these rose colored glasses I wear!

Recently I did a radio interview about one GFWC Ruidoso Woman's Club food demo Program I put together for them for the month of November. I fell upon my mothers Spanish heritage and put together simple Tapa recipes. I have learned to always try to establish a connection with my audience. At first, when I was trying to do demos, I was not used to sharing info about myself, and talking to them like they were my sister ....which I had not seen in a long time. Be yourself - the best advice I ever received.

Break the ice!

Seems like I always have to vary the recipe and think on my feet when an ingredient is not available or somehow never makes it on the table. I have found my sous chef may not know how to do something in a manner I prefer (sometimes they are a volunteer) so, I tend to teach as I am doing the demo. But then demos are all about teaching. Go with the flow! It always turns out fine.

Here are a couple of recipes. Feel free to modify the recipes as you wish. After all these recipes are a mere suggestion.

Sausage Marinated in Red Wine

1 or 2 links of Spanish Chorizo (or good sausage)
1 bottle of Rioja red wine (or other good red)
4 cloves of garlic
Handful of chopped fresh oregano (or basil)
Black Pepper
1 Lemon, zested

 In a large saucepan submerge sausages. Add rest of ingredients and bring to a light boil, prick sausages. Cook for 15 minutes, cut into 1 inch pieces.

Spanish Bread

Use any white bread dough recipe but add 1/4 live oil to the mix. Proceed per the instructions to make the dough.

Mixing the Yeast, with water and a pinch of sugar. I added this liquid to the flour mixture. Used the dough cycle on my bread maker.
When the dough was mixed and had risen once, I formed the dough into two loaves. Rubbed the following mixture on the dough. Slashed the loaves and let it rise once again.

Rub the bread dough with 1 overripe tomato, garlic, olive oil and salt. Bake per directions. Serve with fresh olive oil, Spanish Wine and the sausages.

 Fresh Baked Spanish Bread!

Note: Tomato Pie ingredients (see recipe in previous post) in the background I made a Tomato pie, a recipe which a friend in Alabama verbally described and served in a fundraising luncheon I coordinated for the Class of 2012 Assistance League of Birmingham.  In the background, you see two baked pie shells, and 1 thinly sliced tomato marinating in balsamic vinaigrette, top the pie crust with one layer of tomatoes. Mix with equal parts of Mayo, Monterrey Jack and Colby jack , which are mixed well.

Great as alternative food choice for people who do not like the Spanish Foods.

My Optional Garnish: Top it all with chopped fresh Basil and bake until the cheese is bubbly.


Pictures of my Spanish Tapas Demo
Tapas Tasting

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Baking while on the road....

So, you think you have it hard trying to figure out how to make a recipe at home. Try it on the road!

While traveling back and forth from Alabama to New Mexico and back again, I have found a few shortcuts to cooking on the road. First of all, when you are literally traveling or caravaning with significant other, dogs and at times kids in a truck full of your basic necessitites you learn to streamline. Choices are limited by how much you can carry in your vehicle, cooler, how good your memory may be to make recipes on the road. The there is the limitation of making food with very few ingredients and tools. If you love to camp, you may have already conquered these obstacles. But for some of us who are used to the creature comforts of home -- it can be daunting. Lets throw in the limited mobility of your significant other (might have broken a bone - as my husband did and was on crutches) or perhaps the transmission went out and your are crammed into a Penske truck with your dogs and your husband and your mobile belongings (lets say home lies about 16 hours away, which it did). My significant other was a little too enthusiastic about moving a 200+ lbs table by himself, he dropped it on his foot and is in hard cast for 6 weeks - only 4 to go. Kill me now!

The scenario is set.

You have room in your cooler for the basic sandwich suppplies and some sandwich veggies, have a tote bag full of fruit, paper goods, plastic ware and some snack foods like nuts, seeds, cookies and so forth. You have checked into a place which allows pets (we have two small dogs). How can you avoid days and weeks of eating hamburgers, McDonalds, Wendys and other fast food including Fried Chicken? It does bad things to your wallet, your waistline and your cash/bank account. After all, we are feeding our cars gas too and that costs Big money!

If, you are fortunate enough to have a kitchenette in your room, you can bake a few things. Use flour tortillas to make a mexican pizza - Toast the tortilla in the oven or in a skillet ( if you have one), then add thin sliced tomatoes and top with grated cheddar cheese. Delicious! Alternatively add Shredded Cheese and Beans (Get those instant dehydrated beans and reconstitute with water microwaving for 5 minutes), warm the taco in the microwave, skillet or oven. Easy Tacos on the road.

Save those extra tacos (wrap in plastic wrap) for breakfast in the morning (love those Reynolds Wrappers)- when you are on the road it makes travelling easier and faster. Those Reynolds Wrappers are also a find (use to line a baking sheet or if you have no baking sheet! Go to the local dollar store and get a pack, along with Sandwich and gallon zip lock bags and water (12 bottles for a buck) - you can't go wrong for a buck apiece!

Biscuits are wonderful too, get a bag of Grands frozen biscuits and bake them all at one time according to the directions. Store remainer in the Fridge, remove as needed. Or, you can store in the cooler in bags (two in each - you can use them as needed). There are also great buys in the breakfast meat section. Have you ever tried Turkey Sausage? They make great breakfast sandwiches at home (add cheese and an egg for extra protein) or on the road.

But the most helpful things I have found are:   Frozen Pie crusts!

You can make a quick empanada (hand held pie) out of anything - think past the apple pie - have sliced meats for sandwiches? Take out that ham and cheese and make some hand pies (add cold cuts, and cheese and bake in the oven till golden brown; or add beans and cheese as a filling, bake in the oven until golden brown at 350 degrees.

Yes, I carry extra pieces of Parchment paper for traveling. Not sure about those cooke sheets which we encounter on the road. Call me paranoid!


Have you tried tomato pie? You are in for a treat - tastes delicious.

Tomato Pie

1 large Roma Tomato
1/2 cup salad dressing
1 pie crust baked
1/2 cup mayonaise
1/2 cup cheddar cheese
1/2 cup Mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Thinly slice a large roma tomato (from your sandwich making ingredients), add 1/2 cup of salad dressing (balsamic or italian work great), marinate the tomatoes in the dressing for 30 minutes in fridge. You can use the dressing later for your salad afterwards (I buy spinach, cucumbers and carrot sticks). Using a bakign sheet or pie tin (if you have one), lay out a pie crust and prick well then bake. When the crust is browned and cooled then remove the tomatoes from the marinade, set aside the marinade and place tomatoes in the bottom of the pan. Add cheeses to the mayonaise and mix well. gently spread the cheese mixture over the pie. Bake until bubly and golden brown.  Makes six servings.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Fall is here! Clean out that fridge and freezer!

Well. Just six weeks ago my husband and I moved from one side of the country (east) to the southwest again.

Now that the move is over from Alabama to New Mexico, life is becoming somewhat normal. The move to the Southwest where my husband originally came from, was an ordeal. Moving from a larger city to a small rural village presents some unforeseen problems. We adapt as we find the need. So, you must learn to improvise and modify your recipes on an ad-hoc basis.

We also just recently put our home up for sale. We are looking towards moving to an area where the altitude is not as high and downsizing our home is looking very much as something we want to do. Most baby boomers are in this frame of mind, the kids leave for college, some never to return except for holidays. This is due to the fact that we are looking forward to our retirement years and know that we don't need three extra bedrooms and two extra bathrooms to clean! Cooking in a home where your private spaces are being viewed is another issue, short cooking times, not allot of mess to clean up after each meal and keeping the house staged -- presents problems as we cook, bake and grill our food. More on quick recipes to get us all through the next few months to come, including the mad Christmas rush as we all entertain family and friends.

Also, waste not. Use your leftovers and get that stuff out of your freezer cause the holidays season is just around the corner. Hm, makes one think...Christmas cards and Christmas gifts...its time to start thinking about those things! as your put away your Halloween decorations, see what you need to throw away, go out and see what great bargains there are for next years Halloween decor. Next holiday is Thanksgiving. You need to pull out your Christmas list, order cards now and start to declutter your OLD or broken Xmas decorations.

A few ideas for leftovers to make great quick and easy meals with left over bread

1) use leftover bread to make french toast. Serve with thick sliced bacon, fresh fruit and some WARM fresh homemade strawberry syrup (add strawberries to pan along with a couple of tablespoons of water,  sugar and simmer until the fruit starts to break down ~ 15 minutes).
2) make croutons with left over bread. Simply add to a stick of butter in a plan, coat bread cube and brown on all sides, add Parmesan, Italian seasoning or seasoning of choice. Serve on your salad or on top of hot tomato soup.
3) make grilled cheese croutons. Scrumptuous with tomato soup, butternut squash soup or cream of arugula soup.

pics are being sorted and will be added shortly!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Putting it all together

Life simply put, has been hectic lately.

My husband and I are in the process of moving back to our home in New Mexico from Alabama. It has been really a trying time to move piecemeal, take our dogs with us, find accomodations for all of us. Not being able to cook, eating on the road has taken a toll on me! I have just found my set of knives in the box we packed (due to the fire - more about that later in this post). Gained 8 lbs and desire to have a kitchen to cook in again.

Once I arrived in NM -- I was looking forward to being able to cook in my own kitchen. The kicker is that without proper utensils and pans, then having to prepare to evacuate our home due to little bear fire in New Mexico life dealt me a bunch of bothersome hurdles. So, we began our list of things to save, funny how while you may have possessions, it the things which you hold near and dear to your heart which really help you reset your priorities about what is important in life. So, we began our gathering phase of pulling together all our papers, pcs, personal belongings, and medications. Found a store room in  a nearby town away from the fire and took our precious cargo there. Two days have passed since we arrived from a cross country drive starting in Alabama and ending in New Mexico. We suddenly we had to prepare our house for a possible evacuation due to a forest fire in New Mexico..

But, before I digress with photos of the fire way down below...let us review the basics of creating a miripoux, trinity, or as I call it a sofrito as it is called in Hispanic cooking. First crush the garlic, add salt to the garlic and mince garlic, add your vegetables and sauté in a pan with olive oil mixed with butter or corn oil. NEXT....Lets try to create your basic chicken and rice dish using the principles you have learned so far...

Lets put together a meal of Chicken and Rice with Borracho beans. Pull together the ingredients ( will add the recipe down below:

Add 1 Tbsp of Oil to your dutch oven, add 1 cup of long grained white rice. Brown the rice over med-high heat until you can see the rice color change to a nutty brown.

Next, take out the following ingredients:
1 can tomato sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Green pepper
2 cloves of Garlic
1 rounded teaspoon of Cumin
1 lemon, juiced

Using a good knife, slice one side of a green pepper. Julienne it, or you may just set aside the green pepper.

Saute chicken in the pan, making sure to brown both sides.

Crush Garlic in a molcahete, add cumin seeds and grind fine, you may add 3 - 4 peppercorns in the molcahete and crush with the mano negro. Add a little water to make a soupy paste. Add to the Chicken and Rice pot. Drop in the bell pepper and the Lime juice. Add 1 Tsp Pepper, the cumin and rice. Simmer for 45 minutes. Serve!



For the borracho beans you need a few items:  1/2 to 1 lb pinto beans, pinto bean seasoning or you can substitute a can of tomato sauce, 1 tsp pepper (add salt after you cook beans), 1 can of beer, 1 peeled garlic clove per 1/2 lb beans, 2 slices bacon, water to cover the beans up to 5" above beans. Save the chicken for the chicken and rice dish.

Clean and soak beans overnight in 1 tsp baking soda, water in the crock pot of the slow cooker you will be using.

The next morning rinse the beans 3 times, discard water. Add beer, and rest of ingredients. Cook on high in the crock pot for 6 hours, checking the water frequently and stir occasionally. Spoon out into bowls or on a plate and enjoy!

Here the pics of the LITTLE BEAR FIRE IN RUIDOSO:

Thursday, May 10, 2012

All About Rice!

I've had so many people ask "How do you make Spanish rice?" Well, there is a little trick to making great Mexican rice , Southwest Style rice, Mexican or Tex-Mex Rice.  My grandmother taught me how to make her Rice recipe in her kitchen in Laredo, TX in the 60's. She served this rice in her Mexican Restaurant. She told me using lemon juice in the recipe would make the rice light and fluffy, and it does! It works every time! No fail!

I was about 9 years old when she taught me how to make the rice, I wrote the recipe down and use the basic recipe to this day. However, I have added my own variations below!

Here is the basic recipe, variations are included below.


1 cup long grain rice
1 Tbsp Corn Oil
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup water
1/4 chopped onion
1/2 can tomato sauce
1 teas ground cumin, scant
1 clove garlic crushed
1/2 teas salt
1/2 teas fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup green pepper
1/2 lemon

First crush the garlic, add salt to the garlic and mince garlic.  Next, brown rice in the oil in a medium skillet over med-high heat, stir frequently until the rice is browned lightly like a nutty brown (but not burned). Add onion immediately and cook another 30 seconds, stirring quickly to keep from burning. Add water to pan (will cause steam to form), tomato sauce, rest of spices and stir quickly. Add green pepper which has been cut into strips. Add 2 cups of water, Cover tightly. 


Lower heat to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. No peeking! Do not lift the cover for 5 minutes AFTER you turn off the burner! NO EXCEPTIONS!


Spanish Rice: Omit cumin powder, proceed as normal.

Southwestern style:  Add 2 -3 Hatch Chile Peppers, chopped  (add to the rice with spices).

Mexican or Tex-Mex: Add 1/4 cup Peas with spices and proceed as normal.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Exploring Mexican Cuisine: BAJA, Southwest, Tex Mex!

While in NM this past month I have had the ability to experiment with dishes from not only NM but also those mexican dishes from other parts of the US. Now then we all know that there are different types of Mexican food. Here is a little breakdown on the Mexican Foods out west.

CALIFORNIA Mexican Foods

Let's take for example Mexican food of the West from California which has a spin on it. They specialize in citrus added to Mexican food with local fresh veggies. Think of the Baja style pepared Fish Tacos recipe below.

Fish Tacos
1 lb Mahi Mahi fish fillets
1 tsp fresh black pepper
1 tsp Old Bay seasoning
1 cup flour
1 cup beer
1 cup oil

Mix beer, seasonings and flour together in a bowl. Mix well.

Dry fish, cut into 6 - 8 pieces. Dunk into the beer batter and allow to drain slightly before adding to heated oil. Do not over crowd the pan with fish. Cook for about 3 minutes or until golden brown and turn. Cook for 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels. Repeat until done.

Serve with fresh sliced lime wedges, slaw, salsa, corn tortillas and an ice cold beer.

Southwestern Mexican Foods

Now then New Mexico and Arizona have a different view of Mexican foods. NM is known for their Hatch Chilies and the Southwest is known for the different types of Chilies grown by the universities and local Chile growers. That specific type of Mexican food is known as Southwestern Mexican. Enchiladas in other parts of the country are usually rolled, but in New Mexico it is not unusual to find them stacked. Also, there is the issue of Red Sauce, Green Sauce or Christmas.  Green Sauce is Green Chile Sauce, while the red Sauce is that of the Chile Molido it is a rich red color. Finally, there is Christmas - when you cannot make up your mind you get both sauces - personally my favorite. 

New Mexico is where the Green Chile Cheeseburger was brought to an art. Many say the OWL Cafe in San Antonio,NM serves the best Chile Cheeseburgers but my thinking is that the BUCKHORN Cafe in San Antonio, NM serves the best burgers for $6 and a bunless wonder of the same ingredients for $4 which is a deal. Just be sure to "Thank" Bobby Olguin when you are there - as he is usually there, the proprietor along with his wife and eager to trade jabs at you anytime -- when not filiming his NM foodie show. ( http://www.socorro-nm.com/buckhorn.htm) A damn great burger - just check it out for yourself!

Also, in El Paso, TX there is this small chain of restaurants which specialize in flautas in a thin red sauce. It is called "Chicos Tacos". 

Here is the facsimile recipe:

Mock Chico's Tacos

5 large Roma Tomatoes
3 - 4 jalapenos
salt and pepper

Remove stems, chop coarsely and add to a pot. Add rest of ingredients. Cook until peppers are soft. Add to a blender and puree all together. Set aside.

1 lb chuck, ground
1 Serrano pepper, minced and seeded
2 crushed garlic cloves
pinch of both chili powder, and paprika
1 bay leaf
cup of water
salt and pepper

Next, add ground chuck to a pan, fry with pepper and garlic. Drain oil, add seasoning after pink has fled. Add water and simmer for 30 minutes. Set aside.

2 jalapenos, stems removed
1 serrano pepper, stem removed
2 Tbsp lime juice
2 tsp apple cider vinegar (may substitute regular distilled vinegar)Bay Leaf
Bay leaf
Black peppercorn balls

Add peppers to a saucepan. Add lime juice, vinegar and salt to taste. Add bay leaf. Cook until peppers are soft. Add water to make a cup of broth, put into the food processor and blend until liquid. Serve this first, ladle into a bowl.


corn tortillas
shredded cheddar

Next you will fry the flautas. Dip the corn tortillas in oil, fry no more than 30 seconds and roll (use 1 1/2 tbsp of meat) and secure with a toothpick and fry till crispy or about 2 minutes. Add to sauce, top flautas with cheddar or shredded colby plus add some salsa. Enjoy!

Here is the family favorite NM cole Slaw which is oil based.

New Mexican Slaw
2 tbsp Cider Vinegar
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 hear of finely shredded cabbage

Place cabbage in a large serving dish. Add the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to a measuring cup and stir  well. Add to the cabbage and toss well. Refrigerate.


Growing up in central Texas I was accustom to what is called TEX-MEX, that is spicy Mexican food which has a distinctive cheesiness about it. It is a US invention as in Mexico there is no such type of food such as TEX-MEX. I used to go to Tip Top Cafe in San Antonio which served the best handrolled Enchilada dinners, but there were also the Puffy Tacos - something well known in San Antonio and difficult to find elsewhere.

Puffy Tacos

1 lb ground beef
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
1 Tbsp Chile Powder, Mexican Oregano
1 Tbsp Cumin (OPT)
2 Tbsp Cilantro, chopped
1 potato, diced
Cayene pepper to taste
1 cup Beef Broth

Break ground beef into chunks and add onion and garlic, fry until the meat is no longer pink. Drain meat of oil. Add the rest of the spices. I prefer to not use Cumin, if you must use it - add it now. Then add the rest of the ingredients. Cook for 20 - 30 minutes or until the potato is done.

For the PUFFY TACO  - you must use fresh corn masa to make the puffy shell. Suggestion is to buy it in the store and pat out into a 5 inch circle OR use 1/3 of the bag's recipe to make corn tortillas on the Masa Harina bag available in the hispanic section of the store. Cook shells on each side for 30 seconds to 1 min at most or better yet cook it in 1 inch of oil for a really authentic look and taste. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels.


Break top of puffy taco and fill with beef mixture. Top with Shredded lettuce and tomatoes, add cheese and serve with rice, beans and tortillas and lots of Salsa and Tortilla Chips!


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Artichoke salsa!

Yeah, you heard me right! The big difference between the regular old run of the mill Tex Mex salsa is the fact that the addition of artichokes makes this salsa little bit healthier. There is nothing wrong with that! Artichoke salsa is delicious, satisfying and brings the salsa up to a new level. Great as a snack on tortila chips, on an omlette, with shrimp. Simply heavenly!

Artichoke Salsa
4 Roma tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 lime, ,juiced
1/4 cup Spanish onion, chopped
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup Olives, chopped (I prefer green but try black olives)
6 oz artichokes, chopped
3/4 teas salt
1/2 teas pepper, fresh cracked
3 medium hatch chilies, roasted and chopped
2 seeded Serrano peppers, minced

Place everything in a bowl, mix well.


Can be refridgerated for up to 4 days.


Modifications:  To make regular Salsa omit the Artichokes, add juice of 1/2 more Lime.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Life in the Heart of Dixie

B'Ham can be compared in many ways to Dallas now. The life in the city is fast, the downtown area is considered dangerous. The weather can change at the drop of a hat. The weather is moderate, it can snow at times, but it is a place where the terrain is lush. People in this part of the country are steeped in the traditional values of the old plantation life. While it is composed of a number of smaller cities engulfed by the larger city, as B'ham  evolved there are a few things which remained within the structure of the foundation of the lifestyle in the south. This is an industrial city built on the sweat of the south's iron and steel mills with roots in the model of the captured and dependant labor supply namely that of blacks built squarely upon the plantation life. Once freed the labor supply was able to finally break free of the lowly positions, obtain required education to build better lives for themselves. So while there is excellent education in Alabama, life in the south is steeped in tradition. Life continues to revolve around the church, the local community, family and the local community (yes, this repeated again for EMPHASIS).

"What church do you go to?", is a common question here.

"What brought you here?", is the second question.

There are things which are steeped in life in the south, such as which churches are frequented. If you and others in the south do not cross paths often it is because your churches do not intermingle. The southern hospitality is that of making strangers feel welcome and extending hospitality but not to the extent that they let them into their communities unless they are affiliated with the local church. So, there is a bit of cultural separation if your communities and churches do not intermingle. There are neighborhoods considered better than others as far as local neighborhoods go. Homewood in B'ham is akin to the SMU area in Dallas. There is black side of town as there is a brown side of town. There are places which you do not visit alone or at night if you are a woman. Huntsville is akin to Austin, TX. Mobile, AL and the Gulf Shores areas are aking to Corpus Christi and Port Aransas, TX. There is nothing (no like city) like Houston, TX in Alabama.

Women in the south are homemakers, caretakers of the family, home decorators, nurses, gardeners, very good cooks, maids, volunteers, seamstresses, baby sitters and jacks of all trades while maintaining a cool, calm stylish demeanor. Add to this mix when a woman works -- the additional role of professional, or out of the home worker. They are much more resilient that they appear, and yes appearance is everything here.

"Simply put", as a friend of mine in Austin, TX used to always say, there is an unwritten code of politeness in the south. People are always stylish, calm, and composed. They travel locally, not much outside of the state as the state is not a wealthy state. The rural people you will find are salt of the earth people.

Barbeque in this part of the country is PORK.

In Texas we all know it is Beef.

But in both places you will find also Chicken Barbeque.

Below you will find a link for a great link to a traditional style recipe for a southern favorite: Cornbread. (southerners consider cornbread with sugar to be a northern style cornbread, So much for Texas cornbread which contains sugar):


Hispanic folks enjoy making  barbeque too, but it is called ASADA. In San Antonio, TX there are these FABULOUS Anticuchos which are grilled shish-k-bobs served at this great huge Fiesta called NIOSA (Night in Old San Antonio). I grew up eating these, and learned how to make them. They are PERUVIAN shish-k-bobs. Delicious and virtually foolproof.

Here is the basic recipe.


1 part red wine vinegar
3 parts water
2 Serrano Peppers
Cubed Meat
Whole Black Pepper
1 teas garlic salt
Pinch of Oregano
Pinch of Comino

Add all ingredients in a blender, but hold off on adding meat for a bit. Blend well, pour over meat. Cover 1 -2 lbs cubed meat. Marinate 24 hours. Skewer meat cubes with Bamboo skewers. Do not reserve the Marinade as it will contaminate.

Cook over hot coals, baste skewers with butter.

Serve immediately.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Basic Sofrito

So what is Sofrito?

Think chopped seasoned vegetables which are seasoned and lightly sauteed. This is used in cooking many Latin American foods as the "base". Try this simple Sofrito. Other cultures use this cooking method, also known as epis (Haitian), Guiso (Colombian), it is also used in Mexican, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese, as well as Cuban, Puerto Rican, Caribbean cuisines and so forth.

Once you have learned to make Sofrito. Add vegetables to your taste and proceed to make the recipe your own - based on your likes, dislikes, local fresh vegetables available and recipes you wish to incorporate the Sofrito in.

1 T vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, seeded, devoid of membrane, chopped
1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded, devoid of membrane, chopped (may substitute an orange bell pepper)
1 large red bell pepper, seeded, devoid of membrane, chopped
3 cloves minced garlic
1 t salt
1 t fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 - 1 t fresh cumin, ground
cilantro to taste, chopped or crushed (about 1/3 to 1/2 cup)

Heat the oil, add the peppers and onions. Cook until onions are translucent, add salt and pepper. Stir and mix well. This will take about 10 minutes. Add your cilantro and allow it wilt. Stir and use immediately, or you may keep in the fridge for about 4 days or better yet, freeze any you are not using for up to 2 mos.

Here are a few options to consider:
  • Tomatoes
  • Bay leaf
  • achiote (annato seeds)
  • pork
  • ham
  • lard
  • capers
  • turmeric
  • cardamon
  • Oregano 
  • Habaneros or other chile

Makes approximately 2 cups of Sofrito.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Fusion cuisine of the south and the resurgence of southern food

Living in the heart of Dixie has introduced me a few new foods, better renditions of old time favorites and introduced me to a melding of cuisines.

With the recent changes in laws in Alabama many Hispanics have left the state for neighboring states with less strict immigration laws. So, Alabama is going the way of Arizona and other states cracking down on illegal immigrants. Migrant workers have made their exodus out of the state state of Alabama and taken their labor to other states. This course has led to a civil uprising of sorts in the state, much as what happened to the blacks in the 70's. Hispanics are congregating in capital cities, meeting amongst themselves and the lessons learned of the southern civil rights movements the blacks faced in the south are being brought forward yet again. Some of those moments of civil right bursting forth into the light of attention worldwide such as the bombings in Montgomery, Dr Martin Luther King and the freedom riders are etched in our history, locally as well as nationally.

Some people do not wish to dwell on what is happening in America. Uneducated Americans are stating that the Hispanics are taking their jobs. But as we all know, those are jobs others feel themselves too superior to take on - as they are service related jobs. Hence fruit and vegetables are rotting in the fields of states taking this stand, and service jobs have been affected around the nation. Hispanics are fearful of reprisal and ugly confrontations with people who wish them harm.

Quite frankly, the Hispanic population has been exploding over the past few decades. More and more Hispanics or Latino numbers are growing and will continue to grow. The unrest experienced in the states adjacent to Mexico is spilling into the neighboring border states. As of 2011, or even as early as 2010 it is not safe to go as a visitor to the border cities in Mexico which in our youth we visited to buy cheap Mexican jewelry, kitchen ware and for weekend vacations during summers. Mexican Americans with families in Mexico now must fly into cities further in Mexico or risk being shot at in border towns of Mexico and the US.

This exodus of Hispanics in Alabama has left the remaining Mexican - Americans, "born in America" Hispanics, South American's or Latin American's facing daily challenges of dealing with prejudiced outrage and unusual scrutinization of darker skinned peoples. School children are dealing with the changes in laws at school as well, which should be a place of learning not separation because of their skin color. Announcement of pedigrees is common place in the South when meeting new people as is the faith/church you attend.

I am going to intersperse recipes belonging to the South American peoples this year to document some of the recipes being shared with other Hispanics and people born in countries outside of America as I have been invited to some of these gatherings. Learning that some of the ingredients may be somewhat the same but some much different than the Tex-Mex we are familiar with.

There are a large number of Mexican-American's, Guatemalan and El Salvadorian communities remaining in Alabama. As I am exposed to their recipes I will be posting them starting today with the recipe(s) below.

Salvadorian Enchiladas

1/2 c corn oil
2 large eggs
2 medium white onion
1 medium bell pepper
3 cloves garlic
8 corn tortillas
2 T olive oil
3/4 teas Chipolte Chili powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 head Iceburg lettuce
3 Roma tomatoes
12 stems of cilantro
8 oz ground Pork
3 oz Pecorino Romano (or Monterrey Jack)

Heat Corn Oil in pan. Line baking sheet or big plate with paper towels. Dip tortillas into the hot oil, and brown for about a minute, transfer to pan with paper towels and drain. Repeat for each tortilla.

Place eggs in small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil. Then turn off heat and let them sit for about 15 minutes.

Dice onions, bell pepper and mince garlic cloves with a bit of salt.  In a separate pan heat the diced onion, bell pepper and garlic with olive oil add chili powder and cook for about 5 minutes or until fragrant and onion is soft. Add pork to the mixture, cook until the no pink remains, chopped the meat as you cook it, stir it into the mixture. Discard the fat and taste seasoning with sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper.

Shred the lettuce, slice tomatoes into 16 slices. Coarsely chop Cilantro. Drain eggs, crack them under cool water and let them cool. Then slice eggs into 8 pieces.

Arrange two tortillas on each plate. Divide pork among them. top with lettuce, egg, tomato slices, pecorino and cilantro.

Makes 4 servings, serve with black beans, sopes (similar to a gordita) and fried plantains.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Desert Anyone?

As the winter months have been mild, it nevertheless has catapulted me into the kitchen as cooler weather always does. My husband has been on a "behavior modification" but this does not deter me from preparing sumptuous foods and deserts. I have a couple to share and a few more which I am still in the process of testing. Enjoy!

3 Cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 pound brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
5 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup dark rum (plus 2 T more)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup chopped pecans
Sweetened whipped cream 
Sliced berries (add 2 T rum and let them sit for 30 minutes)
Preheat over to 325 degrees F.  

Grease and flour a 12 cup Bundt pan.  

Sift together flour, baking powder and salt; and set aside.  In mixer bowl cream butter until light.  Gradually add sugars and continue beating until very light and fluffy.  Beat in eggs one  at a time, beat well after adding each additional egg.  Combine milk, rum and vanilla.  Add to batter alternately with dry ingredients.  Fold in nuts last.  

Pour into prepared pan.  Bake 1 hour 45 minutes, or until toothpick  inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan on wire rack 30 minutes; remove from pan and cool.  

Wrap and store at room temperature 24 hours before serving.  Before serving combine 1 cup of powdered sugar with 2 T rum and stir till smooth. Drizzle over the cake. Serve with sweetened whipped cream and sliced berries.  

Makes 20 servings, ~ 400 calories each without sweetened cream.

Fast and Dirty Lava Brownies

1 Box your favorite brownie mix
3 eggs, room temp
3 egg yolks, room temp
3 Tablespoons coffee or coffee liqueur
1 stick butter
1 cup chopped chocolate, good quality (you may substitute Toll House)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put butter in microwave bowl and nuke for 1 minute in your microwave. Stir mixture well and melted and creamy. Set aside.  

Using an electric mixer add eggs and egg yolks to a medium bowl. Beat for 6 minutes. Add brownie mix to the eggs and mix, add coffee and stir in the chocolate mixture. Grease 12 muffin cups and add mixture 3/4 full. Bake for 12 minutes.

Brownies should be soft, warm and gooey in the middle. Serve with ice cream and more chocolate.

Soup fundraiser

What have I been doing lately???
In January I've been working on pulling together recipes for my next cookbook, that being based on delectable cupcakes. I have a friend helping me with photos and have had my writing groups (NM and TX) review sections as well as my editing muse feeding me ideas. The book undoubtedly needs to be a COLOR cookbook. The photo shoot will be sometime in the next few months as this month I am finishing up the cook-booklet for the Assistance League of Birmingham.

Last month was a whirlwind of testing multiple recipes for a soup fundraiser in Alabama. Below are a few southern basic recipes along with AL's rendition of Chili. In testing these recipes I have determined the palate of the southern people in the US is much different than the palate of the Southwestern people. In AL Pork is a favorite, beef is not as much a favorite and Turkey is found in stores but not really used in many restaurants or cafes.

Peppers, hot or not. That could be considered a bad word in the southern states. Where as in NM and Texas it was not uncommon to use plenty of peppers and1 teaspoon of Cayenne pepper and 8 or 9 chopped Medium Hatch chilies to spice up the chili - in Alabama I can barely  use 1/4 teaspoon for a batch of Chili and only MILD chopped green Chile.  What a difference it makes here in AL, they also like Chile a little sweeter and their cornbread has no sweetness to it (the other bread served in the south is biscuits). I myself prefer a sweet cornbread as is served in Texas and in NM.

The first two recipes come from a friend who came by these recipes through family members in AL, the last one is a hearty health conscious heavily laden veggie chili recipe adapted by yours truly.

Corn Chowder
Saute 1 cup chopped onions and chopped celery in 2 T. butter.
Add:  1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can cream style corn
2 ½ cups whole milk
1 cup diced cooked ham
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup cooked diced potatoes
1 T. parsley flakes or fresh parsley

Create your flavor base by sauteing onions and celery in butter with drizzle of olive oil. Cook for about 5 minutes, add remaining ingredients and simmer for 20 minutes. Serve with Hot Cornbread.

Indian Hash (never heard of this before but it was tasty)
2 pounds of ground round
2 cans cream style corn
1 can regular kernel corn
1 lg. can crushed tomatoes
1 lg. bell pepper, chopped
½ cup chopped onion
½ cup chopped celery
Salt and pepper
Worcestershire Sauce to taste
Tabasco to taste
A pinch of Cayenne to taste
Brown meat, add pepper, onion, celery and cook until tender (about 5 minutes).  Add remaining ingredients and simmer for about 30 minutes. 
Serve with Cornbread.

Hearty "Skinny" Calorie Conscious Chili
10 oz Turkey, ground
1 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (28 oz) cans of diced or crushed tomatoes
1 (15 oz) cans of Black beans, rinsed
32 oz Turkey broth, low sodium
1 onion, diced
2 zucchini, diced
2 yellow squash, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 Green bell pepper, diced
1 Red bell pepper, diced
1 Yellow bell pepper, diced
2 Carrots, diced
1 Teas Coriander
1 8oz can Tomato Paste
3 Tablespoons Chili Powder
1 T Paprika
1 Teas Cumin
1/4 - 1 Teas Cayenne
2 Tablespoons Cornmeal or Masa Harina

Brown onion, celery and peppers in Olive oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot. Add remaining ingredients. Bring to a fast boil and turn heat down to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes adding the cornmeal the last 30 mins of cooking. Stir occasionally.

Serve in big bowls with a large side salad. This makes over 20 once cup servings or 10 generous servings. Great for football crowds.