Thursday, December 6, 2018

Mangu

I began this blog all the way back in 2011. I'll do the math for you...my first post was nearly 7 and 1/2 years ago. If you've never seen it, go take a look here and try not to laugh. Food styling was clearly not even on my radar.

It's been quite a journey...both personally and culinarily (ok that's that a word but go with it). I love how cooking and baking can evolve. Attempting more ambitious recipes, experimenting with my own creations, and trying new flavors and ingredients. When I met my now husband who is Dominican, I started cooking with so many new seasonings and was introduced to a new world of recipes. We still talk about one of the first nights I was cooking dinner for him. To his shock and horror, I was making boil in a bag rice. Try making a Dominican bag rice and let me know how that goes over.

One morning for breakfast my husband, well not my husband at the time, decided to 'wow' me with a traditional Dominican breakfast: mangu. Mangu is mashed plantains and is incredibly simple but extremely filling and typically topped with pickled red onions (get the recipe here) served with a side of fried salami, fried queso freir, and eggs. I promise you, you eat mangu for breakfast and you won't be hungry until dinner.

A few notes if you're new to making mangu.
1. You want to buy the green plantains, not the yellow.
2. Make sure you boil them long enough to make the mashing easier.
3. When you add the water to mash it's going to look like you've added too much, but plantains get hard and thicken as they cool. Trust me, this gets me every time still. I swear I've added too much water and ruined it, but as you mash and let it sit the mangu will thicken and finish at the right consistency. 




-4 green plantains
-4 tablespoons butter
-1 cup of reserved water from the pot

1. Peel the plantains and cut into pieces about 1/2 inch thick. Boil for about 20 minutes, until a fork easily pierces the pieces.

2. As the plantains finish cooking, reserve 1 cup of the water from the pot, then drain the rest and pour the plantain pieces into a large bowl over the butter. Begin mashing, adding the 1 cup water. You can add it a little at a time, but remember mangu thickens as it sits so you should use the whole cup of water. Mash to the consistency you desire, some people hate any chunks while my husband and I like ours a bit lumpy. Let sit for a few minutes before serving to allow it to "set". Top with pickled red onions.

Enjoy!

Sunday, December 2, 2018

Sweet Pickled Red Onions

So I've hit a milestone. Exactly one year ago my maternity leave ended. And let me tell you...maternity leave is no vacation. Oh no. No no no.

Admittedly I'm a pretty big skeptic. I remember other moms warning me that maternity leave isn't a vacation, that there's no relaxation happening and by the time the leave has ended you'll return to work in that most exhausted state of your life. "Psssh," I thought to myself. "They're exaggerating!". Oh how wrong I was. When Lilly was a new born I used to keep notes on my phone of her feeding schedule so I could track how often and how much she was eating. Just last night I stumbled onto one of these notes and had a good laugh at it. It read like this:

3:15am- 4oz
6am- nursed
8am- 5oz
11am- nursed

You get this picture. That girl was always eating. Maternity leave was a never ending cycle of putting her to sleep, giving her a formula bottle, pumping, and nursing her. Looking back on those days it's amazing we make it through that. Newborns are hard work. Newborns require every single ounce of your energy. Newborns make time move at warp speed. It was just a year ago, but looking at photos of her from a year ago it feels a totally different decade. But...we made it. My Lilly is a now almost 14 months old, running all over the place, saying "cat", and most importantly....sleeping through the night. She still doesn't sleep beyond 6:30am, but I'll take it. If this past year has taught me anything, it's that time moves way too fast when you have a child, so for right now I'm trying my hardest to live in these moments and when 6:30am rolls around be thankful that I have a sweet, happy, healthy toddler to wake me up.

This weekend for breakfast we made a typical Dominican breakfast dish called Mangu (post coming soon). Mangu is mashed plantains and this dish is topped with pickled red onions. These sweet pickled red onions are so addicting I got up several times during breakfast to reload my Mangu with red onions. These are so crisp and the tart bite of the vinegar is nicely balanced with the sugar making it the ideal savory sweet garnish. Add these to burgers, tacos, eggs, and of course..Mangu. Any dish you'd typically add fresh red onions just swap out for these sweet pickled red onions and I promise you you'll never go back.





-1 red onion
-1 cup warm water
-1 tablespoon white sugar
-1/2 cup white vinegar
-1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt

1. Slice the red onion thin. Some people prefer to keep them in rings, but I prefer mine to chop mine into slivers.

2. Mix together the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar. Place chopped red onions in a mason jar. If you don't have a mason jar a bowl or other container will work. Pour the vinegar mixture over top making sure to cover all of the onions. Let sit at least 1 hour before using. Then, store in the fridge for several weeks.

Source

Friday, November 23, 2018

Jingle Bubbles

How is everyone doing this day-after Thanksgiving? Are you still totally stuffed?

We had a lovely day filled with family, way too much food, games, and entertainment provided by our 13-month old little girl. It's funny how just watching her toddle around the room from toy to toy can keep us mesmerized and melting our hearts with the simplest little things. This wasn't her first Thanksgiving technically, but last year she was only a few weeks old so this was the first year she was able to partake in the day. I love knowing how we're shaping traditions for her that she'll look forward to every year. I wonder what dish will be her favorite that she'll ask me to make? I hope she'll be eager to be my little helper in the kitchen...checking the turkey with me, setting the table, making she my wine glass is full. Ok, maybe not that last one, I can handle that...but I can picture her in a little apron placing chef for the day.

I remember when I was younger I used to help my grandma cleanup after family dinner. Want to know what my favorite part was?

Washing the dishes. (I can hear my husband's shocked reaction.) Yes, for a very brief moment in time I enjoyed washing dishes in the sink. Looking back, I can see why my grandma was so willing to let me handle that job and I never had to fight back any of the adults to be dishwasher for the day.

Now that everyone is recuperating from the planning and cooking and dish washing of Thanksgiving dinner, it's time to gear up for Christmas and the Holiday Season! I love holiday parties that have cocktails that fit the season. There's something extra festive about it. This year I wanted to come up with something light and fresh and not overly sweet. This champagne cocktail is refreshing and easy to drink, not too strong, and just enough limeade to balance out the champagne and vodka. These would be great at a brunch gathering or evening cocktail party. Enjoy!




Ingredients
-Sweet Champagne or Prosecco
-Simply Limeade
-Vodka
-Limes for garnish

1. Fill a flute glass 3/4 full with champagne. Add 1/2 oz vodka (this is about half of a shot glass), top with limeade. Garnish with lime slice.

2. Drink responsibly.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Buffalo Chicken Dip

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

No, I'm not talking about winter, or Christmas, or even Thanksgiving. I'm talking about football season! It turns Sundays into a day to knosh on snacks, drink beer, and stay in my comfy clothes on the couch. Now, the down side of football season is when your team is terrible. That's right...I'm a Giants fan and this season is downright painful. On the plus side, I'm actually not doing terrible with my Fantasy team this year! Admittedly, I've gotten some helpful tips from my brother as I learned to navigate through swapping out players on their Bye weeks, using the waivers, and structuring my team to get the maximum amount of points. It's turning out much better than my March Madness brackets usually do.

Buffalo Chicken Dip is probably one of the most crowd pleasing dips you can make. This recipe is so savory, so cheesy, and just enough heat. I swear every time I make these the bowl is practically licked clean. As you read the recipe, don't be turned off by the fact that it uses canned chicken. I typically never buy this stuff but it does give a particular flavor that you won't quite get from chicken breast. That isn't to say you can't cook up a chicken breast, shred it up and use that instead. You totally can, and I've done that before too. But when I compared the canned chicken to chicken breast recipes I felt that the latter was just missing "something". So whip up this super easy dip for football Sunday, go Giants!


-2 12.5oz cans chicken breast, drained
-8 oz softened cream cheese
-1/2 cup ranch dressing
-1/3 cup Texas Pete hot sauce
-1 8oz bag shredded mozzarella cheese
-1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
-1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese 

1. Heat your oven to 375 degrees. 

2. In a mixing bowl, combine the softened cream cheese, canned chicken breast, ranch dressing, hot cause, mozzarella cheese, and garlic powder. Smooth into your baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. To finish it off I like to throw it under the broiler for about 5 minutes to make the top brown and bubbly.

3. To serve, garnish with the crumbled blue cheese.

Enjoy!

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Pumpkin Dark Chocolate Chip Espresso Bread


This is my favorite time of year. These glorious few weeks when it's not too cold yet, you don't need the A/C or heat, and at night you there's the soothing scent of burning fireplaces. If I could pick the perfect climate to live in the rest of my life it would be exactly like these first weeks of Fall. During the day it gets just warm enough that you can feel comfortable wearing a long sleeve shirt, and at night a warm sweatshirt sitting around a fire pit. But of course, New Jersey is definitely not like this all year. Soon we'll enter the 7th circle of hell, or as some call it..."winter". I swear it lasts for half the year. We'll have snowstorm after snowstorm, mountains of plowed snow taking up the prime street-parking spots, and what was once pristine white powdered snow is dark, muddy, and slushy. So before that happens I'm going to enjoy this season and curl up with some pumpkin bread.

It does make me laugh a little that this type of food is referred to as "bread". Let's be honest with ourselves, this is basically cake without any frosting. But if we call it bread it makes it breakfast food, right? Right. I love this with my first cup of coffee in the morning after opening the window to let some fresh cool air circulate through the house. If you've never had the incredible combination of pumpkin and dark chocolate you need to put this on your "must make" list NOW. This bread tastes like a delicious bite of Fall with your favorite warm spices then the smooth and melty dark chocolate. This is also so fast and easy to whip up, minimal mess and in less than an hour you can be enjoying this spiced treat!



-1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
-1 teaspoon baking soda
-1 teaspoon baking powder
-2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
-1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
-1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
-1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
-1 tablespoon espresso powder (I used Cafe Bustelo)
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-2 large eggs
-1 cup pumpkin puree
-1/2 vegetable oil
-1/2 cup white sugar
-1/2 cup brown sugar
-1/4 cup milk
-3/4 cup dark chocolate chips

1. Heat the oven to  350 degrees and grease your baking pan. You can use a loaf pan or I used by 8x8 pan. Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, espresso powder, and salt. Then mix in the pumpkin, oil, eggs, and sugars. Stir until smooth, then lastly stir in the chocolate chips.

2. Pour into your baking dish. If using a loaf pan bake for 50-60 minutes, if using an 8x8 bake for 35 minutes, until a knife comes out clean.



Source: Closet Cooking

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Sweet Potato Home Fries


So I recently pulled a big time goof. We were on our way to the mall over the weekend to buy Lilly her first real pair of sneakers. Since the little miss is now fully walking (apparently now I have a toddler and not a baby) she needs real shoes for our out of the house adventures. We're all seat-belted into the car but when I press the 'Push to Start' that whole thing where the car is supposed to start doesn't happen. "Odd," I think to myself and decide to give it another go maybe it was some kind of fluke.

Nope.

We realize the battery is dead. As I turn to look to the back seat I see... 'it'. By "it" I mean the overhead light still producing light from when I turned it on the night before in the parking garage. Gah! I never turn that light on. Never! So of course the one time I use it I forget I even turned it on and the car battery used every last ounce of power to keep that sucker beaming all damn night. After our emergency car starter couldn't get it going we skipped the mall trip and worry about it the next day. My little brother was able to come over in the morning and give us the jump we needed to get the power flowing again!

Now here we go to the recipe. In return for his car jump starting services I whipped up a hearty brunch with Sweet Potato Home Fries taking center stage. I've made regular home fries before but something about this cool Fall air had me wanting to make a sweet potato version. I love that these crisp up in the oven and not heavily pan fried like some other version. The peppers and onions give this an extra kick of flavor so this isn't heavy and you don't feel all carbed up on potato. Whip this up next weekend and I promise these will become your new brunch staple!


-4 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced (try not to go too small or they will burn)
-3 tablespoons EVOO
-1/2 teaspoon paprika
-sale and pepper to taste
-1/2 cup diced white onion
-1/2 cup diced green bell pepper

1.Heat your oven to 450 degrees. In a bowl combine the diced sweet potatoes, 2 tablespoons of the EVOO, paprika, and salt & pepper. Spread into an even layer on a baking sheet and bake for 28-30 minutes.

2. While the potatoes are baking, heat the final 1 tablespoon of the EVOO in a saute pan and add the onions and peppers. Saute on medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes until they softened and get slightly browned.

3. When the potatoes are done, add them into the peppers & onions pan and toss to combine. Serve and enjoy!




Source: Martha Stewart

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Cheesy Roasted Red Pepper Dip

I've said it before and I'll say it again; I'm obsessed with dips. I have this restaurant idea where it's tapas style except it's just dips. Spinach dip, buffalo chicken dip, queso, corn dip....I could be here all day. I think it could work.

A good, savory dip can easily take the place of dinner for me. Heck, in my living on my own days I was no stranger to snacking for dinner instead of sitting down to a bigger meal. It's also a must-have when it comes to entertaining. A get together of any size absolutely needs to have a dip in the spread. That's a non-negotiable. Dress it up but having an assortment of crackers and chips, and go a little more gourmet with the selections, I like Stacy's chips and pita chips.

For your next party or solo dinner you're going to want to try this cheesy roasted red pepper dip. This one has gone down as my go-to. It's melty and cheesy but the powerful flavor of roasted red peppers helps cut through the cheese to keep this from feeling overly heavy. One difference I made was instead of just chopping the peppers, I put them in my Nutribullet and pulsed them a bit to make more of a paste, still had some pepper pieces but it was a very smooth paste that would be mixed into the cheese. This helps the whole dip have that pepper flavor and gives it a beautiful rich color.


-1 7oz jar of roasted red peppers, drained
-1 teaspoon smoked paprika
-4oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup shredded Manchego cheese
-1 cup shredded Mozzarella cheese
-1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (you can use shredded or grated)

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a blender or Nutribullet, pulse the roasted red peppers until smooth.

3. Mix all ingredients together and bake for 20-25 minutes.
Source: Closet Cooking