Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Classic Caramels for Christmas

I enjoyed unwrapping these delicious caramels my grandmother made every year as a child just as much as I enjoyed unwrapping the presents under the tree. This is one of those classics that falls under the label "Christmas isn't Christmas without these babies!" So before the season escapes me again, I thought I'd post the recipe. A special thanks to Aunt Tami who answers her phone while she's on the roof fixing Christmas lights. She informed me that the recipe was originally Aunt LaJean's who was Grandpa Lloyd's dad's sister. I hope you have that straight. Cause I almost do. wink. wink.


2 cups white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup karo syrup
2 cups whipping cream
2 cubes butter
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all together and stir constantly, washing down the sides of the pan with a pastry brush in water very lightly until it boils. Once it boils, don't stir. Continue boiling until it reaches 234F on a candy thermometer.

Add vanilla. Mix slightly and pour into a buttered cookie sheet with sides. When it cools, cut into squares and wrap in wax paper.Try not to devour all in one sitting. These are a perfect addition to your Christmas platter of goodies. Share the joy.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Tamalitos de Frijoles

On the 11th day of Christmas, my suegra gave to me . . .

Tamalitos de Frijoles

We're counting down the days we get to go to Honduras for the holidays and partake of all of the fun tradiciones navideñas (Christmas Traditions) with Armando's family. One of the yummies that I love are my mother-in-law's Tamalitos de Frijoles. My sister-in-law prepared them for me first here in the states when I was expecting our first daughter. With my second pregnancy, of course I craved them because the closest ones were a time zone and two layovers away. Although I'm not expecting, I still love a good tamal de frijol nice and warm with crema on top.

Although I've never made these on my own, my sister-in-law wrote up some instructions for me to share on the blog. If I can talk them into showing me these while we're there, I'll add proportions in the future. For now, this is a typical "little of this and little of that" type of recipe. ;)

Tamalitos with Frijoles (Beans)

Prepare the corn flour for tortillas and make it a little dry. (I recommend maseca found in your local grocer in the Mexican-food section. Follow the instructions to prepare tortillas and make slightly dry).

Blend garlic, onion, green pepper, celery, and cilantro (enough of these ingredients to flavor the beans and the tamale dough. Add a small tomato to the ingredients and blend it as well.

Add half of the blended condiments to the dough along with salt to taste.

Cook and prepare black beans. Let cool and blend with bean broth. Fry in hot oil along with the remaining blended condiments mentioned above. Add salt to taste. Fry and stir frequently so as not to let them stick. They should be a little liquid-like - not a pasty texture. Let them cool - they should be slightly more liquid-like when hot because they will solidify slightly as they cool.

Form dough into small balls. Flatten with hands on a piece of plastic as if you were going to make a tortilla (not too thick nor too thin). In the middle, drop a large spoonfull of cooled refried beans. Fold the tortilla in half, covering the beans. It should look like a half-moon.

Seal the edges with hands carefully so as not to let any beans leak out and place in the center of a banana-leaf. Place in a pot of boiling water with salt for 45 minutes.

Serve warm with crema centroamericana.


And for all of you Spanish-speakers, perhaps the original instructions would be easier to follow rather than my translation above.

Preparar la harina de maíz como para hacer tortillas dejarla un poco seca. Licuar ajo, cebolla, chile verde, apio, cilantro todos estos ingredientes en cantidades necesarias (que sea sufiente para los frijoles y la masa) además licuar un tomate pequeño junto con el resto de los ingredientes.
Al agregar los condimentos a la masa también agregar sal la necesaria. Los frijoles cocidos se licuan y se ponen a freír en aceite junto con los condimentos licuados, especies y sal en caso de ser necesario; al freír los frijoles no dejarlos secos estos de beben de quedar más o menos líquidos, dejar enfriar.
Elaborar con la masa pequeñas bolas para luego aplanarlas con las manos sobre un plástico en forma de tortilla (esta no debe de ser ni muy gruesa ni muy delgada). En la mitad de la tortilla colocar una cuchara grande de los frijoles fritos y fríos, doblar la tortilla a la mitad cubriendo los frijoles, quedando la forma de una media luna. Nos cercioramos de cerrar bien los bordes para que nada se salga, luego se envuelven en una hoja de plátano y se ponen a hervir en agua con sal por unos 45min.
Comer calientes con mantequilla.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Crispy and Tangy Fish Tacos

I'm the kind of person that goes to a restaurant, has a dish I like and I order the same thing again and again and again on subsequent visits. Well, awhile back something strange happened. It wasn't premeditated. I just listed to what my taste buds really wanted and I ordered some shrimp tacos at one of our favorite local restaurants. I couldn't believe how delicious they were. And why hadn't I thought of ordering something different before? So, the very next week I had to try and figure out what the recipe was and this is what I came up with (with fish instead). It was close and VERY DELICIOUS. From here on out shrimp tacos are going to be my regularly ordered dish there . . . at least until I have an urge to try something new.


Corn Tortillas (2 per taco)
Tilapia or Salmon filets (1/2 filet per taco)
/2 cup flour
salt to taste
1/2 tsp paprika (for color)

1/2 head Cabbage
1 carrot
2 tomatoes
15 sprigs, cilantro
2 limes

Tangy Sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/8 cup onion, minced
1/4 teaspoon black ground pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 jalapeno, finely chopped and seeded

Prepare sauce by mixing all ingredients and set aside.

Prepare salad. Finely shred cabbage. Shred carrot. Dice tomatoes. Chop cilantro. Dash a bit of cumin, salt, and pepper over salad. Mix well. Add the juice of 1-2 limes and mix well again, adding salt to taste.

For filets: Divide them in half and dip them in mixture of flour, salt, and paprika. Drop in hot oil and fry until gold brown and cooked through.

Serve on two warm corn tortillas garnished with cabbage salad and topped off with the tangy sauce. Serve with fresh squeezed lemonade or fruit drink of your choice. I recommend this one.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Tajadas de Minimo Verde - Fried Green Bananas Dinner

Most of you know that although I'd like to spend my time doing more things like cooking and taking pictures, the bulk of my life is spent as a school teacher, a wife, and a mom. This one is for my fellow school teacher who has been begging for a new dinner idea. I'll tell you right now, Deb, this isn't your typical mac and cheese or American casserole. But I think you know me well enough by now that you're not expecting something "normal" from me.

This is a dish that is similar to other Honduran dishes we like in our home. I'm not an expert at it, but I can tell you what my husband and I did to make this dish. And you really don't have to stick to the proportions. Judge by how many you want to feed and add or take away ingredients accordingly. I made this dish for four.


2-3 VERY GREEN bananas
1 lb ground beef
1/2 block/round of queso seco (Mexican dry cheese - I buy Queso Cotija at my local grocer)
1/2 head cabbage, finely shredded
3 roma tomatoes
1/2 green pepper
2 cloves garlic
10 sprigs of cilantro
1 lime
Worcestershire sauce

1) Shred/crumble 1/2 round of queso seco, Set aside.

2) Finely shred 1/2 head of green cabbage. Add the following to the cabbage: tomatoes, diced small; 1/4 green pepper, diced small; cilantro, chopped; juice from 1 lime. Mix and salt to taste.

3) Prepare meat: I like to marinate my meat the night before, but it is not necessary. To a pound or two of ground beef, I dice and add 1/2 onion, 3 cloves garlic, 1/4 green pepper, 1 roma tomato, plenty of cumin, salt, and ground black pepper as well as achiote powder (for color - this ingredient is not necessary for flavor, but a true Honduran dish always has color!) I also like to add a bit of Worcestershire sauce. Brown the meat and break it up while cooking so as to have a very fine ground meat mixture. You also want this mixture to be a bit on the juicy side. Don't tell my husband because he would say it's a sin, but I add a bit of water and don't let it cook completely off. Cover and set aside. Keep warm for serving.

4) Finely slice green bananas and fry in hot vegetable oil until golden brown. Add a dash of salt to the bananas as you pull them from the oil.

To serve, layer a handful of fried green bananas on a plate. Top with meat, salad, and cheese. Enjoy with a fork and a yummy blended fruit drink.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mexican Chicken Salad (Cafe Rio Style)

I've posted this recipe before, but my food photography has gotten slightly better over the years and I thought I'd re-post with a little more appetizing photo this time. ;) And I've made a couple more notes in the recipe since I've made it a few times since then. This recipe is a favorite in our house. I like to prepare the bulk of it a day ahead and then assemble everything right before I serve it. Armando and I could eat this every day for a week and not get bored of it. So many fresh flavors and textures.

For those of you who don't know what a Cafe Rio Salad is - #1 you're missing out and #2 you probably won't appreciate the value of this recipe until you've tried one #3 try it, you'll love it.

I've decided that the only instructions in this recipe that you really need to follow with exactness (almost) is the dressing. If you have the dressing, you have it all! So experiment, build the salad to your liking and top it off with the creamy tomatillo / cilantro ranch dressing and you'll be in heaven!

Creamy Tomatillo / Cilantro Ranch Dressing
1 packet Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix (or 3 Tbsp dry mix)
1 cup mayonnaise
1/3 to ½ cup buttermilk
3-4 tomatillos
1 cup fresh cilantro lightly chopped
½ tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic
1 jalapeno (or less if you don't like spice, but this pepper is what gives the dressing just the right kick)

Take the papery layer off the tomatillos, wash, and chop. Chop the garlic. Wash and cut the cilantro into 1-2” segments. Put all ingredients in the blender and mix thoroughly. Refrigerate. Best made the day before. Keeps covered for several days. Makes 2 cups.

Shredded Lime Chicken
4-5 boneless chicken breasts (about 2.5 to 3 lbs of chicken)
1 ½ cups of 7-up or Sprite (12 oz. can)
½ to 1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 limes

Cook in crock pot on medium heat for 8 hours or 6 hours on high heat until chicken falls apart and shreds with a fork. Stir in the juice of 2 limes before serving. Serves 10 with ½ cup servings.
**I've been known to skip the whole chicken portion and just pick up a rotisserie chicken. I prefer grilled chicken on my salad.

Cilantro Rice
2 cups uncooked rice
2 cups chopped cilantro
1 tsp salt
1 cup Salsa Verde (Green salsa found in Mexican food aisle of grocery store)
2 Tbsp dried minced onion

Wash and chop cilantro. Blend cilantro with 2 cups of water and pour in the pan for cooking the rice. Add two more cups of water, the salt, Salsa Verde and onion. Bring to a boil. Stir in the rice in the boiling water. Cover and turn down heat to very low and steam for 30 minutes. Makes about 10 servings. *I personally just used some rice I had cooked for my salad, but looking at the recipe, I think it might need just a little chicken broth to balance out all the other flavors.

Black Beans
Warm canned black beans in a pan on the stove, including all the liquid from the can, until beans are simmering hot. Plan on 1/3 to ½ cup of beans per serving. Serve with a slotted spoon to drain out the liquid from the beans. *I usually make my own black beans in the crock pot with a few cloves a garlic, plenty of cumin and a tablespoon of salt to two cups of dried beans.

To Assemble the Salad
Final Ingredients:
Fresh Flour Tortillas
Chopped romaine lettuce
Fresh Cilantro sprigs
Queso Cotija (Mexican cheese), finely shredded
Corn tortilla strips
Pico de gallo
Lime wedges

For each serving warm a flour tortilla in a microwave or on a griddle. (I prefer the griddle!) Melt shredded chees on the tortilla while warming on the grill. Layer on rice, beans, chicken, and about 1 ½ cups chopped romaine lettuce, fresh cilantro sprigs, parmesean cheese (I prefer queso cotija from the Mexican food dairy section of the grocery store), a few fried corn tortilla strips, and creamy tomatillo dressing. Add pico de gallo, guacamole and juice from a lime wedge to taste.I found that I made a much smaller salad than the one from Cafe Rio which made it so that I could actually finish it!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

To-Die-For Lime Cupcakes

Sometime last summer I had a sudden craving for lime cupcakes. Weird, I know. But I went recipe hunting and found a d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s one that I thought I'd share this month since it's green and St. Patrick's Day is coming up. And don't be alarmed by the amount of limes in the bowl . . . I was on a lime kick, you'll really only need 4 limes.

Cupcake Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour
3/4 cup self-rising flour
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel
1/4 teaspoon green food coloring
3/4 cup buttermilk*

Frosting Ingredients:

1 8-ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 tablespoon finely grated lime peel
1 tablespoon lime juice

Step 1: Finely grate peel of 4 limes

Step 2: Preheat oven to 350 and line standard muffin pan with 12 paper liners. Whisk both flours in medium bowl. Beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar; beat to blend. Beat in eggs one at a time.

Step 3: Measure your finely grated lime.

Add lime juice, peel, and food coloring to batter. (batter may look curdled).

Beat in flour mixture in 3 additions alternately with buttermilk in 2 additions. Spoon scant 1/3 cup batter into each liner. And if you have children around, give them the beaters and let them do the "washing."
Frosting Step 1: Measure powdered sugar and dump into bowl.

Frosting Step 2: Measure and add remaining ingredients. Beat until smooth and spread over cooled cupcakes.
I was in a festive mood and piped my icing on and used one of my extra limes to make small quarter-slices to place on top.
These cupcakes were super-moist and had a very creamy texture and a perfect sour bite with the lime. I do believe I will have to be whipping up a batch myself come the 17th.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Going Green, Smoothie Style

The whole world is going green. And so am I . . . in my own way. In an effort to increase our daily greens and hopefully our daughter's ability to absorb nutrients, we've been starting our day off with a [green] smoothie. I have felt so good every day that I drink it that I thought I'd share the goodness. So, here's what you'll need if you decide you'd like to try it too:

2ish cups of almond milk (I prefer vanilla - but we accidentally grabbed "original" either works, but if you prefer sweet, vanilla is what you'll want)
2-3 kale leaves (remove the center)
1 handful of spinach
2 Tbsp chopped walnuts (or nut of your choice)
2 cups frozen fruit (I buy the mixed non-sweetened strawberries, mangoes, pineapple and peaches)
1/2 banana (I add this for my girls cause it really sweetens it, but if you're wanting to keep your sugars down and not have a sugar crash after drinking it, leave the banana out).

*Coconut milk is not necessary as pictured. I just happened to buy it and try it. And . . . it's not my favorite (although I do like coconut milk - it just doesn't seem to have the same effect as the almond). I have been adding a small amount to our smoothies every morning just to not waste the whole container. So, here's what you do:

Pour milk into blender and add greens and nuts. Blend thoroughly so as to diminish the "leafy texture."

2. Blend until smooth.
3. Add fruits and blend again until smooth.
Serve. My mother suggests drinking up to a quart for nutrients and says that will get her through with plenty of physical and mental energy until early to mid-afternoon. I drink two cups and a little more each morning and I'm not hungry at all and feel a little emotional boost to confront my challenges daily. The chlorophyll is just what I've needed on blue winter days when I don't see the sun.
And my girls? Well, they love it too. Shhhh, don't tell them that it's weird to drink green. They are totally into being Popeye girls and love all the talk about being strong and smart.

And my favorite, their green mustaches.
Please share if you try it or have other healthy blending concoctions I could try. If you're not as daring, start with baby steps. Make the fruit smoothie and add only 1 kale leaf or half the spinach. These greens really don't have much flavor when mixed with fruit. And if you're even more daring, you can do what I do when the girls aren't drinking with me, I throw in a handful of parsley too and I love the flavor burst that comes with that. Call me weird, but I've always loved parsley.

Happy Blending!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Quick Veggie Skillet

My version of a more healthy mac-n-cheese. Is there such a thing? Well, this one has veggies and my girls devour it, so it's a bit healthier than regular packaged mac-n-cheese.

This is a recipe I found in one of my mom's quick 20-minute meals books I copied down years ago and I love it. So do my girls. When I'm in a rush for dinner, this is an easy go-to meal instead of something like mac-n-cheese.


6 ounces (2 1/2 cups) uncooked dried pasta (the original recipe calls for bowtie, I use whatever I have on hand and my girls love the colorful veggie pasta so that's usually what I use).
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon minced garlic (a clove or two)
2 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 medium red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil leaves
4 ounces (1 cup) cheddar cheese (cubed 1/2 inch)

Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a 10-inch skillet, melt butter until sizzling; stir in garlic. Stir in all remaining ingredients, except cheese. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are crisply tender (4 to 6 minutes).

Stir in pasta. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until heated through (2 to 3 minutes). Stir in cheese. Salt and pepper to taste.