Today I made a “healthy” version of congri, or kidney beans and rice.   By healthy I mean I used brown rice instead of the typical white rice and olive oil instead of frying bacon.  The sodium was high, I know, but I drink a lot of water and have very low sodium things the rest of the day so it was all right for me.  I used canned kidney beans to save time, so I drained the beans and reserved the liquid. Then I used water for the remaining liquid. *I pour water in the can, swirl it around, and pour it in the measuring cup so I can still get the rest of the bean juice.  It turned out very tasty and the brown rice doesn’t alter the taste.  My mom didn’t even know until I told her later.  I’m going on a health kick so I’m working on simple substitutions.  Mom and I also went to the track today.  She walked and I jogged/walked.  Took a lot out of me but I feel great.  My cardiovascular health sucks so I’m looking forward to working on it.  Tomorrow I’m making gazpacho, a cold healthy vegetable soup, mmm.


Off of Hiatus: Malanga Fritters and Frozen Fruit Cocktail

It’s been a week since I’ve last written, partly because I didn’t cook much, but also because I got distracted.  I finally got a couple books I ordered from Amazon, one of which was the Big-Ass Book of Crafts which has kept me occupied.  I’ve made some art pieces for my dorm room and a little cd case notebook.  I also read The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz.  A great book.  It made me laugh out loud at work.  I would say more about it but I’ve got other things to recap.  Work has been the same, but yesterday mom and I went to the flea market in Nashville where I found this amazing painting of a flamenco dancer for…drumroll…2 DOLLARS.  I also got a couple cool bracelets and an pretty print of a french absinthe ad.

I DID cook moros y cristianos again this past week, only this time using can beans and using olive oil instead of slab bacon.  I also used beef broth instead of water but I don’t think it made too much of a taste difference.  I used one can of beans and one cup of rice and it made enough for 2 with leftovers.  I drain the can of beans and set aside the juice.  I measured the juice (it was about a cup), substituting that for a cup of water and then using a cup of beef broth to replace the other cup of water. (…since normally you would use 2 cups of water for 1 cup of rice).  I also rinsed the rice before using it which made a difference in the consistency (turned out better this time).

Last Sunday my mom made us Arroz con Pollo Imperial, a huge rice casserole that includes among other things chicken, cheese and, get this, mayonaisse.  I’m not a fan of mayonnaise but the casserole was great, especially the next day.  It’s a very time consuming process but it yield great, and plentiful, results.  Here’s a link to a recipe:

Today I’m making malanga fritters and frozen fruit coctail, which I threw together with stuff from the panty.  Malanga, or taro, is a root vegetable like yuca, very potato-esque.  Mom found some the other day and decided to buy it.  The recipe is the same as the yuca fritters except I just used one beaten egg for this one, added a tbl of flour and mashed all the ingredients together with a fork.  I haven’t fried them yet but I think they’ll be good.

The frozen fruit cocktail I prepared on the fly.  It’s not a cuban dish per say but my grandmother made something like it one time and since I didn’t know all the ingredient I just made a recipe up of my own.  It’s a really refreshing summer dish, but very sweet.  Simple as well.  I used one large can of no sugar added fruit cocktail, half a large can of chunk pineapple, some shredded coconut (maybe 1/2 cup), a can of goya creme of coconut I found at the back of the pantry, a can of condensed milk, a little bit of orange juice (I just finished off the little we had left, maybe 1/4-1/3 of a cup, a dash of vanilla, and a dash of coconut extract.  Basically I put all the ingredients in a bowl and mixed it gently so I didn’t crush the fruit.  Then I poured it into a deep serving dish, covered it in aluminum foil, and put it in the freezer to freeze.  I don’t know how long it will take to freeze but I’m going to check on it tonight and give it a taste.  I tried a little of the liquid before I covered it and it tasted great, kind of like a pina colada, so I think it’ll turn out tasty.  Well, I’m off to fry some fritters.

**Later on: The malanga fritters were a pain in the ass to fry.  They would fall apart in the oil.  A few came out fritter-like.  I don’t know if it was the recipe or the way I fried it or something.  Anyway, it tasted pretty much like the yuca fritters.  The frozen fruit cocktail is good, pretty much tastes just like pina colada :D

Heaven smells like beef stew

Ok, so the title is misleading.  I didn’t actually make beef stew, but my mom did.  And it was delicious.  Carne con papa is what she’d call it, beef and potatoes.  She made it in the slow cooker with potatoes, carrots, onions, garlic and various spices.  I would love to get a book of slow cooker recipes.  That’d be a great dorm room resource.  Technically we’re not allowed to have them but what they don’t know can’t hurt them.  Besides, I’d put it in the kitchen with a threatening sign so no one touches it.  Another idea might be figuring out how to cook cuban foods easily in a dorm kitchen or even microwave.  I know that they now have mixes for stuff like congri and moros y cristianos.  That’s an option.  Thing is you can’t make a sofrito without a stove.  But sofritos are quick.  Maybe if I made the sofrito and used the microwave for the rice and beans…

Anyway…today I made soft pretzels (not Cuban :p) and pastelitos de guayaba, or guava pastries.  The soft pretzels are from a Sandra Lee recipe and are very easy.  You used frozen white bread dough, thawed, and break it into pieces.  Then I roll them into long pieces and twist in a pretzel shape and put them on wax paper.  Then you preheat the oven to 400 degrees and boil some water.  When the water is boiling, boil the pretzels 2 or 3 at a time for about 2-3 minutes and then you set them on paper towels to drain.  Then you brush them lightly with a beaten egg.  Afterwards you sprinkle them with your desired topping, coarse salt or in my case garlic powder and grated parmesan cheese, and stick them in the oven til the golden.

The guave pastries are fairly simple as well and delicious if you have the right ingredients.  I use Pepperidge farm pastry dough and Goya guava paste, the kind that comes in the flat circular pans, not the rectangular logs.  First you have to thaw the dough at room temp for about 40 minutes and then unfold them onto a lightly floured counter top.  Cut them into 12 even pieces on each sheet using a pizza cutter, in all there will be 24 pieces.  Half of that will be the tops.  Cut the guava into pieces and place in the middle of each square.  I like putting a big chunk.  Very lightly brush a little water on the edges then put the tops on each and press down the edges.  Next you can place 3 diagonal shallow score marks on each for aesthetic purposes.   Then beat an egg, combine with a little water and mix.  Very lightly brush each pastry with egg mixture.  Then you’ll put into an oven preheated to 400 and cook until golden, about 20-25 minutes.

They turned out well but every time I put pastries on the bottom rack the bottoms cook much faster and burn slightly.  I had to use the bottom rack because I made a double batch.  I made these to bring Daniel when we visit tomorrow.  Well, I’m going to eat my pastries…

Arroz Amarillo y Torticas de Morón

I didn’t write Monday because I didn’t feel like it and I didn’t cook yesterday. Monday I made arroz amarillo or yellow rice. Classically, saffron is used to flavor and color the rice but since saffron is really expensive, people generally used substitutes like Bijol powder. Unfortunately, since I live in Small Town, Middle Tennessee, hispanic products are in short supply. (It’s even hard finding green plantains.) So, since I didn’t have saffron or bijol, I found McCormick brand “Sazón” in Food Lion which works just as well. The rice turned out well but I’m still having issues with consistency. It’s not desgranado. I made white rice in the microwave today and the consistency turned out better! Is it because I didn’t rinse the rice before? Or maybe all the stuff I add adds too much liquid? I don’t know, I’ve got to figure it out. I’d like to try arroz con pollo sometime. I’ve never cooked chicken but it doesn’t see that hard…

Today I made torticas de morón which are cuban sugar cookies named after the town Morón in Cuba. (Emphasis of the last syllable, NOT like moron.) Actually it’s the town my dad is from. They’re incredibly simple cookies but VERY unhealthy. The only ingredients are flour, sugar, vegetable shortening, and grated lime or lemon peel. They have kind of a weird texture. I mean, it’s not weird to me because I’ve had them all my life but I imagine it’d be a little weird to others since I’ve never had anything like it.

I also made picadillo again today but a “healthy” version with ground turkey. It was still good but not quite the same as beef. The color was sacrificed since ground turkey doesn’t get brown apparently. I made it the same way as the previous one except I added Sazón for color. I think I’d just use lean beef next time if I want to make it healthy. I could have used brown rice instead of white to make it more healthy but didn’t feel like it.

I’m not sure what recipe I’ll do next—scratch that, I know exactly what. We’re visiting Daniel at Governor’s School this Saturday and I promised I’d cook him a care package of goodies. I’m making garlic Parmesan soft pretzels and guava pastries. I’ve made both before.  I think I’m burning out a bit on cooking, probably because I cooked everyday for 8 days straight.  Hopefully I’ll hang in there.  There’s still recipes I want to try.

I don’t know what I need to do to get in shape. I want to go hard-core into exercise but I think I need someone kicking my ass or something. Don’t know…

Always Read the Directions

I told myself I wasn’t going to cook today, but I couldn’t help it.  I found a recipe in the old Cuban cookbook that I wanted to try, Maravillas de Coco.  They’re basically coconut squares with chocolate on top.  When I read the directions at first I was shocked that it called for a pound of butter (4 sticks).   So I started mixing the batter after a trip to Food Lion and when my dad came in the kitchen I said, “I can’t believe this takes so much butter!”  Then I looked at the book again.  It said 1/4 a pound of butter, one stick.  Oh.  So…I had to trash 4 sticks of butter and start over.  Always read the directions CAREFULLY.  Lesson learned.  Good thing I checked before I started cooking it.

They turned out pretty well.  Very sweet and the brown sugar crust and toasted coconut added a nice crunch.  But oh, I feel disgusting.  I meant to get healthy and in shape this summer but I’ve gotten caught up in this project and have been eating unhealthily.  It seems like eating healthy and eating Cuban food are mutually exclusive.  I’ll have to experiment with some substitutes and start working out again.  I haven’t worked out in more than a week.  Ugh.  Maybe I should limit dessert making to once a week, or make super small portions.  In any case, I’m going to go enjoy the last day of my weekend.  Til tomorrow.