24 Jul

Chili con carne


I really don’t like to bundle up events but there are so many out there that I’d like to participate in that I would have to cook several times a week every week to be able to participate in all. And other times, like this one, I just have to because of my lack of organizational skills time. There is one food event that I sign up for every month because I just love it. I am talking about Nicole’s Taste & Create. Every participant gets paired with another blogger. We pick a recipe from our partner’s blog, make it and blog about it. The pictures of the recipes get posted at TasteandCreate.com as they arrive (this cool feature is new).

My problem this month (as it seems to be every month) was my lack of oragnizational skills. I didn’t realize today was the deadline until yesterday morning when I was checking my Food Events Calendar. I immediately started browsing Nina’s beautiful and delicious blog, but there was a problem. It is the end of the month, I don’t have much food in the refrigerator and I have spent my food budget for the week. So I had to find a recipe that called for the few ingredients I had on hand. Fortunately for me, Nina posted a couple of weeks ago a chili con carne and chocolate recipe that sounded delicious. However, she made that dish because in South Africa, where she’s from, they are in the middle of the winter. And what’s better for a cold winter than chili? The good fortune was on my side once again because yesterday we had a beautiful day here in Ohio. It was cloudy most of the day and the temperature didn’t get pass the mid 70’s F (20’s C)

I also realized that this dinner was perfect for this week’s Frugal Fridays. I really don’t know how much money I spent making this dinner, but I am pretty sure it wasn’t more than US $10. The most expensive ingredient was probably the pound of ground turkey at $1.99 I also added some other ingredients to Nina’s recipe to make the chili more hearty and healthy. One zucchini ($0.70), two potatoes (cheap), homemade kidney beans (also very cheap), canned tomatoes ($0.90). And I served it over white rice (cheap as well) because that was what caught my attention in Nina’s picture in the first place.

So here it is my version of Nina’s chili con carne:

Chili con carne
Serves 4 portions
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

For this recipe you will need:

  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 TBSP ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground paprika
  • 1 tsp ground Mexican oregano
  • 1lb (500 gr) ground turkey
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, deveined and chopped
  • 1 zucchini, diced
  • 2 small potatoes, diced
  • 1 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup tomato juice
  • 1/2 Abuelita chocolate bar (found in the Latino food section of your grocery store, if they don’t have one, change stores)
  • 2 cups red kidney beans
  • salt and pepper to taste.


  1. Heat oil in pan. Saute onion until soft. Add garlic and fry for 1 minute.
  2. Add pepper flakes, cumin and paprika and stir well.
  3. Toss in the meat and brown.
  4. Stir paprika, jalapeno, chopped tomatoes, tomato juice and chocolate and mix well. Simmer for 45 minutes.
  5. Add kidney beans and season well.
  6. Serve with salsa (or salad and white rice in my case), avocado, lime wedges, sour cream and nachos and enjoy.

About this recipe:

  • I love the idea of adding chocolate to chili. I have actually tried that before for this pumpkin chili and it was delicious.
  • Like any other chili recipe. There is always room to add, change or reduce ingredients according to you and your family’s liking.

Remember that Frugal Fridays is a weekly event where participants are challenged to create a dinner for 4 with US $10 or less (a little bit more is OK) Check out today’s Thursday Thirteen about 13 frugal ingredients for every kitchen.

¡Buen provecho!

01 Jul

The almost magic beans


Most of us are familiar with the little guys we call beans. But bean, like the word vegetable, is a very general concept. It is used to refer to seeds of many different plants. Some people might think of green beans when they hear the word and others might think pinto beans, garbanzo or any other of the immense varieties of beans. That’s why I will focus on the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) on this post.

The almost magic beans

Although beans have been cultivated in many parts of the world for thousands of years, many of the most popular varieties that we eat today are native to Mesoamerica and the Andes. Beans (along with squash and corn) played a very important part in the agriculture and nutrition of pre-Colombian societies. Even today, beans are essential to the balanced diet of most Latin American countries. This is not a surprise given their nutritional value and their low cost.

Each half-cup serving of beans provides:

  • 6 to seven grams of protein
  • only 100 to 120 calories
  • an average of 25 grams of carbohydrates per serving. The carbohydrates in cooked beans are mainly starch, a complex carbohydrate, and less than 1% of simple sugars, mostly Sucrose
  • about 25-30% of the Daily Value of dietary fiber. About 75% of the fiber is insoluble which may reduce the risk of colon cancer. The remaining 25% of the fiber is soluble fiber which may reduce blood cholesterol.
  • less than 0.5 grams of mostly polyunsaturated fat and no cholesterol. Pinto bean lipid is 84% polyunsaturated fatty acids. Most of this fatty acid is linoleic acid.
  • provides 36% of the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) of 400 micrograms of folacin and 11% of the RDI for thiamin.
  • contains large amounts of iron, phosphorous, magnesium, manganese, potassium, copper, calcium, and zinc.

Other benefits of eating beans are:

  • They provide a complimentary protein profile when beans and grains are served together in dishes like beans and rice, or tortillas and refried beans, .
  • They produce a moderate increase in blood glucose and insulin levels which may be helpful in the metabolic control of diabetes.
  • The slower release of glucose and the increased satiety from beans may also to enhance the effectiveness of weight-reducing diets.

Some tips about beans:

  • Soak beans for at least 2 hours before cooking to reduce cooking time.
  • Discarding the soaking and cooking water helps remove oligosaccharides and reduces flatulence. Hot soaking removes about 50% of these sugars. Extended soaking removes more, but reduces vitamins and minerals.
  • Adding epazote to beans enhances flavor and helps to reduce flatulence as well.

But how do you eat beans? Beans are one of my favorite foods for their versatility. If you are looking to reduce your meat intake (we all should do this to improve our health, fight global warming and help eradicate hunger. Read about it here) you can cook with beans and other protein rich legumes. You can serve them as a side dish, in salads, combined with rice or other grains and vegetables to make a main dish. The best part is not their price, only a fraction of what you’d spend in meat, but their flavor.

Beans are one of the most convincing proofs that you can eat healthy and delicious inexpensively. With food like this the future looks less grim now, doesn’t it?

The almost magic beans

Sources for this post:

30 Jun

Cuban rhythm


With everything that happpened this month I thought I wasn’t going to have enough time to make it to Elly’s food event Eat to the Beat. This is one event that I was looking forward to participating and I would’ve been really upset if I missed it again. Why? Because I love music and I always try to have something playing in the background when I cook. I have a very wide taste in music (from classical to heavy metal and almost anything in between), but my favorite kind of music to listen to while cooking is salsa music. I can’t dance (and I am too shy to do it in public), but when I am alone in my kitchen I can’t stop moving my feet (or at least trying) to the music of one of the most amazing singers this world has ever seen: Celia Cruz, the Queen of salsa.

Celia Cruz (1925-2003) was the most successful Cuban singer with twenty-three gold albums to her name. She started her career in La Havana, Cuba when she was only a teenager. In 1948 she made her first recordings in Venezuela and in 1950 she joined the renowned Cuban orchestra La Sonora Matancera as the lead singer. They toured all over Latin America in the 50’s gaining fans and fame.

When in 1960 Fidel Castro took power in Cuba, Celia Cruz refused to go back to her country and became a U.S. citizen. She spent most of her career in New Jersey and working in the U.S. and several Latin American countries. Celia Cruz became known for her trademark shout Azúcar! (Sugar in Spanish) that she used to greet her audiences. Cruz reflected in many of her songs her desire to go back to a free and sovereign Cuba.

Unfortunately, she didn’t live long enough to see a Cuba free from the Castro regime. The song that you are listening to (Yo viviré) is a cover of the famous Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive. This is my favorite Cruz’s song because her lyrics reflect that burning desire for freedom that we all have. Yo viviré y sobreviviré.

To accompany the Queen’s scratchy voice and contagious rhythm I decided to make a Cuban dish that I had book marked some months ago, arroz moro (white rice with Cuban black beans) To make it a dinner dish I just added some browned pork shoulder right after stirring all the ingredients in the pot. Here is the recipe as it is posted on tasteofCuba.com:

Arroz Moro (white rice with Cuban black beans)
recipe courtesy of Andy Natal from Torrance, California

1 can of black beans
2-3 cups of already cooked white rice
1/3 cup of sofrito casero (Blend onion, bell pepper, garlic and cilantro til puree)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon of oregano and a drizzle of apple cider vinegar
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 cup of beer or broth
1/2 can tomato sauce

In a pot, add olive oil and sautee garlic and sofrito for a minute. Add salt, pepper, cumin and oregano to sofrito and mix. Add beans and mix well. Add tomato sauce and beer or broth and mix.

After 5 minutes, add apple cider vinegar and stir. Add 2-3 cups of already cooked white rice (at room temperature) and mix well. Cook until all is absorbed (about 10-15 minutes).

Let sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.

Buen Provecho y Azúcar!

27 Feb

Sweet Breakfast Memories – Gorditas de Piloncillo


I strongly believe that memories are the best treasure we can accumulate. And when it comes to food, memories of aromas, textures and tastes form a very important part of our family, culture and our own past and life.What will we do without those delicious memories? One of my favorite food memories is the smell and taste of gorditas de piloncillo.

In Mexico gorditas are generally stuffed and fried thick tortillas (not to mention the rough translation chubby girl), but gorditas de piloncillo are something very different. They are originally from the Mexican state of Veracruz (or so I have always believed) My mom learned how to make them from a cousin of hers who lives in that state.

I googled gorditas de piloncillo but didn’t find any mention of them as my mom used to make them. They might be the best-kept secret of Mexican gastronomy. Even in Mexico City they are seldom known.  piloncillo2.jpgveracruz1.jpg

Piloncillo are blocks, generally in the form of cones, of pressed unrefined brown sugar. There are two kinds, one lighter and one darker, and the cones come in several sizes. It is used to prepare several authentic Mexican desserts like capirotada and flan and it can be purchased in most Mexican stores and even online.

These gorditas bring me so many good memories because it was only in special occasions that my mom made them. I knew she was going to make them the moment she gave me a round yellow Tupperware container, a couple of coins and asked me to get masa (tortilla dough) at the closest tortilleria (tortilla shop) By the time I got back the whole house was filled with the sweet aroma of melted piloncillo. I stood next to her during the whole process and when we sat at the table to eat breakfast I could eat at least half a dozen of them. Sweet, filling memories, is there anything better than that?

Gorditas de Piloncillo
Recipe type: Breakfast
Cuisine: Mexican
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: Makes 10-12
Preparation: Note: The preparation for these gorditas is very similar than the preparation for tortillas. You can read more about it here. Note 2: Melting piloncillo. There are 2 different ways you can do this. Leave piloncillo in a container with ¼ cup of water overnight. Or in a small pot melt piloncillo with ¼ cup of water over low heat. If you use this second method, let it cool before using.
  • •2 cups corn flour or masa harina
  • •1 ½ cups water
  • •1 4oz (150 gr) block of piloncillo
  • •2 cups refried beans (remember Jerry’s recipe)
  • •vegetable oil
  • •sour cream
  • •salsa
  1. Mix water and flour in a large bowl and mix with your hands until you get a firm dough that doesn’t break when you make balls with it.
  2. Add the melted piloncillo and mix well until the dough takes a golden color. You may have to add more flour because the liquid sugar may make the dough too moist.
  3. Cut two circles out of a clean grocery bag.
  4. Put a ball of dough between the 2 circles of plastic and press it with a tortilla presser. Or press it with a heavy skillet to make thin tortilla-like shells.
  5. Fry the gorditas in vegetable oil in a large heavy skillet. Oil should be very hot before frying the first gordita. Fry each side of the gordita for about 1 minute. Frying times will depend on the thickness of the gorditas, these are thin gorditas so it doesn’t take very long to cook them.
  6. In a different skillet or pot warm up refried beans. I use about ¼ cup of water or milk to reduce thickness so it is easier to work with them. I also add some milk to the sour cream for the same reason.
  7. Serve gorditas with refried beans, sour cream and salsa on top.


This is the salsa I used: Blend 1/8 of a medium-sized onion, 1 garlic clove, ½ cup of tomatoes and 1 chipotle adobado pepper. Be careful, this salsa is hot!

About this recipe: I really love this dish so I encourage you to try it. If you can’t find piloncillo where you live you can substitute it with brown sugar and the corn flour may be substituted with wheat flour, the taste will not be the same, though. My mom used to serve this dish as breakfast. The greasy, oily, fried factor wasn’t an issue because she only made them in special occasions. But if you worry about the fry part of it, you may try baking the gorditas, I personally have never try it that way (it would lose it’s flavor for me), but I think it could work. I did find other version of this gorditas made in the state of Nuevo Leon. I will have to try them some other time and blog about them. But for now enjoy this sweet/savory/spicy breakfast from my childhood.

Buen provecho!