Tag Archives: Puerto Rico

I wonder wednesday…

I wonder…

…why do we park on driveways and drive on parkways?

Yea yea, pretty lame. But I can’t for the life of me think of anything I’m really wondering about. Maybe I should wonder about that! 

So anyway, on to other things (don’t worry, I’ll be sure to be wondering for next week!)…

Oh! The pizza! In case you missed my last post, I was doing homemade pizza using the pizza dough recipe from Tuscan Gun. This is the second time I’ve used the recipe and the initial attempt delivered a really great, crispy yet chewy crust. So I figured I’d give it another shot. 

Not sure what happened this time around but the dough ended up being a bit dry while it was mixing. I really think I should have added some more water but I didn’t want to alter the recipe. I wonder if cooking in a non air conditioned kitchen with 80%+ humidity had anything to do with it? I’ve read that heat and humidity can wreak havoc on baking and this is sorta baking so maybe?? If anyone knows please offer up some advice. 

I was worried that the dough would be too dry/thick that it wouldn’t proof/rise. I was wrong! That sucker plumped up like a champ! 

 

pre-proof

  

after two hours! score!

 

The next step is punching it down and letting it proof for one more hour. This is not a quick pizza crust so make sure you give yourself time to let it rise. 

And, of course, that’s where the pics ended. Ggrrr! What else goes on the pizza? Great question! I use buffalo mozzarella, the roasted tomatoes, grated fontina cheese, and vey thin proscuito de Parma. In Dothan, I would have also added figs but I cannot find them here. 

Overall, it turned out pretty tasty. The crust was a little suspect and I think it was because of it being a bit dry. It came out pretty thin and ended up being cracker crispy. Not too bad though.  

I’ll be giving it a whirl again in the next few weeks as I have the leftover dough in the freezer. How nice is it to go into the freezer and pull out some fresh dough. This is why I love to cook! At anytime I can go in to my freezer stash and pull something out that I know is fresh and healthy. Speaking of fresh and healthy, here’s the bolognese I made last week for our dinners as well as single servings for gabriela. Gotta love snack sized ziplocs!

   

  

  

 
Gotta end with a Gabriela pic!

Friendships 

Hey there, my friends! I apologize for the little hiatus the last week and a half. My best friend (since the 6th grade!) was in town last week visiting so I didn’t quite get around to my blog. 

We had a great visit and little Gabriela absolutely loved spending time with Tia Amee (who is also her godmother). It was so nice to just hang out and talk. 

  
 

Spending the day in San Juan at Barrachina restaurant


We’ve been friends since the 6th grade but there have been a few times where we lost touch with each other and eventually reconnected. Between various moves (me to Phx, back to StL, BACK to Phx, then to Dothan, and finally to PR; Amee from StL to Cupertino, CA), getting married, and finally children (my one to her three beautiful kids), our lives have been crazy and complicated but we always manage to touch base and catch up. Our conversations are sometimes few and far between but when we do talk I really feel connected to her. 

Mojitos at Achè Bar

This is her second visit to PR and she’s pretty committed to visiting at least once a year. That just makes my heart happy that she really enjoys spending time with us. And I guess it doesn’t hurt we live in a tropical island. 😉 We had a great ‘girl’s night’ while my dad watched Gabi and it just brought
back memories of what we used to do when we lived close to each other. It was a perfect night that capped a perfect visit of beach time, food, and a lot of conversation. 

 

Clmdo Restaurant in Isabela. Hands down one of my best meals yet on the island!

 
 

Amee said she wanted a lobster , so we got her a lobster from one of the fishing boats

 

Over the years my circle of friends have gotten smaller and now that I think about it, it was for the better. At 37 years old (yikes!) I think my values and what I truly feel and believe in have changed over the years. Some friends have evolved and fit into my little worldview and some have not. And that’s okay, too. I truly feel that everyone who has entered my life, however brief or for the long haul, has had an impact on who I am today and  I appreciate every single one of them. It doesn’t make them any less important. 
I’m in a new stage of my life, as a mother and living in a new-ish foreign place and I’m hoping to make friendships here that will also help me grow and widen my worldview. 

Amee is an amazing friend, mom, wife, woman that I really do look up to. This past week was exactly what I needed to refuel my engines. I cannot thank her enough for not only her visit but also her friendship. 

So if you’ve got a friend that you’ve been missing or have gotten out of touch with, reach out and say hello. 

Have a great Sunday, my friends. ❤️

 

circa 1995/96. Amee’s senior pics. We were such young pups.

  

2015 and still looking good! My ebony to her ivory. ☺️

 

I Wonder Wednesday…

“Blades holds me under the faucet. The touch of his hands and the flowing water make my tail convulse deliciously. The tension grows unbearable. I feel precarious, as if I were about to fall for him again. A cluck of longing emerges from deep inside me. 

“Suddenly we can’t help ourselves, and his long-fingered hands are all over me. ‘I want to cook you,’ he whispers. ‘Whole.’ Oh my. I’m heating from the inside out.”

Did I get your attention? No, I’m not thinking about penning raunchy, steamy novels. This is actually an excerpt from the cookbook 50 Shades of Chicken, which is a spin-off of the _50 Shades of Grey_ series that were ever so popular a few years ago. Being that we’re all friends here, in full disclosure, I must admit that yes, I did succumb and read all three books. In about 3 days. My poor husband even ran to the bookstore to get the 2nd and 3rd books. And I just have to say that my mother in law’s MOTHER and her best friend pretty much told me I HAD to read it. Gotta listen to your elders, right??!!??

While it was cheesy with no plot and at times made me blush, it did hold my attention and it was entertaining. In some weird ‘I-can’t-believe-I’m – a-16th/17th century- lit major-who- just-read-a-trendy-awfully-written-series. ‘. Hey, we all need an escape. And a shower. 

Anyway, so after the popularity of the series emerged, there were all sorts of 50 Shades spin-offs. Leave it to my husband to find the one about chicken. Gotta love that man. 

So the recipe that the above excerpt is from is called ‘plain vanilla chicken’. Get it?? But DAMN! If this isn’t one of the best roast chickens ever! You “Fill your hand with butter and gently slide your fingers beneath the skin of the breast, slathering the butter on the flesh as you go. Work your ways to the thighs.”. The butter is a combination of brandy, vanilla extract, and sugar and it just melts into the flesh, resulting in a slightly vanilla perfumed breast that is oh so tender. I know, sugar. Vanilla. Brandy. But trust me. 

And the SAUCE that results from the butter and chicken is absolutely divine that you really need some bread to sop it all up. 

So I wonder…when did food get ‘sexy’? Or has it? People on blogs/in person/etc. go on about how pleasurable their food is. Pictures are taken of dishes (Yep, totally guilty) and there’s the common phrase of ‘food porn’ that floats around social media. 

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. I’m totally on board looking at beautiful dishes that are put together like artwork. I’m in awe of the intricate working of recipes. But how did it all happen? When did food, which in the simplest form is supposed to nourish our bodies, become something much more? And is that even really a bad thing? 

I’m thinking not. 

So I’ll continue to be in awe of all the foodie pics on Instagram and even strive myself to show off my own food porn. 

And I just gotta say that as corny as this cookbook is, there’s a lot of really good, flavorful recipes in it. Good food with a bit of entertainment. I wonder what could be so wrong with that. 

Bon appetit!

Ps- and of course I didn’t take pics of my food ( I like other people’s food to photograph) here’s the stock photo and one of lil Gabi who turned 14 months old today! What?!?

 

pic from the book. but yours will so look like this!


   

I Wonder Wednesday 

(I wonder… if I will ever actually post this on a WEDNESDAY) 🙂

So it’s been unusually hot (from what I’ve been told by the locals) these last few months. Plus we’ve been getting the dry air and sand storms from the Sahara so it just seems like the air is stagnant. Now I’m no stranger to a hot environment: I’ve lived in Phoenix for about 5 years, grew up in the heat and humidity in St. Louis, and experienced the southern humidity in Alabama. But all these places have something in common that is lacking in Puerto Rico…

AIR CONDITIONING

Yep. I’d guesstimate that upwards of about 75% of the houses here (including ours) do not have air conditioning. We have a whole lot of windows instead! Word round the campfire is that 1. Electricity is crazy expensive here and 2. They don’t do central air but rather individual units that are mounted to a wall so you’d need one for every room and those aren’t cheap. Plus factor in the cost of electricity. 

We knew this coming here but we (foolishly) thought ‘oh we’re in an island. There’ll be breezes and we’ll have the tropical wind blowing through our hair.’  Yea, right. While a majority of our windows do face the windward side and we do in fact get fabulous breezes, it’s still hot! 

But it’s slowly getting bearable. At times. Now the kitchen, well that’s another matter. There’s only 4 windows and it’s closed off so there’s not really a flow of air. It gets a bit stifling in there. But does that hinder me from using the oven, doing long roasts, or whipping up big meals? Nope. Sacrifice, I say. At least that’s the story I’m sticking with. 

We do, however, have lots of ceiling fans and ground fans. And of course we have a portable air conditioner in Gabi’s room (and my dad’s room for when she hangs out with him) and that really does keep us cool. I’m working on getting one for every room but the husband hasn’t gotten on board on yet. Lol. 

So I wonder…what did people do before air conditioning was invented? Did they complain or was it just the way it is? I guess I’m just spoiled having that LUXURY for all of my life that I seriously miss it. When we stay in a hotel I’m in heaven because of the A/C! Do you think you could ever live day in and day out with it? 

We’ve had a lot of trade-offs coming here and after completing our first year, they’ve all been worth!

Happy hump day (well Thursday now)!

 

Nice and chill in her own air conditioning.

 

One prep, two recipes + JULIA!

Happy last day of August! (or at least it was when I STARTED writing this post. Ooops) This was a fun month filled with lots of day adventures and checking out some new and awesome places around the island. I’ll be doing a quick wrap-up of our month in the next day or so to share our journey through the island! So stay tuned!

In the meantime, tropical storms Danny and Erika completely bypassed our fair island. I was hoping (not really HOPING) but looking forward to being rained in on Friday so I figured it would be a good time for a Julia recipe.  I deviated from chicken, although I wanted to finish off that chapter first, and instead checked out the beef section because my supermercado had a great selection of eye of round. 

I made Boeuf À La Mode (beef braised in red wine). Doesn’t it just sound so much better in French! This recipe called for a 24 hour marinade of the beef in a red wine, vegetable, and herb marinade. 24 whole hours. Talk about flavor! Unfortunately I was unable to locate (as prescribed by Julia) a cracked veal knuckle or a split calfs foot. I had to settle for a modified pork rind. What can you do, right?

After the 24 hrs, all that’s left is searing the beef and then adding in the marinade and braising it slowly for 3 hours. And can I just say- the house smelled AMAZING! To accompany the beef, julia suggests ‘quartered carrots braised in butter.’  BUTTER. it surely doesn’t get any better. Unfortunately I didn’t take any pics and it was gobbled up rather quickly by the husband and my father so I guess it was a hit! Back to chicken next week– maybe the classic coq au vain. Mmmmm… 

(Note- the recipe in the link was found online from finecooking.com. I have yet to find a lot of Julia’s recipes online and typing out 4 pages of a recipe just ain’t happening so I try to find blogs or sites that have it. I’m very thankful to these folks for doing the hard work of getting her recipes out there!)

I also filled up Gabi’s freezer stash today during one of her naps. It’s so nice having small bites around for when we head out on trips or need something quick to whip up. 

Gabi has been loving meatballs lately so I figured I’d whip up a batch. I had a huge packet of ground beef so I had the idea of knocking out two different recipes using similar ingredients to save time and get the most out of her nap time. 

Nothing like fresh herbs from my garden!

I used this recipe for the meatballs. I liked the idea of using quick cooking oats instead of bread crumbs. In fact, there’s an Ellie Krieger recipe I use for meatloaf that has the oats in it. Also  hiding the spinach (which Gabi is not quite a fan of) in the meatball is a great way to get those greens in her. 

 

Meatball prep


  

For some reason I was craving pasta so I thought I’d do some ravioli for la nena. While I wish I could say I rolled out my own dough for this, sadly I did not. But one day I will take on making my own pasta! Is anything better than fresh pasta? I think not!

Instead I cheated and used egg roll wrappers. The filling was somewhat similar to the meatballs but I omitted the oats and added ricotta for some ooey gooey cheesy goodness. I found that you can fit 4 raviolis on a sheet and after some trimming, they come out to a good size. 

not the best pic but you get the idea.

I did ravioli once before using wonton wrappers and it turned into a big gooey mess. Not quite sure what I did but the wrappers just didn’t hold together.  I haven’t tried these out yet but I’m hoping for a better outcome. Fingers crossed. I’ll keep you posted. 

And to round out the evening I made a proscuito and fontina pizza with oven roasted tomatoes for dinner. I’m trying to perfect my pizza crust (it’s either too thin and crispy or too thick and gummy) so I’ve been going through lots of recipes. I used a recipe from Tuscan Gun (did I mention I’m obsessed with that show in the Cooking Channel?!?!) and I think it’s been the best tasting crust so far. It still didn’t have the texture I wanted and that’s what I’m still trying to figure out. But the guys liked it so again, I’ll take that as a win! Do you have a favorite pizza crust recipe? Any advice on how to achieve that perfect crust (I’m trying real hard to convince my father to build a pizza oven in the back yard. That’s practical, right? 😉)

 

its’s amazing how much dough tises and how light snd airy it is.

 
 

gotta have a Gabi pic! First time trying raspberries and she gobbled them all up!

 

Tropical Storm Erika….

For those following along (thank you!!) TS Erika came and went with pretty much nothing to show for it. Which is both great and not so great. 

 

pre storm pic from our local beach.


Great in that there wasn’t any damage to our home or surrounding areas but bad in that we didn’t get nearly enough rain to help with the ongoing drought and water rationing that’s happening in San Juan and surrounding areas. In fact, it’s early afternoon and we still haven’t gotten rain. 

With all the hoopla surrounding Erika it was a a bit of a letdown that nothing happened. They were so sure that something was going to hit that the government enacted ‘ la ley seca’ or dry law. This is a law that is enacted during bad storms that stop the sale of alcohol for a duration of time. In this case: noon yesterday to noon today. I guess hurricane parties were getting way out of hand the last few years so this is the way PR is trying to shut it down. Funny though seeing folks stocking up days before the storm. Guess it’s not really helping. 

So this is what we looking at yesterday about 20 minutes after the sunshine pic was taken. 

   

So it’s Friday, about 4pm and we’ve only had one shower. Seriously a bummer. I was hoping for rain all day, which meant Gabi would (hopefully) sleep all day and I could get lots of cooking done. Yea! 

Well, it didn’t happen. I did, however, get a Julia dish in the oven (boeuf a la mode — beef braised in red wine). And I also attempted these Cheese bombs but I think I overstuffed them. Regardless, they were Oh. So. Yummy! 

 

exploding bombs


And I also whipped up some chicken and Mac & cheese Muffins from my _toddler on the go_ cookbook. 
  
So all is right with the world and we’re dry. More info on Julia’s recipe this weekend! 

 

a little distorted but thats the horizon we had last night


 

**UPDATE**

For those following, here’s an update on the impending visit from Danny. Over the weekend it had been downgraded to a Cat 2 hurricane and then last night to a tropical storm, and then early this morning to a tropical depression. 

The little guy just couldn’t hang tough and being it’s been HOT in the Carribean for the last few months, it just really didn’t have a chance. So it looks like it’s heading more south of us but so far the weather folks are projecting that PR may be getting 2-4 inches of rain staring tonight into tomorrow. 

I’m really hoping they’re right. It’s not so bad here in the West side but San Juan and surrounding municipalities are having to go 2-3 days with absolutely no water; as in the pipes are closed and you get nada. It’s dry here and things are turning brown but we haven’t had to conserve water. And we do get an occasional sprinkle here and there. 

So all is calm (for now) on the Homefront. Reports are also that the winds could  kick up so there’s also the possibility of losing power. We are stocked up on food, gas for the generator, Don Q and coke, and water. 

Here’s hoping for rain and everyone being safe! 

 

just sayin’

  

view from our casa one day after a big storm.

 

¡Feliz Cumpleanos, Julia!

I am happy, happy, HAPPY to report that Julia Child has come back into the cooking repertoire! And what perfect timing with it being her birthday!!

 

Classic Julia

 
Wednesday night’s (because what better day to cook a Julia recipe than hump day, right?) Julia recipe was Fricassee de Poulet A L’ancienne (Old-fashioned chicken fricassee with wine-flavored cream sauce, onions, and mushrooms). Yep, a mouthful and man– was it a DELICIOUS mouthful!

**Disclaimer–I hope you don’t mind, but I’m not really good at taking pics WHILE I’m making my dishes. I’m pretty good at maybe doing a “right before it goes into the oven” shot but I just really don’t think I can take photos of the “in-progress” moments and actually make them look appetizing. If you’d like play-by-play pics let me know and I will work on my photography skills. Hmmmmm…that may finally give me incentive to do those online classes I purchased last year!!

So back to Julia. This is just my 4th entree that I have been tracking since maybe moving to Puerto Rico. I know, so not a good track record. This is what I have done so far, and I will be (trying) to find the recipes online to post in another tab in case you get the urge to try out some butter. And cream. Oh, and good chicken.

* Poulet Poele A L’Estragon (Casserole-roasted chicken with tarragon)
* Poulet au Porto (Roast chicken steeped in port wine, cream, and mushrooms)
* Poulet Saute aux Herbes de Provence (Chicken sautéed with herbs and garlic, egg yolk, and butter sauce)

See what I mean about butter. And cream? And more butter!!

This has to be one of my absolute favorites. Just so you know, I have cooked through about 15 or so recipes already while we were living in the upper 50’s, I just never wrote about them other than posting a pic on Facebook. And let me tell you: going back and re-doing some of these is going to make this chica (and my husband, father, and baby girl) a very happy person!

 

I have a thing for flagging cooked recipes So many recipes!

 
So this is the thing about Julia that may scare off people if you happen to thumb through her 650+ page cookbook: she’s wordy! One recipe can be upwards of about 4-5 pages. And then she also includes variations to main recipes. AND THEN she’ll also throw in some sides that will go well with the dish and that can be at least a page long. I found this blog post that pretty much sums up what I’m talking about. The line that really drives Julia home is, “…Julia’s recipes were written for a rigorous cook with endless patience for serious detail.” Yet, I LOVE it! It’s sort of like she’s talking you through the recipes, step-by-step, as if she’s in the kitchen with you. There’s no guesswork or holes; what she says (or rather writes) is literally what you do. Her use of language and words to describe food makes me smile. Yep, I’m a dork.

After about 3 hrs (on and off – Gabriela was not in the mood to fully cooperate) of slowly braising the chicken, steeping mushrooms, and straining all the yummy bits, we were left with the must luscious and velvety wine-cream sauce that was just rich enough to make you want to keep sopping it up with the pasta and chicken but not too rich to make it feel heavy. There was a perfect balance. This is the genius of Madame Child.

 

Yep. YUM!

 
I am really, really hoping that this will indeed kick-start my love affair of all things French (food, at least) that I will be dedicating one day a week to Mastering the Art of French Cooking!

Bon appetit!

 

Passed the Gabriela tatste test!

 
 

 

Thursday Beach Series

i just realized that I never posted last week’s beach Thursday. I can totally blame that on mom brain, right?

So let me digress a bit: last week we tried out pork pinchos (kebobs) using this Asian style marinade. I was worried after making the marinade because I’m really not a measure-er (is that a word?) and I thought maybe it would be too salty or too sweet. I normally tend to worry about under/over seasoning. 

Turns out I worried for nothing. They ROCKED! We gobbled them up so fast that I didn’t even take a pic of them! Total fail. I was able to catch this little one snoozing away while We enjoyed an aguacate that our vicino (neighbor) brought over for us. Can anything beat a just picked avocado!!??

  
Alrighty, now we’re up to date! Today the beach is quiet (school started — YES) so I think the beaches will be quiet again during the week. And it’s the most beautiful blend of blue, turquoise, and green hues I’ve seen in awhile. Here’s a pic but it really doesn’t do it any justice. 

  
We have also added to our list of gear as well. Like we really need more, right? I was commenting to my father the other week that it would be helpful to have another table to put the cooking essentials on, rather than just have them haphazard  on a beach chair. We have a Table in a bag, kind of like this (but I don’t think we paid this much for it) that has worked out great. But the grill takes up most of the space and left us with our plates on our laps. Not very convenient. 

And then we came across this little gem, which seems perfect (pic below). So we’re trying it out today, along with a variation/combination  of a few recipes I found online that basically consists of about 3tbs soy sauce, 2tbs brown sugar, 1tbs lime juice, pinch of red pepper flake, and a glub of olive oil. Marinate overnight, then skewer in the morning and cook till cooked through. They were so moist that it was even overlooked I forgot to do a dipping sauce. 

La nena is knocked out asleep right now after her bath and a quick feeding. The new contraption worked out great. Us adults are partaking of a cocktail and I think the husband is bringing dinner home. Score! There may even be a rain shower off in the horizon. I’d say it was a pretty damn good day! 

Now prepare for a photo blast. Sorry!

 

my little chiquita and me. it was a good day!

  

my favorite things.

  

our spot!

  

our new addition. still figuring out where to put things.

 

I Wonder Wednesday!

I have been very lucky in my life to have lived in different places that offered different types of food, fruits, and veggies. I especially have my parents to thank for introducing me to a lot of different tastes at an early age (crab legs before the age of 5? Yes please!)

So I really do think that helped shape my desire to be a foodie and try out different things and recipes, which I hope to pass on to Gabriela. 

 

scrambled eggs with fresh dill from our garden


And in moving to Puerto Rico our arsenal of fruits and veggies available to us (via little small side of the street vendors) is pretty awesome! 

Case in point: La quenepa.  We had this when we just moved here (almost a year ago! WOW!) But we hadn’t had it since. Right now is the peak time for these little guys so there’s someone selling them everywhere. We picked up this bunch for $2! We also got some free advice from the seller that you can use these to make infused rum. I’m totally into this and apparently is a specialty over in Vieques called Bilí. 
It’s some work to get the minute fruit that’s in each pod but it’s still oh so good. 

 

bunch of fresh quenepas!


So I wonder…how do these fruits get discovered? In fact, how did any of our fruits, veggies, beef, pork, chicken, seafood…what-have-you, get introduced to society? Who was that person who looked at these pods and said, ‘yea, I think we can eat these!’? And even makes me wonder MORE  are those foods that have to be cooked to certain temperatures in order for them to be no longer fatal. How did that all work? Who would volunteer for THAT job?! 
Food is wonderful and amazing and should be sought after for its unique and differing tastes and textures. I’ve been lucky enough to have worked in many places that helped expand and shape my palate that I just crave good, quality food. I try to pass this on to my family by cooking at home daily and also exploring new and innovative restaurants/shops that also take pride in their product. While I live with two ‘meat and potato’ kinda guys, ever so often a little foodie comes out in them. And I’m hoping the same will be true with Gabriela. 

So, as Andrew Zimmern says, ‘if it looks good…EAT IT!’

 

cheese plate from Lenel’s in Arecibo; from the weekend

 
 

sorry…couldn’t help but include a little pool action

 

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