Saturday, December 19, 2009

Panamanian Sancocho

During the cold months, it’s always nice to have some warm soup to make you feel better. For some reason, soups gives us this comfort feeling when it’s so cold outside.

Growing up in Panama, where it doesn’t get cold at all, I grew up eating Panamanian Sancocho. Some people clain this soup has some magical properties and it is used to soothe anything from a hangover to the flu. I remember my grandma making it for me anytime I got sick, or going to Roly’s house on Christmas day after partying all night on Christmas eve.
Sancocho is a chicken soup made with onion, cilantro, oregano, salt and ñame (Yam). I have a hard time finding ñame around here, however I am able to find yucca root, so I use it instead. If you are unable to find either one you can use potatoes. I really don’t measure when I make this soup at home, I just add the ingredients as I go until it tastes good. If this is not your style then you can use the following measurements I found on Elena Hernandez blog:

1 whole chicken
½ cup onion finely chopped
8 cilantro leaves (considering that this is the cilantro you find in Panama, this is about 3 Tbs. of the cilantro you find in the U.S.)
4 cups of ñame cut into medium pieces
Salt and oregano to taste

It’s important to use a whole chicken, specially the dark meat which is going to add most of the flavor to the soup. Season the chicken with the cilantro, onion and salt. Place the chicken in the pot and cook covered over medium heat. The chicken will release its own juice and cook. Add enough water to cover the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the ñame until is tender. Serve with white rice and let the healing power of the sancocho begin.

Find more about ñame and its availability in your area here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Good meals on a budget

I really don’t want to talk about the economy, everybody talks about this situation and there is no reason to make dinner so depressive. I was talking to a friend of mine at work whose daughter is going to college next fall. She mentioned that she is going to start eating Ramen Noodles for the next four years. Remember the young years when Ramen Noodles were a must have in your kitchen? It was like a miracle meal; it’s cheap, quick and easy, and took care of the hunger right?
You can step it up a notch with Ramen Noodles and still have a great meal. I have to admit, I don’t keep Ramen Noodles in my kitchen. I am more of a fan of the rice and beans diet if I am feeling a little tight on money. However, one time after a camping trip I had a few packages left. While looking for a way to use these, I found this website: Budget 101. Little did I know they had so much potential. I found a recipe for Veggie Ramen, instead of cooking the veggies and noodles together I decided to cook them separate and mix at the end.
Veggie Ramen
Chop some veggies, whatever sounds good to you. Make a stir fry by adding a little bit of Canola or Olive oil (about a tablespoon) to a pan. Add your veggies and the seasoning from the package and cook as desired. I like my veggies crisp. If you feel you need to add more oil, add a tablespoon of water instead and cover. Bring water to a boil and add the noodles. Cook as directed, and drain. Add the noodles to the veggies and mix together.
You can find more ways to unleash the power of Ramen Noodles and make a nice meal and don’t break your budget at

Saturday, November 28, 2009

My take on the Monte Cristo sandwich

The first time I tried a Monte Cristo was at Benningan's in Panama City. I had it for lunch, but it reminded me more of a breakfast sandwich due to its sweetness.
There are different variations of the Monte Cristo, but basically is a turkey, ham and cheese sandwich that is either grilled, or dipped in batter and fried. With a sweet dipping sauce, it is delicious. You can simplify the sandwich by using french toast to make the sandwich instead of plain bread.
Here is my take on it today.
I spread some homemade blackberry jam on wheat bread then added honey roasted turkey and white american cheese. I didn't have any ham, no problem. Also, I didn't want my cheese to touch the jam so I put it in the middle. I used 1 beaten egg and added vanilla extract and cinnamon; dipped the sandwich in the egg, cinnamon and vanilla mixture and put it on a hot skillet. When it was nice and golden I took it off the skillet.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving: Tortellini Bean Salad and leftover broccoli

Thanksgiving. Probably the most famous family gathering. I'm sure our family is no different than your and we all have to bring that special dish to our thanksgiving dinner.
This year I made the same dish from last year. It is that good. It is a Tortellini Bean Salad and my wife Corina found it in the Taste of Home cookbook. I think the trick is on the salad dressing you use. Last year I used the Three Cheese Italian instead of the Creamy Italian that the recipe calls for. This year I decide to go back to the Creamy Italian, and I have to say the Three Cheese Italian is much better. You have to be careful with the red onion. I remember the first time we made it, we ended up picking off some of the onion. I usually use about half of what it asks for. You can add a twist to to it by adding some sweet corn. Also, this recipe asks to refrigerate for about 8 hours. You may want to stick to this, so plan ahead for a better flavor.
You can find this fantastic recipe here
Now its the day after thanksgiving and I am feeling a little guilty about the way I ate. What can I say, I love food as much as I love cooking it!. We dont have any leftovers here, but I have some leftover ingredients from the recipe. I saved the broccoli stalks and shredded them in order to make a slaw. Made a dressing with 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup canola oil, 1/4 cup white vinegar and 1.5 tsp. Soy sauce. Don't add it all! It depends on how much slaw you get from the broccoli. Just enough to get the broccoli nice and moist. Add some sunflower seeds, raisins, toasted ramon noodles and some slivered almonds.
There you go! a nice side salad for your meal.

Whip up dinner

Welcome to my blog about food and recipes where I share my passion for cooking.
I am a Systems Engineer by trade, however I enjoy reading and experimenting with food so much that I decided to write about it.
Have you ever wonder what to make for dinner based on the things you have in your kitchen? Well, this is what I like to do, it's fun, it's challenging, and it fits my budget.
Why do I call it whip up dinner? My wife Corina inspired me to come up with this name. You see, I get home before she does and I love preparing different things for dinner. She always comments on how I can just "whip up dinner" from the ingredients we have in our kitchen. Sometimes is good, almost gourmet like, sometimes its just the basic. Either way it's fun.
Sometimes I look on the Internet or cookbooks for inspiration. If I don't have all the ingredients, I skip it, substitute and add my own twist to it. It's challenging.
Everybody talks about the economy, and not everybody can afford to buy special ingredients for a recipe, and later let it go to waste becasue you dont use it again. Not everybody can afford to go out to dinner every day either. I like to maximize my ingredients and try to have something accessible at home. It fits my budget.
I will post links to other recipes, post my own and comment on some other cooking related things.
Welcome and enjoy.