Friday, February 21, 2014

Food of Puerto Rico - Part 2

Here is the part 2 of Food of Puerto Rico (Clik here if you miss the part 1). I put this article together in the crack of dawn. I love to work when every creature in my house are sound asleep. Unfortunately, that means working on empty stomach. Boy! That was a mistake. As I compile the pictures for this blog, I find myself becoming INCREASINGLY hungry. The food looks so good...

So anyway....

We travelled to Guavate, the land of roasted pig :)
Locals came here almost every weekend to enjoy smoky-flavor, tender, juicy chunks of meat accompanied with brown, crackling crispy skin. 

We went twice. First time, we were looking for El Rancho Original, the one that Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain visited during their show. We found El Nuevo Rancho, instead. Friendly owner. He handed a machete to my hubby and let him pose with the roasted pig. Lechon was good here, unfortunately the skin was kinda hard, far from crunchy. 

We ordered the lechon with rice and bean, and a cup of mavi for me. Lechon was good here. Smoky flavor and juicy. unfortunately the skin was kinda hard, far from crunchy.

Mavi is a fermented drink that made from the bark of soldierwood tree, or seaside buckthorn. It tastes somewhat like a marriage between champagne and mild tea with a bit of root beer in it. Not too sweet nor too bubbly. Very refreshing. 

The second time we went, we found El Rancho Original. We arrived around 10:30, just in time to beat the crowd. Kiddos were very happy over the sight of roasted pig. Lechon was a bit dry (hubby ordered the wrong cut) but the skin would stayed crispy for days! We also tried the homemade chorizo. Moist but not too spicy. A must-try!

There is this bakery/cafe on the isla verde that we love, called Panaderia Espana. The food here is sooo good. Seafood is fresh. Sandwiches are made-to-order. Pastry a little bit pricey but if you have a sweet tooth, it is so worth it. Oh and the espresso .. OMG! The espresso is to die for. It'll definitely an eye-opener. 

Here are some picture from La Espana:

Salivating yet? :)

... to be continued to Part 3

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Foods of Puerto Rico - Part 1

We visited Puerto Rico in summer 2013, for two weeks. Had a blast! Even the kiddos are still talking about it, begging us to take them back, mostly for the food :)

Puerto Rico cuisine is a unique mixed taste of Spanish, African and Taino (the original of the inhabitants of the island). Locals call it "cocina criolla"; or creole cooking.

Popular foods, include:
- mofongo (fried and mashed plantains, mixed with seafood or meat);
- lechon (succulent roasted suckling pig);
- arroz con gandules (Pigeon beans and rice cooked with sofrito sauce); and
- fried snacks such as empanadas, pinchos (skewered meat); alcapurrias (fried turnover), bunuelos (yam fritters) and my favorite: bacalaitos (cod-fish fritters).

Here are some pictures of the local cuisines that we've tried.

Our first stop off the airport. It's not too far from our hotel. La Parilla Restaurant at Luquillo beach, offers local cuisines. It has a nice set up, right on the beach, clean and friendly staff. Food here is so GOOD and I gotta say that we order more than our capacity to eat :)

Tostones Rellenos de Langosta, Jueyes o Dorado (Fried plaintain cups filled with lobster, crab and mahi mahi) - La Parilla Restaurant, Luquillo Beach

Queso Frito (fried Puertorican cheese) - La Parilla Restaurant, Luquillo Beach

Left: Mofongo Relleno de Marisco (Mofongo stuffed with seafood in creole sauce)
Right Top: Ensalada de Carucho (Conch salad)
Right Bottom: Filette de Mero Pasa Relleno de Camarones (Grouper stuffed with shrimp with parmesan fondue glaze)
-La Parilla Restaurant, Luquillo Beach- 

El Verde BBQ at PR-3, Km 24.7, Rio Grande. 
Awesome BBQ place at a very affordable price.

BBQ Garlic Chicken
-El Verde, PR-3, Km 24.7, Rio Grande-

BBQ Pork
-El Verde, PR-3, Km 24.7, Rio Grande-

Blood Sausage & Sweet Plantains
-El Verde, PR-3, Km 24.7, Rio Grande- 

Fried Pork with Rice & Bean
-El Verde, PR-3, Km 24.7, Rio Grande- 

 Bacalaitos (Cod Fritters).
Very tasty snack!  They are crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. 
Made out of chopped salt cod then deep-fried. 

Majorcas - Soft Puerto Rican sweet bread. A perfect pair for the Puerto Rican espresso. A lady that sat next to me at the cafe where I bought my Majorcas said I should keep the bread for the following day and turn it into a grilled ham and cheese sandwich. As much as I wanted to try, I bit my lips. The hotel, where we stayed, had no kitchen .. *sigh*

We found this road-side stall, on the way to El Yungue. It's called La Mularra. If you are looking for authentic local food, this is definitely the place. They sell fried food and pinchos (skewered meat). Ask for more of the garlic sauce while the chicken is on the grill. Two thumbs up! Just don't expect a fancy dinner/lunch at this place :)

King's Cream Helados, Plaza Las Delicias, Ponce.
Homemade ice cream with a little Carribean twist, like tamarind flavor and soursop (guanabana) flavor. When we arrived, the line was long, but the service was fast and also, great price.

We tried pineapple, tamarind, strawberry and mango. Love 'em all! Downside: the ice cream melted super fast. I blamed it on the weather. I would love to try them on cones next time.

.... to be continued to Part 2

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

1 1/2 Minutes - Grown-up Version of Nutella Mug Cake

I'm BAAACCKKK! Sorry for being MIA. Between winter snows, school-closings, germ-sharing and birthdays, it was pretty crazy around here. This time, I'm going to share CHOCOLATE dessert that only takes 1 1/2 minutes to make! Yaaayy ... :)

Errr .. well, with preparation time .. maayybeee .... 5 mins TOPS! Promise!

How's that sounds?

All forgiven now? :)

So have you heard about "mug cake" before? I first saw it on a catalog somewhere. It was a complete kit that consist of 2 mugs, chocolate chips, caramels and mixed flour/sugar/cocoa. I didn't give it much of thought. Until ...

A dark, cold winter night...

Kids were all asleep.

Hubs was cursing the falling snow.

I curled up on the couch, desperate for a warm, gooey, chocolaty dessert

10 p.m!! NO WAY!! What to make .. what to make ... need sweets!!

AHA! Mug cake ... So I looked for some recipes, compared them, picked one that sound most appealing to me, added more ingredients according to my taste and we have a winner!!

Start with all purpose flour, baking powder, cocoa powder, sugar, egg, nutella, granulated coffee, coffee liqueur

Mixed everything, vigorously. If using a big mug, mix all in the mug. I decided to share my triumph with hubs so I used small ramekins, instead .. 1 for him, 2 for me .. oh yeah!! :)

Then pour the batter into the ramekins .. 3/4 full.

Then .. off to microwave for 1 1/2 minutes ...

... and ... TAAA DAAAAA!!! ..

Dust 'em with powdered sugar... then sit down, relax, turn on a movie and .. dig in! :)


1 egg
2 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp milk
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp coffee liqueur (Baileys or Kahlua)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp all purpose flour
3 tbsp drinking cocoa powder
1 teaspoon espresso powder or granulated coffee
2 tablespoon Nutella
1/4 tsp baking powder

Combine all ingredients in a large coffee mug

Whisk until smooth

Microwave on high for 1 1/2 - 3 minutes. Mine is a powerful one .. 1 1/2 minutes are enough.

Dust with powdered sugar or whipped cream.

(Note: if you make this for little munchkins, omit the liqueur substitutes with 1 tbsp of milk)

Hope you like my version of nutella mug cake :)
E N J O Y !

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Braised Pork with Chimichurri Pesto

Found my old collection of cooking magazines, down in the basement. It's like Christmas all over again :) Had fun going through them and finally one caught my attention. Braised pork with Chimichurri pesto. Got to admit, I hesitated a bit. Although I never heard any complaints when I served any greens, I was not sure how the kids would like the pesto. It's a lot of herbs. 

The next day I went grocery shopping, first thing I saw, pork shoulder was on discount.. talking about divine intervention! :)  So I decided to give it a try. I can always bake some pizza for the kids :)

Boy,  am I GLAD I tried this recipe. Turned out, they are ssooo good! Braising the pork shoulder in such a low temperature for a long time resulting in tender, succulent and flavorful meat. The pesto is not too strong either, kids love 'em. Leftover pesto, I added it to scramble eggs, toast and pasta.. yummy!

serving: 8

adapted from the Food & Wine Magazine

5 lbs pork shoulder, trimmed the fat and cut into 5 equal pieces
Salt and ground pepper
2 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large onions, coarsely chopped
3 sprigs of thyme
1 bay leaf
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups of water

Preheat oven to 275 F. Pat dry the pork shoulder, seasoned with salt and pepper. 

In a large skillet, melted the butter in oil. Then brown the pork all sides on high heat (3-4 minutes per side).

Transfer to an enameled cast-iron casserole. Add garlic, onion, thyme, bay leaf, stock and water. Bring to boil. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 2 1/2 hours. Transfer to a dish and keep warm.

Strain the liquid, return to the casserole and reduce by half over moderately high heat. Season with salt and pepper, add it to the pork and serve with chimichurri pesto (recipe below)


2 chopped garlic clove
1 seeded jalapeno
1 tsp salt
1 bunch curly-leaf parsley, stemmed
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley, stemmed
1/4 cup chopped oregano
3/4 cup good olive oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper

In a mortar, mash the garlic and jalapeno, seasoned with salt.
Using a food processor, work in the parsley, oregano, olive oil and vinegar. Add the mashed garlic and jalapeno to the mixture. Process until nearly smooth. It will be pasty. Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with crushed red pepper.

I like to serve this dish with steamed rice on the side

Thank you for reading :)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Asparagus and Smoked Salmon Fritata

Our family is a big fan of eggs. Hubby loves omelettes, daughter: scrambled, son: sunny side up .. and me? I love frittatas! They are quick and easy to make and healthy. Toss some salads on the side, you have a satisfying meal. Ingredients can be anything you find from the fridge, potato/cheese, mushroom/spinach, bacon/sausage, chorizo... but our family favorite is asparagus and smoked salmon.

adapted from - Emeril Lagasse

1 lb asparagus, discard tough ends, cut 1-inch diagonal
8 large eggs
3 ounces cream cheese, diced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
8 ounces smoked salmon, thinly slice
2 Tbsp chopped dill
1 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup chopped yellow onions
1/2 cup grated cheddar

Preheat oven to 400 F

Blanch the asparagus, drain, plunge into an ice-water bath. When it's chilled, remove from the water, drain well.

Whisk together eggs, cream cheese, salt and pepper. Stir in smoked salmon, dill and asparagus.

Use 10-inch nonstick, ovenproof skillet, to saute the onion with butter until softened (about 3 minutes). Reduced heat to low, pour the egg mixture. Cover and cook about 15 minutes, just until the bottom and sides are set.

Uncover and bake for 13 minutes. Remove frittata from the oven, sprinkle cheese on top. Bake for additional 2 minutes, just until the cheese is melted and eggs are cooked through.

Let frittata to cool before unmold and place it to a large serving plates. Cut into wedges and garnish with capers.

Thank you for reading :)

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Jakarta Creamy Beef Soup with Coconut Milk (Soto Betawi)

Soto is an Indonesian traditional soup that mainly made with broth, meat and vegetable with a twist of spices. Some town or areas have their own version of soto. I'm from Bandung. Ours is made with clear beef broth, meat and slices of radish. Jakarta (or Betawi)  is the capital city of Indonesia, has different interpretation of soto. Coconut milk is added to the broth, which makes it so deep and rich in flavor.

A day before Christmas, my friend, Sendy, who lives 2 hours away, invited us to come for a visit. "I'll cook Soto Betawi," she said. Yaaayy! Nothing I love more than a get-together that involves comfort food from my childhood. So we stuffed our mini van with our two kids, couples pillows and blankets, few snack for on the road .. Oh! and we also took Toffee, our newest so-called bundle of joy, along with us :)

That was more than 2 weeks ago...

Then we had this massive winter storm that literally paralyzed the city we lived in, followed by below-zero temperature. I was tormented, desperate for another bowl of flavorful, soul-enriched, comfort soup. I just have to made some.

Before you scroll down to the recipe section below, here is the picture of Belinjo crackers, Kecap manis and fried shallot. You will NEED them to magically transform the soup into a perfection!

serves: 8

Ingredients A:
- 4 lbs beef shank, no bone
- 2 lbs beef tripe, preferably honeycomb type (if you are not a fan of beef tripe, you may substitute this with 1 lbs beef shank)
- water to cover
- 2 - 3 inches of cinnamon stick
- 1 nutmeg, smashed it so that it'll crack
- 5 kaffir lime leaves
- 6 cloves
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
- 2 tomatoes
- lemon
- Kecap manis, Fried shallot and Belinjo crackers (see pictures below)

Ingredients B:
- 2 inches ginger, peeled skin, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
- 15 shallots, peeled
- 7 cloves garlic
- 2 tsp coriander seed, toasted (see notes)
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp white pepper
- 1 Tbsp oil

Clean the beef tripe by rinsing it with rubbing baking soda, let it sit 3-5 minutes then rinse with warm water. Then soak it with lemon and warm water for about 1 hour. Discard the water. Place the tripe on a soup pot, cover with cold water. Boil them with medium high heat, uncovered. Discard the water. Now the tripe are ready to cook.

Place beef shank in a large stock pot. Add water just to cover with the meat. Slowly bring to a boil. Don't be in a hurry to skim off any fat, you'll loose some flavor.

Add beef tripe, cinnamon stick, nutmeg, kaffir lime leaves, cloves and salt to the pot. Add more water, if necessary, to cover all meat and tripe. Bring to a boil one more time. Reduce the heat, simmer, covered for 1.5 hours or until the meat and tripe are tender.

Remove meat and tripe from the broth. Let it cool. Cut the meat into 1 inch cubes; the tripe into long stripes. Measure 12 cups of broth and return them to the stock pot. Add the meat and the tripe. Set it aside. If you have less than 12 cups, add water to the broth. Discard all spices and leaves.

Place all ingredients B in a food processor. Add more oil as needed to blend ingredients to a smooth paste.

Heat the oil on a deep wok, saute the paste until fragrant. Add coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often.

Pour the coconut milk mixture into the stock pot with broth and meat. Bring to a boil, stirring often. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To serve: Ladle the soup into a deep bowl. Add cut tomatoes and Belinjo crackers. Sprinkle with fried shallot and lemon juice and drizzle with kecap manis .. VOILA!!

Notes: Use a wide-frying pan, heat the coriander seeds on medium heat, shaking the pan occasionally. Remove the seeds when they darken and become fragrant

I hope you have the opportunity to try Soto Betawi recipe .. and when you do, please leave a feedback!
Thank you for reading my blog. 'Til next time ...  :)

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Easy Roasted Potatoes & Chicken

If your kids have tons of after-school activities like mine, then you might want to adopt this dish. Just add salad on the side .. and you're all set.

I was playing around with my flipboard and came across this incredible simple recipe. Thanks to Jessica Seinfeld and her new book: The Can't Cook Book: Recipes for the Absolutely Terrified.  She saved my family from weeknight's nightmares... you know .. it's-close-to-dinnertime-and-I've-no-idea-what-to-cook kind of nightmares

Between the busy month of November and December I have made this chicken at least 4 times already. No one's complaining. Hubby is happy 'cause it's inexpensive, I'm happy 'cause it's super easy, fast; and the kids are happy 'cause it's insanely delicious. Oh, and I can easily find what I need, right out of my pantry, too. See! Everybody's happy! :)

The end result? Super moist potatoes and crispy skin roasted chicken. Don't need to make extra 'cause you can always make a new fresh batch tomorrow .. in a flash!

Here  it is ..

adapted from The Can't Cook Book: Recipes for the Absolute Terrified by Jessica Seinfield

2 small yellow onions, thinly sliced
5 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 1 1/4 lbs),
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh rosemary leaves (about 2 sprigs)
2 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper, divided
4 small bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 1 1/4 lbs in total)
4 chicken drumstick (about 1 lb in total)
2 Tbsp ground coriander
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp Cayenne pepper

1. Move the oven rack in the low position. Heat your oven to 425 F.

2. On a large ovenproof skillet (I use aluminum-covered roasting pan instead), scattered the onion slices.

3. Slices the potatoes 1/4 inc thick, don't have to peel the skin. Place it on top of the onions, overlapping as necessary. Drizzle with the oil and sprinkle with 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp pepper. Wash and dry the rosemary sprigs then pull the leaves from their sprigs and sprinkle all over the potatoes.

4. Wash the chicken. Pat them dry with paper towel.

5. In a small bowl, combine the coriander, garlic powder, cayene powder remaining salt and black pepper. With you finger, rub the spices on both sides of the chicken. Lay the chicken on top of the potatoes, skin side up. Roast them about 1 hour, until chicken is no longer pink on the inside.

Notes: If you have extra time in hand, cook some rice. They go so well with this honey! 

Thank you for reading my blog! :)