Wednesday, November 21, 2012
I don't know how long I'll be able to post there so I'll start to post more stuff on this blog.
Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!
Thursday, September 27, 2012
After my recent move from Queens to Brooklyn I picked up a cold with a bad bad cough. It took a course of antibiotics and lots of cough syrup to make it go away. But I wouldn't consider my medications the only contributing factor to my recovery. I have to give my red swiss chard infused soups a little credit too.
I often cook with what I have on hand and this time I went out of my way, while sick, to pick up this nutritious leafy green. I don't think many people in Latin America use it. I certainly don't ever remember seeing it until about 4 years ago while wondering through a local NYC farmer's market. It took me a while before I got the guts to buy it, but after I did I found that sauteed with some extra virgin olive oil was one of the simplest side dishes I have ever made. Wrapping my head around the fact that a lot of people use it in their soups was quite difficult though. I've just never been a fan of leafy greens in my soup. In Colombia my family always used to make all types of soups with beans, plantains, vegetables, rice and even with eggs. It could be that my mom and aunt never made me leafy soups because they knew I didn't like creamy soups or soups with soggy vegetables. (I'm coming around to some cream soups). As it turns out though swiss chard and other leafy vegetables like kale retain some texture even after they are cooked. Not only that they also happen to contain a lot of the nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants that help keep you healthy. As they say this was exactly what the doctor ordered!
With the health factor in mind, I decided to buy one bunch of red swiss chard to make myself soup enriched with tons of vitamins and minerals. The moment I got home I cleaned and chopped what I was going to use, and stored the rest in the refrigerator. Then to make things very simple I used canned white bean soup and minestrone soup as pairings for my red swiss chard. Both iterations were delicious and they lasted me the entire week!
Below is what you'll need for each recipe,
Buen Provecho! =)
Red Swiss Chard and White Bean Soup with Chicken Sausage
One or two cups of chopped red swiss chard
One can of white cannellini beans
Half an onion and one garlic clove chopped
One or two links of chicken or turkey sausage
Two cups of low sodium chicken stock
Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
Cut the sausage into one inch cubes and saute in pan.
In the microwave, heat the chicken stock until it boils.
When you see that the chicken is semi done, saute with the onion and garlic for two more minutes and add salt and pepper to taste.
Wash the cannelini beans and add them to the pan.
Let everything saute together for a couple of minutes before adding the chopped red swiss chard.
Let the chard wilt for a minute and add the chicken stock.
As you stir use the back of your spoon to press a small portion of the white beans to make a paste. IT will give the soup a thicker consistency.
Let it simmer, serve, add Parmesan cheese to your liking.
One or two cups of chopped red swiss chard
One can of organic minestrone soup
Half an onion, one garlic clove chopped
A handful of grape tomatoes cut in half
Half a pepper (any color) chopped
One cup of low sodium chicken stock
Tablespoon of Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Shredded Parmesan Cheese
In the microwave, heat the chicken stock until it boils.
Saute chapped onions and garlic with extra virgin olive oil.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Add the chopped half pepper and sliced grape tomatoes and saute.
After a few minutes add the chopped red swiss chard, let it wilt and then stir.
Add the cup of chicken stock and the can of minestrone soup.
Stir everything together and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
Not too long since the vegetable soup is usually ready to eat.
Add Parmesan cheese to your liking.
And voila! You just made some super delicious soup with swiss chard.
Thursday, September 6, 2012
5 small sweet peppers of various colors seeded and chopped
5 small plum tomatoes, skins removed
2 small yellow onions cut into quarters
5 scallions chopped in half
3 heads of roasted garlic or regular garlic
One stem of celery chopped
One carrot chopped
A spring of mint (could use some other herb like cilantro)
One large leaf of kale
A dash of extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper to taste
- This is the easiest recipe, you just dump all of the ingredients into a blender and you are done. Just make sure you coarsely chop all of the ingredients before putting in the blender.
- If everything doesn’t fit in the blender try doing a portion of the ingredients and then gradually adding everything until everything is blended together.
- To preserve the sofrito simply leave the small portion you are going to use right away in a container in the refrigerator. You can store smaller ready to use portions in the freezer. Another way to preserve them in the freezer is to store the sofrito in an ice cube tray. You can take out as many sofrito cubes as you want whenever you are ready to use them.
Thursday, August 23, 2012
Below is my Q&A with Cynthia Sepulveda the Founder and President of Flaco Coquito.
I truly hope you feel inspired by her desire to develop a healthier alternative to a drink that is so dear to her Puerto Rican roots and heritage.
Why is coquito so important to you?
Coquito is a part of my culture and takes me back to when times were simpler, fun and more interactive with my family and friends. The taste of food and coquito and the sounds of music reminds me of my childhood in my grandmother's house celebrating with family.
What does it mean to you and your family?
It means "nuestra familia" (our family). Which I learned from my grandmother, who was the pillar of ours. She would make non-alcoholic coquito for the kids, so to include us in celebration during family events.
Coquito can be a very time consuming drink to make, especially when made following the original recipe and that's the main reason it's made a few times a year. It's important to me and my family to keep tradition alive, and keep our culture thriving.
What got you thinking about a healthier alternative to coquito?
My husband made it every year, but less and less family members were drinking it due to illnesses that affect many Hispanics; such as diabetes, cancer and lupus. I decided last holiday season to take over the coquito making and alter his recipe. My motivation was to attempt to make a lighter, healthier coquito while staying true to the taste. I recently went to Puerto Rico to visit my family and made some for my 90 year old aunt Carmen. She took one sip and told me to keep pouring because it tasted just like my grandmother's coquito. She was so taken by Flaco Coquito, I had to make her a large batch before leaving back to NY lol.
How hard is it being a start up business?
It is very difficult. Starting a business is not an easy undertaking. Branding to me is the most important part of any business. The girl with the coconut was my vision who was brought to life by an artist by the name of Anya Levkovich. Anya did an incredible job. I also decided in the middle of July to add Sonia Pena to the company who is now VP of Marketing for Flaco Coquito. Sonia has a wealth of knowledge in Hispanic media, and with my business sense and "Flaco Coquito" making skills we make a great duo!
How do you see your brand expanding?
My ultimate goal is to have Flaco Coquito distilled and sold in liquor stores. Right now we are marketing our name, concept and taste to create a demand. We have RED 58 Bar in Manhattan serving Flaco Coquito whose owner was taken by our concept and flavors. The owner of RED 58 will serve Flaco Coquito Mango and Tropical Blend flavors all year round while serving our Original in the fall and winter.
What do you hope to accomplish with this new drink?
We hope to accomplish CHANGE and people's perception of coquito. I want them to know that coquito can be consumed and enjoyed without feeling guilty all year around. I'm fortunate that I have community leaders who live a healthier life style and enjoy Flaco Coquito such as Mia Roman (Artist/Activist), Edwin Vazquez (Artist,singer,songwriter), Carmelina Vargas (Singer/Songwriter/breast cancer survivor) and George Torres (sofritoforyoursoul.com). Flaco Coquito recently came out in Carmelina's new video for her song "Alegria".
My family also helps me and they are simply amazing, especially my sister Monique & Cousin Gloria who believe in our product and work for Flaco Coquito. We also have so many other fans who help by spreading the concept of Flaco Coquito.
How would you like it to change or impact the way Latino's and others think about what they drink?
The evolution of all our traditional foods and drinks are inevitable especially with so many different illnesses that affect our community; particularly cancer. Flaco Coquito wants to be a part of that change providing low sugar, low fat and vegan options, it was born from tradition but enjoyed in a lighter and healthier way. Flaco Coquito can be enjoyed all year round now, not just during the Holidays. We offer 25 flavors which include our spring and summer flavors such as mango and tropical that are light, dairy-free and refreshing coconut goodness.
To contact Cynthia and/or to order some coquito visit www.flacocoquito.com
Saturday, August 18, 2012
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
This post goes out to all chocolate lovers cruising the Web. If at this moment, or at some point in the near future you get a chocolate craving. I want to recommend that instead of purchasing your usual chocolate fix, you buy a block of broken Callebaut dark semi-sweet Belgium chocolate. If you are in a tight spot and in desperate need of a quick fix of chocolate, then I probably wouldn't recommend this recipe. If on the other hand you are willing to try a completely different way of both eating and drinking chocolate then I suggest you try buying your own block of chocolate the next time you shop.
First, visit any large grocery chain. You should find broken up blocks of Callebaut chocolate next to where they exhibit their imported cheese selection. Don't buy the unsweetened dark chocolate. It's great for baking but it's super bitter. I don't want to you running for the hills just yet. Make sure you buy the broken semi-sweet dark chocolate from Callebaut. You should be able to find the Callebaut name engraved in the mix matched blocks of chocolate. If you cant find Callebaut, look for baking chocolate that is semi-sweet. I wouldn't buy chocolate chips, unless you find some that share similar ingredients with the Callebaut semi-sweet chocolate which contains 53.8% cocoa (sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, salt, and pure vanilla extract)
Don't forget to buy some fruit. I bough blueberries, which to me make the best chocolate pairing. It also helps that they are super cheap during the summer months while they are in season. Also, try buying New Jersey blueberries. That's some very biased advise because I grew up in NJ, but NJ is one of the largest producers of blueberries in the country and at this time of year they are very fresh, sweet, and plump.
Let's get started!
block of broken Callebaut dark semi-sweet Belgium chocolate
Pint of blueberries
Your favorite type of nut or granola
TIP - Don't use a cutting board. I find it easier to place a cloth kitchen towel on top of the kitchen counter, then place a large paper towel on top of the cloth towel. It helps keep the shards of chocolate from spreading all over your kitchen counter, and it also muffles the sound from the cutting board.
- If you kept your chocolate in the fridge after you bought it, make sure you leave it out for at least a half an hour so that it's easier to shave.
- With a large non-serrated knife, start to shave the chocolate off the block. Look at the images I posted. The chocolate can be cut into chunky pieces. It looks like you are cutting shards off chocolate.
- Please be careful with your fingers. You are using force when you cut. This is a block of something hard, it's not as easy as cutting a strawberry. I certainly don't recommend kids doing this without parental supervision.
- As you shave the chocolate you will notice that you will have to turn and flip your block of chocolate to get a better angle. The more you cut, the more you run out of cutting real estate, so you just have to keep looking for the best edge to cut off.
- Cut as much as you like, but if it's just for you, cut about enough to yield 3 tablespoons.
- Put the remainder of the block in the fridge in a sealed Ziploc bag. I do this because the kitchen I use doesn't have AC and it tends to get very hot very quickly.
- Make sure your fruit is cleaned and chopped up into chunks. If you use blueberries you don't have to do anything but wash them and remove any stems.
- * In a ceramic coffee cup, place your three tablespoons of shaved chocolate and put in the microwave for 30 seconds. If you have a super strong microwave, make it 20 seconds.
- Take it out and stir with a spoon. You will see that it hasn't really melted, all you have done is melted a little around the edges.
- If you are making 3 tablespoons of chocolate, then add one to one and a half tablespoons of milk to the same cup. Try one tablespoon first, it's preferable to have a thicker consistency than to get something that resembles hot chocolate. You want this to have a syrupy texture.
- * Add to the the microwave for 20 to 30 more seconds. As with before, it depends on your microwave's heat settings.
- * Take it out and then stir with a spoon. It might look watery at first, but keep stirring until you see a chocolate colored texture.
Instead of buying chocolate at the store, I have now become addicted with doing this exact procedure every time I'm craving chocolate. It's just SO GOOD! The difference is that I don't add the mixture to anything. I just eat the chocolate and the blueberries straight out of the cup. For a quick, I put the blueberries in the freezer for a couple of minutes until they start to get really cold and frosty. Then I proceed to add the hot chocolate syrup on top. I also mix the chocolate syrup with the blueberries and freeze the combined mixture together. I use cupcake paper as a mold and then I end up eating a delicious and cool dark chocolate blueberry bar. And to think that all I added to the chocolate shavings was some milk. It certainly has enough cocoa butter so don't go adding more butter. It's also super fresh, without any preservatives or artificial sugars. It's the way chocolate was intended to be eaten.
It might be more work than just buying a bar of chocolate at the store, but the flexibility you get in terms of ingredients, and to top it off the taste...It's really worth the wait.
I really hope you enjoy it alone and with the family.
Buen Provecho! =)
Monday, July 9, 2012
I love mojitos, they are hands down one of my favorite summer and all year round drinks. The ingredients are simple, and you can easily make one with any type of fruit or vegetable imaginable. I love my Cubans for this invention. The combination of mint and lime is simply genius!
I know in most Latin American countries yerba buena or spearmint (a mint variety) is readily available. You often find it growing wild like a weed, but because of winter and colder temperatures we don't get the privilege of year round access here in the United States. Well, certainly not in the North East of the United States. If you plant some in your backyard though you will find that the plant loves to reproduce. When my sister, who lives in NJ, bought a house it came with its own supply of yerba buena in the backyard. During the winter it was completely dead but the moment it got a whiff of spring it started to overpopulate her backyard. She never has to replant it, it's just always there. And the smell is divine. Definitely a plant that everyone should grow in their backyard, it will reward you ten fold during the hot summer months.
Another great thing about mojitos is that you can use various ingredients to develop your own distinct signature. I once worked near a restaurant where I used to buy cucumber mojitos. They were amazing! I still haven't come up with my own signature, but I want to tinker with making a ginger honey mojito, or a lychee mojito. I'll figure something out eventually. On the other hand, one thing I don't like about mojitos is how expensive they can be. I usually find mojito's in the $8 to $15 range per drink! That's New York City for you though. So instead of paying up we can just as easily make our own virgin or regular mojitos at home. All of the ingredients, except for the blue agave nectar which will run you about $5, will cost less than $8. In total that's about $13 spent on ingredients that will yield more than enough for probably a group of 8. This of course does not include the cost of alcohol...maybe you can get a friend to buy you some white rum as a gift! ::wink::
The key to this recipe is that we are not making individual mojitos. The recipe below will help you if that's what you seek, but I was looking at making something that would be easy to prepare and serve as a concentrated mojito mixture. You can then take the concentrated mixture to make a glass or a pitcher of mojito that you can serve at your next BBQ. Whatever you have left over you can freeze into ice cubes that you can later drop in your seltzer water or you can save the mixture in a container and thaw it to make a pitcher at a later date. What's great about this concentrated mixture is that it really lends itself to various recipes without having to make individual servings of mojito.
TIP 1 - If you want to make a different flavor mojito all you have to do is find all natural juice to substitute the mango juice in the recipe. Try to find juice with no high fructose corn syrup or other ingredients that you don't understand. If you can't find them, then I have an even better suggestion, make your own juice! For example, if you want to make a lychee, strawberry, cucumber, or coconut mojito all you have to do is buy the fruit or vegetable and blend it with some ice cubes. You want the mixture to be a little thick so just play with the fruit and ice combination. Make enough of the mixture so that you get about 4 ounces or half a cup per person.
Mint Leaves (10 leaves per drink)
Limes (4 lime wedges per drink)
Blue Agave Nectar - Light or Dark (half a tablespoon per drink)
White Rum (1 1/2 ounces per drink)
2 Liters of Lemon Lime Seltzer - (half cup or 4 ounces per drink)
All Natural Mango Nectar Juice (4 ounces per drink)
Muddler if you have one if not a large wooden spoon
Ice (to your liking)
Mango (Not required, but if you have some laying around they can be used in this recipe)
TIP 2 - A standard bar pitcher in the US will hold about 32 ounces. A liter container will hold about 34 ounces of liquid. So on average you are getting about 4 eight ounce drinks per pitcher. Keep this in mind before you buy your ingredients.
- Before you begin, make sure you keep the seltzer water and the mango nectar refrigerated so that you get a nice and refreshing drink, even without the ice.
- Roll the lime with the palm of your hand to release some of the juice before you cut. Cut each lime into 8 slices. Estimate that you will use about 4 slices per drink.
- Buy a bunch of mint leaves and just strip the leaves. If for example you want to make enough for 4 people then strip 40 leaves.
- In a container, squeeze half of the limes and drop the wedges in the container. Add the remaining lime wedges into the container as well. Break apart the mint leaves with your hands before adding them in the container. This is a very helpful step in the case that you have to use a wooden spoon.
- Add half a tablespoon of Blue Agave Nectar per drink. The reason you only add half a tablespoon per drink is because Agave nectar is sweeter than sugar.
- Add only 2 ounces of mango nectar per drink to the mixture.
- If you have mangoes laying around the house first remove the skin, cut up the mango into smaller cubes, then add to the mixture. A lot of stores now sell frozen mango chunks that can be thawed. Go with your gut, if you want a lot of mango pulp in your drink then go crazy. If you need a number then add 2 to 3 cubes.
- With your muddler or wooden spoon start to crush and mix your ingredients together.
- You will discover that you just made a big mush of all of the ingredients.
- If you think the mush is not too sweet then you can add a little bit more of the agave syrup. Remember that the mango nectar will tend to be on the sweet side so you don't over do it.
At this point you have two options you can either freeze the mixture or serve it to your guests.
- If you want to freeze the mixture into ice cubes or in a container go ahead and save it for a later day. Make sure you remove the limes if you want to make ice cubes. If you are preserving the entire mixture just leave the limes in the mixture.
- If you want to make individual servings, fill a cup with about 2 to 3 ounces of the mixture. Pour the remaining 2 ounces of mango nectar and mix. Add two or three ice cubes. Then add the 4 ounces of seltzer water. Mix with a spoon and serve. Try using a larger glass so that you don't have to fight to mix all of the ingredients together. It's also helpful so that the drink doesn't overflow.
- If you want to make a pitcher we are under the assumption that you will be preparing enough for four people. If that's the case pour the mixture until it covers 1/3rd of the pitcher. That's around 8 to 12 ounces of the mixture or 2 to 3 ounces per drink. Follow the same concept with the remaining ingredients. Add 8 ounces of mango nectar and 16 ounces of the seltzer water.
- If you want to use alcohol, just add 1 1/2 ounces of run to your cup, or 5 ounces to your pitcher then serve.
- Mix all of the ingredients and it is now ready to serve.
I really hope you enjoy your virgin or alcoholic mango mojito with friends and family during your next BBQ, or random hot summer day.
Buen Provecho! =)
About This Blog
I started this blog because I want to introduce new and healthy ingredients into my everyday meals. Living in the NY, NJ, CT tri-state area you find a plethora of local grocery stores that service a number of diverse neighborhoods. Every time I visit one of these stores I find fruits, vegetables, and ingredients that I have never used, or that I am afraid to use. I want to incorporate these ingredients to create new and healthier ways to experience Latin food, as well as other types of cuisines. I think it's important to love and continue our cooking traditions while also testing and incorporating new and healthier ingredients and techniques.
One of the most distinct ingredients that I know is not widely used in Latin cuisine is tofu, and it’s a shame. I have had tofu at Chinese and Thai restaurants before, but I never gave the ingredient a second thought. Tofu is such an amazing alternative to meats and it’s super healthy and cheap! This one ingredient got me thinking about all of the other healthy and fresh ingredients I could be using to develop Latin infused dishes that everyone in my family will love. That’s why I decided to name this blog Tofu con Sazón!