Month: December 2013

New Year Easy Recipe – ‘4 Spices’ Dry Rub Skillet Chicken

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This is my last post for 2013. To welcome the New Year, I am sharing this family favorite:  ‘4 Spices’ Dry Rub Skillet Chicken recipe. Juicy and tender, the secret to this easy recipe is the ‘4 spices’ dry rub.

Start by adding salt and pepper to uncooked chicken. Ingredients for the dry rub are generous amounts of: 1) Whole cumin seeds, 2) coriander seeds, 3) ginger and 4) paprika. Mix and rub on the uncooked chicken with olive oil (to help spread the dry rub.) Cover and marinade for 30 minutes in the fridge. If you have time for prep work, let it marinade for 2-4 hours in the fridge. Either way, I have made this recipe following a 30 minute marinade and the chicken turned out moist, juicy and flavorful.

IMG_4992Cook on medium heat on a pan until chicken pieces have browned on all sides.

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Cover and simmer. Mix the remaining dry rub with 1/2 cup of water and add to the pan. Follow this last step only if all liquids at the base of the pan have evaporated. Turn the chicken halfway through the process, and remove from the pan when all pieces have cooked completely.

IMG_4998Tips:

  • This recipe also works well with boneless chicken thighs.
  • Serving suggestions: Serve with mashed or boiled potatoes and broccoli, or with a simple green salad and french bread. 

The ‘4 Spices’ Dry Rub Skillet Chicken is a great way to unwind welcoming the first of 2014! 🙂

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Chiles en Nogados, Mexican Christmas traditions.

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My Mexican friend Dionicia shared her home-made version of what she calls ‘Chiles en Nogados’ with me last week. She told me this is a popular Christmas tradition in Mexico now. My friend explained that this recipe originated back in 1821, when the victorious Mexican General Augustin de Iturbide stopped in Puebla, and a community of nuns prepared this dish to honor him on Mexican Independence Day. The nuns came up with a humble ‘Chiles’ recipe, using low-cost, simple ingredients in season.  That said, it was laborious at the time (and I think it still ‘is.’) I did not ask for the recipe, I simply enjoyed this wonderful treat as I learned about the story behind it! What else could I do? Now I know this much: 1) They’re made with Chiles Poblanos, the stuffing is made of walnuts, dried fruits, pomegranate and meat ingredients. 2) Original recipe calls for the stuffed Chile to be dipped in egg batter and then fried. Luckily my friend skipped that step.. (She knows I am always on a diet.) 3) They are extremely spicy and the cream on top helps refresh the palate while creating a heavenly balance. I ate them with rice (as Dionicia recommended.) Full of flavor in every bite, my Chiles en Nogados were a great Christmas gift! 🙂

Colombian ‘Pasteles de Arroz’, a Christmas and New Year’s Tradition

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Many Latin American countries, including Colombia, share “Pasteles de Arroz” on Christmas and New Year’s celebrations.

This recipe has been in Cartagena de Indias (my home town), for a very long time. Families get together around this wonderful recipe. I can remember the smell of Pasteles on Christmas eve, as well as the excitement the days before as my Mom hassled around the kitchen with all the detailed ‘prep’ work. My parents are no longer with us, but my siblings and I still share the memories and remember them every Christmas and New Year’s eve as we enjoy Pasteles.

Puerto Rico and the Caribbean countries share this tradition and recipe (with some unique modifications.)

Three key components make this bounty unforgettable: The seasoning, the stew and the plantain leaves. Here I share my recipe that yields 8 “pasteles.” Even though it is very detailed, time-consuming and elaborate ( I will not lie about that ), the results are well worth it! 🙂 Tips for best results: “Prep work” and fresh ingredients. Get ready for an exciting cooking experience!

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1. Start by preparing the stew the night before. You can use chicken thighs only (as I do) , or chicken thighs and pork ribs. The secret is to stay away from chicken breast as it will not add much flavor. Start by sauteing the meat and adding salt, pepper and 2 bay leaves. When the meat is brown then you can add the following: onions, sweet peppers, capers, peppercorns and tomatoes in generous quantities. Add also chicken stock (at least 1 cup) and water. You must season this stew generously with salt, pepper, cumin and paprika or achiote (anato seeds.) After the stew boils, let it simmer for at least 20 minutes.  Let it cool and then refrigerate when done, as you will use this stew the next day.

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2. Prepare the uncooked rice seasoning the night before also. For 8 pasteles: 3 cups of rice, 1 cup of vinegar, 2 tablespoons of salt, 2 tablespoons of cumin and 2 tablespoons of paprika, 1/2 cup of oil. Mix well and let it sit in the refrigeration overnight.

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3. On the day you will be making the “pasteles”, prepare containers with chick peas (1 can), olives (1 bottle), capers (1 bottle), sliced sweet peppers (about 8), sliced onions (1/4 yellow onion), sliced tomatoes (3 tomatoes), potatoes in thin slices and cabbage (3 potatoes.) Have all these ready in bowls so you can easily assemble the “pasteles.” Wash the plantain leaves with cold water and have them ready also. This can be cumbersome but it’s necessary. You will find fresh or frozen plantain leaves in Latin American food markets.

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4. Assemble the “pasteles.” The plantain leaves are sold in halves. Place 2 plantain leave halves on the working table, forming a cross. Set a cabbage piece on the plantain leaves center and then 3/4 cup of rice on top of the cabbage.The rice you see in this picture is uncooked. It was seasoned the night before as indicated above.IMG_5063Add chicken pieces (2-3), olives, chick peas, capers, onions, tomatoes, potatoes on top of the rice. Finish with a generous amount of chicken stew sauce.IMG_5064Add a tablespoon of rice.IMG_5065Cover with another piece of cabbage.IMG_5074Wrap well and tie with kitchen twine. When all “pasteles” have been assembled and are ready to be cooked, add them all at once to a pot of boiling water for 2 hours.

About the pot of boiling water: Make sure the water is truly boiling hot and seasoned before adding the “pasteles.” Season the water with: 1/2 cup of salt and 1/2 cup of vinegar. Tip: The pot of water needs to be filled three-quarters of the way, to allow the “pasteles” to fit. They will bring a lot of volume and can make the water spill out. Switch the bottom pasteles with the top half way during the cooking process. Also, add pressure to the lid ( I usually use a garden rock) to make sure the heat is contained in the pot as this helps cook the rice well.

Here is what Pasteles look like when fully cooked and ready to enjoy:IMG_5091This is what it looks like after your guests ate them… 🙂IMG_5093

“Pasteles de Arroz”, a generous way to wish you Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year 2014! 🙂

Ponche de Navidad, a Mexican Christmas tradition.

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Buñuelos and ‘Ponche de Navidad’ [with or without Tequila], guests of honor at Mexican Christmas family gatherings. This week we celebrated a Posada with Norma and her family. She prepared this warm, inviting drink, gave me the recipe and shared some of this tradition’s story. Common Mexican middle of the road knowledge says this tradition started when during colonial times, the Spaniards brought this recipe from Europe to Mexico. Since then, on the Posadas (“novenas”) and “Nochebuena” (Christmas Eve) nights Mexican families in Mexico have shared time around this Ponche de Navidad in expectation of Christmas Day. Today, families continue this old tradition whether in Mexico or abroad. Before going home, kids receive ‘bolos’, or treat/loot bags with the following goodies: Animal crackers, peanuts and Mexican spicy candies. 🙂

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Mexican Buñuelos go very well with the drink. (Do not mistake Mexican Buñuelos for Colombian Buñuelos , another Christmas tradition in that country.)

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Ponche de Navidad Recipe 😉

Start boiling enough water  (calculate 2 cups per guests) with enough cinnamon sticks (1 stick per 2 cups of water.) When it boils add abundant amount of fruits (below), brown or white sugar, and a Tequila shot (optional).

  • Fruits cut in big chunks or slices: Oranges, pears, apples, tamarinds, guavas, sugar cane pieces, tejocotes (or kumquats, if you can’t find tejocotes)
  • Notes: 1) Alternative to adding the Tequila shot to the pot, you may add it to the cups, as you serve. Guests often prefer to decide if they’ll want it with Tequila or not. 2) Sugar Cane and Tamarind are often found at Whole Foods or international markets.

Hopefully you can try this easy Ponche de Navidad recipe. If you decide to make it, do let me know how it goes! It’s also great for any cold winter night..

Little Annie’s. Aspen, CO.

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Their Motto: “We’re Open Year ‘Round, Serving Locals and Travelers from Around the Globe.” From Little Annie’s Favorites Lunch Menu: “BBQ Beef. Shredded beef brisket mounded on an onion roll with Annie’s own BBQ sauce. You’ll need a fork for this sandwich.”

I substituted the fries for mashed potatoes with gravy. I figured I needed to taste the BBQ Beef with mashed potatoes and I was not disappointed. A rich, soft, mouth-watering delight!

The place history.. quoting from their About page (http://www.littleannies.com/about.html):

THE HISTORY OF LITTLE ANNIE’S

Little Annie was the daughter of a silver miner who came to Aspen
in the late 1870’s (called Ute City back then) in search of fortune. With
all her charm, Little Annie became the darling of the town, and the
largest silver producing mine on the back side of Aspen Mountain was
named after her.

Little Annie’s Eating House established in 1972, carries on the tradition Little Annie started of pleasing people from near and far. We still remember the words Little Annie spoke around the campfire.

“Travel light in life,
Take only what you need:
a loving family,
good friends,
simple pleasures,
someone to love
and someone to love you,
enough to eat, enough to wear,
and just enough to drink
for thirst can be a dangerous thing.“

(http://www.littleannies.com/about.html)

Last year’s sad closing due to financial struggle was in the news. In October, last year also, Little Annie’s reopened with new ownership, but same awesome loyal staff. Having visited the place, we understood why the town was taken by these events. Restaurant locals come in, waiters greet them by name. As we sat there, we saw a waiter approach a guest with a smile and ask: “Feeling like Grilled Prime Rib again?”  🙂

Today, this charming place experiences yet another challenge. Next door, a new business development construction moves forward as Aspen city council and planners work on ways to protect this historically significant 20th century structure. This restaurant has been recognized by locals for their food and by historic architecture preservation entities by its historic contribution. The restaurant received the “Best Old Restaurant” award in 1998.

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We ordered from the Favorites Menu, the Santa Fe Chicken Sandwich. Menu description: “Southwest marinated grilled chicken breast with Muenster cheese and a green chili, with our special Santa Fe mayo. Served on a kaiser roll.”  It was bold, spicy, flavorful and their special Santa Fe mayo was the perfect complement. Fries were fresh, chunky, solid, delicious!

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The most popular dessert: Annie’s Rum Pecan Bundt Cake.. We had to get extra forks. Everyone at the table had to have a bite! Absolutely tasty, moist, intensity of nutty, sweet rum flavors in every bite. Now we know “why” it is a popular dessert.

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Little Annie’s in Aspen, CO. A food tribute to history, respect and tradition in a beautiful town.