Holiday Cooking

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds.. Yum!

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Beautiful Pumpkin.

Yep! Fall is here and so we went out and got a pumpkin from the store. The kids wanted me to make roasted pumpkin seeds and we did! They were delicious.. Here is the recipe.

1. Cut the pumpkin and extract the seeds. The kids did this step and had a lot of fun. Here are the pics.

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Another shot of the beautiful pumpkin

It was a beautiful pumpkin so I am putting one more picture here, just because! 🙂

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Carved Spooky pumpkin…

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Spooky Carved Pumpkin

Pumpkins were removed.. and I had the cleaning task which is simply rinsing them with cold water.

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Pumpkin Seeds before Cleaning

Prepare a pan with parchment paper and set the clean seeds in the oven at 325 F degrees for 1 hour.

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Cleaned Pumpkin Seeds

Seeds cooking some deliciousness in the oven. 🙂

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Pumpkin Seeds in the Oven

When ready, take the parchment paper off, place 1/2 tsp of oil on a pan.

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Add the seeds and season with 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp cumin. Yum!

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Cumin

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Pumpkin Seeds being Seasoned with Cumin

Mix and get it back in the oven for 15 minutes..

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Pumpkin Seeds with Cumin and Salt Roasting in the Oven

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Pumpkin Seeds with Salt and Cumin Ready to Enjoy.

Wonderful and easy recipe for Fall.. I hope you can try it out. 🙂

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Jello Mosaic Dessert

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The first time I saw this Jello Mosaic dessert I was captivated. I was 10 ( maybe ) and I had been invited to a birthday party. Our friend’s Mom served this dessert and it all became magical: The texture, the flavors, the colors, its brightness.. Considering the temperature was the usual Cartagena-90 degrees, together with the humid weather, it was perfect! Those vivid memories have remained in me. However, the process was extremely intriguing. How can they put it all together?  Being too young to try to ask, too young to think about any thing other than YUM, that was as far as I went.

Many years later ( last night ) I ventured out to experiment making it for the first time. Somehow the recipe projected a great sense of respect that was mesmerizing. Certainly, that can help explain why I waited so long to try. Here is how it went.. I loved it! 🙂

To see this post in Spanish go here.

Recipe

1. Start by making 2, 3 or 4 flavors of Jello (each of a different flavor/color) per package instructions and move to the refrigerator in separate containers each to set. In this recipe I made one of each: Mango, blueberry, cherry and lime. Once set, take the 4 containers out of the refrigerator and take each out to cut them out (pieces can be of size similar to those in the image below.)

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2. Place the cut out jello pieces in a glass container or topper-ware of your choice.

At this point, mix of condensed milk and unflavored gelatin: Prepare 2 packets of unflavored gelatin by following package instructions. Once mixed and before setting, add the 2 cans of condensed milk. Set aside.

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3. Add the mix of condensed milk and unflavored gelatin over the cut jello pieces.

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Using a wooden spoon, carefully arrange the pieces so the condensed milk can be evenly distributed in the container.

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4. Let it sit to harden in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight (recommended.)

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Jello Mosaic

When ready, cut and serve.

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During the Christmas season this dessert can be the center of the sweets table, if you include only red (cherry) and green (lime) jello in the preparation. Oh My! Jello Mosaic  is surely my favorite cold, no-bake dessert! 🙂

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! 🙂

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! 🙂