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