Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sweet cravings

I cant really tell how I got into cooking. I can remember my grandma coming over to take care of me and my sister when we were younger. Grandma always cooked a good meal for us, and made sure we ate right. Later on when my mom retired she started baking, so we always had something sweet at home. I still need to ask her if I can post her famous Cheesecake recipe, maybe one day I will write about it.
Its very rare that I make something sweet, even though I have a sweet tooth. I'm an Oreo guy, going to DQ to get a Blizzard, or just bringing home some brownies is fine by me. However, if I want something sweet, and want to stay on the healthy side, I do make some no bake Apple Oatmeal cookies. I learned this recipe at the only cooking class I have taken. It was at a local organic store and it was about eating raw foods. I simplified the recipe a bit, and it is still tasty and so easy.
You will need:

2 medium Apples
2 cups Oatmeal
1 cup raisins
½ teaspoon of Cinnamon

As you can see there is no flour or sugar for this recipe. These cookies get their sweetness from the apples. Take 1 cup of oatmeal and put it in the blender so it gets pulverized. Mix with the other cup of oatmeal. Now shred the 2 apples with the skin on and mix in with the oatmeal. I use a wooden spoon to mix everything together. Finally, add the raisins and cinnamon. The moisture from the apples and the pulverized oatmeal keeps everything together.
Using a cookie dough scoop or a spoon, place the mixture on a cookie sheet. Press it down with either the back of the scoop or spoon to make them flat. Now the original recipe asked for a food dehydrator, however, since I don't own one I just set to oven to warm and put them in there to get rid of some of the moisture (about 45 minutes). Take them out of the oven and place in a container. Since you are actually not baking the cookies all the way, you need to keep them refrigerated.
We eat them sometimes in the morning like granola, or just when I need a quick sweet fix in the evenings.
If you are not a raisin person, you can replace it with your favorite dried fruit too, or just skip the raisins.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Cuban Night

Last week for Corina's birthday, we threw a party and she wanted it Cuban themed. I introduced her to Cuban food on our way to Panama a couple of years ago during a long layover in Miami. I was so excited to have Cuban that we left the terminal and looked for a Cuban restaurant near the airport. To me, Cuban food is the closest I can find to a good home cooked Panamanian meal. The flavors are so unique and different, without being spicy (hot).
It's hard for us to get Cuban food around here, so when we get a chance to go out of town, we usually “Urbanspoon” the nearest Cuban restaurant. Corina's inspiration for the birthday meal was an appetizer we ordered at Havana Rumba, a restaurant located in Louisville, KY. Surprisingly enough, this appetizer inspired eight different dishes for the party. Imagine my surprise when I heard I was cooking for 50 people. In Corina's defense it was her birthday gift. Thank goodness for other blogs and Google! Please visit La Cocina de Nathan for a great collection of Latin American dishes.
On the menu was: White Rice with Black Beans, Avocado and Pineapple Salad, Shrimp in Cuban Creole Sauce, Ropa Vieja, Munyeta (Soup), Tostones con Pollo, and Fried Ripe Plantains (my personal favorite).
The party was a great success. I have to admit that Corina is an awesome party planner. Here is the recipe for the Tostones con Pollo.

Tostones con Pollo

Tostones is a twice fried green plantain. Here is how you prepare them:
First peal the green plantain and cut into 1 inch pieces.
Fry the pieces in canola oil, just like french fries, until they are golden. Don't brown them.
After you are done pre-frying you will squish them so there are about half an inch thick and about the width of a silver dollar. There is actually a special tool for this, but I use a small wooden cutting board.
Fry them again until they are golden brown.
Assemble on a large tray by putting a layer of tostones down, covering them with Salsa Fresca, then adding a layer of baked shredded chicken and topping it with Monterey Jack cheese. Finally, stick them in an oven preheated to 325 F until the cheese is melted.
Like any other fried food, serve warm; it doesn't taste nearly as good after its been sitting out for a while.

I have a great time preparing Latin American dishes, especially when I get the chance to listen, dance and sing to some Salsa and Merenge music while I cook. I rewarded myself with a few Cuba Libre's that night, that's Rum and Coke with lime. Everybody had a great time and enjoyed the meal.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Our Perfect Chili

OK… Corina and I love Chili. We tried and tried to find the perfect recipe that would satisfy both of our tastes. She likes spicy chili and I like it hardy without adding any noodles. So after many failed attempts we found our perfect chili. Actually, I found the original recipe on Men’s Health Magazine, but I change a few things.

3 Tbsp olive oil
1 bag 15 bean soup (dry beans)
2 lb ground chuck (or ground turkey)
3 Chile de Arbol crushed (these are small red dried chiles that you can buy at the Mexican store or section)
1 yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 green bell pepper, diced
8 tomatillos, husked and chopped (don’t buy them canned)
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
4 cups beef stock
3 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 Tbsp paprika
1 Tsp cumin
1 Tbsp Chili Powder
1 tsp Cinnamon
Salt and pepper

What to do…
I like to soak the beans overnight and cook them in the crock pot on high for about 4 hours. If you buy the HamBeens brand, save the Cajun seasoning for later use. Cook your beans and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large heavy skillet (or just a big pot), add the olive oil and brown the meat. Cook until there is no liquid. Add the onions, garlic, green peppers and chiles. Cook on medium heat until the onions are translucent. Then add the tomato sauce, beef stock, cilantro, tomatillos, paprika, cumin, chili powder and cinnamon. Boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Finally, add the cooked beans. I like to use a slotted spoon to add the beans and later if I need more liquid, add the liquid left from the beans. Season with salt and pepper.

*** If you can’t find any Chile de Arbol you can use jalapenos, Red Cayenne Pepper or your favorite Hot Sauce, this is what gives it the spice. If you don’t like spicy chili you can skip this ingredient.

I know I mentioned earlier that I don’t like my chili with noodles, however we do make some spaghetti and add chili on top. Good stuff!

Here is the original recipe from Men's Health